Friends – Betsy and I attended the subject hearing last Tuesday night 8/21/2018. A large crowd attended this meeting most of them apparently well organized mainly Boone proponents of this facility that will be located in Boone. The hearing was interesting and informative. There were a large number of speakers urging approval of this facility. A few speakers expressed concerns primarily about the economics of building and operating this facility. I spoke as a citizen and not as an officer of the BRCA. I did not question the need for or merit of the recreation center. I did question the economics reported by the Watauga Democrat that reported a capital expenditure of $ 35 million, operational expenses of $ 1,500,000/yr. and no amount reported for maintenance and depreciation. I specifically said we hoped that there will be no further property tax increases required to support this facility. While the county tax rate is relatively low it was set to equalize tax increases that would have resulted from the county’s relatively high property values. I was assured both publicly and privately by both Democrat and Republican commissioners that this facility would not require additional property tax increases either for capital or operational expenditures. After the hearing the commission voted unanimously to proceed with the recreation center.
Friends – The following were significant points from the subject meeting:
1. Vitally important painting of street lines to protect driver safety has been delayed according to Town Manager Ed Evans due to problems with obtaining trucks to transport paint and due to the rainy weather.
2. Difficult to drive Sourwood Lane on Green Hill will temporarily be made a one lane street while water lines are being replaced. According to Ed Evans this street is only 8 feet wide at one point while NCDOT requires that a one lane street be at least 9 feet wide and that a two lane street be at least 18 feet wide. The manager stated that a number of town streets do not meet NCDOT standards.
3. Laurel Park resident John Pfeifer, during the citizen comments section of the meeting, asked the town to place signage at the intersection of Laurel Park Rd. and Main to prevent serious safety problems created by vehicles parked and u turning in that space.
4. Laurel Park resident Lee Rocamora, during the citizen comments section of the meeting, asked council to allow citizens to address current agenda items in their comments.
5. The Town, by use of a recently acquired program, has found 24 short term rentals in residential areas of town where they are prohibited by law.
6. For the first time council has adopted a formal performance review form and procedure for evaluating town manager performance.
7. Preceding the meeting Council member Sue Sweeting conducted a very informative discussion session with citizens that covered a wide range of town government matters. The County Commission public hearing 8/21 @ 5:30 P.M. in the county commission boardroom in Boone on financing for a proposed $ 35 million recreation center in Boone was one of the important topics discussed.
President – Blowing Rock Civic Association
Watauga County had a 13% property tax increase in 2017 primarily to finance the subject proposed facility. Despite this large increase the county will have to borrow a substantial additional amount to build this facility. Additionally a consultant hired by the county has estimated that the county will be spending at least an additional approx. $ 400,000 plus per year for operational expenses for the facility. Of course, additional substantial amounts will be required for building maintenance. SUBSTANTIAL ADDITIONAL PROPERTY TAX INCREASES COULD BE REQUIRED FOR THIS FACILITY. Sales tax increases to finance the subject facility have been defeated twice by county voters in the past ten years. While the current Watauga Co. 35.3 cents/$ 100 of property value rate may appear low, county property values are very high compared to other N.C. counties. For example, officials at Appalachian State University are concerned because of the inability of faculty members to find affordable housing in the county. At the same time Watauga is ranked as the third poorest county in the state with 31.3% of the population living below the poverty income level. 25% of the Watauga residents receive assistance with food. These numbers are huge and very alarming. Please see local media articles available on the internet for more information on this proposed facility.
The subject PUBLIC HEARING will be held in the Watauga County Commission Boardroom at 814 W. King St. in Boone at 5:30 P.M. next Tuesday August 21, 2018.
We encourage you to attend this meeting and to speak on the issues impacting this important long term taxpayer commitment.
