BLOWING ROCK — Avoiding what Jimmy Addison describes as a “black exclamation point” became an urgent mission for a growing group of Blowing Rock residents. With the help and cooperation from developer John Winkler and still-needed approval of the board of commissioners, the coalition is “going green.”
At issue is Winkler’s recently approved development of a subdivision off Green Hill Road, with many nearby property owners objecting to it even though the developer’s town council-approved plans satisfy the town’s R-15 residential zoning requirements with no requested variances.
“That property lies at the southern entrance to Blowing Rock along U.S. 321,” said Addison. “The problem with the original site plan is that when people come around the curve as they enter town the first thing they would see is that new street coming down the slope as a straight line to the cul-de-sac at the bottom. Essentially it would be a black exclamation point instead of the green space that is there now.”
Addison and his wife, Dinny, are at the center of the group of neighboring property owners who have negotiated with Winkler to prospectively buy the lower four parcels of the otherwise planned subdivision and preserve them as green space.
“John Winkler has been great to work with,” said Dinny Addison. “You can tell his heart is in the right place.”
Winkler, according to the Addisons, has agreed to reconfigure his development without the four lower parcels, the exclamation point not needed.
“I applaud what the Green Hill group is trying to do,” said Winkler. “We have agreed on a price for the lower parcels. The plan, as I understand it, is for community members to contribute funds to the non-profit Village Foundation for the purchase of the real estate. Then the town needs to accept donation of the land and agree to its minimal maintenance.”
According to the Addisons, there would be no cost to the town in its acquiring the property, but there would be some small maintenance costs.
“What was originally approved in the Winkler plans was his construction of a new street and cul-de-sac that would be turned over to the town,” said Jimmy Addison. “The town’s maintenance costs for that would include snow removal, cleaning, and eventual repaving. The elegance of our plan is that the street and cul-de-sac would not be built, so the town saves on that maintenance cost. Instead, the town might have to mow the grass on those lower lots a couple of times during the summer.”
Dinny Harper Addison is one of three “Harper sisters” involved with helping to organize the proposed re-do of the development project. They are descended from great-great grandfather James Harper, who reportedly built the first summer home in Blowing Rock, in 1854. The other Harper sisters include Lee Harper Vason and Anne Harper Bernhardt.
“Besides the first impression of Blowing Rock that people will have when they arrive in Blowing Rock at the south entrance, there are four important aspects that make this property and our efforts to preserve it really special,” said Dinny Addison. “First, it is part of the Green Park Historical District. That registration doesn’t necessarily protect it, but it does suggest that the land is of historical significance and might want to be preserved.
“Second, there is a good deal of history associated with these properties,” said Dinny Addison. “Not only was this the former site of Hole No. 6 of the original Blowing Rock Country Club golf course, but local historian Steve Sudderth has identified it as the site of Fort Rollins, dating back to the Civil War era. Sudderth found descriptions of the fort and its location in the book, ‘The War Trails of the Blue Ridge,’ by Shepherd Monroe Dugger (2012, Literary Licensing, LLC, Whitefish, Mont.).
Addison also pointed out that the parcels in question are very close to the headwaters of the Yadkin River, the spring for which under the parking lot of what is now the Green Park Inn. According to Sudderth, the spring served as the source of fresh water for Fort Rollins, and would have been part of the fort’s campus.
“Then, of course, you have the fact that this property is at the Eastern Continental Divide, and right at the ‘Welcome to Blowing Rock’ signage,” said Addison.
Oval Jaynes, who with wife Priscilla own one of the houses adjacent to the parcels that would be protected as green space said, “I have a conflict of interest in commenting, really, because certainly I would benefit from the preservation of green space instead of building houses. But yes, I think green space there is the better choice.”
Jimmy Addison sees value in green space, overall.
“When you come right down to it,” said Addison, “green space is a major economic driver in Blowing Rock, the outdoors and the lack of density in our residential communities. We need to encourage developers to protect green space.”
Addison reported that the fundraising is being coordinated by resident Wayne Vason and that $220,000 of the needed $300,000 had been pledged so far.
“The Village Foundation, which is a 501©(3) non-profit, has graciously agreed to accept the donations as charitable contributions earmarked for this purpose,” said Addison. “Once we have the money, the land those four lower parcels will be purchased and the property donated to the town, if the board of commissioners will accept the gift and the rights and responsibilities associated with its ownership. If we can make this happen, then the gateway to Blowing Rock will be preserved as green space.
“I can’t begin to tell you how amazingly great John Winkler has been to work with,” said Addison. “Not only has he agreed to sell us those parcels at a reasonable price, but he has voluntarily prepared revised site plans for his project to reflect our preservation of this property. He has been proactive in helping us find solutions for what many of us see as a problem.”
People who would like to contribute to the effort to purchase the land and preserve it as green space may make checks payable to The Village Foundation, noting that it is for the Gateway Project, P.O. Box 2716, Blowing Rock, NC, 28605.