CIVIC ASSOCIATION INTERVIEWS TOWN GOVERNMENT LEADERS

May 3, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners,

The BRCA is pleased to present discussions with Blowing Rock neighbors who are serving our community in town government leadership.

Please join us on our BRCA website to become better acquainted with these dedicated folks and their views on major issues impacting our historic village.

BRCA Board member and Blowing Rock resident Jean Kitchin, an experienced community leader and broadcaster, talks with Town Manager Shane Fox, Council Members David Harwood and Virginia Powell, and Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers. We wish to thank these leaders who agreed to an interview to share their views about our future.

We hope you enjoyed the first video to learn about the Town’s governing structure and the personal stories of why our elected leaders chose to run for office. All commented on their love of Blowing Rock for different reasons.

This week we are rolling out the second of five videos talking about the Positive Aspects of Blowing Rock. The others will be rolled out over the coming weeks:

Introduction of Blowing Rock Town Officials
Discussion of Positive Aspects of Blowing Rock
Discussion of Major Needs in Blowing Rock
Discussion of the Importance of Seasonal Residents
Discussion of the Issues resulting from the Rising Numbers of Tourists

You can view the first video interviews on our website at
https://www.brcivic.org/videos

The video was produced and funded by the Blowing Rock Civic Association with a matching grant from the Mariam & Robert Hayes Charitable Trust.

2020 Retreat Priorities – Source Of Funding

February 21, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners

To understand the Town budget, you need to understand the sources available to the Town Council to fund the general operating budget. The devil is in the details!

Let’s look at the “Numbers”.

Funding Sources
Property Taxes – 63%
Consumer Sales taxes – 14%
User Taxes collected by NC – 6%
Tourism Occupancy Tax – 6%
Other – 11%
Property Taxes Base
Residential Home Owners- 85%
Commercial Property Owners – 15%
Downtown Property Owners (TC&CB) – 9%

Population Data
Census – 1,400 – 33%
Seasonal – 2,900 – 67%
Registered Voters – 1,250 – 29%

The W&S operating budget is funded separately from W&S fees – 80% residential and 20% commercial customers. The W&S budget is not part of this discussion.

The Town does a great job of preparing and documenting the budget. You can read the details on the Town’s website https://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/residents/town-budget/fy-2019-2020-proposed-budget.

We used the FY19-20 Budget since the FY20-21 budget was significantly affected by the risks of reductions in revenue due to the pandemic. Actual results have positively exceeded the conservative estimates.

Funding sources that are available to the Town Council is less that the gross general operating budget because gross revenue includes funding that is not controlled by the Town Council . For FY19-20 the reduction was 17% of the gross operating budget – 47% of sales tax revenue returned to Watauga County by agreement, 67% of occupancy tax retained and controlled by the Tourism Development Authority to promote tourism, Caldwell County reimbursement the Town for Fire & Rescue services and fund balance reserves and debt proceeds counted as revenue. Our calculations reflect these reductions to match the economics to the decisions available to the Town Council.

The Town maintains a Fund Balance Reserve “Rainy-Day Fund” of at least 50% of the general operating budget. Excess funds above the target is used to supplement the general operating budget as needed. This factor positively affects our bond rating.

Property taxes provide 63% of the general operating budget available to the Town Council. Our property tax rate is $0.39 per $100 of our property tax valuation for FY21-20. One cent of property taxes produces $117K of revenue. Our average property valuation is over $900K because the calculation is based on census data. These factors positively affects our bond rating.

The Blowing Rock property tax base is approximately $1.1B – 85% residential property and 15% commercial property. As noted in our last posting, the Downtown (Town Center & Central Business District) tax base is relatively low compared to the total property tax base.

Sales taxes and occupancy taxes are paid by consumers not business owners. The Town relies heavily on homeowners to fund both the general operating and W&S budgets. Sales taxes are based on sales in the County, not the Town, and are allocated to the Town by the County based on an valorem formula reduced by an interlocal agreement. The Town does benefit from a 33% allocation of occupancy taxes to fund infrastructure investments related to tourism.

