BLOWING ROCK — After three hours and 20 minutes of in-public debate and discussion, Blowing Rock’s town council went into closed session on Sept. 14. Before doing so, though, it was a mixed bag of results, action and even inaction.
There was an obvious empty chair between Commissioner Doug Matheson and town attorney Allen Moseley. That’s because Commissioner Virginia Powell opted to resign last week after the majority of the commissioners voted in a new policy that all town employees get vaccinated, submit to testing, or end their employment by the town. Powell vehemently disagreed with the policy, which passed by a 3-2 vote, the other dissenting vote coming from Commissioner Albert Yount on Sept. 7.
The new policy came up again toward the end of the Sept. 14 meeting, and by a 3-1 vote the commissioners somewhat softened the earlier decision. They established a two-week grace period beginning Sept. 20 in order for the town management to put testing procedures in place and give employees additional time to consider their options.
During the discussion, it was made clear that while the commissioners establish policy, it is the town manager’s job to do the hiring and firing, as necessary and appropriate. While they danced around the subject, no one actually pinned down the question of whether or not the town manager, under the policy, is expected to terminate the employment of a noncompliant worker.
At the beginning of the meeting, several speakers from among the public attendees voiced their opinions, including individuals from both sides of the issue claiming to be health care professionals.
In other business, the commissioners split 2-2 on approval of the Green Hill Estates development project in the ETJ, with Mayor Charlie Sellers supplying the tiebreaker “yes” vote to go along with the affirmative votes of commissioners David Harwood and Doug Matheson. Included in Harwood’s motion was to approve construction of the originally proposed 653-foot private road that will serve all 10 of the lots in the development, if the full density survives the requisite pre-construction testing. One of the design features of the longer road, explained Patrick Warren in representing the developer, was to put the cul-de-sac over the crest of the ridgeline and so mostly out of view of Green Hill Road, which he said improves the aesthetics of the project.
In a unanimous vote, the commissioners voted to approve a request by 140 Sunset, LLC, for special parking consideration in light of their proposed renovation of the property at 140 Sunset Drive in Blowing Rock. The owners plan to keep the lower floor of the building as retail space while converting the upper floor into two, 2-bedroom apartments. They were petitioning the town for the ability to eliminate three “pull-in” parking spaces in the front of the building and replacing them with two parallel spaces along the street, outside of the sidewalk. They also planned to add one or more parking spaces at the back of the building to serve the short-term apartment rentals.
Each of the approving commissioners commented that the current spaces represented a significant safety issue with cars back into the street without a clear view and possibly into pedestrians on the sidewalk. The owners plan to convert the existing spaces, collectively, into a courtyard.
The town council voted to go into closed session to consider a property-related transaction, at 9:20 p.m., but after a 13 1/2 minute break.