By David Rogers. March 31, 2017. BLOWING ROCK, NC – If the devil is in the details, Rob Pressley and his Charlotte-based Coldwell Banker Commercial MECA real estate development firm brought plenty of Satan-fighting swords Thursday night at Blowing Rock’s Town Hall.
If successful in overcoming any public objections and securing a conditional zoning permit to allow a slightly higher density of residential dwellings and overnight rentals, an almost one-acre, mostly vacant lot will be transformed into Morningside, a higher-end Blowing Rock Townhome Community.
Coldwell Banker Commercial MECA is proposing to develop the 0.913 acre parcel west of Speckled Trout. Thursday night’s meeting was an early step in the firm’s quest to obtain a special conditional zoning permit that would allow the developers to build a complex of 16 townhome condominiums on the parcel. The meeting included a presentation by Pressley of the developers’plans in order to receive feedback from neighboring property owners and other interested parties in the community. For this well-publicized get-together, a near overflow crowd gathered in the Town Hall’s council chambers.
Before unveiling the architectural and artist renderings for the audience’s review, Pressley reflected on his own family’s experiences in finding suitable housing in the downtown area that kept everything within walking distance. In the process, he noted that demographic trends in the United States favored a migration of people, particularly younger generations, back to more urban or city center areas, including in small towns like Blowing Rock.
Among the more pressing concerns and questions voiced by individuals in attendance were:
Blowing Rock News asked Pressley about the thought process and considerations upon arriving at the level of density being sought. He responded by saying that the price point(s) and quality level that the market seemed to demand was a primary factor in arriving at the “16” number. “We could have only two or three units,” he suggested, “or maybe only one, but then those would become million dollar plus price points and that would compete with the Chestnut project up at the old Blowing Rock Hospital site. In any area, I think you can only have so much competition at certain price points before it becomes (counter-productive).”
I live here. I don’t want to have to walk down the street with a hat pulled down over my face…”
He indicated that the planned Morningside townhomes will each be in the range of !,500 to 1,600 square feet and range in price between $495,000 and $795,000, depending upon their location within the development and the individual configurations. He pointed out that the development already in the works for the old Blowing Rock Hospital property up on Chestnut were going to be at the higher end of the market, probably over $1 million, and they did not think the market would be eager to embrace competing developments at the $1 million-plus price point. A developer’s decision to offer lower price points implies greater density in order to recover the land and development investments, as well as an adequate return on capital invested.
An offsetting design objective also dictated that they have a lower density project, too, as opposed to an even higher density apartment complex: They wanted each townhome to have a street-facing front. The lower units backing up to Morningside Dr. and those directly behind Speckled Trout will have driveways and front doors accessible from a private street arching inside the property. Ingress and egress will be from Morningside Dr. The seven units planned to face Rainey St. at the back of the property would have access from Rainey St.
Some of the “less density” conclusions also derived from the sloping terrain that characterizes the property, from Rainey St. at the higher points down to U.S. 221.
The residents north of the planned project expressed concerns about increased traffic, insisting that there was already a lot of traffic in that neighborhood, especially on Rainey St., which connects Morningside Dr. with Hill St. Pressley countered that he didn’t expect the addition of those seven units facing Rainey St. would greatly increase vehicular traffic, and that what little there might be was offset by the curb, gutter and sidewalk improvements that the developers would make along Rainey St. and Morningside Dr., for the benefit of everyone.
Handling of Trash
Not wanting to use substantial middle portions of the land as a turnaround point for garbage trucks, Pressley reported that they will utilize rollout garbage bins for pickup along the sidewalk of the access street, just off of Morningside Dr. Because there are a lot seasonal residents expected to own or use the residences, project partner Bob Clay stated in conversation with Blowing Rock News after the formal presentation that the likely best solution will be for the homeowners association to employ maintenance and other workers to handle the bins both out and in, for all residents.
Each unit is designed to have a one-car garage and ample space for one car in the driveway. Pressley observed that compared to other developments in the downtown area, including commercial and residential properties along Main Street, the Coldwell Banker provision to have 32 spaces for parking in a downtown development is refreshing.
As for guest parking, especially during the summer and autumn seasons, he suggested that there was ample parking in the available parking decks and streetside parking.
At least two audience attendees challenged his thoughts that there is surplus of parking in Blowing Rock.
Watershed From Impervious Surfaces
A resident living below the planned development pointed out that the current vacant lot absorbed a lot of any rainwater, currently, and she was concerned that the addition of impervious surfaces on that property would result in her being deluged with water once all of the concrete, asphalt, brick and stone were in place. Pressley explained that they had designed a rainwater capture plan that collects the water from all impervious surfaces inside the development and sends it to a large storage tank underneath the development. “Think of it as having a large pipe opening coming into the tank, but a smaller pipe at the bottom that slowly releases the water into the municipal sewer system.”
From embedded lighting in stone staircases, to real iron railings and special durable materials that look like cobblestones, the Morningside plans include many architectural design features that reflect Blowing Rock traditions and culture.
One Blowing Rock resident and businessman told Blowing Rock News afterward, “That parcel is going to be developed at some point and this project has a lot of compelling design features. It fits in so many ways. The density of 16 units on a little less than one acre might be a bit higher than most people would prefer, but these guys have paid attention to details that will cushion any higher density impact.”
Other than density, a sticking point might be the developers’ bid to allow their townhome owners to rent their residences for a weekend or even overnight. “They would still be responsible for occupancy and sales taxes,” Planning Director Kevin Rothrock noted to Blowing Rock News after the meeting, “whether they rent the townhome themselves or hire a vacation rental or property management company.”
With the neighborhood meeting behind them, Pressley, his Coldwell Banker team, and his development partners will now seek the blessing of the Planning Board in its April 20th meeting before going to the Blowing Rock Board of Commissioners on May 9th for a final decision on the conditional zoning request.
In his opening remarks, Pressley promised, “If this becomes contentious, we are out. I live here. I don’t want to have to walk down the street with a hat pulled down over my face because we built something that (people hate).”