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.

 

 

ALERT !!! VOTE ON 40 ROOM HOTEL IN DOWNTOWN BLOWING ROCK SET FOR TUESDAY 6/11/2019 COUNCIL MEETING

Friends – After two heated public hearings including an unprecedented forced recusal of outstanding Council Member Sue Sweeting from participation in the important process and the exclusion of significant expert testimony in behalf of homeowners impacted by the project, Blowing Rock Council will vote on a requested permit by a Charlotte developer for a 40 room hotel with restaurant, bar, patio service and 53 parking places on a small .905 acre property back of the Speckled Trout in downtown. The vote by the remaining four council members will be part of the regular council monthly meeting that starts at 6:00 P.M. at Town Hall Tuesday night. Important factors concerning this project are:
1. If built the building will reach six stories (60 feet) above Highway 221 becoming a very prominent landmark towering over much of downtown.
2. Downtown buildings are currently limited to three stories (30 feet) in height with some increased height allowed with significant setbacks. The 60 feet height above a primary street could create an important precedent.
3. Town code requires currently that 75% of the front setback space for this building be green space and that all parking be at the sides or in the back of this building. The proposed plan eliminates this green space requirement and uses the declared front setback space off of Morningside Dr. for parking.
4. The project as proposed substantially exceeds the town’s impervious surface limit on terrain that has significant runoff.
5. The development’s customer traffic and tractor trailer delivery truck traffic would be on narrow neighborhood streets Morningside and Rainey.
6. Some parking spaces in the project do not meet town code size requirements.
7. No independent study was done on firefighting for this project.
8. No study was done on the impact of the project on peak summer weekend traffic on the surrounding neighborhood and downtown.
9. Expert appraiser Michael Lacey testified that the hotel development would substantially injure the value of adjoining and abutting residential properties.

 

We encourage everyone to attend this important meeting that will have a major impact on downtown Blowing Rock.

 

We also encourage everyone to participate in an open discussion of town issues with Council Member Sue Sweeting at 5:00 P.M. Tuesday night 6/11 at the Town Hall Conference Room.

 

Thanks so much,

 

Blowing Rock Civic Association

Thoughts for “THE SEASON” by Dan Phillips

“THE SEASON”

By Dan Phillips

 

As you come back to Town to live and play for the season, we hope that you appreciate being kept up to date with what is going on in town.

The last thing you want to do is get involved in the political issues in BR, you are only here for a short time.

I know that you enjoy low Taxes, safety, great schools and property values.

We are fortunate that the BRCA (Blowing Rock Civic Association) is willing to go out front and deal with local challenges to make sure that people in Town government and organizations such as (Chamber and TDA) are held accountable.

They are catching a lot of unwarranted criticism.

This is not only hard work; it is very frustrating, and some cases sitting through hours of meetings (sometimes up to 5 hours) that are truly hard to understand the reasoning and decisions.

If you want to see what the BRCA is dealing with, go to Facebook and look at the clips people have posted about the last council meeting.

Please be careful of the rumor mill, no matter if it is verbal or written. These are always one person’s opinion. Including mine.

A perfect example is the current proposed Project for the Rainey Lodge at 221 and Morning Side Drive. This building will be close to 6 stories high from 221. It will overpower that road and neighborhood.

Just bring it within code and I feel more people will support it.

One of the commissioners was excused from voting based on talking with a DOT representative to find out basic information about traffic to make a good decision.

This person was elected to make decisions for the Town. This is wrong.

If we wanted to excuse others it would not be difficult to do. For example, how many council members have met with this Developer to discuss this project?

Get ready folks, very soon this in the hands of Lawyers. God help us.

Small Town politics can smell just as bad as Statewide or Nationally.

Most of the council members are good people that care enough to give of their time to serve.

Newly elected members have a steep learning curve.

That means that they must learn from their mistakes. (At our expense)

We can afford to say NO to tall Buildings. We need to stick with no higher than2-3 stories.

The way you keep something special is you limit the amount of it.

There are folks saying that a Higher Tide Floats more boats.

Personally, I feel you can only have some many boats the congestion alone will kill the sweet village character.

Runaway unchecked development has serious consequences.

We are just around the corner from becoming Gatlinburg.

The BRCA needs your support with your talents as well as funds.  If you can register to vote, you need to do it.  100 new voters can change the outcome of elections.

We need your help to keep this place special.

 

Disclaimer:  I need to remind readers that my blog contains my opinions and doesn’t reflect the opinions of any organizations or individuals that I might be affiliated with.

