By Jesse Wood
The Boone Town Council agreed 4-1 to rezone 0.7 acres of property near the Holmes Convocation Center for the “University Outlook” development from B2 Neighborhood Business District to B3 General Business District at last Thursday’s council meeting. The council also approved the mixed-use project slated for the site.
The property is owned by Marty Rice of MET Holdings and consists of two parcels located at the intersection of Rivers Street and Blowing Rock Road, in between the Parthenon restaurant and an Appalachian South apartment complex.
The proposed development is mixed-use with 24 efficiency apartments and roughly 2,700 square feet of retail space. Plans call for 28 parking spaces with a minimum of at least six set aside for commercial space.
In the prior Boone Area Planning Commission meeting, Boone Planning Director Bill Bailey said that, looking long term, he felt the area in question would be more of a B3 area due to its location next to a major corridor, according to meeting minutes.
The Boone Town Council voted was 4-1 to approve the rezoning with Councilwoman Loretta Clawson putting up the lone nay vote.
“I am not going to vote in support of it because I think there is too much going into this space,” Clawson said.
Clawson said she was concerned that there aren’t enough parking spots for students in this apartment complex. She noted that while students can walk to class, they can’t walk to their hometown or to the doctor’s office or to the ski slopes.
“I would love to say this town is absolutely a walking and biking town,” Clawson said, adding that she’s lived here long enough to know better.
She added that there are plenty of vacant retail spaces below mixed-use developments, which are required of apartment complexes in business districts in Boone. Clawson said that she believes the lack of parking spaces contributes to commercial space remaining vacant.
Clawson noted that she had been prepared to discuss the 2013 Housing Study commissioned by the Town of Boone, but the correct documents weren’t attached to the council members packets in time for review.
“I think this community wants the Town of Boone to look at what’s happening and what we are doing,” Clawson said. “For those reasons, I am happy to vote against this.”
Councilwoman Lynne Mason said that Mason mentioned that higher density developments near major corridors are recommended in the town’s 2030 plan.
While Mason said she struggles with the parking situation in Boone, she mentioned that if the town doesn’t start to look at “alternative parking options,” the Town of Boone is going to become “one big paved asphalt lot.”
She noted that parking decks are going to be discussed down the road and that the university has become a “great partner” in sharing its spaces after 5 p.m. Mason also mentioned that students don’t need to use a car everyday. Mason said she was “comfortable” with the allotted spaces.
Councilwoman Charlotte Mizelle noted that although she would like to see “a little more” parking, the project fits all the requirements of the town’s Unified Development Ordinance.
Mizelle did suggest some more lighting because it was next to two bars. Representatives associated with the project agreed to add more lighting.
Some of the discussion at Thursday’s nights council meeting aligned with a series that High Country Press began a couple weeks ago. See more on that series here.