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Watauga County Planning Board To Hear About ‘Deep Gap Gateway’ at Monday Meeting

By Jesse Wood

The four economic gateways designated in Watauga County.
The four economic gateways designated in Watauga County.

The Watauga County Planning Board will meet on Monday, May 18 at 6 p.m. to discuss the “Deep Gap Gateway.”

The term “gateway” was first introduced for Watauga County in 2008 via the Citizens Plan for Watauga, which is essentially a long-range vision document that would “provide a balance between managing change, preserving community traditions, protecting the natural environment and enhancing quality of life,” according to the document.

Among the recommendations that derived from the Citizens Plan for Watauga was the designation of gateways that would bestow a positive image on and provide an economic benefit to the county.

Four gateways were identified:

  • Deep Gap Gateway along U.S. 421
  • Zionville Gateway along U.S. 421
  • Grandfather Gateway along N.C. 015
  • Blowing Rock Gateway along U.S. 321

In 2012, the Watauga County Planning Board established a subcommittee tasked with corridor planning, and last fall, the subcommittee finalized a “Corridor Strategy for the Deep Gap Gateway” and sent it off for final approval to the Watauga County Planning Board, which will be presented the document on Monday evening.

Planning Director Joe Furman said that the approach the subcommittee and planning took is “non-regulatory” and simply recognizes that the entrances into the county are a gateway as proposed by the Citizens Plan for Watauga.

Furman noted that the strategic plan offers the county’s preference for development along the corridor and also is an “attempt to provide as much information as possible to anybody proposing to develop along the gateway.”

The document and subsequent website will include facts and figures such as traffic volumes, population density, physical characteristics (such as water, topography and soil), infrastructure (existing or needed), future road improvements and more.

The document also outlines four recommendations and accompanying strategies:

Maximize Preservation of Scenic Views

  • Place utilities underground
  • Preserve mature trees
  • Site buildings in a manner that avoids disrupting scenic views
  • Re-use existing buildings/Re-develop previously developed property
  • Avoid non-native or invasive plant materials
  • Utilize low-intensity exterior/parking lot lighting
  • Consider conservation easements
  • Consider land trusts

Encourage Compact Development Patterns

  • Guide future development to planned growth areas w/potential transit service
  • Encourage concentration of new development
  • Encourage mixed land uses
  • Preserve farm land and sensitive environmental areas (steep slopes, floodplains, wetlands) Preserve long range views
  • Support the Farmland Preservation Program

Preserve Vitality of the Existing Highway

  • Encourage connectivity between adjacent land uses
  • Encourage use of shared drives to minimize the number of driveways
  • Encourage ingress and egress from adjacent roadways

Encourage Appropriate Appearance Standards

  • Encourage architectural styles that positively reinforce the area’s traditional character & compliment the pastoral-agrarian theme of the scenic by-way
  • Encourage appropriate signage for commercial & industrial development
  • Screen outdoor storage & utility areas
  • Avoid chain-link fence material
  • Avoid prototypical chain-store franchise architecture
  • Orient new construction toward the corridor
  • Avoid flat roofs
  • Avoid large/expansive parking areas adjacent to the corridor
  • Avoid wireless towers within identified scenic view areas
  • Discourage heavy industry, outdoor storage, extraction of raw materials

For more information, see the “Corridor Strategy for the Deep Gap Gateway” draft document here: DEEP GAP GATEWAY CORRIDOR STRATEGY.