March 5, 2022
Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners,
Yesterday, the Town released the Council agenda for the meeting next Tuesday on March 8th at 6pm. The agenda is packed.
You can review the entire agenda at the following link https://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/10710
Please consider attending or watching the meeting by video link at https://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/residents/meetings
If you wish to speak during the Public Comments section of the agenda, you can sign up at the Council Chamber or participate by Zoom by emailing the Town Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org
Highlights of the meeting are explained below in order of the agenda.
- Approval of Memorial Park Capital Project to build additional bathrooms and install other improvements for $1.3M that is funded by a $500K state grant, $431K of bond funds, $152K from Fund Balance, $152K from TDA Fund Balance and $50K from extra ABC Store profits.
- Watauga County Property Tax Revaluation
- Clarification amendment of Short Term Rental ordinance.
- Retreat Recap focused on long-term needs including 10 year Capital Projects Plan for W&S ($34.6M), Streets ($8.2M) and Parks & Recreation ($5.3M). The Town Manager and staff laid out long-term capital plans for the Council to begin a process of sorting out priorities and financing. W&S projects are self-funded by W&S fees and a substantial boost in funding of $4.8M from a state appropriation for new W&S lines on Main Street. Other projects are funded by the General Fund Budget that relies primarily on property taxes to fund 60% of the budget – 51% by residential property owners and 9% by commercial property owners. The Town Manager presented a financial analysis prepared by the Town’s financial advisor to demonstrate debt capacity over time from the existing tax rate designated for debt service. Town Manager Fox will present a recap during the meeting. The Town Manager and staff were well prepared and did a very good job of laying out a multitude of key issues facing the Town.
- The Council will consider an EMS Resolution formally asking the County to provide a 24/7 transport ambulance service for Blowing Rock. The resolution cites numerous reasons for the need.
- The Council will appoint residents to serve on various advisory boards. The Planning Board has 4 openings and 12 applicants.
- The Council will discuss establishing a Parking Advisory Committee to evaluate and make recommendations about how to best implement a paid parking plan. The suggested composition includes 17 members including 2 homeowners, 2 business owners, 3 churches, 2 banks, 1 TDA, 1 Chamber, 1 School and 5 from Town. This is a critical step towards addressing the congestion caused by the number of tourists and the lack of parking and wayfinding. Decisions to implement a paid parking plan may be the most important decision affecting the quality of life for residents for the next 20 years.
- Installing underground utilities would be great, but the issues of cost and funding are complex. The Council will evaluate a resolution to approve $117K for engineering fees to determine the cost of installing underground utilities based on a recommendation from the Chamber Underground Utility Task Force and the 2014 Comprehensive Plan. The questions for years have been Cost and Source of Financing. William Brinker led the Task Force and prepared a very detail plan after consulting with BREMCO and other utility providers. I participated on the Task Force and observed the detailed review with BREMCO. We should be thankful for William’s commitment and expertise. According to BREMCO, the first time the Town considered underground utilities goes back to the mid 1960s. Based on Chamber’s Task Force work product , we probably have a handle on the cost estimate that would need to be confirmed by engineers. The Chamber’s recommendation to proceed was based on the 50 year window related to the W&S project on Main Street and the fact that Blowing Rock is one of the only towns in the High Country that has not buried their utility lines. Knowing the cost of installation is an important question to resolve, but determining the source of financing for the General Fund Budget is equally important. If the cost is $4M and is financed over 20 years at 4% the debt service would be equivalent to about a 2.5 cents increase (6%) in the current tax rate. For example, a home valued at $500K would pay $122 more and a home valued at $1M would pay $244 more per year. Excluding grants, an alternative additional funding source for the Council to consider implementing is a Business Improvement Tax District for all business districts to assist in funding such downtown improvements. Homeowners already fund 51% of the annual budget and commercial property owners fund 9%, so implementing a Business Improvement District would help to balance the sources of funding. The logic of using sales taxes (13% of budget) paid by consumers or occupancy taxes (5% of budget) paid by tourists only shifts the burden for the annual operating budget back to property taxes. Once the cost is determined, the Council should consider surveying taxpayers to determine support for making the investment.
We appreciate the Town Council moving forward to address these very important and complex decisions as we move into a different era faced by successful resort destinations.
Tim Gupton, President