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EDC To Meet at 1:30 p.m. Thursday for Due-Diligence Presentation of Potential N.C. 194 Business Park Site

By Jesse Wood

Aug. 8, 2013. The Watauga County Board of Commissioners and members of the public are invited to hear McGill Associates present its engineering and due diligence report of the nearly 200-acre property that the commissioners agreed to purchase for the purpose of a business park a few miles outside of Boone along N.C. 194.

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

In the first week of April, the commissioners unanimously agreed to purchase the property for $1.7 million, noting that they could rescind their offer if they were to find the site unsuitable during the five-month inspection period that is coming to an end soon. A month later, the commissioners – excluding Commissioner John Welch who voted nay – agreed to pay McGill Associates $52,000 to conduct the land analysis.

The presentation takes place today, Thursday, Aug. 8, at 1:30 p.m. during the Watauga County Economic Development Commission meeting at the Appalachian Enterprise Center. 

To view the entire report, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/poqkx141ssd9rxt/Engineering%20and%20Due%20Diligence%20Report%202013-7-30.pdf

On Aug. 20, the commissioners are holding a public hearing on the potential purchase for members of public to speak their mind regarding the county purchasing 198.5 acres out of town. Two other public hearings are scheduled on that day and the hearings start at 6 p.m.

The EDC has been advocating for a business park for years. EDC Director Joe Furman submitted a letter to the commissioners last Tuesday recommending a business park on N.C. 194.

The letter stated that the EDC members unanimously recommends, “pending a favorable outcome of the due diligence study, that the commissioners purchase the property and that development of a master plan for a suitable business park occur immediately thereafter.

“The property on Highway 194 is the best, most cost-effective option for meeting Watauga County’s sitting needs for existing and future business,” the letter states.

Commissioner Welch, who initially voted to purchase the property pending the due diligence report, reneged his support in May, citing concerns of the out-of-the-way location and new discussions of a potential costly water system on the property. 

While a reservoir has been loosely discussed, the due diligence report states “there appears to be a very good potential to develop groundwater as a source for the water supply for the proposed park. It is recommended that a minimum of two wells be developed for the park. The estimated cost for the development of wells inclusive of a disinfection treatment system is $65,000 to $100,000 … To supply water to the proposed business park, it is recommended that an on-site groundwater well supply be developed, along with the construction of an elevated water storage tank.” 

The northern portion of the property has steep terrain and isn’t readily accessible from N.C. 194, and since it contains numerous streams and wetlands, this portion of the property couldn’t be developed in a cost-effective manner, the report states, noting that the northern portion of the property would provide opportunities for recreational development (fitness trails, Frisbee golf, picnic shelters) and agriculture business development. 

Read the letter from the EDC here: EDC Statement

Read the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY of the report below

McGill Associates is pleased to present the following Engineering and Due Diligence Report for the Proposed NC 194 Business Park to the Watauga County Economic Development Commission for review and consideration. Watauga County has an option to purchase an approximate 200-acre tract of property located at 3900 NC Highway 194 North near Boone, North Carolina. The County retained the services of McGill Associates to provide a “Due Diligence” investigation of the property for potential development as a new business park in cooperation with the planning efforts of the Watauga County Economic Development Commission. The following report summarizes the findings of our investigation relative to existing site conditions, potential environmental concerns, development potential considering existing site constraints, and preliminary evaluation of water and sewer service for the site.

The portion of the property that lies north of Meat Camp Creek and the portion that lies in the northeastern corner of the tract are characterized by steep terrain and are not readily accessible from Highway 194. The northern property line is also oriented along a ridgeline, making the vast majority of this property a southern facing slope from the ridgeline to the streams in the valley. Any development on this property would require a predominant cut condition and would produce significant soil to waste on site. Nearly all of the valleys located on the property contain streams and wetlands, which restrict opportunities to waste the soils generated by developing this portion of the property in a cost-effective manner. This portion of the property does provide opportunity for recreational development (fitness trails, frisbee golf, picnic shelters, etc.); however, the access to the property would be gained via an internal access road originating on the southern portion of the tract. Accessing the north portions of the property via an access road from the south would require significant length to manage grade between the predominant east/west valley that bisects the property and the northern ridges. Therefore, we recommend that the northern portions of the property be considered primarily for recreational and/or agricultural business development.

The southern portion of the property contains streams and wetlands that are characteristic of the northern portion, but the magnitude and locations are not as prevalent and dense. In addition, the proposed NC 194 Business Park July 2013most efficient access to the property is located near the southwestern corner along Highway 194. Therefore, the highest development potential will be within the southern half of the property on the knolls and along the ridgelines. The basic development concept would be to cut in these areas to maximize the buildable footprint and balance the earthworks by placing fill around the periphery of the hilltop sites. The preliminary geotechnical exploration has indicated that the average depth to rock on the knolls and ridges is approximately 30-35 feet. Therefore, mass rock excavation should not be required unless the development plan for the property requires cuts in excess of these depths.

The future development plan for the property should consider the overall impact to streams and wetlands, threatened and endangered (T&E) species, and potential cultural resources. However, developing the southern portion of the property, which has the highest development potential, should not impact a significant portion of the streams and wetlands, which also corresponds to the areas of concern identified for T&E species, T&E habitat, and potential archaeological significance. Although some impact to stream and wetlands will likely be required to optimize the development potential of the property, these impacts should not be considered excessive based on the amount of these resources currently located on the property. Any disturbances could likely be offset by utilizing on-site mitigation to improve the quality of the existing streams and wetlands, in lieu of paying prescribed unit rates for disturbance of streams and wetlands to the Ecosystem Enhancement Program.

A detailed plan and cost/benefit analysis will be prudent for any future development site that requires stream and wetland disturbance as identified by future site development plans. However, the majority of the areas of environmental concern can be avoided altogether. Disturbances that ultimately prove to be integral to the success of the site development should be relatively minimal and should be managed through common and realistic on-site initiatives such as stream/wetland restoration and T&E relocation.

Although the terrain and existing aquatic resources of this property does not promote a mass grading approach to development which is more characteristic of the piedmont region of North Carolina, it does provide an opportunity for the County to create pockets of development while predominantly preserving and improving the natural resources of the property. This pocket development approach should also drastically reduce the scope and/or eliminate the need for further archaeological investigation, since the areas of potential archaeological significance should be avoided.