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Watauga Commissioners To Hold Public Hearing on 200-Acre Purchase for Business Park Tuesday, Aug. 20

By Jesse Wood

Aug. 16, 2013. The Watauga County Board of Commissioners is holding a public hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 20, at 6 p.m. to hear citizens’ comments regarding the purchase of nearly 200 acres for $1.7 million off of N.C. 194 for the purpose of a business park.

Chairman Nathan Miller said the property borders the hairpin turn. Photo by Jesse Wood
Chairman Nathan Miller said the property borders the hairpin turn. Photo by Jesse Wood

In the first week of April, the commissioners unanimously agreed to purchase the property for $1.7 million, noting that they could rescind their offer if they were to find the site unsuitable during the five-month inspection period that is coming to an end soon.

The Economic Development Commission has been advocating for another business park for years. In a letter to the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, the EDC unanimously and strongly recommended the purchase of the property. That letter can be read here.

Other local entities also drafted letters supporting its approval of the property purchase for a business park. Susan Jones, co-chair of the High Country United Way Vision Council wrote a letter to Commissioner Chair Nathan Miller stating, “This group of leaders is very happy with the forward thinking of our county leadership in the area of economic development … We would be pleased to also come and speak for this proposal at the appropriate time.”

Also, the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce noted in a letter to the editor on HCPress.com, “You and the citizens of Watauga County have a real opportunity to do something today to significantly impact many tomorrows – investing in a job-producing business park! This will not be an overnight success!  Few things seldom are.  There will be development hurdles to address.  But, it will be a huge investment in the future.  That is what one generation always hopes for the next – leaving better options for future generations.”

If all goes as planned, this cow pasture may turn into a business park. Photo by Jesse Wood
If all goes as planned, this cow pasture may turn into a business park. Photo by Jesse Wood

However, not everyone is so enthusiastic about the idea of the county purchasing 200 acres of property for a long-term project.

Commissioner John Welch has already reneged on his support for the development.

“I am against a business park on that property. I think it is a waste of county money at this point,” Welch said in May after opposing spending more than $50,000 on a due-diligence report. “I am for a county business park, but we need to put it in a place suitable for a business park to thrive. To me, [N.C.] 194 is not the place for it.”

Two weeks ago, a “Say No to 194 Biz Park” Facebook page popped up as a public forum for those opposing the business park idea, and a “Say No to 194 Biz Park” petition was started that has 320 supporters so far. The petition is asking folks opposing the park to electronically sign a letter, addressed to the commissioners, that reads:

“Approval to purchase land for a business park along Highway 194 is not only an inexcusable use of taxpayer funds, but a lack of stewardship of the resources in which you are entrusted to manage. In addition to the obvious and irreversible change in landscape, this project would initiate a sequence of cultural and environmental deterioration in the region that supports agriculture, tourism and recreational activities for the County. 

The study presented by McGill and Associates is negligible in cost when compared to the project’s long-term impact and clearly leaves too many questions regarding the benefits to Watauga County. The people of this area and the rest of the state deserve much more than what this proposal assumes. 

I urge you NOT approve purchase of the property or development of a business park.”

For more background info, click on the numerous links in this story. To view the entire due-diligence report, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/poqkx141ssd9rxt/Engineering%20and%20Due%20Diligence%20Report%202013-7-30.pdf