1000 x 90

Boone Town Council Meeting Filled With Progress On Projects

The Boone Town Council meets on Feb. 8, 2023. Photo by Zack Hill

By Zack Hill

BOONE, NC – The Boone Town Council and Mayor held a regular, open meeting session on Wednesday, Feb. 9 at the Town Council chambers at 1500 Blowing Rock Road.

In attendance were Mayor Tim Futrelle, Council members Todd Carter, Dalton George, Becca Nenow, Virginia Roseman, Mayor Pro Tem Edie Tubman, Town Manager Amy Davis and Town Attorney Allison Meade.

The meeting started with the announcement of several vacancies on town boards including the boards of adjustments, human relations, and several boards that had positions available to ASU students including sustainability and human relations.

The Historic Preservation Commission then presented ideas and plans for the start, continuation and completion of several projects including finishing an interpretive panels communication project, updates on work on Rivers’ House and Jones’ House, and light pole banners for downtown Boone.

They also discussed dispersement of the workload within the commission and how changes to the Rivers’ and Jones’ properties would be made in accordance with preservation standards.

Futrelle thanked the commission for their “tremendous work” that was “much appreciated.”

Council member Carter echoed the sentiment saying, “I’m learning so much from the commission and really appreciate it.”

Nick Katers, associate vice chancellor for facilities management at ASU was next, presenting updates on projects to ensure alignment with town needs, saying, “We want to figure out how we work together to move this relationship forward together. We all have to occupy the same space and we aren’t making more space now.”

First was an update on the project to daylight the creek that runs under much of ASU’s campus and Peacock parking lot. Daylighting is a term to describe the process of removing obstructions such as concrete, asphalt and pavement that cover up waterways to return them to their natural state as much as possible.

The university is asking the town to consider rezoning the Estes House on Howard Street to allow the university to investigate potentially building a new parking deck to offset the parking spaces lost in the daylighting project.

In addition, Katers spoke about how the university is attacking the need for additional parking. Beginning in June of this year, construction will begin on a 6-story, 600-space parking deck near the Holmes Convocation Center. 

App State is improving their property on the site of the old Watauga High School.  In addition to the recently completed track facility, the university will add locker rooms, indoor and outdoor tennis courts and a softball field.  They will also expand the current parking are by another 300 spaces.

Mayor Pro Tem Edie Tubman pointed out that many students take advantage of free and paid parking spaces in town to attend class rather than pay the fee for parking charged by the university, thereby disrupting town commerce and and downtown traffic.

Council member Dalton George pointed to how the needs of the town and university are closely aligned, saying, “It’s a quality of life issue. Students deserve a quality of life, folks deserve good, affordable apartments, and easy travel around town.”

Katers agreed there are many issues to work through together. 

“App State is having a more difficult time recruiting faculty and staff because of a lack of affordable housing in the Boone area,” Katers said. “Developers are incentivized to build student apartments where they can charge $700 per room in a four bedroom apartment.  Those apartments are often too expensive for a young professional family.”

Katers pointed to another proposed project called the Innovation Campus on Bodenheimer Drive that would create 156 new townhomes for ASU faculty, staff and other professionals as means to alleviate the problem. The project would incorporate the use of solar panels and wind turbine power to offset the energy required for the residences.

Katers noted that the Innovation Campus would a very unique and forward-thinking addition to the school and its commitment to sustainability, pointing toward a similar facility at Georgia Tech as one of the few other examples he could think of in the country.

Finally, Katers discussed the university’s desire to update the current Broyhill wind turbine with two new turbines that would provide approximately 1.5 megawatts of additional power.

Mayor Futrelle thanked Katers for his presentation and the university’s willingness to engage in conversation with the town council.

“This is what we need to do, this what we have to do, to foster this relationship,” Futrelle said. “It’s nice to know what each other’s plans are and where we each fit in. Because we do in fact fit together and I appreciate the conversations we have. It’s all towards thought of the betterment of our community. Because it is our community—not ASU, Boone, or Watauga alone. It’s all of us together.”

The session adjourned briefly from 1:45 p.m. until 2 p.m.

Upon returning, independent CPA’s working for town, Jason Carpenter and Brady Combs, presented an audit of the the town’s 2021-2022 fiscal year, saying that they and the town had the highest level of assurance they could showing that all financial statements accorded to rules.

They also said that the 99.29 percent collection rate on town taxes was higher than many other places in the state and that they found no deficiencies in the federal report. The report was all positive news and no questions came out of its presentation.

Next was a presentation by the New River Conservancy by restoration director Katie Krogmeier. Krogmeier outlined efforts to restore and protect the New River Watershed. 

The Conservancy is in the process of restoring part of the creek that runs behind the Temple of the High Country on West King Street into downtown. The project will uncover parts of the creek and re-slope portions of the banks to enable better aquatic passage, sunlight for the habitat, and lessen sediment in the water caused by the steep slopes and occasionally high volume of water.

A similar idea is in its planning phase for the creek that runs behind the Greenway for similar purposes and reasons. It will also help with water runoff, sediment, wildlife habitat and potentially some flooding.

The projects will be paid for by grants but Krogmeier said the Conservancy wanted to get the town’s approval.

Council member Dalton George expressed support, saying “this is a very easy thing for this council to support. We allowed a lot of development on top and now they (the creeks) need a lot of work. We appreciate all of the work of the New River Conservancy.”

After another break, Mayor Futrelle shared news that the council has finalized all the easements for the Howard Street restoration and revitalization project.

“The project has been 30 years in the making and attempted multiple times without success. But with the town now possessing all the easements it needs along with funding from the USDA, we will be able to move forward,” Futrelle said.

Some procedural measures will still need to be taken before construction begins. But the town has all the approvals and right-of-ways, the main obstacles to the project, completed. The council will update the town as the project continues.

Futrelle praised public works deputy director Todd Moody, saying, “Todd has really spearheaded getting the easements approved and deserves all the credit we can give him for this.”

One of the final pieces of news was an update on the Bolick property that the town and Futrelle say they are “pursuing for the development of a new public works, planning and inspections facility, along with Fire Station—a new station—and we are hopeful that the remaining land will make available opportunities for possible affordable housing development.”