 

 

Watauga Democrat’s Review of the Town Council Meeting May 14, 2019 by Thomas Sherrill

Rainey Lodge public hearing finishes, council decision set for June 11
By Thomas Sherrill thomas.sherrill@wataugademocrat.com
May 15, 2019

BLOWING ROCK — After a combined 10 hours split between two meetings and a forced recusal of a council member, the quasi-judicial public hearing for the proposed Rainey Lodge hotel ended on May 14, but the Blowing Rock Town Council will decide the fate of the project at its next monthly meeting on June 11.

The project, developed by Grand Dakota Development — a limited liability corporation owned and operated by Stephen Barker, who also owns the tract of land — would construct a 40-room hotel on a 0.905-acre plot of commercially zoned land between Morningside Drive, Rainey Street and U.S. 221 in downtown Blowing Rock.

Rainey Lodge has faced opposition from a group of neighbors, who hired Stacy “Four” Eggers IV of Eggers Law Firm of Boone to contest the project as an intervening party. The group contends the project would diminish the value of their properties, cause additional traffic on residential roads and result in noise pollution due to a planned bar, outside seating and guest-room balconies.

The quasi-judicial public hearing starting at the April 9 town council meeting, lasting roughly five hours before being put on hold due to time.

At the resumption of the hearing on May 14, Chelsea Garrett of di Santi, Watson, Capua, Wilson & Garrett law firm in Boone, who is representing Grand Dakota Development, asked that Councilwoman Sue Sweeting be recused from the hearing due to an email she sent March 26 to N.C. Department of Transportation Engineer Mike Pettyjohn asking about traffic impact studies of the area, a point of legal contention on April 9.

Town Manager Jim Freeman said he advised council members of the rules before the March 21 Blowing Rock Planning Board meeting, which Sweeting attended. Per the rules of the quasi-judicial public hearings in Blowing Rock, council members act as a trial jury and may not solicit and receive input about the case outside of the public hearing. Council members told the public at the onset of the hearing on April 9 that they couldn’t talk about the case and couldn’t even read emails sent to them about it.

Sweeting denied Garrett’s request to recuse herself.

“I would have recused myself if I truly believed I did something wrong,” Sweeting said. “I have no fixed opinion on this. I trust my ability to be impartial.”

Garrett then asked the remaining council members to vote on recusing Sweeting from the hearing, per town code, which they did in a 3-1 vote. Council members Virginia Powell, Doug Matheson and Jim Steele voted in favor of recusal while Mayor Pro-Tem Albert Yount voted against Sweeting’s recusal.

“This is the hardest decision in my 10-year tenure,” Matheson said prior to the vote. “I hate that factors have put us against each other … a mistake was made and we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

“I believe that Sue is a good councilperson with integrity,” Steele said prior to the recusal vote. “She made a mistake … this is important for everyone here.”

Sweeting will not be able to vote for or against the Rainey Lodge application on June 11.

After a lengthy back-and-forth discussion, council voted unanimously to reject Mary Shkut, an independent contractor and current village council member from Marvin, located in Union County, as an expert witness.

Shkut said she was hired in February by local activist nonprofit Blowing Rock Civic Association to provide feedback on the town’s code as it relates to zoning and ordinances. Shkut said she was later asked to provide feedback on the Rainey Lodge proposal.

In her closing statement later in the meeting, Garrett criticized the BRCA, saying they are well meaning, but have acted behind the scenes pulling strings and trying to impose their will on the council without directly getting involved. BRCA member Dan Phillips posted a blog on the association’s website on May 8, saying that the BRCA knows how to protect the town from developers while contending the organization is not against every proposed development.

Despite not being approved as an expert witness, Eggers was able to ask Shkut a question as a witness. Shkut said that in her opinion, the Rainey Lodge plan is not compatible with the residential neighborhood and said there was “a lot of lacking” in the application.

Powell protested that allowing Shkut to speak was “a waste of time,” wanting witnesses such as neighbors and residents to speak instead. Town attorney Allen Moseley allowed Eggers to ask Shkut questions, telling Powell that that they didn’t want to go through an appeal process.

The council also unanimously refused to admit Shkut’s written analysis into evidence as an exhibit.

Blowing Rock Planning Director Kevin Rothrock was called by Garrett, continuing where the April 9 meeting left off. Garrett asked Rothrock specifically about the application and whether it fit town code, to which Rothrock said it did in his determination.

Eggers requestioned Rothrock about his authority compared to the council’s. Rothrock said he is called upon to interpret the ordinance and in this case, would not provide a recommendation for council.

Newland-based real estate broker and appraiser Michael Lacey gave expert testimony for Eggers that there would be a substantial negative financial impact on the adjoining residential properties. Lacey said that even if Eggers wasn’t paying him as an expert witness, he would reach the same conclusions based on his findings. Garrett contended that Lacey, not having any numbers to support his thoughts, devalued his testimony.