The challenge for the Town Council is to maintain a fair balance between cost of services to property owners versus tourists. The costs of supporting our tourists particularly in Downtown has been growing as have sales taxes and occupancy taxes, so we recommend that the Town Manager and Town Council objectively match tourism expenses to funding sources. The need for adequate and clean bathrooms, more frequent trash pick-ups, parking enforcement, event management, wayfinding, enhanced tourist park infrastructure to attract tourists and cross walks are examples of costs driven by the impact on the Town to attract and host tourists. The upcoming budget process using 2021 retreat priority to set up a Special Downtown Tax District are opportunities to address the fairness challenge and reset the decision framework.

CIVIC ASSOCIATION INTERVIEWS TOWN GOVERNMENT LEADERS

April 26, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners,

The BRCA is pleased to present discussions with Blowing Rock neighbors who are serving our community in town government leadership.

Please join us on our BRCA website to become better acquainted with these dedicated folks and their views on major issues impacting our historic village.

BRCA Board member and Blowing Rock resident Jean Kitchin, an experienced community leader and broadcaster, talks with Town Manager Shane Fox, Council Members David Harwood and Virginia Powell, and Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers. We wish to thank these leaders who agreed to an interview to share their views about our future.

We will roll out these five videos individually over the coming weeks:

1. Introduction of Blowing Rock Town Officials
2. Discussion of Positive Aspects of Blowing Rock
3. Discussion of Major Needs in Blowing Rock
4. Discussion of the Importance of Seasonal Residents
5. Discussion of the Issues resulting from the Rising Numbers of Tourists

You can view the first video interviews on our website at
https://www.brcivic.org/videos

The video was produced and funded by the Blowing Rock Civic Association with a matching grant from the Mariam & Robert Hayes Charitable Trust.

Sweeping Bill impacting Single-Family Neighborhoods

March 27, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners

ALERT – THIS NC BILL PROPOSES SWEEPING CHANGES FOR RESIDENTIAL ZONING!

Please see below for an NCLM article on a proposed joint NC House and Senate Bill from late Wednesday. This will severely limit our ability to control residential zoning.

Please feel free to reach out our local elected NC legislators – Rep. Pickett and Sen. Ballard.

Ballardla@ncleg.net
Ray.Pickett@ncleg.gov

You can also contact Governor Cooper’s office using the following link. https://governor.nc.gov/contact/contact-governor-cooper

In a sweeping proposal that would implement a de facto statewide residential zoning code, legislators this week proposed eliminating single family-only zoning along with a dozen other land use changes. HB 401/SB 349 Increase Housing Opportunities was introduced Wednesday in both chambers with bipartisan support and the backing of the state’s homebuilding interests.

The bill seeks to allow duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and townhomes in all zones that also include single-family homes, with a few exceptions for places such as registered historic districts.

The bill would also mandate that local governments allow at least one accessory dwelling unit (ADU) per lot in every single-family residential zone, giving all single-family landowners the right to build ADUs, if they conformed with established property line setbacks.

In other changes to the state’s zoning laws, the proposal would freeze zoning codes in place with respect to downzoning any property from a high-intensity use to a lesser-intense use, unless there was a change of circumstances related to public health, safety, and welfare.

It also would severely restrict the use of conditional zoning, a tool used to tailor development projects to fit a community’s specific needs. The bill then makes over a dozen changes that would disfavor local government interests when litigating land use matters.

We need to learn more and will update you as we can.

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Downtown Water & Sewer Replacement – $6 Million

March 27, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners,

At the Winter Retreat, the Town Council included replacement of the aging water and sewer system on Main Street on the Top Priority List.

We reported on this in our Winter Retreat Post. Funding for this project will come from the Water & Sewer Operating Fund after revising the rate structure based on a rate study. The Town Manager and Town Council will review and probably increase water and sewer fees that have been kept low by a minimum fee based on a usage rate that appears to be too high compared to other systems and not including a standard increase increase in rates based on annual inflation.

