By Jesse Wood
Aug. 14, 2013. The ambitious Middle Fork Falls Resort planned to be wedged in between Tweetsie Railroad and Mystery Hill hasn’t moved along as scheduled.
Last fall, the 42-acre property that is located off of U.S. 321 in between Boone and Blowing Rock went under contract. At the time, developer Steve Moberg said he planned to break ground in the spring of 2013 and open sometime in 2014. The project – and proposed timeline – was ambitious to say the least and included:
- a roughly 50,000-square-foot indoor, heated water park,
- hotel and conference center with 120 to 150 rooms
- 35,000-square-foot retail center
- combination gas station/convenience center and fast foot restaurant
- 10,000-square-foot full-service restaurant in the vein of Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Outback
- Approximately 50 rustic rental log cabins
- Distillery and micro-brewery with music hall
- Nature trails that connect to the Middle Fork Trail
- 1,600 parking spaces
Now, the property is now longer under contract, according to Chris Robbins, manager of Middle Fork LLC and president of Tweetsie Railroad. Middle Fork LLC owns the 42-acre tract, and entered into a contract with Moberg last fall. While the contract expired in August, Robbins said he hoped to put the property back under contract with Moberg but hasn’t heard from him in about a week.
“I would like to see it back on track. I think [the High Country] could use a project like that,” Robbins said, adding that the property is back on the market with an asking price of $5.5 million.
In December, the Watauga County Planning Board approved a master plan of the project contingent upon the completion of a checklist that included acquiring various permits, complying with various ordinances and meeting N.C. Department of Transportation requirements – among other conditions.
Joe Furman, director of Watauga County Planning and Inspections, said while his office has “been in touch” with Moberg for the past year, the project “didn’t really proceed any further” after the planning meeting because many of those conditions, which required Moberg to own the property, were never met.
Moberg hasn’t responded to phone calls this week. However for the past several months, Moberg has repeatedly said that he was wrapping up the financing for the property and would soon close on the contract.
Public response to the “destination resort,” as Moberg described the finished project, has been mixed. One person posted on Facebook, “We are already a tourist town and that provides much needed jobs…sounds fun! Bring it on!”
While the other side of the spectrum feels this project will turn the High Country into Gaitlinburg. Numerous Facebook comments on a HCPress.com article describing the project were similar to this: “Hope we don’t turn Watauga into a Honky Tonk town like Gatlinburg.”