Letter to Town Council – Top 10 Priorities for 2020

December 10, 2019

Honorable Mayor Sellers, Council Members Harwood, Matheson, Powell, Sweeting, and Yount and Town Manager Fox:

2019 is ending on a much more positive note than the beginning of the year!

After two divisive public hearings in the beginning of the year, we have focused on building community consensus among stakeholders and encouraged public input into matters of long-term significance to promote “Progress and Preservation” of our Historic Village. I am personally encouraged by the open lines of communication representing all stakeholders.

We have a fresh start for 2020 after hiring a new Town Manager and experiencing a very positive campaign cycle by our candidates resulting in adding a new council member. We wish to welcome Mr. Harwood to the council and express our appreciation to Mr. Steele for his many years of dedicated service to our community.

Everyone seems to be focused on addressing the long-term needs of preserving and growing our community, so how we move forward in 2020 will be important to our future. Let’s keep in mind the Shared Vision documented in the 2014 Comprehensive Plan – “Embrace change while remaining vigilant to ensure that the Town’s unique character and quality of life is not compromised”.

To that end we would like to recommend 10 Top Priorities for the Council to consider and incorporate in your Winter Retreat and work plan for 2020.

1. Complete Valley Boulevard Vision Process, evaluate recommendations and update the Land Use Code as appropriate
2. Approve a similar process including a professional advisor to update the 2014 Comprehensive Plan during the 2020 summer to maximize community input
3. Update Land Use Codes for West Main Street as recommended in the 2014 Comprehensive Plan (Page 3-3) to preserve existing setbacks and greenspace
4. Adopt Conditional Zoning Permit and eliminate Conditional Use Permits to allow citizen input for Council consideration
5. Update the Land Use Code to clarify existing code and unwritten interpretations including definitions for hotel & residential STR, 75% green space in front setback and vested downtown parking rights.
6. Address the Downtown Congestion Problem by preparing and implementing a comprehensive Parking and Traffic Management Plan using a professional advisor
7. Acquire land to expand and complete the park
8. Set expectations for Sustainable Tourism and ask the TDA to prepare a Tourism Management Plan with community input
9. Prepare a Long-Term Capital Improvements and Funding Plan with a priority on the W&S Improvement Plan
10. Implement local EMS coverage to adequately manage our risks – Adopt 90+9 National Standard for our citizens

Thank you for listening to your community.

Sincerely,

Tim Gupton
President

Winkler Hotel Approved by Planning Board with Restricted Hotel Use

The Winkler Family’s proposed 12-unit hotel project was approved by the Planning Board on November 21st. The 12-unit townhouse type hotel will be be located at the former Blue Ridge Motor Court property, between El Rincon and the Blowing Rock Inn in the 800 block of North Main Street in downtown Blowing Rock.

The conditional rezoning application was approved with stipulation that the site only be used for a hotel so that subsequent owners cannot convert to short-term rental use since the parking is not adequate for residential use.

Winkler said that the rooms are designed for a longer stay and are more family oriented than just a normal hotel room. The two story units are approximately 750 square feet and will include a kitchenette, a living area, two bathrooms, one shower, a patio and balcony. Six of the spaces would face North Main Street and the other six would face the back of the property toward Sunflower Lane.

The highest point of the building would be 37 feet, 10 inches, according to the application, and it would meet the town’s setback requirements, the application states, as the closest point would be 54 feet from the back of the sidewalk adjacent to the street.

The Civic Association’s Real Estate Evaluation Committee led by Marshall Sealey and Tim Gupton evaluated the project and issued a report to the Planning Board recommending that the use be restricted to hotel use only due to parking and that the Planning Board and Town Council review and clarify a specific greenspace code requirement that staff interprets as not applicable. The report concluded that the projects meets the goals of Town’s 2014 Comprehensive Plan and the recommendations in the Civic Association’s Advocacy Plan.

The plans require final approval by the Blowing Rock Town Council, which next meets on December 10th.

Tom Lucido joins Board of Blowing Rock Civic Association

Friends,

We are pleased to announce that Tom Lucido is joining our board. He brings tremendous experience with real estate development in the southeast.

His help will be essential to help us understand and recommend updates to the Land Use Code in 2020 based on an updated Comprehensive Plan and our Advocacy Plan. We believe it is essential for the Town Council to approve update the Comprehensive Plan in the summer of 2020 based on community, Planning Board and professional advice similar to the process being used for the Valley Boulevard Vision.

