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Water Use Committee Passes Motion Recommending Boone Town Council Let WHS Reserve Expire

By Jesse Wood

Dec. 4, 2013. The Water Use Committee for the Town of Boone met Tuesday night and passed a motion to recommend that the Boone Town Council let the water reserve at the old, 74-acre Watauga High School site expire.

The 150,000-gallon-per-day reserve will expire at the end of the year unless the Boone Town Council acts. The county, which owns the property that is in the town, contends that the 150,000 gpd reserve is critical to successfully market and sell the property, according to July letter from County Manager Deron Geouque to Town Manager Greg Young.

Before making a vote on the motion, the Water Use Committee, which features members of the Boone Town Council and mayor, discussed the contents of another letter from Geouque to Young that was dated Oct. 9.

Geouque mentioned in the letter that a prior request of 200,000 gpd was based on the old high school property “experiencing a significant build out” – a development that would feature 800 bedrooms (120,000 gpd), 750,000 square feet of retail space (54,000) and an additional 26,000 gpd of water for potential restaurants. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, members of the Water Use Committee mentioned that by these figures that’s enough water for 13 restaurants and five big-box stores. Planning Director Bill Bailey said that there is “enough acreage and floor space to do that” but regulations such as setback and view shed would likely limit that.

To come to a more precise answer, Bailey said, “I would literally have to run scenarios all day long.”

Committee member Pam Williamson made the initial motion to recommend letting the WHS water reserve expire. Her initial motion, which didn’t pass, included a caveat that intertwined a negotiation of the expiration of the water reserve with the redistribution of the county sales tax that the Republican-led Watauga County Board of Commissioners enacted earlier in the year and caused the Town of Boone to lose $1.7 million of revenue. 

“I think we have a really good opportunity to here to go back to the county and say we would like to sit down and chat with you about this 150,000 gallons … and also put on the table a discussion of the redistribution of the sales tax. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Williamson said, adding that this was also a “golden opportunity.” 

Committee member Patrick Beville noted that including any talk of the sales-tax distribution in the motion probably went “well beyond the scope” of the Water Use Committee.

Williamson restated her motion to just recommend the council to let the reserve expire and Boone Town Council would take it from there. 

All the members of the Water Use Committee were in favor of letting the reserve expire.

In that Oct. 9 letter, Geouque noted the county’s interest in renewing the reserve.

“The county would renew its request to maintain the 150,000 gpd allocation as it is vital to the sale of the property. The removal or reduction of the amount would place an unnecessary obstacle in the selling of the property,” Geouque wrote.

See entire letter below.