Brief Summary of Town Council Meeting August 13, 2019

The Town Manager promoted Aaron Miller to Police Chief and Matt Blackburn to Public Works Director.  Both had served in interim roles.

 

Greg Tarbutton of Chetola spoke during the citizen comment period to warn about the national and state risk of overriding local control of short term rental zoning based on an aggressive lobbying effort by Airbnb, a $38B company.  We tracked bills during the NC legislative session to override local ordinances. One limiting permitting by local government was approved and one to eliminate local control did not make it out of committee to the floor.

 

The Council denied on a vote of 4 to deny and 1 to approve an application recommended by the Planning Board to establish a Short Term Rental Overlay for 5 houses on Valley Boulevard primarily due to the risks associated with setting a precedent outside of existing Short Term Rental Districts.

 

Time limited (3 hours)  parking for the south side of Park Avenue was discussed and decision was deferred to a larger discussion about downtown parking at the Winter Retreat.  Our Communicate and Action Plan and the 2014 Comprehensive Plan both address the need to address downtown parking.

 

Our Plan recommends:

1.    Paid parking at least on Main Street

2.    Public input before decisions are made

3.    Advice from a professional parking company before decisions are made

4.    Feeder parking lots or garages to disburse parking and encourage use of AppalCART and  pedestrian traffic to Town Center

 

Most small towns contract with parking companies that implement and manage all aspects of paid parking solutions. Parking revenue goes to the Town, but parking fines are remitted to the state for education funding. Mr. Matheson reported that AppalCART use is improving.

 

Contact Tim Gupton at 919.418.8555 or tgupton@hpg.c  for further input or quest

STATE OF THE TOWN – YOU ARE INVITED

The Blowing Rock Chamber invites the entire community to  an update from the Town of Blowing Rock.  Learn what is going on in town, the latest Tourism Development initiatives and numbers, an update from the Chamber of Commerce and the Village Foundation on its current initiatives.

 

The public is invited to attend the event on Thursday August 15 at 5:30 in the Community Meeting Room at BRAHM.

 

SHORT TERM RENTAL OVERLAY DISTRICT TO BE DISCUSSED BY TOWN COUNCIL AUGUST 13, ,2019

Rezoning – 5 Houses on Valley Blvd – Request for Short-Term Rental Overlay District

We have been tracking the proposal to rezone five houses on a Valley Blvd  to permit short-term rental for a minimum of one week.

All five of the homeowners on the cul-de-sac have  requested the Short-Term Rental Overlay District.

The houses are located  on a cul-de-sac on Valley Boulevard across  from the Country Club just south of  Main Street and before Ridgeline Restaurant.  The Z signs are posted on the properties.

The Planning Board recommended approval to the Town Council who will consider the matter at a public hearing  during the monthly council meeting on August 13, 2019.

Any person wishing to comment on the above item may do so during the public hearing or by sending written comments to Hilari H. Hubner, Town Clerk, PO Box 47, Blowing Rock, NC, 28605 prior to the Council meeting.

 

TIM GUPTON ELECTED PRESIDENT OF BRCA AND 2 NEW BOARD MEMBERS ELECTED

The Blowing Rock Civic Association, a community organization with more than 300 members who are dedicated to protecting and improving the quality of life in Blowing Rock, is pleased to announce that Tim C. Gupton has been elected President and Chief Executive Officer. Gupton, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has over 40 years of experience in public accounting, 19 with KPMG Peat Marwick and 21 as an owner of HPG LLP in Raleigh. Gupton also served as an officer of four very successful startup companies in the pharmaceutical industry. Gupton has been very active in the Blowing Rock community serving on the Boards of the BRCA and the Village Foundation. He is also active in the Chamber of Commerce. George T. Wilcox, who previously served as President/CEO and Chairman of the Board of the BRCA was elected to continue as Chairman of the Board.

