The Blowing Rock Board of Adjustments hearing on the appeal denying Chad Frazier's 163 Wilmot Circle property used for short-term rental took two sessions, each over 5 hours.
BOA Appeal May Be Forthcoming
After a second marathon session of the Blowing Rock Board of Adjustments, the Town of Blowing Rock has again slammed the door on short-term rentals in the R-15 residential zones. The decision came in the case of property owned by Chad Frazier, the 163 Wilmot Circle apartment building that has been the center of the growing conflict for the over three years Frazier has owned the property.
The second session of the appeal began at 5:30pm with BOA Interim Chair E.B. Springs joking that there was a very important basketball game on at 9 that he wanted to be home in time to see. But like the marathon session that began this hearing late on the afternoon of January 15th and was recessed at 11pm, this one wouldn’t be decided until after midnight on 2/20/2020.
And it probably is not a settled dispute, as Frazier’s attorney, David S. Pokela of Greensboro, answered a request for a comment on the decision, saying “I don’t comment on ongoing litigation.”
But between the opening gavel and the early-morning finale, the three attorneys—Pokela for Frazier, the appellate, Boone attorneys Allen Moseley, representing the Town of Blowing Rock, and Jonathan Green, representing the closest property owners to the disputed property, Jack and Morgan Horner, debated points and history of Blowing Rock zoning law. David Pokela questioned Blowing Rock Planning Director Kevin Rothrock at length about the sequences that lead to changes in the town ordinance, especially on the most recent changes that occurred in 2018, attempting to demonstrate that changes were made after Frazier purchased the property.
For a time, it appeared the town’s case might hinge on a single word from another North Carolina governing body as Rockingham County, in a Court of Appeals decision rendered Monday, took to task the term “use” as in “actual and intended use” in the local ordinance, a point to which attorney Pokela said “You have to read ‘intent’ out of this by implication,” pointing out that the Rockingham County decision “expressly excluded intent.” It took some time for the attorneys to come to terms over Pokela’s fresh argument, but in the end, chairman Springs read several extensive sets of points and findings in the case, and the board voted unanimously to deny Frazier’s appeal.
A quiet Blowing Rock neighborhood has found its tranquility challenged—some say ruined—by noise, traffic, by non-residents’ cars blocking access, and by strangers reportedly seen crossing adjacent properties day and night. Those complaints prompted action on the part of the Town of Blowing Rock, action centering on the apparent illegal use the property with the owner allowing short term renters.
The Town’s investigation into these complaints led to an order for the owner of 163 Wilmot Circle to stop short term rentals—defined as any rental of less than 28 days—that prompted owner, Chad Frazier, to retain a Greensboro attorney, filing an appeal to the Final Notice of Violation to the Blowing Rock Board of Adjustments. Frazier’s claim is that his property has a grandfathered right to make short term rentals of his three units at the Wilmot Circle address. The property is just off Wallingford Street behind Rumple Presbyterian Church in an R-15 single-family residential zone, where short-term rental of property is not permitted in Blowing Rock.
The hearing that followed turned into a marathon five-plus hour session last month at Blowing Rock Town Hall attended by Frazier, impacted neighbors and their attorney, and a number of Blowing Rock residents concerned about damage that might result from a precedent setting expansion of short term rentals.
But the ramifications surrounding short-term rentals are being felt across the state and country in towns large and small.
Short term rentals promoted by Airbnb and other major international companies have impacted –some say destroyed—a number of second home communities in the US. One community, Sedona, Arizona, is cited as an example as residents of the upscale community say they’re finding rental communities are destroying their home values.
While Blowing Rock has dealt with noise, traffic, and parking complaints on this particular property, Charlotte has seen short-term rental properties used for large parties, some ending in gunfire. Last summer, WRAL reported that the Raleigh City Council approved rules for Airbnb rentals; including limiting them to two adult guests at any time and prohibiting the rental of more than two rooms in a home. The rules took effect in January, with violations bringing a $500 fine.
WRAL also noted that Asheville, Nags Head and other cities across the state also have adopted restrictions on short-term rentals for zoning and public safety reasons.
The Blowing Rock hearing is the continuation of the appeal to the Board of Adjustment by Chad Frazier, that after the BOA ruled against his petition regarding the legal use of the property, finding short-term rentals there to be in violation of town’s R-15 residential zoning.
On the state level, the Blowing Rock Civic Association and others from the High Country made their concerns known to 93rd District State Senator Ray Russell and other legislators when Airbnb and others began working with legislators on state-wide laws that would take away local control. But Russell’s office said that—for now—such efforts have failed in committee and no such proposal is currently on the table.
Blowing rock records show that the Wilmot Circle property was built in 1940 as a six-unit multi-family complex, and when zoning became law there in 1974, the property was zoned R-15, but was grandfathered as a non-conforming use. Board of Adjustment minutes show that the units were rented long term from early 1992 to February 2004. The record further shows that in May of 2004, Dr. Dan Wilson, who was then owner of the property, applied for a zoning permit, then that October, obtained a building permit for renovations.
