By Jesse Wood
June 11, 2014. The Blowing Rock Town Council amended a town ordinance to allow decorative white-string lighting in trees, bushes, landscaped areas and along fences year round.
After hearing from merchants who wanted to continue lighting those areas around their businesses, the Planning Board addressed the issue at its May meeting.
In December 2013, the Town Council amended the sign ordinance, which had initially set the traditional holiday lighting period from Nov. 15 to Jan. 15, by extending that period to March 31.
This past April, staff with the Planning & Inspections Department had to contact business owners and ask them to stop illuminating the string lights until next November.
While the string lights could remain in place on roof eaves, the icicle-style lights had to be removed due to their visibility, according to a memo from Planning Director Kevin Rothrock. Lighting on business will remain regulated by the holiday timeframe.
After a question from Councilman Dan Phillips, Rothrock said that the Planning Board’s decision to allow this lighting in trees, bushes, landscaped areas and along fences year round was unanimous.
Greg Tarbutton of Chetola Resort spoke at the public hearing before the council made its decision on Tuesday and commended the Planning Board and Town Council for considering the proposal.
Noting the thick fog that Blowing Rock receives at certain times of year, Tarbutton said that guests staying at the resort have arrived and thought it was closed because of the lack of lighting. While mentioning that these lights provide an ambiance for other business as well, he praised the officials for not allowing the “Las Vegas” style and other lighting that would harm the village’s “brand.”
Another business owner said that many customers respond positively to the white lighting.
While Councilman Dan Phillips said he wasn’t against the proposal, he stressed for uniformity among the property owners in Blowing Rock and suggested that the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce encourage uniformity.
Councilman Doug Matheson questioned how this proposal could dull the ambiance of Christmastime in Blowing Rock by white lighting becoming the norm year round.
“Because people say it’s so pretty here in Christmastime, I don’t want to take away from that,” Matheson said.
In any case, the Blowing Rock Town Council unanimously approved the recommendation from the Planning Board to allow string lighting year round on fences and landscaping.
Read the amended ordinance here.