The BRCA is also pleased to announce the election of Dr. Barry Miller Buxton to the Board of Directors. Dr. Buxton, a native of Blowing Rock, is the retired President of Lees- McRae College. Dr. Buxton is the definitive historian of Blowing Rock having written “ A Village Tapestry” considered the best source of information on the beautiful town’s unique history. Dr. Buxton also gained national recognition for his extensive work on science and history museums around the country. Dr. Buxton has also been very active in a number of community organizations. He is a recipient of “The Order of the Long Leaf Pine” North Carolina’s highest award for exemplary community service and outstanding accomplishments.

The BRCA is also pleased to announce the election of Marshall Sealey to the Board of Directors. Sealey is an engineering graduate of North Carolina State U. who has over 45 years of construction and engineering experience in 45 states and 15 countries. Sealey among his other responsibilities managed quality control and compliance with industry standards on major projects including high rise buildings, industrial facilities and power plants. Sealey chairs the BRCA Development Evaluation Committee. Also re- elected to the BRCA Board were: Tim Gupton,  Karyn K. Herterich, Jean Kitchin, Blake Pace, Brian Beaty, Dan J. McLamb, Senator Tony Rand, James M. Scott, and Julian West.  Bill Carter, Richard Gambill, Betsy Wilcox and George Wilcox are serving unexpired terms on the BRCA Board.

 

Brief Summary of Blowing Rock Civic Association’s Annual Meeting July 25, 2019

George Wilcox, President, welcomed a full Blowing Rock Country Club ballroom of BRCA members by stating  the BRCA mission: “TO PROTECT AND IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF LIFE IN BLOWING ROCK BY TAKING PROACTIVE STANDS ON CIVIC AFFAIRS, INFORMING, EDUCATING AND ENGAGING RESIDENTS ON KEY TOWN ISSUES; WORKING WITH LOCAL GOVERNMENT;  AND ENCOURAGING CITIZENS TO BE INVOLVED IN OUR COMMUNITY”  Our mission includes gathering and defining facts on matters impacting our town using extensive assistance of professionals, where necessary, and then communicating these facts to our community.

In attendance and recognized were Mayor Charlie Sellers, Albert Yount, Mayor Pro Tem, and Council Member Sue Sweeing.  BRCA Board members:  Bill Carter, Vice President, Betsy Wilcox, Secretary and Treasurer, Brian Beaty, Richard Gambill, Tim Gupton,  Karyn Herterich, Jean Kitchin, Dan McLamb, Blake Pace, Senator Tony Rand, Jim Scott and Julian West were recognized.

The minutes of the 2018 annual meeting were presented and approved on a motion by Julian West, seconded by Dan McLamb.

Julian West, head of the BRCA Finance Committee, reported on the Year end 2018 financials of BRCA  prepared by Blowing Rock accountant Orian Carter, EA.

Retired Judge Bob Burroughs introduced a resolution to increase the BRCA number of board members to fifteen by adding two new positions. He further nominated  Dr. Barry Buxton and Marshall Sealey to fill the new positions. The resolution (copy attached) further nominated all other board members whose terms were expiring to be elected to new terms.  Judge Burrough resolution also nominated Tim Gupton for election as President and CEO, George Wilcox as Chairman of the Board, and Betsy Wilcox Secretary/Treasurer for the next year.  BRCA member Dr. Charles Davant, III, moved that this resolution be adopted by acclamation. The motion was seconded by BRCA member Carol Dabbs. The motion was adopted unanimously by a show of hands.

Wilcox then recognized new Blowing Rock Town Manager Shane Fox who gave an excellent presentation on a number of important facts and issues impacting town government including:

1.        Blowing Rock has 67 employees and approximately 30 part time employees

2.       Blowing Rock homeowners are vitally important to the town, paying 85% of the town’s property taxes.

3.       There are 1200 to 1300 fulltime town residents with seasonal and day trippers adding up to 10,000 people additional people in town. This makes staffing very challenging to meet widely varying needs.

4.       He will remain vigilant on a move in the state legislature to end the town’s ability to regulate short term rentals in neighborhoods.