Becky Browning, who lives on Rainey Street, said she doesn’t feel like the proposed development would lead to more cars on residential roads and people going right on Rainey.

Mark Crumpler said there would be more traffic on Morningside Drive trying to turn onto U.S. 221, plus he had concerns about food and beverage trucks going into the hotel lot.

Morningside Drive resident Lynda Lasseter said there would be damage to the neighborhood roads and that the hotel would be “out of place.” Marshall Sealey said the examples of boutique hotels for the town that are in the Comprehensive Plan are nothing like the Rainey Lodge proposal.

In his closing argument, Eggers asked the council what they wanted the community to look like.

“This project will set the standard for what Blowing Rock will look like,” Eggers said. “The roof sits six stories above (U.S.) 221; does that promote the reputation of Blowing Rock being the prettiest town in North Carolina?”

Eggers said the applicant did not meet the standard as required by town code for approval.

Garrett asked that the council review the record and said that it’s substantial and competent. Garrett said there’s been statements of support sent to the council and brought up that it was unanimously approved by the town’s planning board.

“The project complies, the application is complete, it will actually improve safety based on the testimony of a traffic expert,’ Garrett said. “Everything the way (Rainey Lodge) was designed was done for Blowing Rock.”

In other council matters, Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers thanked Jim Freeman for his service as interim town manager. Freeman’s last day is June 2 before new town manager Shane Fox takes over.

 

 

Blowing Rock Civic Association’s Response to Town Council Meeting May 14, 2019

Subject: Public Hearing on Proposed Rainey Lodge 40 Room Hotel & Restaurant in Downtown Blowing Rock Completed – Tipping Point

Blowing Rock Friends,

Tipping Point – Division versus Unity

This public hearing was a tipping point for Blowing Rock creating division rather than unity to protect our shared concerns for the future of our community, especially our historic downtown that is our leading economic development asset.   The issues raised during the hearing are not whether the community would benefit from a new hotel, but the polarization created by the developer friendly CUP process which didn’t allow for a full consideration of how the developer, the community, and council could work together for the best outcomes.

Unusual Actions – Attack on Council and Community

At the resumption of the public hearing on a permit for a 40 room hotel with restaurant, bar and patio service, the developer’s attorney, Chelsea Garrett, demanded that the Council vote to recuse Council Member Sue Sweetiing from the proceeding alleging that she had a bias against the project.  Council Member Sweeting adamantly stated she had no bias and could objectively consider the project.  Nonetheless, the Council voted to remove Council Member Sue Sweeting from participating in the Council’s decision on the project.  The pretext used by the developer’s attorney was Sweeting’s communication with the NCDOT to understand the NCDOT requirements for a project located on this site.  Attorney Four Eggers, who is representing a group of Morningside and Rainey residential neighbors in this process, raised strong objection to Sweeting’s removal citing laws governing recusals and objecting to the lack of opportunity to be heard on this issue.

Shortly thereafter Council was asked by the developer’s attorney to vote to exclude testimony from an expert witness who had done an extensive and documented study of the Rainey Lodge project finding that it failed to meet town codes in a number of ways. Blowing Rock Civic Association (BRCA) decided to hire a planning expert earlier this year to assist the board with understanding the Land Use Code and later to review this project. Her initial report was presented to the Planning Board when the board approved the project, but the Planning Board and action by the Council did not take advantage of the information.  BRCA also made her report available to the attorney for the Morningside & Rainey neighbors.  Why the Town Council wouldn’t even agree to listen to the concerns of this expert witness is a question that leads to some troubling conclusions.

 

 

 

In closing remarks, the developer’s attorney attacked BRCA for “pulling strings from behind the scenes” as a means to somehow discredit the legal challenge mounted by the neighbors.  Ordinary citizens are not normally organized and do not have the experience or individual resources to hire professionals to represent their interests. BRCA assisted the neighbors in a process that requires legal assistance and experts so that they could represent their interest against a well-funded developer and assure all facts were presented.

Goal of Blowing Rock Civic Association – Facts not Endorsement or Opposition

Blowing Rock Civic Association neither endorses nor opposes this or any project, but rather is committed to making sure all of the facts are available to the community and Council to use in making their decisions. Expert testimony to uncover all facts is critically important in the very developer friendly conditional use permit process that excludes citizen opinions.

