By David Rogers. December 10, 2019. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Tuesday night’s meeting of the Blowing Rock Town Council was a changing of the guard, of sorts, with newly elected David Harwood taking the seat formerly occupied by Jim Steele. Special recognition was given to Steele for his years of service and he was gracious in his exit.
COVER IMAGE: After thanking Blowing Rock and its citizens for the opportunity to serve the Town on the Board of Commissioners through two terms, outgoing Council member Jim Steele (right) brought laughs from Mayor Charlie Sellers (left), Commissioner Albert Yount (center), and the rest of the audience in a filled-to-capacity Town Hall Council Chamber when he closed with, “Bye!” All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
The most important items of business:
- Blue Ridge Hotel Public Hearing — By unanimous vote, the Winkler Organization’s proposed Blue Ridge Hotel project was approved after modest discussion. The discussion was first advanced and even extended when Commissioner Sue Sweeting pressed Planning Director Kevin Rothrock for the definition of a hotel vs. condominiums and whether the project satisfied the definition of a hotel. While she eventually voted in favor of the project, Sweeting seemed reluctant to accept Rothrock’s conclusions and assurances that it was, indeed a hotel. Commissioner Virginia Powell sought of Rothrock a clearer understanding of the 75% greenspace requirement for setbacks in front of a building. She also wondered
aloud whether the developer had considered leaving the three extra parking spaces in the front of the building as greenspace since the Land Use Code only required 12 spaces instead of the 15 Winkler was providing.
- Town Audit — Martin Starnes & Co., the Town’s auditor, provided its final findings for the 2018-19 fiscal year, stating that the Town is in very good shape, financially.
- Low Interest on Bond Issue — Town Manager Shane Fox reported that at the most recent financing auction the Town’s new bond offering was priced with a coupon of 1.91% interest, among the very lowest of other North Carolina municipal bond offerings.
- Memorial Park Enhancements — Local residents Sam Hess and Sam Glover, representing several young families that have moved to Blowing Rock in recent years, advanced “The Community Initiative for Memorial Park.” The most pressing element of their initiative was for the Town to accelerate any plans to dramatically upgrade the playground facilities in the park. The Council promised to take up the issue at its January retreat.
Lesser or more routine business items included:
No “Camp David” — The Council’s January retreat will be January 6,7, and 8, 2020, and it will be held in Blowing Rock for the first time in several years. For several years now, Blowing Rock News has advocated that a retreat in Asheville where the council discussed important issues and even voted on some important issues represented a de facto closed session of Town Council since, while open to the public, the public was discouraged in attending because of the costs associated with lodging and travel, as well as time away from jobs or business interests.
- RELATED STORIES:
- RELATED STORIES:
- Sweeting Gets Her Backroom Deal as Mayor Pro Tem — In defiance of public criticsim, Commissioner Doug Matheson and Commissioner Powell sided with Sweeting in awarding Sweeting the Mayor Pro Tem position. Although largely a ceremonial role since the Mayor is rarely, if ever absent at important Town functions, many in Town felt that Sweeting did not deserve such an honor after her malfeasance last spring forced the other board members to involuntarily recuse her from the Rainey Lodge public hearing when she did not voluntarily do so. Commissioner Albert Yount was also nominated by David Harwood to continue the role in which he has served for several years, but they were outnumbered as a result of Sweeting’s maneuverings.
- RELATED STORY:
- RELATED STORY:
- Consent Agenda — The Mayview Madness road race will be September 26, 2020, and various budget amendments were approved.