Leadership Interview – Issues Resulting from Rising Numbers of Tourists

Town Government Leader Interviews
Issues resulting from the Rising Numbers of Tourists

May 24, 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. We hope you are enjoying our interview series.

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 four videos to gain a personal insight into the views of our leaders. We want to thank Jean Kitchin her expertise and comfortable interview style.

This week we are rolling out the last of five videos that discusses issues resulting from the rising numbers of tourists. All five videos are posted on our website. See link below.
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 video interviews on our website at
https://www.brcivic.org/videos

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

Green Hill Traffic Study – Share your Observations

May 19, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners,

Our Town Manager, Shane Fox, announced that the Green Hill Traffic Study Survey and Interactive Input Map has been activated.

If you live in a Green Hill neighborhood or drive Green Hill Road, you should take advantage of this opportunity to share your observations. The Town Council recognized and authorized this study to gather input from citizens who have expressed concerns about safety on Green Hill Road.

The Survey and Map will be active for the next 30 days to gather input from our citizens. Please copy and paste these links to your browser.

Public Survey: https://arcg.is/1n8Lm1

Interactive Map: https://rka-inc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=c4d9c57e08bb4252b3afd2b042cf3116

The survey is open and will close midnight on June 16.

The interactive map will always load, but we have restricted the time for when results can be entered.

Currently, if you go to the interactive map, you can see the base map and project study area, but you cannot add any points. The interactive map will allow comments to be placed during the same time frame as the survey.

Ramey Kemp will be onsite the end of June and first of July to gather data in the field.

If you wish to share your observations with Blowing Rock Civic Association, please email us at info@brcvic.org.

Town Government Leader Interviews – Importance of Seasonal Residents

May 17, 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 three videos to learn about the Town’s governing structure and their personal stories about why our elected leaders chose to run for office, the positive aspects of Blowing Rock and the major needs of Blowing Rock.

This week we are rolling out the fourth of five videos talking about the The Importance of Seasonal Residents The final interview will be released next week:

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 video interviews on our website at
https://www.brcivic.org/videos

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

Updated Gateway Plat

May 9, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners,
We updated the site picture to show exactly the proposal to preserve 2 acres in green and to show the new configuration of the subdivision with 8 lots on Green Hill.

Our neighbors are purchasing Lot 9 and Mr. Winkler is putting a conservation easement on portions of Lots 8, 6 & 5.

As described in our post on May 7th, this project represents the best of Blowing Rock showing the dedication and generosity of residents to protect greenspace in Blowing Rock, co-operation between Mr. Winkler as the developer and residents and hopefully the support of our Town Council.

Tim Gupton
President

Green Park Gateway

May 7, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners and Town Council,

Our neighbors in Green Park, Green Hill and throughout the Village have raised $282,000 to preserve the south gateway on Highway 321 into Blowing Rock. They were able to work out a deal with Mr. Winkler who had approval for a larger subdivision on the tract. This alternative preserves greenspace, the natural entrance to the Village and reduces the size of the subdivision and traffic on Green Hill. This property is also in the watershed for the Yadkin River so it is not only offers a visual benefit, but an environmental benefit.

This project benefits our entire community and is consistent with our strategic priorities:
Protect our Vibrant Village
Protect our Residential Economy
Protect our Neighborhoods
Our board of directors believes this project represents the goals in our Advocacy Plan and more importantly the generosity and importance of neighborhoods and homeowners to the Village.

The Town Council must accept the gift of the land and agree to preserve the tract as a permanent greenspace. Please encourage the Town Council to support this proposal at their upcoming meeting on May 11th. You can email the council members using their emails below.

Mayor Charlie Sellers – csellers@tobr.us

Mayor Pro-Tem Sue Sweeting – ssweeting@tobr.us

Councilman Albert Yount – ayount@tobr.us

Councilman Doug Matheson – dmatheson@tobr.us

Councilman David Harwood – dharwood@tobr.us

Councilwoman Virginia Powell – vpowell@tobr.us

We want to express our thanks to the donors who are committed to making a perpetual investment in our Village.

