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.