Major changes have been proposed to the Town Land Use Code to eliminate residential density requirements for the Central Business and Town Center.
The proposal also
1. Concludes that short-term rental condo units should be considered the same as motel/hotel units with relaxed on-site parking requirements
2. Significantly reduces oversight by the Planning Board and the Town Council of one of the town council’s major development control tools
3. Relaxes building height restrictions and the method used to measure height
4. Significantly reduces the amount of green space
5. Does not address the demand on public parking to accommodate the increased density
6. Does not address impact on neighborhoods adjacent to the Central Business District
7. Does not address the risk of losing retail or restaurant sites to short-term rentals on Main Street
After quick approval of these proposed changes by the Planning Board there was a rush to bring the changes before council at public hearing on January 8th. BRCA objected to this quick scheduling of a public hearing for failure to follow the required process in the Town Code to call a public hearing. Town Manager Jim Freeman with the advice of the Town Attorney agreed that the prescribed process was not followed and therefore the public hearing has been postponed. The quick public hearing did not provide adequate time for the public to evaluate and comment on the proposal while most homeowners and taxpayers are not in town.
BRCA has retained a consulting architect and attorney to advise our Development Evaluation Committee on the proposed code revisions that could substantially change the character of downtown Blowing Rock. We will continue to produce information for the public on these proposed code revisions.
The town continues to struggle with the process for hiring a permanent Town Manager. BRCA strongly recommended to the Mayor and Council that they retain one of two professional search firms recommended by the Dean of the University of North Carolina School of Government to assist in this process. BRCA has pointed out that while we have many talented citizens in our community hiring a town manager is a highly specialized job best done with the help of those who are up to date on current effective contacts and techniques. Councilwoman Sue Sweeting strongly supported retaining a professional search firm at a recent council meeting at which her colleagues decided to, at least initially, proceed on their own. We are hopeful that the Council will reconsider using a professional advisor to insure we have the best pool of applicants and best candidate since experienced and qualified Town Manager applicants will likely expect that the Town use a professional search firm.
BRCA Board member Tim Gupton led a board process to develop our Communication and Action Plan that you can view on our website at www.brcivic.org. The goal was to communicate to our strategic priorities and outcomes to help all stakeholders work together to insure the best future of Blowing Rock. The Plan highlights that our Homeowners are the Cornerstone and the Economic Engine of Blowing Rock and that a Vibrant Village and Great Neighborhood Infrastructure are vitally important to preserving the character of our historic village while improving our economy and property tax values based on QUALITY not QUANTITY. We have met individually with the Town Manager, Mayor, Council members, Chamber Executive and TDA Director to share our plan and seek feedback. We are encouraged by the dialogue.