By David Rogers. May 13, 2020. BLOWING ROCK, NC — After dispatching a few items of regular business in a mere 45 minutes, Blowing Rock’s Town Council spent another 45 minutes mostly trying to micro-manage a decision about re-opening — or not — the public bathrooms at Memorial Park and the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum (BRAHM).
May’s meeting of the Board of Commissioners, Mayor, and Town department heads was the second “virtual” meeting with every participant “attending” from their own homes or another remote location via Cisco Corporation’s WebEx platform. While the audio was sub-optimal, the Commissioners managed to get through regular business in near-record time, including:
- In the lone Public Hearing, the Commissioners approved Speckled Trout restaurant’s CUP amendment request that will allow them to expand outdoor seating. While they have met any increased parking requirement with the purchase of the vacant land adjacent to the restaurant, one small corner of the new deck intrudes a couple of feet into the setback required by Town Code. In approving the CUP amendment, the Commissioners granted that variance.
- The Commissioners approved Blowing Rock Art & History Museum’s request for placement of a sculpture outside, on the museum’s grounds, as part of the 34th Annual Outdoor Rosen Sculpture Exhibition. BRAHM will carry insurance and the sculpture will be bolted down to the existing concrete pad. The title of the bronze sculpture is “Blue Nautilus,” crafted by Orlando, FL-based artist, Gretchen Lotz.
- At a later date, the Commissioners will hear a report from the Valley Blvd. ad hoc “Visioning” committee.
Since so many people are visiting Blowing Rock from down the mountain in defiance of the Governor’s “stay at home” orders during the pandemic, having the public bathrooms closed is problematic. Blowing Rock News has been advised by a reliable source that desperate tourists were “doing their business” (#1 and #2) behind the Post Office, which presents a public health hazard. What should have been a simple decision to reopen at least the Memorial Park restroom facilities and provide for their cleaning, with instructions to town staff to take care of the details, got bogged down. Thankfully, Commissioner David Harwood with support from Commissioner Albert Yount, brought an abrupt end to the discussion when he stated, “I don’t see a need for us to micro-manage this. I trust Town staff to take care of it.”
The Council set Thursday, May 21st, 3:00 pm, as the date and time for a Special Meeting to discuss easing the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Town. The meeting will follow a decision by the Watauga County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, May 19th. At issue is bringing an end to the 14-day self-quarantine for seasonal residents and visitors, lifting the restrictions on short-term rentals and lodging, resumption of AppalCART service, re-opening restaurants, and various recreational activities.