New town officers take their post
After a brief swearing-in ceremony prior to Tuesday night’s commissioners meeting, the council presided over a session that included more items than any other session conducted this year.
The session began with a special recognition of outgoing town council members Jim Steele and Tommy Klutz. After that, Mayor J.B. Lawrence was sworn in by town clerk Sharon Greene for a new two-year term.
Then newly elected town council members Doug Matheson, Sue Sweeting and Ray Pickett were sworn in by the mayor.
The new council selected town councilman Albert Yount to serve as mayor pro tem for the next two years.
The new Blowing Rock Town Council voted unanimously to:
• Approve an ordinance extending the time period that businesses and homeowners can use decorative white lights for the holidays from Jan. 15 to March 31. The council also approved the use of white LED light strands donated by the Blowing Rock Chamber Foundation to be wrapped around town light poles when town staff removes the ornamental garland and bows in January. The foundation donated $2,500 worth of light strands.
• Approve a conditional use permit to subdivide the upper 2.7 acres from the 5.2-acre site that was the former location of Pssghetti’s Restaurant. The new owner of the property wishes to build a house on the upper section and reopen a restaurant on the lower section. The council declared that parking for the new restaurant would have to include a valet service, as was required of Pssghetti’s, and that the driveway will not be maintained by the town.
• Approve the date and route for the 2014 Mayview Madness 5K race and Kids’ 1 Mile Fun Run. The race will take place on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, and will begin on Park Avenue beside the Blowing Rock Police Station. Sponsored by the Blue Ridge Conservancy, the race attracted more than 300 participants this year. Due to complaints from residents near the starting line, the town council has asked the organizers of the race to refrain from using bullhorns or loud music next year.
• Approve a proposal to sell 0.23 acres of land on Hidden Waters Drive to Ernest Williams, who owns land on either side of the proposed tract. Williams had previously thought that he owned the 0.23 acres and has been paying property taxes on the tract, but a recent survey discovered that it is town property.
Williams has declared his intention to buy the tract from the town for $3,000. The purchase is pending a statutory required upset bid process and will be advertised in a future edition of The Blowing Rocket.
• Approve a letter of support for the Middle Fork Greenway project. High Country Pathways Inc. requested that the town council provide an updated letter of support for the project to be used specifically in its pursuit of grant opportunities.
• Approve the Watauga County Library’s pursuit of a grant to support Story Walk, a project wherein pages of selected children’s books are posted along a walkway for the enjoyment of children and their parents. No direct funding is requested of the town. During the discussion, it was proposed that the Story Walk in Blowing Rock be placed in either Memorial Park or Broyhill Park.
• Approve a motion to go forward with a project that would allow Ensemble Stage Company to renovate and utilize the old Blowing Rock Fire Station on the corner of Park Avenue and Wallingford Street. Ensemble Stage director Gary Smith spoke to the council about the proposed use, which would include a 124-seat theater, lobby, stage and back stage areas. Currently, Ensemble Stage presents most of its productions at the Blowing Rock School auditorium, which it shares with the school and Mountain Home Music. The move would allow Ensemble Stage to present professional theater productions in Blowing Rock on a year-round basis and would give organizations such as Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation a venue for other events. The council agreed to move forward with the collaboration and will seek advice from architects on what work needs to be done to the building before a theater is constructed.
• Approve a motion for the town to enter into an agreement with Bob Segal, CPA, PA, for the pursuit of revenue enhancement options, as well as exploration of expenditure reduction alternatives. Per the agreement, no payment is made to the consultant team unless the town of Blowing Rock approves moving forward with suggested alternatives and actual revenues are improved and/or expenditures are reduced. Segal’s payment would be 50 percent of the savings to the town, up to $50,000.
Town manager Scott Fogleman previously worked with Segal when he worked for the town of Cary and said that Segal’s work saved that municipality money.
The town council voted to put on hold a rezoning process that would rezone a 0.22-acre site on Skyland View Drive from single family residential to general business. The council decided to wait until further work on the U.S. 321 widening project is complete to look at the rezoning matter.
During the speakers from the floor portion of the meeting, Blowing Rock residents Chelsea Garrett and Lee Dunston voiced their opposition to a proposed site for a 100-foot-tall cell phone tower. The proposed site is on a piece of town property located in the Green Hill area.
Garrett said that the proposed site would make the tower visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway. She also said that a petition opposing the tower site had 208 signatures.
Fogleman said that finding a site for a cell tower was in its preliminary stages and that other sites are being considered.