1. Chestnut at Blowing Rock – 23 Luxury town homes on former site of Blowing Rock Hospital. Four units are under contract at prices between $ 1.4 and $ 1.6 million. Two more of the town homes are reserved. Town homes range in size from 2400 to 2800 square feet with two car garages. Completion of the under contract units is targeted for the spring of 2019. An investment group including Hunt Broyhill of Hickory is developing this project. Premier Sotheby’s Ashley and Jerry Hutchens are marketing this project. Tel. 828-964-5438.
2. Ground has been broken for a six town home development called The Townes on property across Chestnut Drive from the Chestnut at Blowing Rock development. Each town home includes 2600 square feet of space and a two car garage. These town homes are priced at $ 849,000 per unit. An investment group including former Ruddick Corporation CEO Thomas W. Dickson of Charlotte is developing this project. Premier Sotheby’s Maurice Williams is marketing this project. Tel. 828-337-0221.
3. Construction is well underway on John and Jan Winkler’s 21 unit hotel development “The Inn on Cornish” across Main from the Chetola entrance. Units in this development will be available for short term rentals.
4. The 1150 Main Street development replacing the old white house at the corner of Main and Pine downtown just approved by the council includes six condominiums. It is expected that these condos will not be sold but instead will be used for short term rentals. The developer still must close on the property purchase, obtain permits, and complete other details before starting lot clearing and construction.
Friends – I am very pleased to report to you that the long awaited and much needed Sunset Drive improvement project approved by the Blowing Rock Council at their July 10th. meeting will be totally funded by bonds that were approved by citizens in 2014. Mayor Charlie informed us that the exact cost of the subject improvements will be $ 1,350,700.00 fully funded by Transportation Bonds, Water and Sewer Bonds. No additional “non bond” related tax increases nor budget reductions will be required to complete this very important project. Many thanks to Mayor Charlie and Mayor Pro Tem Albert for this very welcome correction to our earlier description of council action on this project at the July 10th, 2018. meeting.
The July 10, 2018 summary and detailed information on the council meeting is now available on our website: brcivic.org
Blowing Rock Civic Association
FRIENDS – THE FOLLOWING ARE HEADLINES FROM THE SUBJECT MEETING. FOR MORE DETAILS PLEASE SEE THE INFORMATION LISTED BELOW THE TOWN COUNCIL HIGHLIGHTS SECTION
1) MAYVIEW RESIDENTS ASKED THE TOWN TO CLOSE THE MAYVIEW STORAGE YARD ON CONE RD. THAT THEY CONSIDER TO BE AN “EYESORE”
2) THE BRCA PRESENTED A LEGAL OPINION LETTER THAT SAYS THE TOWN MUST RECEIVE FULL AND FAIR VALUE FOR ANY ASSET TRANSFERRED BY SALE OR LONG TERM LEASE TO ANOTHER PARTY.
3) THE OLD WHITE HOUSE AT THE CORNER OF MAIN AND PINE DOWNTOWN WILL BE TORN DOWN AND ALL TREES WILL BE REMOVED FROM THE LOT. A SIX RESIDENTIAL UNITS, TWO RETAIL/RESTAURANT UNITS DEVELOPMENT HAS BEEN APPROVED FOR THAT SITE.
4) COUNCIL APPROVED MOVING AHEAD WITH DETAILED PLANS AND PERMITS TO IMPROVE SUNSET DRIVE FROM MAIN TO 321. ESTIMATED COST IS $ 1.5 MILLION INCLUDING $ 835,000 FROM BONDS AND $ 665,000 FROM TOWN REVENUES.
5) THE VILLAGE FOUNDATION’S FIREHOUSE TASK FORCE INTERIM REPORT ON PRODUCING A THEATER/CULTURAL CENTER FOCUSED ON USE OF THE OLD FIREHOUSE. TOWN STAFF AND COUNCIL MEMBERS EXPRESSED SERIOUS CONCERN ABOUT THE SUBSTANTIAL COST TO TAXPAYERS OF PROVIDING AN ALTERNATE BUILDING TO HOUSE PARK, FLOWERS AND GREENERY MAINTENANCE EQUIPMENT NOW KEPT IN THE OLD FIREHOUSE. THIS COST WOULD BE IN ADDITION TO THE LARGE DIRECT COST TO TAXPAYERS OF TRANSFERRING THIS VERY VALUABLE ASSET FOR A PROPOSED TOKEN PAYMENT LEASE.
