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The Recent ‘Letter Battles’ of the Sales Tax Switch/Old WHS Property Between Templeton, Boone and Watauga

Editor’s Note: This page is updated frequently as more letters are penned.

By Jesse Wood

April 18, 2013. It’s been tough to keep up with.

During the past few weeks, the staff of Watauga County, the staff of the Town of Boone and Phil Templeton and his legal representation have sent a barrage of letters regarding the potential sale of the old Watauga High School property and the potential redistribution of sales tax revenues to an ad valorem basis.

lettersChairman Nathan Miller has said that the move to switch the sales tax, whereby the Town of Boone would receive $2 million less in revenue, is directly linked to development regulations that the Boone Town Council approved in February – months after Phli Templeton’s $19-million offer on the old WHS property was accepted by the commissioners in November.

While both sides want to negotiate a happy-medium agreement, each side has its own definition of a legal meeting – and as of right now, neither side is budging.

The Boone Town Council has only offered to meet in a private mediation, which its counsel contends is legal and has documentation to back up that claim. Watauga County Board of Commissioners will only meet in open session and claims that the private mediation would be illegal, which its attorney has documentation to backup that claim as well.

The back-and-forth letters began in the beginning of April, a week or so after Chairman Nathan Miller told High Country Press on March 26 that he was pursuing a sales tax switch and that by doing so the Town of Boone would lose $2 million in revenue.

On April 3, Mayor Loretta Clawson sent out a letter to its 17,000+ citizens, the media and to the Watauga County Board of Commissioners laying outs its view on how the sales tax would adversely affect the town’s residence. She also responded that the town amended ordinances after Miller expressed concern about the sale of the old WHS falling through.

The letter read: “The provisions do not apply to the old high school property as long as the developer provides financial assurance that the commercial portion of the project is built. It’s also important to note the Town has set aside 150,000 gallons of scarce water resources for the project.”

Since then, Mr. Miller has expressed to Boone Town Council members that the amended ordinance is not acceptable.  The Town has requested specifics about those concerns in regard to the old high school property, but has not received what it calls, “a satisfactory response.”

That was when, as Commissioner John Welch recently described the back-and-forth, the “letter battles” began.

Two days later, Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson essentially described the back-and-forth letters in the media as a “circus,” stating that she would rather be a part of a “solution.”

Since then, more than a few more letters have followed – including Templeton requesting changes to ordinances that were already in place when he offered to by the property, which is in the Town of Boone limits but owned by Watauga County.

Here are all the letters that the High Country Press has posted in the past few weeks, including a few stories that provide some background: 

April 25 – The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce pens letter addressed to members of the Boone Town Council and Watauga County Board of Commissioners to mend its ways: “This rhetoric has turned from “principle” to “political” to “personal’ – this cannot continue without irreparable damage being done.” See https://www.hcpress.com/letters-to-the-editor/letters-boone-area-chambers-call-to-town-county.html

April 23 – From County to Town: County Manager Deron Geouque responds to Town Manager Greg Young’s April 19 letter with more of the same: https://www.hcpress.com/news/the-recent-letter-battles-of-the-sales-tax-switchold-whs-property-between-templeton-boone-and-watauga.html

April 22 – Town releases three-page statement that notes that if it were to decide to change any ordinances, there isn’t enough time to give the required advanced public notice on changes to zoning ordinances. The releases included more comments and further laid out the town’s stance on the matters at hand: https://www.hcpress.com/news/boone-releases-three-page-statement-proper-public-notice-for-changes-to-ordinances-impossible-before-deadline.html

April 19 – From Town to County – Town Manager Greg Young states that the Boone Town Council has come to a conclusion that a private mediation is the only method that would work. Young cited the “threats of litigation, the complexities of the issues and the various statements several commissioners have made” as being a “very complicated and sensitive legal matter:” https://www.hcpress.com/news/in-most-recent-letter-town-manager-calls-sales-taxwhs-sale-very-complicated-and-sensitive-legal-matter-private-mediation-is-only-workable-method.html

