By David Rogers. March 10, 2020. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Blowing Rock’s Board of Commissioners took a major step toward declaring the Town of Blowing Rock even more “kid friendly” Tuesday night. By a unanimous 4-0 vote, the commissioners approved an investment of $600,000 for the renovation and new construction of playground equipment in Memorial Park.
COVER IMAGE: Local resident and CPA Sam Hess explained the virtues and impact of a renovated Memorial Park playground with new equipment. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
By many infrastructure improvement standards, what was viewed as a badly needed playground project was fast-tracked, thanks in large respect to funds made available from the Parks and Recreation portion of the 2014 Community Improvement Bonds, as well as enthusiastic support and funding from the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority.
Concerns about the current condition of the Memorial Park playground were first publicly voiced to the commissioners at the December 10, 2019 meeting of Town Council in a presentation by local residents Sam Glover and Sam Hess, both with growing families. When they spoke with Blowing Rock News in December, the two young fathers were optimistic that the playground project would be realized, eventually, “…in a year or two.”
Fast forward just four months and if all goes according to plan, the initial site work will be done in May and the equipment installed in June. If that works out, an already big 4th of July weekend in Blowing Rock will be just that much more enjoyable for the scores of young families visiting that weekend.
In addressing the Town Council Tuesday night, Hess pointed out that there is an economic development benefit to having extensive, if not elaborate playground equipment as one of the centerpieces to Memorial Park.
“Not only will parents with young kids hear about this and be more inclined to bring their families to Blowing Rock on a visit,” the young certified public accountant at Blowing Rock-based Hess & Hess, CPAs, noted, “but it also increases the likelihood that young families with parents who work remotely will relocate here, too. That would mean more full-time residents living, working and playing in Blowing Rock.”
Rankin Rd. Development
In other Board action, the commissioners unanimously approved a conditional use permit (CUP) application by John Winkler to subdivide currently vacant acreage off of Rankin Rd., abutting up to Blowing Rock Country Club. Although there were letters and emails from neighbors of the subject property protesting a development that, they claimed, will change the character of their neighborhood, the commissioners had little choice but to approve the project because it satisfied all requirements of the land use code. The CUP application included the division of a 4.63-acre parcel into six lots for single-family homes to be built and a new public street measuring some 575 feet.
In discussing the storm water management plan, Commissioner Virginia Powell raised an insightful question about whether or not the existing storm water retention-related ordinances have been updated in consideration of recent new weather patterns (with climate change). Given the periodic “deluges” the area has experienced, she wondered whether the existing storm water retention facilities, as well as the requirements for new systems are adequate.
Blowing Rock Market CUP Amendment
The Board of Commissioners also unanimously passed a motion to approve Mountaineer Marketing’s request to reconfigure the Blowing Rock Market property, removing the vehicle egress onto Park Ave. and replacing the Park Ave. side of the property with stone wall and hedge improvements. Owner David Barker explained that having the vehicle egress onto Park Ave. and the recent Town construction of the sidewalk on the north side of that street had created a dangerous situation where pedestrian were cutting across his parking lot and meeting cars and trucks that were often departing at the same time. He noted that from Sunday through Thursdays the vast majority of the market’s customers were arriving in vehicles and parking in his parking spaces, “…but on Friday and Saturday it is 90% pedestrians.” By erecting the wall and hedges, he is hoping to encourage pedestrians to complete the trek down Park Ave. to Main St. rather than cutting across his parking area. The amended plans also include expanding the outdoor seating area of the market, addition of an outdoor kitchen/grill, and improving the ADA accessibility of the property.
The plans also include going back from 10 parking spaces in the 2017 amended plans to the nine spaces in the original 2000 CUP. Commissioner David Harwood moved to approved the plans as presented, except to require Mountaineer Marketing to reduce the number of outdoor seats from the planned 38 to 32, or keep the 38, but pay $7500 into the Town parking fund per current ordinances in effect for parking space shortfalls.
In other business discussed during the almost three-hour Town Council meeting, Town Engineer Doug Chapman of McGill & Associates offered a report on the public bid opening for a road resurfacing project, with Moretz Paving Inc. of Boone submitting the low bid at $1.24 million, with an alternate bid item that included $220,180 for the installation of drainage along Chestnut Drive. The bids were accepted by the Board.
Finance Director Nicole Norman presented her monthly financial summary. To date, the Town has collected 98.95% of the budgeted property taxes ($4,313,616) and 57.67% of local option sales taxes ($1,050,508). Including motor vehicle taxes, utilities franchise taxes, and all other revenue, almost 67% of the way through the fiscal year (through February 29), the Town has collected 74.57% ($1,785,084) of budgeted revenue to the General Fund.
On the expense side of the ledger, the Town has incurred 63.19% ($6,197,339) of budgeted expenses across all departments.
The meeting went into closed session at approximately 8:55 pm and no action was anticipated to be taken when they came out of closed session and back into open session to adjourn the meeting.
Before the meeting, Rev. Kathy Beach of Blowing Rock’s Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church and Appalachian State University’s Adam Hege led a presentation of the Watauga Compassionate Community Initiative on “Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their impact on an individual and a community.”
REMINDER: The annual Town Birthday Party is Wednesday (March 11) at 3:30 pm, in the Town Council Chambers. All are invited.