DETAILED Report on July 10, 2018 Blowing Rock Council Meeting
Friends – The subject meeting included a packed agenda that took four hours to cover. The following are highlights:1. Mayview Residents urged the Council to close the Town Storage Yard on Cone Rd. that they consider to be a glaring “eyesore”. They contended that this closure will significantly improve the beauty of Mayview. They said the closure and replacement by an attractive alternate use will be a substantial benefit for the entire town.
2. A citizen urged scrupulous adherence to an effective town policy to preserve, protect and increase the number of town trees.
3. Bill Carter, Vice President of the Blowing Rock Civic Association, in urging careful protection of Blowing Rock taxpayer assets presented a legal opinion letter from Charlotte law firm Johnston Allison & Hord to the council. This opinion letter states that North Carolina state law requires that any transfer of town property whether by sale or long term lease can only be done by: 1) competitive bids; 2) negotiated offers with advertisement and upset bids; 3) public auction; or, 4) a full and fair consideration exchange. For example, should the town decide to lease the old firehouse it could only do so by receiving full and fair value for this valuable property.
4. Council approved a six condos, two retail/restaurant units development on the 1/3 acre lot now containing a large white house built in 1887 on Main St. at Pine St. in downtown. Some citizens objected citing several concerns including demolition of the house, loss of green space and the removal of large trees now on the property. The house has sat empty for five years during which time realtor Sue Glenn said a number of possibilities had been explored for the property without success. Steve Heatherington, a Durham developer, proposed the approved plan after soliciting input from a number of Blowing Rock organizations and citizens. The BRCA Development Evaluation Committee carefully reviewed the project and found no major problems with it. Significant variances in density, height, setbacks, and green space were required. Council members Matheson, Powell, Steele and Yount voted for approval of the development. Council member Sweeting voted against it.
5. The Town’s engineering firm McGill Engineering presented a plan for long discussed improvements to Sunset Drive that will include parking on both sides of the street and street, curbs, gutters and sidewalk improvement including extension to Valley Blvd. The council unanimously approved moving ahead with design and permitting for construction that will start late in the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2019. Considerable concern was expressed by some council members about the estimated $ 1.5 million dollar cost of this work. $ 835,000 of this amount would be covered by Transportation Bonds approved by voters in 2014 but the additional $ 665,000 would be covered by budget cuts or a tax increase.
6. The Village Foundation’s Firehouse Task Force gave an interim report urging use of the town’s old firehouse on Park Avenue for a 90-120 seat theater and “cultural center”. Town Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Brown informed the meeting that a substantial amount of important park maintenance equipment is currently stored conveniently in the 3600 square feet building. This equipment is necessary to maintain the beautiful flowers, parks and public greenery in downtown. The old firehouse would have to be replaced with a very expensive similar building close to the current one if it is leased for a token amount to the Foundation. This would require a significant property tax increase. To protect taxpayers state law requires, according to the above referenced opinion letter, that the town receive full market value for the old firehouse from the Foundation.
Blowing Rock Town Council
July 10, 2018
Town Hall 6:00 p.m.
1036 Main Street Blowing Rock, NC 28605
I. Call to Order
II. Adoption of Agenda
III. Special Recognitions & Reports
a. Resolution Honoring – Betty Pitts
b. Resolution Honoring – Jeff Eason
IV. Approval of Minutes
a. June 5, 2018 Budget Public Hearing
b. June 12, 2018 Regular Town Council Meeting
c. June 25, 2018 Mid Year Retreat
V. Speakers from the Floor
Prior to the meeting, anyone wishing to speak shall complete an index card supplied by the Town Clerk, on which they will provide their name, address, telephone number and the topic they wish to address. In deference to all who wish to speak, each speaker will be asked to limit his or her comments to no more than three (3) minutes. Speakers for Public Hearings do not need to sign up.
