By David Rogers. July 10, 2019. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Although a public hearing to consider the conditional use permit (CUP) application for the former Moody Furniture building got bogged down in what many onlookers regarded as unnecessary minutiae, the CUP request was conditionally approved by Blowing Rock’s Board of Commissioners Tuesday night. They also approved two other CUP requests involving amendments to a previously approved 1996 CUP (Cambria Car Lot) request and a previously approved 2007 CUP (Inn on Cornish) permit application.
COVER IMAGE: Appalachian State student Dylan Powell is serving as an intern this year for the Town of Blowing Rock, here presenting a community survey seeking to understand public perceptions of the Blowing Rock Police Department. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Four other agenda items under “Business Matters” were also discussed and approved, including some pointed remarks about the ad hoc committee approved by the Board of Commissioners earlier this for “visioning” Valley Blvd.
On the surface, the commissioners’ expressed concerns about the loss of three public, street side parking spaces on Sunset Dr. seemed logical. They severely discounted the fact that the Board had previously approved the applicant’s earlier CUP request that would have seen a loss of two parking spaces on Sunset, so the net loss vs. what was previously approved was a single space. Moreover, they gave very little or no credit to the applicant’s plans that will create 24 off-street parking spaces on his proposed restaurant/retail development, even though the Town requirement for such a project requires only seven parking spaces.
In the end, the applicant, Rober Lovern, placated the dissenting Board members by agreeing to designate three of the 24 spaces on his development as public parking spaces and the CUP permit application passed unanimously.
The second CUP application was by Ron and Diane Cambria, requesting an amendment to their approved 1996 CUP for the Mountain Motors car lot at the corner of Sunset Dr. and Valley Blvd. The subject property is zoned for General Business and the original approval was for motor vehicle sales. The Cambrias wished to have greater flexibility in how their property asset is utilized, asking for the permitted uses to also include retail sales, office use, or even restaurant sales. With very little in the way of discussion or objection, the amendment was unanimously approved.
A little more controversial was the Winkler Organization’s request to add certain balconies or decks to rooms of their Inn on Cornish, now under construction. As they had gotten to a certain point in construction, they realized that the original plans approved by the Board had not included the balcony features, so were voluntarily coming back to the Board for approval. While Commissioner Virginia Powell demanded to know how and why they were building features not originally approved and even asked Planning Director Kevin Rothrock whether there are any penalties for exceeding the limitations of their approved CUP, Commissioner Jim Steele and Rothrock explained that occasionally errors or omissions in plans need to be corrected or amended. Steele, in particular, expressed appreciation for the developer’s recognizing the original deficiency and voluntarily coming forward.
Under Business Matters, the Board heard from Rothrock regarding clarification of language for the composition of the five-member Tourism Development Authority board, which includes one elected official, typically a commissioner. Rather than the amendment proposed by Town staff, the Board approved a suggestion by Commissioner Sue Sweeting that removed any pre-qualifying criteria for the elected official, making it automatic that a commissioner be appointed to the board. Sweeting’s proposed amendment retained two appointees from Lodging (“…because they are the ones that generate the occupancy taxes,” she said) and retained the At-Large appointee with an active interest in the promotion of travel and tourism in Blowing Rock. Her amendment reduced the Tourism-Related Business appointees from two to one, and inserted the elected official, regardless of his or her tourism-related business interests or affiliations.
The second Business Matters item resulted in the Board directing town staff, led by Town Manager Shane Fox, to identify certain needs and wants of First Baptist Church in reaching a sidewalk and parking agreement with the Town related to Sunset Drive.
A third Business Matters agenda item focused on the ad hoc committee previously formed by the Board for “visioning” development along Valley Blvd. Commissioners Steele and Powell were highly critical of the ad hoc committee’s expanding the scope of their mission to include Main Street and Central Business. After limiting the scope of the committee’s recommendation that they interview potential urban planning candidates to submit RFPs for professional consulting work, the Board unanimously approved the suggested process. While the committee will interview candidates and make suggestions to the Board, it may not commit to hiring anyone.
EDITOR’S NOTE: CLICK HERE to read Blowing Rock News’ July 9th editorial on this ad hoc committee, its ill-conceived formation, and the unnecessary taxpayer expense of hiring a consultant.
The fourth Business Matters item was a financial report by Finance Director Nicole Norman.
After convening at 6:00 pm, the July Town Council meeting adjourned at approximately 8:30 pm (two and a half hours).