5.       He is working with AT&T and Spectrum to accomplish burying of utility lines and removal of utility poles from 321 adjacent to the Country Club and beyond, a project that has far exceeded promised completion date.

6.       He is also working with Watauga Co. to obtain fulltime ambulance emergency personnel  in Blowing Rock. This service has long been promised to the town by the county.

Fox also answered a number of member questions about town matters.

Interim Police Chief Aaron Miller then gave an excellent presentation on town police operations.

Both of these presentations and the entire meeting will be available soon on the BRCA website:

www.brcivic.com

The meeting concluded with a superb presentation by newly elected BRCA President and CEO Tim Gupton who made the following points:

1.     The BRCA represents the entire community but it provides unique representation for the town’s homeowners, fulltime and seasonal, who are not represented by any other community organization in town.

2.     He intends to emphasize an important BRCA goal to serve as …”a unifying voice” in the community that has been split by a recent push to change town codes and the approval of the Rainey Lodge development.

The BRCA will sponsor a community meeting to hear from and ask questions of town candidates for Mayor and two council seats on Thursday evening October 3, 2019 starting at 5:30 P.M. at the American Legion Building on Wallingford St. in downtown.

Dr. Charles Davant, III, made a motion that the meeting be adjourned. Julian West seconded the motion that was approved unanimously.

 

 

RESOLUTION PRESENTED TO THE ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING OF THE BLOWING ROCK CIVIC ASSOCIATION 7/25/2019 BY JUDGE BOB BURROUGHS, CHAIRMAN OF THE NOMINATING COMMITTEE:

 

RESOLVED THAT EFFECTIVE 7/25/2019 THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE BLOWING ROCK CIVIC ASSOCIATION BE COMPOSED OF FIFTEEN MEMBERS, FOUR OF WHOM WILL BE ELECTED FOR THREE YEAR TERMS, FOUR OF WHOM WILL BE ELECTED FOR TWO YEAR TERMS AND SEVEN OF WHOM WILL BE ELECTED FOR ONE YEAR TERMS.

BE IT FUTHER RESOLVED THAT THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS BE ELECTED TO THE BRCA BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

TIM C. GUPTON – 2 YR. TERM

KARYN K. HERTERICH – 2 YR. TERM

JEAN KITCHIN – 2 YR. TERM

BLAKE PACE – 2 YR. TERM

BRIAN BEATY – 1 YR. TERM

DR. BARRY MILLER BUXTON – 1 YR. TERM

DAN J. MCLAMB – 1 YR. TERM

SENATOR TONY RAND – 1 YR. TERM

JAMES M. SCOTT – 1 YR. TERM

MARSHALL  SEALEY – 1 YR. TERM

JULIAN WEST – 1 YR. TERM

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT THE FOLLOWING BE ELECTED TO SERVE AS OFFICERS FOR THE FOLLOWING YEAR:

GEORGE T. WILCOX – CHAIRMAN

TIM C. GUPTON – PRESIDENT AND CEO

WILLIAM H. CARTER – VICE PRESIDENT

BETSY C. WILCOX – SECRETARY/TREASURER

 

 

IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT BLOWING ROCK CIVIC ASSOCIATION

The mission of The Blowing Rock Civic Association is to protect and improve the quality of life in Blowing Rock by taking proactive stands on civic affairs; informing, educating and engaging residents on key town issues; working with local government; and encouraging citizens to be involved in the community.

 

The Blowing Rock Civic Association is a 501(c)(3) organization of more than 300 members that is approved by the IRS to inform and educate the public on matters that impact the quality of life in the community. Contributions to a 501(c)(3) organization are tax deductible. There are different types of 501(c)(3) organizations with different missions. The Blowing Rock Civic Association’s mission is similar to that of many other 501(c)(3) community organizations including the Palm Beach Civic Association that has operated effectively for over seventy years.