April 18 – From County to Town – County says it is willing to meet, however it is unwavering and will only meet in open session: https://www.hcpress.com/news/county-receives-another-letter-from-town-responds-a-letter-of-its-own-unwavering-in-meeting-in-open-session.html

April 17 – From Town to County – Town again requests mediation and states that its attorney has provided documentation stating that a private mediation is legal: https://www.hcpress.com/news/here-is-boone-managers-letter-dated-april-17-that-was-sent-to-county-manager-again-requesting-mediation.html

April 16 – Commissioner Meeting with Sales Tax Vote: https://www.hcpress.com/news/watauga-commissioners-vote-3-2-to-approve-sales-tax-change-with-two-weeks-for-town-county-to-negotiate.html

April 16 – The Town of Boone release following Tuesday’s counsel meeting and the commissioners board meeting where the sales tax switch was approved. The release explains Town of Boone’s position on recent issues and why it wants to meet in a private mediation that it deems legal:  https://www.hcpress.com/news/after-commish-vote-on-sales-tax-boone-releases-four-page-statement-private-mediation-with-county-is-legal.html

April 12 – Town of Boone sends letter sayings its invitation to meet is rejected. County responds, saying it is ready to meet, too, but in open session only, stating that do otherwise would be illegal. : https://www.hcpress.com/news/boone-says-their-closed-session-mediation-request-was-rejected-by-town-county-says-it-stands-ready-to-meet-in-open-session.html

April 12 – Chair Nathan Miller and Boone Town Council Member Andy Ball have harsh words for one another. Both have differing opinions on what is legal, illegal:  https://www.hcpress.com/news/time-is-of-the-essence-for-negotiations-between-watauga-and-boone-regarding-sales-tax-ball-and-miller-both-cry-foul.html

April 12 – Law firm Deal, Moseley, & Smith, LLP, representing Phil Templeton pens letter to the Boone Town Council and the Watauga County Commissioners to “provide background, identify solutions and offer proposed solutions which could result in Mr. Templeton’s purchase and development of the High School Property:” https://www.hcpress.com/img/Letter-and-chart.pdf

April 11 – County Attorney Four Eggers sends Watauga Chair Nathan Miller a letter deeming a private mediation as illegal: https://www.hcpress.com/img/Four-Letter.pdf

April 8 – Developer Phil Templeton pens letter addressed to Boone Town Council Members, citizens of Boone and Watauga County Commissioners about his intention to back out of the old Watauga High School sale: https://www.hcpress.com/politics/templeton-pens-letter-intends-to-rescind-offer-on-old-whs-due-to-town-of-boone-regulations.html

April 5 – Boone Mayor Clawson responds to Watauga Chair Nathan Miller’s April 4 letter: “Boone Interested in Solution, Not Circus:” https://www.hcpress.com/politics/mayor-clawson-responds-to-watauga-chairman-millers-statements-boone-interested-in-solution-not-circus.html

April 4 – Chairman Nathan Miller pens letter to “help explain interactions” between the county and town: https://www.hcpress.com/news/watauga-chairman-nathan-miller-pens-letter-to-help-explain-interactions-between-town-and-county.html

April 4 – Watauga County accepts meeting request. A private mediation isn’t proposed publicly as of yet: https://www.hcpress.com/news/watauga-accept-boones-request-for-mediation-meeting-lets-schedule-around-governors-potential-visit.html

April 3 – Town of Boone sends letter to media, county staff and citizens requesting a meeting with commissioners and lays out its view on the issues at hand and how the sales tax switch would adversely affect its citizens: https://www.hcpress.com/news/town-of-boone-calls-on-citizens-to-support-mutually-beneficial-solution-with-county-commissioners.html

March 26, 2013 – Chairman Nathan Miller tells High Country Press that the Town of Boone would lose $2 million if it were to switch to an ad valorem tax basis. He admits that he is using this as a “political tool” to gain leverage with the Boone Town Council regarding the old Watauga High School property: https://www.hcpress.com/news/watauga-commissioners-to-discuss-switching-sales-tax-distribution-method-boone-would-lose-2m-in-revenues.html