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Economic Development Comm. To Request a Business Park at Old WHS at Tuesday’s Commissioners Meeting

The proposed Summit Business Park.

By Jesse Wood

Aug. 19, 2012. Recently, there has been word that the old Watauga High School property might become a Class A Business Park.

Next Tuesday, members of the Economic Development Commission (EDC) will request that the Watauga County Board of Commissioners officially designate the county-owned land as “Western North Carolina’s premiere business park” at the commissioners upcoming meeting on Aug. 21.

In addition, EDC Chairman Keith Honeycutt, EDC Director Joe Furman and EDC Member Tommy Sofield will request that the EDC be designated as the sole development and marketing agent of the 74-acre property, which in the proposal consists of 13 various-sized lots, ranging from 2.2 to 9.5 acres.

Each lot is proposed to have a building ranging from 18,000 to 60,000 square feet with 60 to 180 parking lots. Of the 74 acres, 25 are relatively flat and pad-ready. (See end of article for details to specific lots.)

Information in the upcoming meeting’s packet states that the “primary way to grow a local economy is through expanding its exporting sectors, i.e., produce and sell more goods and services to customers outside of the local area.”

According to Furman, who spoke at an AdvantageWest board meeting in Ashe County last week, only about 3 percent of employment in the county is attributed to manufacturing, and the primary reason for that low figure and the fact that manufacturing companies have not been inclined to set up shop in Watauga County are because of the lack of sites without prudent infrastructure for manufacturing use.

Furman said one of the county’s economic goals is to target these manufacturing sectors, which would be compatible with High Country. 

  •     Computer system design services               
  •     Sporting athletic goods manufacturers
  •     Surgical and medical instruments and surgical appliance supplies
  •     Analytical lab instrument manufacturing
  •     Research development biotechnology

According to InSite Consulting, which performed a marketing analysis for the EDC, “Without fully infrastructured (water and sewer lines w/ excess capacity, natural gas, ample 3-phase power, telecommunications fiber) product in a community, an economic development program will not attract quality companies.” 

The consulting firm added that although Watauga County has a high-quality of life with an abundance of outdoor recreation, outstanding medical facilities, attractions of ASU, and a population with higher education, “the reality is that Watauga County is not currently able … effectively participate in the economic development arena.”

Currently, old high-school and related facilities are being demolished – to be completed next summer. If the board of commissioners approves a business park, then the next phase of the project, following, of course, demolition, would include due diligence. The information packet states that this includes environmental assessments, wetlands delineation, archaeological study, geotechnical study and endangered species analysis. After which, a “vigorous marketing campaign” would begin.

The planning process for this “Summit Business Park,” according to the master plan, takes into consideration the Citizen’s Plan for Watauga, Town of Boone’s Comprehensive Plan and Watauga County’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan and works within Boone’s 2030 Land Use Master Plan.

The old Watauga High School property is within Boone’s General Business (B3) zoning district. Light Industrial land uses are permitted “Special Uses” within the district but require the approval of local zoning board.

Time frames outlined in the master plan, include a decision whether or not to turn the property into a business park within six months. Construction of infrastructure to begin in one year, and the design and construction of specific buildings to begin more than a year down the road.

“Business park development will take several years and occur in stages or phases as funding becomes available,” the master plan stated.

The plans for developing and operating in the park have numerous sustainable components such as composting existing landscaping material and organic waste; minimal construction waste; recycling once businesses are in operation; building orientation for maximum solar exposure; rainwater harvesting; a possible requirement for LEED certification on all buildings; and more. 

Currently, Boone has one existing business park – the 45-acre Watauga County Industrial Park. It was developed in the ‘80s and currently has 300 employees working for those businesses housed in the park.

Before the recession in 2008, it had a peak employee figure of more than 500. The information packet touts the existing park as being “successful” and full to capacity for more than 20 years.

For more information, see board packet which has more details on proposed park. 

Current Lots Under Proposed Plan

Site    Lot Size     Pad Ready       Bldg. Footage¹     Parking Spaces²

Lot1    2.2 Acres     .9 Acres         18,000 SF              60 Spaces 

Lot 2   3.6 Acres   2.3 Acres        45,000 SF             135 Spaces

Lot 3   9.5 Acres    1.4 Acres        30,000 SF              90 Spaces

Lot 4   4.5 Acres    2.3 Acres        45,000 SF             135 Spaces 

Lot 5   5.5 Acres     2.6 Acres        50,000 SF             150 Spaces

Lot 6   4.5 Acres     2.3 Acres        45,000 SF             135 Spaces

Lot 7    5.0 Acres    2.9 Acres        55,000 SF             165 Spaces

Lot8     5.0 Acres    2.4 Acres        47,500 SF             140 Spaces

Lot 9    6.0 Acres    3.2 Acres        60,000 SF             180 Spaces

Lot 10  5.0 Acres    2.1 Acres        40,000 SF             120 Spaces

Lot 11  5.5 Acres     2.1 Acres        40,000 SF             120 Spaces

Lot 12  3.5 Acres    2.3 Acres        45,000 SF             135 Spaces

Lot 13  6.7 Acres      .0 Acres        WS II Watershed Rules Apply