 

The BRCA has a board of directors composed of lawyers, a CPA, an engineer, a town merchant, a construction executive, commercial real estate executives, and business executives. These board members and volunteers conduct the business of the association with rigorous oversight. The Charlotte law firm Johnston Allison & Hord, that includes tax specialists, and Blowing Rock Accountant Orian Carter, Enrolled Agent, serve as consultants to the association to assure strict compliance with all IRS regulations including annual reports to the IRS. The association has also used the services of various High Country law firms. The association does not engage in any political activity such as endorsing or opposing political candidates.

 

The association strives to develop and publish factual information about matters involving town, county and state governments. In developing this information the association uses volunteers and paid professionals such as town planners, architects, engineers and attorneys to assure the accuracy of published information.  Matters addressed by the association include administrative items such as development permits and town codes. On both administrative and legislative matters it is the intent of the association to develop and publicize factual information and to neither oppose nor endorse specific action on these matters. BRCA volunteers have no personal financial incentive to participate in association activities or to publish less than totally accurate information. They and all board members are, however, local property owners and taxpayers who want to preserve and enhance the community and Blowing Rock property values.

 

The BRCA encourages positive community development that does not damage the unique character of Blowing Rock. The BRCA Development Evaluation Committee, composed of a retired Superior Court Judge, a real estate executive, a CPA business executive, a former N.C. town council member, a construction company executive, an architect and three engineers, has issued reports on developments proposed in Blowing Rock since the association’s inception in 2015.

 

Sincerely,
Brian Beaty, BRCA Board Member; Bill Carter, BRCA Board Member; Richard Gambill, BRCA Board Member; Tim Gupton, BRCA Board Member; Karyn Herterich, BRCA Board Member; Jean Kitchin, BRCA Board Member;  Dan McLamb, BRCA Board Member; Blake Pace, BRCA Board Member; Senator Tony Rand, BRCA Board Member; Jim Scott, BRCA Board Member; Julian West, BRCA Board Member; Betsy Wilcox, BRCA Board Member; George Wilcox,

Town of Blowing Rock Budget for Fiscal Year 7/1/2019 to 6/30/2020 – PROPOSED TAX INCREASE REDUCED !!!

Dear Friends,

Blowing Rock property owners have experienced a 10 cent or 36% increase in property tax rates over the last 5 years for fiscal years 2014 through 2019. Approximately 3 cents of the increase was related to bond debt service

The initial proposed town budget called for a 3 cent  or 7.9% increase  in property tax rates to 41 cents and a 5% increases in Water and Sewer rates. An increase of 1 cent  in property tax rates generates approximately $113,000 of revenue and equals about  $10 per year for  $100K of valuation for property owners.  .

The Council held a public hearing and two workshops to discuss the budget with the new Town Manager, Shane Fox who just started in early June.  The timing of the budget and his start date put a lot of pressure on Mr. Fox who exceeded expectations and demonstrated an in-depth understanding of the budget details and broad picture.

Our board member, Tim Gupton, made a presentation at the public hearing and attended both workshops. He asked the Council to focus on the big picture, especially growth in General Fund Operating Expenses over the last 5 years. . The total General Fund Budget has increased by 41% and personnel expenses increased by 40%. National inflation during this period has averaged approximately 2% per year and national wage growth has been low to flat during this period. The growth in personnel expenses has been driven by adding 7 new full time employees including a SRO police position not funded by the county, salary increases and rising benefit costs that exceeded the rate of growth in average compensation. Tim presented a recommendation to reduce expenses or use the available fund balance to reduce the tax rate increase by at least 1 cent.

The Council addressed personnel expenses by unanimously recommending that the Town Manager develop a Merit-Based Compensation System by the winter retreat that includes mandatory performance evaluations.  As part of this transition, the proposed 3% Cost of Living Salary increase was reduced to 2% and a 1% increase was reserved for merit increases in the second half of Fiscal Year 20. Mr. Fox was also tasked with reviewing all departmental positions and contract services.  We expect that Mr. Fox will bring a fresh, complete and objective perspective to evaluate the overall budget, personnel and quality of services.