The renovations reduced the number of dwelling units from six to three, thereby reducing—but not eliminating— the nonconformity. The report further said that, as far as the Planning and Inspections office was aware, the property was used for long-term rental until a complaint of short-term rental was received in 2014.
Records show that the property was sold in 2016 to Chad Frazier to be used as short-term rental, but with the change in ownership, the town contends that the property came out from under being grandfathered in the non-conforming use. According to Town Manager Shane Fox, the town began receiving occupancy tax payments on the property, Fox noting that prior to that, there were no records of such tax payments from the previous owner.
Some of the town’s contentions in the matter are that Frazier failed to do due diligence on zoning or get rental records before making the purchase.
The town’s actions took a turn when it was found that a 2018 amendment to the zoning law was not signed and recorded, and the town had to renew their action in the summer of 2019. Frazier renewed his appeal on the last day, prompting the quazi-judicial proceeding now underway.
Chad Frazier did not speak in last month’s session while his attorney questioned town planning and zoning officials late into the night, the session finally adjourning at 11pm.
Town Manager Shane Fox said the town will make their case mostly with four witnesses when the proceeding reconvenes Wednesday, February 19th, 5:30pm, and he said due to the large interest, it will be held in the American Legion Hall just behind the town offices.
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August 30, 2016
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‘BLOWING ROCK REAL ESTATE EXPERTS PRESENT SURPRISING FACTS AND INSIGHTS AT BLOWING ROCK CIVIC ASSOCIATION COMMUNITY MEETING”
Blowing Rock is a buyers’ market according to a panel of real estate experts assembled by the Blowing Rock Civic Association for a number of citizens attending a community meeting at the American Legion Building in downtown Blowing Rock. Blowing Rock residential properties are moving at the best rate in several years but prices are lower than before the great national recession that started in 2008 and the forty eight homes that have sold to date this year in the immediate Blowing Rock area had been on the market for an average of 357 days according to the realtors. The realtors said there are currently 70 single family homes and 36 condominiums/townhouses on the market in the immediate Blowing Rock area. They also noted in graphs that are attached that 69% of the homes sold in Blowing Rock since 2011 have ranged in price from $ 250,000- $ 500,000. The realtors observed with concern that despite extensive successful efforts to attract tourists to the town by the Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Development Authority Blowing Rock has had a sharp drop in the number of fulltime residents since 2000 to the current approximately 1200. The realtors encouraged efforts to reverse this loss of population to preserve the town and to improve a seriously deficient infrastructure. They said good roads and streets are critical to the future of Blowing Rock. They are optimistic about the impact of a completed Highway 321 widening project but they are seriously concerned about the poor condition of many town streets. The realtors saw the new Chestnut Hill Development on the old Blowing Rock Hospital site as a very positive one bringing 24 new luxury condos/townhouses to a location with spectacular views and walking distance from downtown. The realtors said there is a great need for Blowing Rock to do some first class marketing particularly in Charlotte and Raleigh to potential Blowing Rock second home buyers. A panel member said that Raleigh homes now are selling after only an average of four hours on the market. The Charlotte market for homes is also booming. The realtors view Blowing Rock as primarily a second home residential community rather than a resort or tourist destination, though they certainly recognize the value of the tourism business to the area. They pointed out that most of Blowing Rock’s revenue is received from homeowners most of whom require little
service therefore enabling the town and county to have some of the lowest property tax rates in the state. The panel said, of course, the biggest assets for Blowing Rock are the world class panoramic views and scenery and wonderful seasonal climate. Outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, horseback riding, rafting, biking, tennis, golf, and croquet that take advantage of this great outdoors environment are all strong inducements to buy a home in Blowing Rock. They cautioned that any move by government or business that damages views and scenery is a devastating blow to area prosperity. The panel also sees downtown Blowing Rock’s village environment to be very valuable and much sought after by potential home buyers. They also see activities and attractions such as the Ragged Garden Inn’s great Friday evening lawn parties, Ensemble Stage productions, the Chamber’s Savor Blowing Rock, and Art in the Park, the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum and the Blowing Rock Country Club as very positive for the town. They recommended more quality events to bring potential home buyers. The realtors said that the quality of shops downtown has diminished over the last several years and they said that more quality retailers would be very helpful to Blowing Rock. The real estate experts encouraged dynamic efforts to promote and preserve Blowing Rock’s unique natural beauties and village character in order to capitalize on the growth of Appalachian State University, Boone and Charlotte rather than be run over by short term pushes for quick dollars and fast growth. The real estate panel was composed of Scott Macintosh and Anne Rasheed of Blowing Rock Investment Properties, Pam Vines and Kathleen Austin of Jenkins Realtors, and Richard Puckett and Maurice Williams of Premier Sotheby’s Real Estate. Realtors Gardelle Lewis and Bill Carter were moderators. This meeting was the first of what will be annual Blowing Rock real estate panel programs sponsored by the Blowing Rock Civic Association. A complete video of the realtors’ panel community meeting can be seen on the Blowing Rock Civic Association