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Watauga Commissioners To Meet Tuesday: Brookshire Wetland, Land Acquisition Talk

By Jesse Wood

The Watauga County Board of Commissioners will meet on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 5:30 p.m. The light agenda includes a request regarding a potential wetland at Brookshire Park, a land acquisition matter in closed session and more.  

Land Acquisition in Closed Session

1476902258873The commissioners will discuss a land acquisition in closed session on Tuesday. County Manager Deron Geouque wouldn’t provide specifics on the potential acquisition in question, and it’s typical land acquisition matters are discussed in closed session.

Geouque did say that easements for the Middle Fork Greenway in between Boone and Blowing Rock, where grant opportunities exist, could fall underneath the land acquisition category. The county administers some grants associated with this project.

Just recently at the Dec. 5 meeting, the commissioners unanimously approved a 20-foot-wide easement through the property of Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’s new facility. A section of the 6.5-mile Middle Fork Greenway traverses through 1,935 feet through the hospital’s property.

Currently about a mile of the greenway is constructed near Tweetsie Railroad with a beautiful pocket park across the street from Mystery Hill. 

For more information about the Middle Fork Greenway, click to https://www.middleforkgreenway.org.

It’s unlikely that the closed session matter pertains to the expansion of business park property in Watauga County, but it’s always a possibility when land acquisition is on the agenda.

For several years now, Watauga County has sought property for another business park. In 2013, the commissioners voted against purchasing a 200-acre tract of land off of N.C. 194 for about $1.7 million. The county has also looked for land along the U.S. 421 Deep Gap gateway into Boone for a business park

However, this topic hasn’t been talked about for a while.

The last time, Watauga County purchased property was in 2014, when a previous board (the same that attempted to buy the N.C. 194 property) bought 13 acres in Cove Creek for $102,000 to build an ambulance station/medic base to increase response times in western part of the county.

The base is nearly complete and should be up-and-running early next year.

Potential Brookshire Wetland

The mitigation bank is proposed in the pink area.
The mitigation bank is proposed in the pink area.

The Watauga County Board of Commissioners will consider administering a grant request to fund the construction a wetland/mitigation bank at Brookshire Park.

A memo to the commissioners provided some background on this potential project:

“In 2012, the County contracted with Blue Ridge Development Group (BRDG), aka Blue Ridge Environmental Consultants (BREC), to construct a greenway which connects to the oval greenway at Brookshire Park and extends along the river the length of the County’s property, approximately 3,000 feet. Fifty percent of the cost of the construction was provided by NC Division of Water Resources; the remaining fifty percent was provided by BRDG. In return, the County agreed that BRDG could construct wetlands on the property (see attached map) that would serve as a wetlands mitigation bank controlled by BRDG under the program of the Army Corps of Engineers (COE). The County would also place the wetlands under a permanent conservation easement.

“At present, the greenway has been in place for three (3) years, however, the wetland construction has not yet occurred. It now appears that the COE does not wish to use the proposed wetlands as a mitigation bank, therefore BRDG will not be able to recoup their investment through selling of wetlands credits as originally planned. However, there is an opportunity for BRDG to construct the wetlands using grant funds from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF), provided the County agrees to be the applicant. There would be no cost to the County; the match would be provided by BRDG. The application is due February 6th; amount to be requested is $460,000. The conservation easement would need to be recorded upon completion of the wetlands.”

Watauga County Planning Director Joe Furman will request approval to proceed with the grant application and to amend the contract with BRDG. At Tuesday’s meeting, Derek Goddard, principal of the BRDG, will be present to address the commissioners.

See meeting packet here