VI. Consent Agenda
a. Annual Tax Settlement Report and Order of Tax Collection
VII. Public Hearing
a. CZ 2018 -01 Conditional Rezoning (TC to CZ-TC, Town Center) – 1550 Main Street
VIII. Old Business
a. Old Firehouse – Presentation
IX. New Business
a. Sunset Drive Improvements – Proposal
b. Town Manager Evaluation – Review Draft – Sue Sweeting
X. Departmental Reports
a. ABC Minutes
b. BRAAC Minutes
c. Financial Report
d. Fire & Rescue
e. McGill Associates
f. Parks & Recreation
g. Planning & Inspections
h. Police Department
i. Public Works
j. Water Treatment Plant
May 27, 2018
Friends – Another great spring has arrived in our beautiful town. In addition to our fulltime residents we now have the pleasure of greeting the many seasonal residents who are returning to our community. As the pace of activities accelerates it’s a good time to reflect with gratitude on the many unique blessings of this wonderful , unique place. We are very thankful for some of the world’s most beautiful scenery and mountain views right here in our town. We are deeply grateful to those who have given their lives to protect our nation and to those many others who have so ably and courageously served in our military. We are also very grateful to those community leaders who have preserved Blowing Rock’s charming village quality from the pressures of indiscriminate development that have destroyed other communities. These pressures will continue and accelerate as the economy continues to improve. Those promoting developments will claim that homeowners will be able to avoid tax increases because of new developments though experience in many towns and cities has shown the opposite to be true. Blowing Rock now has two very significant developments underway that were carefully considered by our planning board and council. A third significant development has been approved by our planning board. These three developments, a very significant number for a small town, clearly demonstrate that our town encourages good development that is compatible with traditional community quality.
Best wishes for much joy and happiness in this great season in this sublime place.
Friends – The critically important subject document is now being examined by the Mayor and Council. Approval of the budget will be requested at the June 12 Council meeting. The following are pertinent numbers:
1. TOWN PROPERTY TAX BASE IN SUBJECT BUDGET: $ 1,142,036,477, A 1.2% INCREASE OVER THE ESTIMATED CURRENT BASE AND AN ESTIMATED 1.7% INCREASE OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS.
2. ESTIMATED TOWN POPULATION: 1241, A 0.7% INCREASE OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS
3. CONSUMER PRICE INDEX INCREASE OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS 3.3%
4. PROPERTY TAX RATE RECOMMENDED 38 CENTS/$ 100, A 2.7% INCREASE OVER THE CURRENT RATE AND A 35.7% INCREASE OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS.
5. BASIC WATER RATE RECOMMENDED $ 45.00, A 2.27% INCREASE OVER THE CURRENT YEAR AND A 26.76% INCREASE OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS.
6. BASIC SEWER RATE RECOMMENDED $ 45.00, A 2.27% INCREASE OVER THE CURRENT YEAR AND A 26.76% INCREASE OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS.
7. RECOMMENDED GENERAL FUND EXPENDITURES FOR 2018-2019 ARE $ 8,257,526, A 3.15% INCREASE OVER THE CURRENT YEAR AND A 75.65% INCREASE OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS.
The total Recommended Budget for 2018-2019 can be seen on the Town of Blowing Rock website. Comments and questions on the budget should be addressed to Mayor Charlie Sellers (email@example.com), Mayor ProTem Albert Yount (firstname.lastname@example.org), Council Members Doug Matheson (email@example.com), Virginia Powell (firstname.lastname@example.org), Jim Steele (email@example.com), and Sue Sweeting (firstname.lastname@example.org).