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Town OKs land-use plan

Article Published: Oct. 22, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

One year down, 21 to go.

The Boone Town Council approved its Boone 2030 Land Use Plan Thursday, the culmination of a year of work and public hearings. The planning board had voted Oct. 12 to recommend approval. The plan promulgates "smart growth" principles of mixed-use development with consistent regulation, with attention to pedestrian and vehicle accessibility.

The plan also encourages sidewalks, in-fill development of vacant properties for more housing, and policies that follow a specific architectural design. The plan supports affordable housing and preservation of green space.

The Urban Forest Master Management plan was also adopted, also recommended for approval by the planning board. Council member Rennie Brantz asked if electrical companies had to follow the plan but was told the town didn't have jurisdiction over power line right of ways. However, they are generally influenced by existing policies.

Council member Lynne Mason said the plan was comprehensive and described what the tree canopy meant to the public. Council member Janet Pepin said the two plans were the work of a lot of committees and lots of public input.

The council directed staff to prepare an annexation petition for a 6.4-acre tract, containing the future Hospitality House, the Watauga County-owned building currently housing the Hunger & Health Coalition and a building belonging to Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute. Mason, director of the Hospitality House, recused herself from the motion, which passed by a 4-0 vote.

The council held a public hearing to extend a moratorium for sign ordinances for 60 days to allow the planning department more time to review and propose revisions. The reviewed sections of the ordinance deal with portable, temporary signs.

Steve Owen discussed a proposed North Carolina Main Street energy grant representing the Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy Owen said a downtown building has a solar panel as an example of off-grid power generation and encouraged the town to pursue the grant. Owen said a number of downtown businesses were interested in renewable energy.

The grant would require a match of up to $250,000, which Owen said AIRE should be able to raise. Owen said a lot of work was needed before the Nov. 17 deadline.

The council approved $36,000 to continue work on sidewalks along Horn in the West Drive and agreed to a bridge-inspection program with the N.C. Department of Transportation.

Public utilities director Rick Miller gave a water update to the council. The town had an average water usage of 1.68 million gallons per day in September, an 8.75 percent decrease from the same month in 2008.

The council also adopted a priority list for the expenditures of occupancy taxes collected by the town's Tourism Development Authority. They include a greenway trail expansion, community appearance, Jones House community Center, King Street lights and furnishings, an arts council folklorist position, sidewalk construction, road paving and park construction.

The council received a proposal to build a handicapped-accessible ramp on the rear of the Jones House, with a cost of more than $16,000. The town had received a formal complaint about lack of access, and the Jones House receives about 10,000 visitors a year. The money will come from the town's occupancy taxes.

Leigh said there were other accessibility issues such as sidewalks that weren't being built, and she said she was surprised by the cost. Leigh voted against the proposal, which passed 4-1.
Ernest McGuire of Frontier Natural Gas gave an update on the Howard Street renovation, with much of the gas lines installed. He said customers were welcoming the additional energy option.
He also said the propane tanks used by some businesses were out of compliance and were a safety concern. "The Town of Boone... is a ticking time bomb," McGuire said, acknowledging he wanted his company to provide gas service. He said he wanted his warning to be on record "in case, God forbid, something happened."

The council also discussed the town's cable franchise agreements and the possibility of disbanding the cable advisory committee now that the state regulates cable franchises.

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