By David Rogers. October 9, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC — A new stop sign and getting rid of a neglected eyesore were positive steps taken by the Blowing Rock Board of Commissioners Tuesday night, although categorically rejecting a $25,000 to $65,000 inspirational gift and a confusing brouhaha over public art policy left many onlookers shaking their heads.
COVER IMAGE: Town Manager Ed Evans (left) presents retiring Police Chief Tony Jones with his sidearm after the proposal was approved by a vote of the Board of Commissioners. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
Local residents crowding the Town Council chambers in Town Hall were treated to a relatively efficient meeting, at least compared to other Town Council confabs. Commissioner Jim Steele was not in attendance.
During the time reserved for Speakers from the Floor, Blowing Rock resident Louise Greene of Possum Hollow Rd. spoke passionately about a neighborhood eyesore and the dangers of an apparently abandoned structure that is a magnet for wild animals ranging from deer and coyotes to possums and other varmints. Greene was assured by Planning Director Kevin Rothrock that at long last the problem is being resolved after efforts to reach changing ownership of the property had been fruitless, getting no response.
With local resident and business owner Karen Diamond resigning from the board of Blowing Rock Appearance Advisory Board, the Board of Commissioners re-appointed Curtis Andrews, a former BRAAC board member, to the vacant position.
It’s too big for our little village.
The Board of Commissioners approved a resolution that allowed retiring Police Chief Tony Jones to keep his sidearm. Although Jones was only employed for the last four years by the Town of Blowing Rock, he spent 30 years in North Carolina law enforcement, including several years as Police Chief in Taylorsville. Allowing a retiring Police Chief to keep his sidearm is a traditional ritual in many North Carolina municipalities. In accepting the gift from the Town during Tuesday’s meeting, Jones received a standing ovation and enthusiastic applause for his service.
The nearly blind intersection of Green Hill Rd. at Green Hill Circle will finally get a three-way stop sign. Resident Richard Campbell collected signatures petitioning for the stop signs from 28 of 33 residents of Green Hill Circle and Commissioner Sue Sweeting indicated she had received others. Campbell and Town Manager Ed Evans pointed out that Green Hill Circle angles up the hill from where it meets Green Hill Rd., and the danger is magnified by the intersection occurring in the middle of a Green Hill Rd. curve. Campbell stated that since people started using Green Hill Rd. as a “cutoff” to the Blue Ridge Parkway during the construction to widen U.S. 321 through Blowing Rock, more and more people are using Green Hill Rd as they continue to use it as an alternative to get to the Parkway and points beyond.
Any discussion on a new public art policy in Blowing Rock will be put off until after the Board of Commissioners’ retreat in January, where they plan to discuss it at greater length. While Commissioner Sweeting was one of the most vocal at the September meeting that the Board had not passed a public art policy when it was brought up during discussion about the then-proposed mural on the side of a building at Blowing Rock Inn, she seemed confused in trying to use the policy as “passed” in advocating for a moratorium on all public art until after a Commissioners’ post-retreat decision. This, in spite of Town Manager Ed Evans’ lengthy explanation that what the Board had previously passed was interjecting BRAAC as a potential public art council, but not the public art policy itself. Even in a public dialogue with Town Attorney Allen Moseley as she insisted on a moratorium regarding new potential projects, Sweeting kept referring to the art policy that had been passed. Several times Moseley had to repeat to Sweeting that based on his understanding of the law a moratorium was inappropriate, that it should only be considered in cases where “health, safety and welfare” are at issue and he didn’t believe a public art policy qualified.
The Morganton-based Foundation Forward non-profit’s proposed gift of a $25,000 to $65,000 (depending on the materials used) “monument” to bring replicas of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights to Blowing Rock was summarily rejected by this Board of Commissioners. Commissioner Sweeting and Commissioner Virginia Powell both spoke against the gift that many in the audience felt would be an inspiring addition to the Town and very appropriate in a Memorial Park that is supposed to be commemorating military veterans whose very service is to defend those documents. Without producing any evidence that she has spoken to any of Blowing Rock’s residents, business owners or the school, Powell simply dismissed the project as “…it is too big for our little village.” Commissioner Doug Matheson moved to accept the Foundation Forward organization’s gift “…as long as it doesn’t cost the Town anything.” Mayor Charlie Sellers looked to Mayor Pro Tem Albert Yount for a potential second to Matheson’s motion, but Yount remained silent.
With Steele not in attendance, Sellers would potentially have been in a position to break a tie vote had Matheson and Yount voted for the project vs. the “no” votes of Sweeting and Powell, but he didn’t get that chance given Yount’s silence when presented with an opportunity to second Matheson’s motion.
Reached later, Yount told Blowing Rock News, “I thought it was too big, too.”
Blowing Rock News learned later that Blowing Rock Civic Association’s George and Betsy Wilcox had lobbied Sweeting to reject the proposed gift. George Wilcox explained to Blowing Rock News after the meeting that Town staff’s recommendations for where to put the display of the documents were unsatisfactory. It did not belong in front of Town Hall, Wilcox said, and to remove foilage near where Memorial Park is adjacent to the 1888 Museum was unacceptable, he said. “Maybe a different location, but not where you have to take out bushes and trees. We have lost enough of those already.”