The Blowing Rocket reported on the the need in the following article by David Rogers. You can read about the project in the following link to the article if you are a subscriber.

https://www.wataugademocrat.com/blowingrocket/main-street-water-sewer-lines-replacement-estimated-at-6-million/article_b4254b71-a711-5421-90f6-b7c8745a21b9.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share

Memorial Park Makeover

March 24, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners,

If you subscribe to the Watauga Democrat or Blowing Rocket you can read the article about the Town Council meeting to makeover Memorial Park using a combination of Federal grant funds, bond funds and other funding from TDA and ABC.  

The Makeover: Parks & Rec committee aiming for $1.29 million Memorial Park renovations, David Rogers Mar 19, 2021 Copyright © , All rights reserved.  https://www.wataugademocrat.com/blowingrocket/the-makeover-parks-rec-committee-aiming-for-1-29-million-memorial-park-renovations/article_870ded6a-1c6e-562f-984f-344b5e651b6a.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share

Additionally, you can watch a video of the meeting using the link on the Town of Blowing Rock website. https://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/residents/meetings   

The newly formed Parks & Rec Advisory Committee led by David Hardwood quickly evaluated priorities and identified these improvements and opportunity to leverage our local investment of taxpayer and tourism funding to apply for a Federal grant by May 1st. 

PRESERVATION OF GATEWAY TO BLOWING ROCK

The Green Park neighborhoods consisting of Gideon Ridge, Lower Green Hill Road, Tarry Acres and Pinnacle have joined together to save a greenspace gateway entrance to the Town.

The increased demand for real estate has focused homeowners and Town leaders on the potential loss of greenspace that we often take for granted.

Conservation of land has been the driver of Blowing Rock’s history, appeal and economy. So the question for our community is how do we preserve and protect smaller tracts of land and encourage development within the Village to respect existing greenspace. The reality is ownership and the Land Use Code are the only two levers to achieve this goal.

We are sharing the following appeal from the homeowners in the Green Park neighborhoods for you to evaluate and consider supporting.

The historic old sixth hole of the Blowing Rock Country Club was originally a fairway and golf green built in 1915 as part of the Green Park-Norwood Golf Course. Later acquired by the Blowing Rock Country Club, the hole was an active hole on the golf course until ca.1990.

Listed on the National Register as a part of the Green Park
Historic District, it has remained an undeveloped hillside meadow rising from Highway 321 near the southerly entrance to Blowing Rock. On February 9, 2021, the Town of Blowing Rock approved the subdivision of the meadow for single-family residential purposes, resulting in the loss of beautiful green space at a gateway entrance to our picturesque mountain community.

The developer, John Winkler, has graciously entertained the thoughts and concerns of a group of residents and has actively worked with the Town to achieve a development plan which will preserve as green space approximately 2 acres of the historic meadow abutting HIghway 321.

The plan calls for the purchase of the approximately 2 acres at a reasonable price and a substantial reduction in the number of residential lots to be developed from 12 to 7. Purchase of this property provides a one-time opportunity to create and maintain a more pleasing gateway to Blowing Rock at the headwaters of the Yadkin River on the Continental Divide. The density of the development will be reduced and the potential for an increase in dangerous conditions on Green Hill Road will be diminished. Mr. Winkler can realize infrastructure savings and by reducing the number of lots building lots.

The end result should be a win-win situation:

(1) Generation of revenue for the developer by the sale of property for green space, enhancing the value of the balance of the development and savings on infrastructure costs, and

(2) A reduction in the size and density of the development and its impact on Green Hill Road and our collective gift to the entire Blowing Rock community in the form of an attractive, and more pleasing and welcoming gateway on Highway 321 near the crest of the Blue Ridge.

Approximately $300,000 must be raised for the purchase and conveyance to the Town of Blowing Rock. Reflecting strong community support to date, in the 4 weeks since the Town Council approved the subdivision, commitments totaling $190,000 have been made by individuals in the Blowing Rock community.

