By David Rogers. June 11, 2019. BLOWING ROCK, NC — The smartest people in the room for Tuesday night’s regular June meeting of Blowing Rock’s Board of Commissioners may well have been Chris Hatton, chairman, and Elizabeth Young, executive director of Hunger and Health Coalition. That’s because after the normal formalities (approval of minutes, etc.) they were first on the agenda before a captive audience: a standing-room-only crowd in Town Hall on hand to hear the Board of Commissioners’ decision on the “Rainey Lodge” conditional use permit (CUP) application.
COVER IMAGE: In his first Town Council meeting as Town Manager, Shane Fox (left) appeared well-prepared and quick to answer Commissioners questions, including specific questions relating to Town Code. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
By recent Town Council standards, Tuesday night’s meeting was a “quickie,” only a little more than an hour and a half. With all of the evidence presented and legal arguments made during April and May’s 10+ hours of “regular” meetings by Blowing Rock’s elected legislative body, all that remained of the quasi-judicial process was the statement-making and vote casting by the Board of Commissioners. Their balloting would determine the fate of Grand Dakota Development, LLC’s CUP application to develop the 0.905-acre, mostly vacant parcel behind Speckled Trout. After brief comments by the sitting commissioners and mayor, including a list of relatively minor conditions attached to Commissioner Doug Matheson’s motion to approve, the measure passed, 3-1. Commissioner Albert Yount was in the minority, voting “no” without much in the way of explanation.
Just before voting in the affirmative, Commissioner Jim Steele took the time to address the audience. He admitted that the job of commissioner is difficult sometimes because, “Whether or not we personally like a project, we have to follow town ordinances and the Land Use Code. (Those documents) lay out what a developer can or cannot do.”
Steele’s unspoken inference seemed to be that if anyone has a problem with the Board’s approval of the project, then they needed to review the relevant town codes because the proposed project required no variances or waivers of the code’s restrictions on development.
Commissioner Virginia Powell had one of the most candidly honest comments of the night before voting to approve the CUP permit.
“This has been a long process, including over 500 pages of testimony in the more than 10 hours of the public hearing,” she noted. “It brought out the worst in some of us, but hopefully we have (all learned from the experience).”
The project was vehemently opposed by the leadership of the Blowing Rock Civic Association (BRCA). While BRCA did not have legal standing to directly participate in the quasi-judicial CUP application proceeding, it was reported to Blowing Rock News that the local activist organization helped organize a small group of neighboring property owners to protest and largely funded the opposition.
There has not yet been any indication that the Board of Commissioners’ approval of this project will be appealed.