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

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