LETTERS / Watauga County People Have the Right to Know What’s Really Going On

Published Friday, March 29, 2013 at 9:20 am

Dear Editor:

Nathan Miller, Watauga County Commission Chairman, is now threatening that if the Town of Boone does not rescind its new Workforce Housing ordinance, he will re-calculate county sales taxes so that Boone loses $2 million.  The towns of Beech Mountain and Blowing Rock will get a major cash windfall.

Mr. Miller hopes he can cut a deal with Blowing Rock and Beech Mountain to prevent the inevitable $200,000 loss in the County’s tax revenue that will occur as a result of his new math. Since the County attorney also represents the Town of Beech Mountain, and since the Blowing Rock Town Attorney also represents Templeton Properties, this should indeed make for a pretty quick deal.

Rotten to the core.

This new threat is being floated by Mr. Miller strictly on behalf of Templeton Properties, the outfit that has proposed to purchase and develop the old high school property. Templeton Properties’ winning bid for the old high school property was around $18 million. Mr. Miller now contends if Templeton Properties has to develop under Boone’s new ordinance, the value of the property drops by $10 to $11 million dollars.

I wonder how Mr. Miller came up with that figure? I assume Templeton Properties has done some kind of financial figuring to come up with it. I think Watauga County residents, the owners of this property, have a right to see that sheet of paper.

Yesterday I called Mr. Bill Bailey, Director of the Town of Boone Planning and Inspections Department. I asked if any developers had approached the town to inquire about building high-density student and/or workforce housing since the Town’s new ordinance had gone into effect.  He said five developer types had inquired about such high-density development. None of them–not one—indicated they could not pursue their development plans under the new ordinance. In fact, workforce apartments and town homes were discussed as a part of their major developments… for a change.

So that makes six people who are now considering high density development under Boone’s new ordinance. Five have no problem. One does: Templeton Properties.

Templeton Properties publicly stated its overall vision for the property before the Town’s new workforce housing ordinance went into effect: a hotel or convention center, perhaps a major grocery chain, perhaps a movie theater, perhaps a national retailer and some smaller retail shops, and definitely some high-density housing and commercial development.

In order to achieve the high-density development Mr. Templeton outlined even before Boone’s new ordinance went into effect, he was required to go through a conditional permitting process. In fact, Mr. Templeton’s Attorney spoke on his behalf at the public hearing on the new ordinance and specifically requested that a conditional permitting process be included. Yet now Mr. Templeton claims one of two reasons the property has lost $10 to $11 million since the Town’s new ordinance took effect is because he has to go through a permitting process he already knew was a requirement even before he made his offer to the County and one which was requested by his own attorney.

The second reason Mr. Templeton claims the property has lost $10 to $11 million in value is because developers are now required to make some kind of financial assurance that they will complete the project as proposed. To meet that requirement, Mr. Templeton can either build the commercial portion first, or build 1/3 of the housing before he builds the commercial portion, or provide a bank letter of credit. How can this requirement contribute to a loss of $10 to $11 million in value when no additional out-of-pocket money is required? 

It seems pretty clear Mr. Templeton is using the new ordinance as an excuse to drive down the price for the property, and he is ironically using our County elected officials, our County paid attorneys, and Mr. Nathan Miller in particular as tools to burn down the village to bring down the price of the property.

Otherwise, he would send his Attorney over to the Town to try to negotiate terms on his behalf, wouldn’t he? Otherwise Mr. Miller would simply go to the backup bidder on the property, wouldn’t he?  Otherwise other developers would be crying the blues too, wouldn’t they? Otherwise someone would show us some evidence of that $10 million loss in property value, wouldn’t they?

Just saying.

 

Pam Williamson

Watauga County and Town of Boone Resident

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