The time frame to accomplish the win-win transaction is tight. Mr. Winkler has been very generous with his time and effort to make this work, but his project cannot be delayed indefinitely. In order to allow him to move forward, we must raise the balance of the needed funds quickly. While all donations are greatly appreciated, gifts in the range of $10,000 to $30,000 will enable us to accomplish the desired outcome.

We have requested assistance from The Village Foundation of Blowing Rock in collecting the funds. We have also approached the Town of Blowing Rock to request that the Town take title to the land and provide basic maintenance to the new greenspace.

We need and appreciate your support. Please email Wayne Vason at waynervason@gmail.com.

Public Hearing for Memorial Park Improvement Plan

March 13, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners,

The Town of Blowing Rock will convene a special Town Council Meeting and Public Hearing to discuss plans and funding for major improvements to Memorial Park.

Hilari H. Hubner, Town Clerk, posted the following notice that requires a public notice for the item to be discussed.

Please see below a summary of the Memorial Park Project and how to actively participate in the meeting.

The Town of Blowing Rock Board of Commissioners will conduct a Special Meeting for the purpose of
discussing the Memorial Park PARTF Project, and to solicit public input on the project. The Special
Meeting will be scheduled for 5:00 pm on Monday, March 22, 2021, and will be conducted electronically, utilizing Zoom, due to the current North Carolina Executive order limiting indoor gatherings, and to conduct proper social distancing.

Memorial Park PARTF Project

The Blowing Rock Park and Recreation Advisory Committee has submitted to the Blowing Rock
Council a project proposal to provide Memorial Park with the following upgrades and additions:
An additional restroom facility
Renovation of existing restrooms
ADA accessible walkway from Wallingford Lane to Memorial Park
Renovation of existing tennis courts
Add new pickleball courts
Relocation and renovation of the existing volleyball court
Addition of a new picnic area adjacent to the new playground
Additional playground feature
Addition of shuffleboard/cornhole.

To view the proposed project please see the link below or view a copy of the project in person at Town Hall on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday’s from 8am to 5pm. http://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/partf

We want your input!

Please utilize the following options to provide your feedback to the
project:
Email the Town Clerk at clerk@townofblowingrocknc.gov if you wish to speak via Zoom a link to the meeting will be sent to you the day of the meeting.
Email the Town Clerk at clerk@townofblowingrocknc.gov if you would like to provide written comment to be read at the meeting and entered into the official record of the meeting.
Written comments – please utilize the Town Hall drop box or drop off in person at Town Hall, written comments to be read at the meeting.
If you do not wish to speak via Zoom or provide a written email or written comments to be read during the meeting, you may also call the Town Hall and speak with the Town Clerk to provide comments by calling 828-295-5200

Deadline – Please email, submit or call prior to 1pm on Monday March 22, 2021 to participate.

Those in the public that do not wish to speak may view the meeting live through the Town’s YouTube
Channel, no active participation during the meeting will be allowed. Access the meeting via this link: http://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/residents/meetings

Green Hill Traffic Study

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners,

Last night the Town Council unanimously approved a contract to conduct a traffic study for Green Hill Road.

You voiced concerns and the Town Council listened.

The study will cover Green Hill Road from 321 to Wonderland Road which is within the Town limits. The portion of Green Hill Road to the Blue Ridge Parkway is a DOT road and is not covered by the study.

Mr. Fox reported that the study time line will start in late May and extend through the first or second weeks of July. Consultants will be on site during the summer to observe the seasonal traffic and you will have an opportunity to share specific observations and recommendations.

The scope of the contract includes more than traffic count:
Traffic calming
Safety
Site lines
Speed and crash data
Traffic turns into and from Green Hill Road at 321 and Blue Ridge Parkway
Public input via website, email and phone
Presentation at public meeting of Town Council in August

You can read a draft of the contract on the following link – https://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/home/showpublisheddocument?id=10354