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August Public Hearing Proposed for 200-Acre Acquisition off N.C. 194, Commissioners Address Date Tuesday

By Jesse Wood

July 12, 2013. At next Tuesday’s Watauga County Board of Commissioners meeting, Planning and Inspections Director Joe Furman will request the board schedule a public hearing for August regarding the purchase of nearly 200 acres for a business park along N.C. 194. The public hearing is required before the board can approve the land acquisition.

Chairman Nathan Miller said the property borders the hairpin turn. Photo by Jesse Wood
Chairman Nathan Miller said the property borders the hairpin turn. Photo by Jesse Wood

After the commissioners voted to purchase the property for $1.7 million from Deborah Earp Greene in April, the county entered the five-month due diligence period. For whatever reason, the county can back out of the agreement if the property isn’t suitable during this time period.

A second business park has been a priority of the Watauga County Economic Development Commission for years. The other park located off of U.S. 421 has been filled to capacity for decades, according to members of the EDC.

At the time of the initial vote in April, the board was unanimous in supporting the proposed business park along N.C. 194. All the commissioners noted that the board could back out of the agreement. Commissioners mentioned job creation, economic development, the real estate value, forward thinking and usage of a portion of the property for a new Green Valley School, which is landlocked at its current location, as reasons to explore purchasing the property.

Nearly two months later, though, Commissioner John Welch noted his new opposition to the project and voted against paying $52,000 to McGill Associates for due diligence of the property in May. While Welch said he supported a business park, he cited the location, which is three miles outside of Boone on a single-lane highway, as “not the place for a business park to thrive” and called the purchase “a waste of county money.” He also noted that “now I am hearing” discussions of the property as a possible water source. Something, he said, that wasn’t mentioned during the April vote.

“If we were to have a reservoir, imagine the tons of permitting, and I couldn’t imagine the cost or how long it would take,” Welch said in late May.

According to a memo from County Manager Deron Geouque, the county is required to hold a public hearing regarding the acquisition of land. Due diligence work by McGill Associates will be completed before the proposed hearing date of Tuesday, Aug. 20.