You can read our Advocacy Plan at the link on our website at http://www.brcivic.org/

Tom’s Bio follows:

Thomas Lucido is President, of Lucido & Associates located in Stuart, Florida. Tom resides in Stuart, FL and Blowing Rock, NC. Lucido & Associates provides clients with a full spectrum of services in land planning, landscape architecture, comprehensive planning, local governmental coordination, and environmental analysis.

Tom’s expertise is in large scale planning for mixed use communities. One well known project Tom has been involved with is the Stuart Downtown Redevelopment program. He has worked together with the City and the Community Redevelopment Association in realizing their master vision.

Lucido & Associates has been recognized through numerous local, state and national awards. Recently Lucido & Associates has been involved in various local projects, providing landscape architecture for private residences and for landscape improvements for the Blowing Rock Country Club and Diamond Creek Country Club.

Join me in welcoming Tom to our board.

Tim Gupton
President

Village on the Headwaters – Tree houses and Offices approved for former New River Inn site

The Town Council approved a new development on Valley Boulevard by the owners of 4 Forty Four. The proposed office building is just before the water treatment plant driving north to Boone on Valley Boulevard.

The property is approximately 5 acres and will include 10 short term rental residences and a second office building or 16 residences and no second office building.

The Middle Fork River runs through the property and the Troyers have committed to provide a conservation easement for the Middle Fork Greenway.

The project is planned to be environmentally sensitive by allowing restoration of the river for the Middle Fork Greenway, solar energy for the offices, preservation of trees and preservation of the forested upland portion of the property.

Read article by Thomas Sherrill in the Blowing Rocket
https://www.wataugademocrat.com/main_street/village-on-the-headwaters-tree-houses-new-offices-approved-for/article_78e8381c-e94a-55b9-88a6-544965dd034f.html#utm_source=wataugademocrat.com&utm_campaign=%2Fnewsletters%2Fheadlines%2F%3F-dc%3D1573813814&utm_medium=email&utm_content=headline

Watauga County Selects Emergency Notification Provider – Good First Step to Improving EMS in Blowing Rock

Watauga County NC Selects Emergency Notification Provider

Hyper-Reach Chosen to Help Protect Lives and Property

November 6, 2019//Watauga County, NC
For Immediate Release

Telephone-based mass notifications systems are used by thousands of public safety agencies across the US to warn citizens about local emergencies, hazards and other threats. Now Watauga County announces that they have selected Hyper-Reach to help bring this same life-saving capability to the area. Hyper-Reach is a state of the art mass emergency notification system designed specifically for public safety. The county expects to have the service fully operational by the end of November 20, 2019.

The new emergency alert system will provide rapid notification of hazardous and urgent situations using a mix of telephone calls, text and email messages, and even TTY/TDD service for the hearing impaired. The system sends thousands of these messages to geographically targeted households in seconds, and can simultaneously deliver them to an even broader audience via social media, as well as sending broadcast messages to most current mobile telephones (made since 2011) in an affected area by providing access to FEMA’s Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system.

“Our job is to protect the citizens of Watauga County as effectively and cost-effectively as possible.” said Will Holt, Emergency Services Director for Watauga County. “We reviewed all the major vendors for emergency notification service, and Hyper-Reach gave us everything we needed and more. We’re really excited about this new capability.”

The County plans to use the service primarily for alerts about weather and environmental hazards, criminal activity and missing persons. Landline phones are automatically enrolled for Community alerts, but Weather alerts to landline phones and Community and Weather alerts to mobile phones and email addresses are only included when people enroll. Residents and people who work in Watauga County are encouraged to enroll now either by calling or texting “Alert” to 828 475-8725 or by going to the website http://hyper-reach.com/ncwataugasignup.html.
Citizens can also download the Hyper-Reach Anywhere app on their smartphone. Hyper-Reach Anywhere is a free smartphone app that allows individual citizens to manage and monitor the alerts they receive, both for their home and office addresses and for other addresses they care about such as those of elderly relatives or friends.

