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County accepts offer on old WHS

Article Published: Nov. 15, 2012 | Modified: Nov. 15, 2012
County accepts offer on old WHS

According to developer Phil Templeton, possible uses for the old Watauga High School property could include a hotel or convention center, major grocery chain, movie theater, national retailers and major chain restaurants.
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The Watauga County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an offer on the former Watauga High School property Tuesday, giving Templeton Properties the opportunity to carry out its vision for a commercial and student housing project.

The $18,948,000 offer placed Oct. 26 was not exceeded through the upset bid process that ended last week, and that bid will provide the county with a net gain of $18,000,600, after paying a 5 percent commission.

Phil Templeton provided his first clues about his goals for the 74-acre property in a letter to commissioners dated Nov. 12.

In the letter, Templeton calls for attractive student apartments and commercial uses that could include:

Hotel or convention centerMajor grocery chainMovie theaterNational retailer such as Kohl’s, Stein Mart, possibly Target and smaller retail shopsOlive Garden, Carrabba’s, Red Lobster, K&W Cafeteria, South of the Border or other restaurant
“The amount of land to be used for commercial tenants and the property devoted to student housing units would be determined by the market studies and project designers,” the letter states.

Templeton noted that plans are uncertain and that much time, effort and money must be spent on due diligence before the plans are finalized. In addition to securing zoning changes and water allocations from the town of Boone, the project will need market studies, topographic maps, surveys, environmental studies and more, he said.

“A comprehensive review of the (Boone) Unified Development Ordinance and the numerous state and federal developmental regulations must be made,” Templeton wrote. “All this and more before any serious site plan, engineering drawings or architectural design work can begin.”

The letter did not state when Templeton hopes to begin construction on the project.

If all goes as planned, the project could provide housing for ASU students and a “large number of good-paying jobs” for local residents, Templeton said, adding that High Country residents, as well as tourists, would have a wider selection of products and services and would benefit from significant tax revenues.

Finally, a convention center also could provide a tremendous boost for the local economy, Templeton surmises in his letter.

Templeton could not be present at Tuesday’s meeting to share his vision, but the board nevertheless moved quickly to accept the offer.

Working with the town on such a large project may be an interesting process for Templeton, who is engaged in a lengthy lawsuit against the Boone Board of Adjustment. That ongoing action from 2007 stemmed from the board’s denial of permits for a proposed medical clinic on State Farm Road.

The contract for the former Watauga High School property, located off N.C. 105, includes a 180-day inspection period during which Templeton Properties could walk away from the deal without forfeiting any money.

“I hope this goes through,” commissioners chairman Nathan Miller said. “I hope we’re able to work with Templeton Properties and the town of Boone to get this done for the citizens of Watauga County and the town.”

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