Mr. Fox recommended reducing the proposed bond debt service tax increase of 1.5 cents since the next bond borrowing will not occur until the end of this fiscal year. The town’s cash and investment fund balance will exceed $4,300,000 or about 56% of the annual budget.  The Town’s policy is to maintain available fund balance of at least  50% of annual budget policy.  The Town’s bond rating benefits from maintaining a substantial available fund balance and a high property tax value of over $900,000 per permanent resident due to substantial seasonal home ownership in the property tax base.

Based on the first workshop, the Council called out a number of line items in  each departmental budget for discussion at the second workshop.  A number of reductions were recommended by Council members, primarily one time expenditures for equipment or other projects that were not high priorities or could be addressed by alternate solutions.  Mr. Fox presented a number of alternative recommendations for consideration by the Council.

The Council did evaluate non-resident fees especially for Parks & Rec with an eye to recognize the cost of underwriting expenses for non-residents.  For example, the Town has the only outdoor pool in the county that is used primarily by residents throughout the county who do not pay taxes in the Town of Blowing Rock. The Council asked the Town Manager to look at the net revenue for programs to fully understand the cost benefit to Blowing Rock residents of key programs like camps, pool and other facilities.

The bottom line is that the tax rate increase for fiscal year 2019-20 is likely to be no more than 1 cent or 2.6% and the new Town Manager will take a fresh look at all operations to maintain and improve quality service with an efficient mindset.

The next two fiscal years will include some new challenges to fund landscape maintenance of the Valley Boulevard median, proposed  increases in landfill charges, and additional bond debt service.

Council Approves High Visibility Development by 3-1 Vote

Rainey Lodge Approved by Town Council

The Town Council voted 3 to 1 to approve the controversial hotel project located on 221 behind Speckled Trout and adjacent to the Morningside neighborhood.  Councilman Matheson proposed a lengthy pre-written motion to approve the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) subject to conditions that require a performance bond and limitation of two-axle trucks for deliveries.  Matheson’s motion stated that the project met all town codes and that abutting and adjacent property values would not be adversely impacted by the development. After a brief discussion, Council Members Matheson, Steele and Powell voted in favor and Mayor Pro Tem Yount voted to deny the permit.  Council Member Sweeting was not allowed to vote because in an unprecedented move she was recused from voting by Matheson, Steele and Powell at the second hearing.

The Civic Association’s role in these matters is to assess and make sure all of the facts are on the table.  The Civic Association conducted extensive research on the project application and the Land Use Code to assist the Morningside residents in hiring Mr. Eggers to present facts to the Council under the quasi-judicial rules governing a CUP application.  Citizens can speak to the project, but their views are not considered evidence. BRCA experts determined that the project did not meet town codes.

One example of non-compliance that was shared with the Council relates to greenspace in front of the building. The developer was able to obtain the building height based on moving the primary entrance and front of the building to Morningside Drive, but the Planning Director testified that the 75% greenspace requirement in the Land Use Code was not intended to apply in these circumstances.  The Council relied on his interpretation, but that interpretation was not noted for the Planning Board when presented for approval.

The facts were presented to the Council by the developer and the neighbors.  Ultimately the Council is accountable as our elected officials to assess the facts and make a judgement to approve, conditionally approve or deny a permit.  Unfortunately, the judicial nature of the proceeding cuts off all communication between the citizens and the Council.  The proceedings lasted ten hours in two public hearings that were very contentious and divided the community.  You can watch videos of the hearings on the Town of Blowing Rock website under the Meeting Minutes section and reach your own conclusions.

The community is at a Tipping Point.  We can continue in division or unite for the common good and future of Blowing Rock. The Civic Association supports the decision by the Council to appoint an Ad Hoc Vision Committee to reset a common vision for re-development of Main Street, Central Business District and Valley Boulevard. The board also plans to develop and recommend changes to the internal process of documenting and reviewing future applications before submission to the Planning Board and elimination of the CUP process from the town code to allow for citizens input in the Conditional Zoning process that can be used instead.