“We’re honored to have been selected by Watauga County NC to provide its emergency alerts,” said Sam Asher, President of Hyper-Reach. “It’s gratifying to be part of an effort to save lives and protect property and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

About Hyper-Reach
Hyper-Reach (www.hyper-reach.com) is a mass notification system with over 15 years of experience in emergency messaging. Hyper-Reach sends messages via automated telephone calls, text messaging (SMS), email, and social media, such as Twitter. Other uses of Hyper-Reach include Amber alerts, toxic chemical warnings, and armed shooter alerts. In addition to 911 centers, Hyper-Reach is used by law enforcement, educational institutions, and corporations.
For more information about Hyper-Reach, go to www.hyper-reach.com or call 855-266-8439 (855 2-Notify).

Town of Blowing Rock Election Results

The dialogue with the community was effective with two forums and published interviews.

This election seemed to be framed around progress and preservation.

Incumbent Mayor Sellers was unopposed and was elected with 421 votes.

We have one new Town Council member.

Challenger David Harwood was elected with 308 votes.

Incumbent Albert Yount was elected with 215 votes

Challenger Ray Pickett received 167 votes

Incumbent Jim Steele received 156 votes.

Thank you to all of our candidates who ran for office. You demonstrated a love of Blowing Rock and commitment to serve the community. We especially wish to thank Jim Steele for the many years of service to our community.

Tim Gupton
President

Headwaters of the New River Project on Valley Boulevard

The Planning Board approved the conditional rezoning application from Kevin Troyer owner of 4 Forty Four construction company to approve the Headwaters project located on the former New River Inn property at 6875 Valley Boulevard with four conditions including a 5 year vested right to commence all phases of the project and installation of a photovoltaic solar system on the south side of the office building utilizing space in excess of the percentage allowed by current ordinances.

The project is a re-develop of an existing site that includes an officer building on Valley Boulevard, potentially a second office building and up to 10 cottage or treehouse residential rental units on about 5 acres. The project was described as low impact and environmentally sensitive.

The New River runs through the property and certain areas are in a floodplain and wetlands. The application included a commitment from the owners to conserve portions of the river bed land to allow construction of the Middle Fork Greenway.

The project should be on the November Town Council agenda.

Valley Boulevard Vision Committee – Community Input

The Valley Boulevard Vision Committee completed the second of two community meetings. The Civic Association was represented at both meetings and attended all of the committee meetings leading up to the community meetings.

The meetings were led by Benchmark who reviewed 8 new buildings and 22 renovations since the current Land Use Code was adopted in 1997. In the interim, completion of 321 project has substantially impacted the look and feel of Valley Boulevard.

This review is our first time to re-think redevelopment of Valley Boulevard since completion of 321 with four lanes, sidewalks, lamp posts and landscaping.

We have a new slate to improve and represent the look of Blowing Rock. One citizen said we have a choice between Highlands or Gatlinberg. Clearly our citizens want a look reflects the character of Blowing Rock.

The next step will be for the committee with the help of Benchmark to summarize the community input and begin a process to craft recommendations to the Town Council. You can share your input by email to Council Member Sue Sweeting who is chairperson of the committee at ssweeting@tobr.us.

The Civic Association’s 2019/2020 Action Plan includes specific recommendations to consider as updates to the Land Use Code. Our recommendations follow:

1. Increase setbacks to 30 feet from current 20 feet and continue the maximum height limit of 50 feet
2. Require lawns, landscaping and trees in the front of buildings
3. Place parking on the back or side of building and landscape parking lots
4. Adopt separate Land Use Codes that specifically address the narrow lots on East Valley Boulevard
5. Embrace the flower and landscaping image of downtown Blowing Rock on the medians and banks along Valley Boulevard
6. Plan additional landscaping of newly created banks with stone walls and landscaping like Main Street at the Chestnut neighborhood banks
7. Protect and plan for restoration of the New River to use as an amenity in the future and to protect the stream bed from inappropriate stormwater runoff
8. Adopt a specific sign ordinance that places low signs near the driveway entrances and does not allow multiple signs or back-lighted signs
9. Adopt outdoor lighting guidelines
10. Clarify architectural design guidelines with more pictures to include colors, materials, windows and sloped roofs
11. Include public art along corridor

Please read the article by Thomas Sherrill in the Watauga Democrat which summaries the two community meetings.

https://www.wataugademocrat.com/news/blowing-rock-gives-its-opinion-on-valley-boulevard/article_bbbbad46-1796-5f04-bced-0c65e334316c.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share