BRCA’s Development Evaluation Committee issued positive reports on the 1150 Main Street project commencing in downtown on Main Street and Pine Street, The Inn on Cornish nearing completion on Blowing Rock Highway (221), and the Chestnut at Blowing Rock condominiums nearing completion at the old hospital site.  All variances were declared and on the table for review and approval by the Council.

Project Compliance – Form over Substance

While the developer has claimed from the beginning that the application totally meets the town code, the developer has amended the details of the project throughout the CUP hearing process to try and correct deficiencies raised by citizens.   The Planning Director has always supported the developer’s claim of compliance throughout the process, but the Council is responsible for the final decision based on the facts presented.   The developer hopes the Council will ignore or ‘interpret’ away non-compliance.  The developer’s attorney challenged all opposing facts presented by the neighbors and the community.

Members of the public including neighbors, citizens and a hotel owner cited concerns about the project. No one from the community spoke in favor of the project. The attorney for the neighbors presented evidence to support a conclusion that the developer did not meet the burden of proof required by the Findings of Fact.  The major facts that raise objections to this project are:

1.      The project does not comply with town code requiring 75% greenspace in the front of the building and all that parking be at the sides or back of the building.  The developer claims the primary entrance and lobby entrance (or front) is on Morningside Drive to gain the maximum height allowed with the setback, but not for the greenspace requirement which was used for parking rather than greenspace. This condition is clear in the Land Use Code and is not subject to interpretation and should have been declared as a variance when the application was submitted to the Planning Board.

2.      The market values of the surrounding homes will be negatively impacted by a large commercial building with this use and hours of operation.

3.      The project greatly exceeds the 24% maximum impervious surface requirement of town code.

4.      The project fails to adequately provide for fire trucks and tractor trailer delivery trucks to operate safely within the development and on to neighborhood streets that will be used for ingress and egress.

5.      The development fails to provide parking spaces that meet the code’s minimum design requirements.

6.      The overall height from the sidewalk on 221 is approximately 60 feet or 6 stories. The code requires that structures do not impede the scenic views of the natural environment.

 

The Council should not be intimidated by the legal risks threatened by the developer’s attorney as the code is clear:

 

The burden of establishing these findings of fact shall lie upon the applicant. In addressing the issue of compatibility, the applicant must demonstrate compatibility with the particular neighborhood in which the development or use is to be located. The fact that a use is authorized as a conditional use within a zoning district classification shall not give rise to a presumption that such conditional use is compatible with other uses authorized in the zoning district classification.

Next Steps – Improve the Process

The current CUP process is developer friendly, stacked against the citizens and restricts the judgment of the Town Council. This quasi-judicial process is essentially a trial that pits the developer against the community and puts a gag-order on the members of the Council.  Improvements are needed to achieve these key goals:

1.      Improve the checks and balances around review of project compliance by requiring a detailed compliance checklist to document conclusions and a second review by the Town Manager before presentation to the Planning Board;

2.      Replace or amend the CUP ordinances for downtown projects to allow property owners standing in the hearing process since our downtown, especially Main Street, affects the property values of all property owners;

3.      Make clear that the Town Council, rather than zoning staff, have the final word on what the ordinance they adopted actually means; and

4.      Establish a formal policy  for the Town Council, Planning Board, Board of Adjustment, and the Town Planning Staff to attend educational seminars offered through the North Carolina School of Government on these types of hearings so they are comfortable hearing from the citizens on these types of projects

 

Gigi Poole’s Town Council Meeting Comments May 14, 2019

My name is Gigi Poole and I live at 147 Dogwood Lane, Blowing Rock.  I was not here for the previous meeting, but tonight I have gotten to see the Interveners, but I don’t know who the Applicants are?  Oh, Mr. Barker and his attorney, Ms. Garrett.  And this is the same applicant who came to the Council several months ago asking to build condominiums on the property?  This was voted down, so they have come back now with an attorney to ask for a 40 room hotel to be built.  So, my question is, what is everyone here’s motivation, or vested interest, in the project.

My motivation, and I believe the motivation of most of the people/property owners in this room is to ensure that we maintain the character and beauty of our town.

So what is the motivation of the Applicant?  Since the applicant has now changed what he wants built on his property, it is apparent that he is just interested in money.  He bought this piece of property to make money and that is what he wants.  He may have paid alot or just a little for it, but he wants his money out of it.

Now, we come to our Town Council, what is their/its motivation?  Well, I hope it would be the same as the people in this room, but we know that they are called to a specific charge to vote according to the Findings of Fact, that is displayed on the wall behind me.  These Findings of Fact require that the Council not approve the project unless EACH of the 5 items is met.  It does not say OR; it says EACH.  That is an important distinction.  And I ask that they carefully consider this as they vote.

Thank you for allowing me to speak.