Sincerely,

Tim Gupton
President

Twitter
Facebook
Website

Pine Street Townhouse Project – Density, Parking & Height?

May 6, 2021

Dear Mayor Sellers, Council Members Harwood, Matheson, Powell, Sweeting & Yount,

In advance of the next council meeting, we wanted to share the key points I plan to raise about your approval of the Pine Street project. My goal in sending now is to give you some time to evaluate the points in advance of the meeting.

I will be speaking as the president of the Civic Association. As you know, the Civic Association does not endorse or oppose projects. Our goal is to make sure all of the facts are on the table for you and the community to make an informed decision.

This project like the projects presented by developers over the last few years, points out the need to update our land use code for the downtown business districts to meet current market realities and to reconcile the code with the Comprehensive Plan. While each project technically stands alone, each sets precedents for the next project until the code is updated.

We hope that you recognize this need and will approve a Downtown Vision process similar to the Valley Boulevard Vision process to achieve these goals and to clean-up certain ordinances as needed. We should not delay.

Following are the project variances for you to consider:

1. Density – 16-12.2
a. The developer has asked for a variance to build 8 STR townhouses on .39 of an acre which is the equivalent of 20 units per acre.
b. The code allows 5 units per acre and the Comprehensive Plan suggests at least 8 per acre.
c. A variance of this magnitude is a significant deviation from any expectation set by the code or Comprehensive Plan.
d. This variance is in the staff report and was approved by the Planning Board.
2. Parking – 16-20-3- 1.310 & 1.330
a. STR units place an especially high demand on parking. The code requires on-site parking to match the use and to avoid placing additional burdens on public parking spaces.
b. The developer stated that the number of units proposed were based on the limitations of the parking calculation based on 6 units with 1 bedroom and 2 units with 2 bedrooms.
c. The developer’s calculation hinges on the number of bedrooms plus 1 space for each set of 4 units – 1.5 spaces for 1 bedroom, 2 spaces for 2 bedrooms and 2.5 spaces for 3 bedrooms.
d. To achieve this assertion, the floorplans should be evaluated since the only difference in the floorplans is to move a closet in the second bedroom to the adjacent front bedroom and labeling the room as an office. All units in substance have at least two rooms and baths that will be used as bedrooms and 6 of the units have an additional bonus room that could be used as a bedroom and a screened in porch.
e. The actual number of spaces required would be 18 spaces for 8 units with 2 bedrooms or 21 spaces for 3 bedrooms. Ignoring the common sense use of these rooms is a “Form over Substance” argument by the developer. To solve this problem the density should be reduce to insure that the occupants of the STR units will not place an additional burden on the scare public parking spaces.
f. Please review the floorplans in the attached Planning Board package. This variance is not in the staff report, was not discussed in the Planning Board meeting and was not cited as a variance in the Planning Board approval. Attached and below is a calculation table.
3. Height – 16-1-6.5.4
a. The code limits the height of a building based on the setback from the primary entrance. The limit reads as a limit for each building.
b. A building with a 15 foot setback has a 30 feet height limit.
c. This building height actually varies from 28 feet (1 unit on each end), then 34 feet ( 2 units on either side of the 2 center units) and then 40 feet (2 units in the center).
d. Since there is only one building to be sold in 8 fee simple units, it appears that the staff made an interpretation that the setback and height restrictions can vary for one building.
e. Please review the building elevation in the attached Planning Board package. This potential variance is not in the staff report and was cited not as a variance in the Planning Board approval.

We believe that the Council should vote to :

1. Ask the developer to re-consider the proposal or grant variances for Density and Parking
2. Clarify if the variable height restrictions for one building meets code that allows for a maximum height of 40 feet for buildings with a 65 foot setback.

Respectfully,

Tim C. Gupton

Tim C. Gupton
President
Blowing Rock Civic Association, Inc.
235 Meadow Lane
Blowing Rock, NC
28605

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.