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

THE CHAMBER’S STATE OF THE TOWN MEETING AUGUST 15, 2019

BLOWING ROCK RESIDENTS HEAR THE CHAMBER’S 2019 STATE OF  THE TOWN

The Chamber hosted a State of the Town meeting on August 15th.  Speakers included Shane Fox, Town Manager, Charles Hardin, Chamber Executive Director, Amanda Lugenbell, Assistant Director of the TDA and Mayor Charlie Sellers.

If you subscribe to The Blowing Rocket, you can read an article about the meeting by Thomas Sherrill.

https://www.wataugademocrat.com/news/blowing-rock-residents-hear-the-state-of-the-town/article_062e3d11-9a9d-5d64-abc8-3d20617d7fad.html#utm_source=wataugademocrat.com&utm_campaign=%2Fnewsletters%2Fheadlines%2F%3F-dc%3D1566552611&utm_medium=email&utm_content=headline

Key points of discussion included the state of major projects, like Sunset Drive, Inn at Cornish, 1150 Main Street and Bass Lake sidewalk, adequate workforce, and parking solutions.

The members of the Chamber 2019 Leadership  Challenge Program have identified installation of playground bathrooms as their community project. The project is a priority due to school children not being able to get inside quickly due to security protocol, as well as use by community kids, visitors and recreation programs.  The project will be constructed in spring 2020, based on a fund raising program of $50,000 and $75,000 from the community.

Another issue Hardin brought up for the future is balancing business growth versus keeping Blowing Rock the same. “It’s hard to continue economic growth without destroying the charm of this place,” Hardin said.

The community will host two Candidate Forums for the Town Council.  Mayor Sellers is not opposed and four candidates are running for two open seats currently held by Albert Yount and Jim Steele.  The two additional candidates include David Harwood and Ray Pickett.  The Civic Association’s  Forum is scheduled for 6:15 PM on Thursday, October 3rd at the American Legion Building.  The Chamber’s  Forum is  scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, October 14, at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium.

Blowing Rock Civic Association News

POST – Message from your President

Friends & Neighbors

I am looking forward to leading our organization with the help of a very capable board of directors and your support.  Please visit our website at www.brcivic.org/board-of-directors/to view the recent addition of the bios for our board of directors.

The Civic Association is a strong voice for Homeowners just like the Chamber is a strong voice for Business.  We strive to independently determine the facts of key issues to assure decisions are made with all the facts on the table and to advocate for Homeowners.

Unfortunately, the community has not been unified for the first six months of 2019 and our Civic Association has been under attack as we try to advocate for Homeowners. The Public Hearing on changes to the Land Use Code for Downtown and the Public Hearing for the Rainey Lodge Project divided our community.

My #1 priority and commitment is to work with our community leaders and stakeholder organizations to bring us together to develop solutions for issues that have divided our community.

I believe it is time that we acknowledge the lack of unity on the re-development of our downtown business districts, especially Main Street, and begin a process to bring the community together.

The key question is “How do we protect our historic village while amending our Land Use Code to encourage compatible re-development?”

I have begun meeting with community leaders to build relationships to address this issue and others and continue to attend Town Council and Planning Board meetings.  If you attended our annual meeting, you met our new Town Manager, Mr. Shane Fox. He is committed to open communication and we are looking forward to his leadership.

Please watch for an update of our Communication & Action Plan to refresh and share our goals and recommended action steps.

Mark your calendar for our Candidates Forum on October 3rd at the American Legion Building.  Mayor Sellers does not have a challenger and four candidates are running for two seats on the Town Council. You will have an opportunity to ask questions of the candidates.

Homeowners pay 85% of property taxes, but most Homeowners do not vote in Blowing Rock. You vote with your pocketbook but not at the ballot box.  Elections are won usually by less than 50 votes. Many of you have a choice where you vote. Please consider changing your voter registration to Blowing Rock where YOUR VOTE COUNTS. Please evaluate your ability to register to www.ncsbe.gov/voters/registering-to-vote.

Finally, I want to hear directly from you on issues of concern. You can email me at tgupton@hpg.com or call me at 919.418.8555. We are evaluating a survey tool to solicit your opinions on key issues, so stay tuned.

Respectfully,

 

Tim Gupton

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.