By David Rogers. June 12, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Two featured agenda items almost became afterthoughts in sailing through approval by the Blowing Rock Board of Commissioners, while another featured item was deferred until the July meeting due to a clerical error.
Town Budget for FY2018-19
Most of any controversy had already been squeezed out of the discussion by the time the fiscal year 2018-19 town budget was up for a vote Tuesday night at the June meeting of the Board of Commissioners in Blowing Rock. Two budget work sessions totaling some 12 and a half hours of deliberations by the Town Council and staff members, as well as a public hearing on the proposed budget a week ago, left few discussion items on the table. Town Manager Ed Evans reviewed various highlights of the budget for benefit of the audience members in a nearly full council chamber at Town Hall but once done the Commissioners wasted little time in passing adoption of the proposed budget.
LINK TO RELATED BUDGET DOCUMENTS: http://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/home/showdocument?id=6053
Short Term Rentals Ordinance
Similarly, provisions for a revised ordinance governing short-term rentals had been hashed out by a Planning Board task force, as well as small group discussions with town staff to work out details, so there was little debate. Most of the revisions dealt with a new requirement for permitting by property owners wanting to rent short-term, but only if they are in approved areas or not grandfathered in if non-conforming.
LINK TO RELATED SHORT-TERM RENTALS DOCUMENTS: http://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/home/showdocument?id=6037
The newly adopted ordinance did nothing to change the short-term rental allowable areas. The ordinance draft aimed to achieve a dozen goals:
- Clearly define short-term rental so everyone understands what is allowed and what is not
- Clearly identify where short-term rentals are permitted
- Clearly identify those nonconforming properties where a grandfather status has been established and how a grandfather status can/cannot be lost
- Clearly define when occupancy taxes are required (rental period less than 90 days)
- Establish basic safety regulations for visitors renting short-term properties
- Reduce liability of the Town
- Protect neighborhoods from unwanted short-term rentals and the problems that arise as a result (parties, noise, parking, dogs, trash, etc. were listed)
- Maintain property values
- Have a local contact to quickly and effectively address issues that arise during a rental stay
- Communicate transparently with third-party rental listing companies
- Allow homeowners the opportunity to legally rent their dwelling units where permitted
- Regulate short-term rentals consistent with the authority given by North Carolina General Statutes
While the underlying assumptions for some of those goals could easily be challenged, at first glance the ordinance appears to clarify and formalize what is permitted and what is restricted — whether everyone agrees with the basic precepts or not.
As a result of the ordinance’s passage — and when combined with the recent Town and Tourism Development partnership in buying new computer software to search and identify both legal and illegal renting — four things should result:
- New permitting revenue will be received by the Town
- Property owners renting properties in areas where short-term rentals are not allowed will be identified and be subject to fines and/or other penalties
- Occupancy tax collection will be marginally increased where legal renting is occurring
- Occupancy tax collection will be marginally decreased where illegal renting is occurring and the Town has been receiving occupancy tax payments for those properties from online rental platforms such as Airbnb and Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO)
Town staff was unable to answer two questions posed by Blowing Rock News:  What is the projected new revenue for the issuance of permits? and  What is the impact of the ordinance on occupancy taxes?
During the discussion among the Commissioners, Albert Yount asked Planning Director Kevin Rothrock who would be receiving calls on weekends when Town staff had already gone home. Commissioner Jim Steele asked Rothrock whether additional staff would be needed for implementation of the new ordinance. Rothrock indicated that certain weekend calls for such things as noise would be handled by the Police and answered Steele by saying that no additional staff would be needed.
The new ordinance provides for an owner’s prospective loss of permit if three or more complaints are received in a year’s time.
Conditional Rezoning Deferred
Expected on the agenda Tuesday night was a conditional rezoning application for the redevelopment of the 1150 Main Street building. Because not all impacted by the proposed project had received legal notice, that issue’s consideration was deferred until the July meeting.
Ginny Stevens Lane
The Board unanimously approved a community group’s request to rename Chestnut St. between Main Street and Wallingford St. as “Ginny Stevens Lane,” in recognition of the late community activist who had a major influence on such projects as Edgewood Cottage, Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, and the former Blowing Rock Performing Arts Center. Stevens also served as founder and longtime president of the Blowing Rock Historical Society and led the historical marker project for buildings in Town of historic significance.
LINK TO GINNY STEVENS RELATED DOCUMENTS: http://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/home/showdocument?id=6035
With the Consent Agenda, the Board unanimously approved an agreement between the Town and Boone-based AppalCART to provide in-Town transportation services from July 1, 2018, until October 28, 2018. Manager Ed Evans outlined the downtown-centric route, which should result in three 20-minute cycles per hour. The performance of the contract will commence on July 6, 2018.
LINK TO APPALCART RELATED DOCUMENTS: http://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/home/showdocument?id=6041
The meeting was adjourned at approximately 7:46 pm.