BLOWING ROCK — A new, tree-lined public street may soon appear in Blowing Rock, the centerpiece of a planned single-family subdivision on previously undeveloped land owned by the Blowing Rock Country Club. To go forward, the conditional use permit application by John Winkler must receive the approval of the Blowing Rock board of commissioners.
The first test of the CUP request, a quasi-judicial process under North Carolina state law, will come Thursday, Jan. 21, when the proposed development is reviewed by the Blowing Rock Planning Board. If it passes muster with the planning board, then the CUP request is likely to be advanced to the Blowing Rock board of commissioners for either approval or denial.
Any decision by the board of commissioners is part of a quasi-judicial process governed by the North Carolina General Statutes. Members of the board of commissioners are prohibited from ex parte communications about a CUP request, meaning that they can only take into consideration testimony and evidence presented at a public hearing about the proposed project. They must refer any questions or concerns asked of them before the public hearing to planning director Kevin Rothrock. To engage in any form of ex parte communication outside of the public hearing puts them at risk of either being voluntarily or forcibly recused from the public hearing proceedings.
The Proposed Development
The subject property has long been owned by the Blowing Rock Country Club. At one time it was part of the old No. 6 hole of the club’s original golf course, according to the CUP filings.
As presented in the board packet, the Winkler plan would recombine six of the current country club lots into five lots, the largest of which would be approximately 4.7 acres and contain the proposed subdivision and street. The remaining four lots would front Green Hill Road, one a reconfigured smaller lot carved out of a parcel mostly contained in the subdivision. The remaining three lots will stay close to, but slightly modified from their existing plotlines, located just north of the planned subdivision.
No part of the development will require re-zoning, according to planning director Kevin Rothrock. The properties are already zoned as R-15. All of the eight parcels in the proposed subdivision meet the town’s requirement that a lot be a minimum of 15,000 square feet.
Of the eight lots, the smallest is 15,285 square feet and the largest 37,224 square feet, as shown in the site plans.
According to Rothrock, the plans satisfy all requirements of the town’s Land Use Code and, as proposed, the developer will work with staff and the town engineer to meet town code as pertains to water and sewer.
The only modification to the plan suggested by Rothrock and the planning department staff, included for the Planning Board review on Thursday, is for there to be a 20-foot setback and undisturbed buffer from the existing developed properties along Green Hill Road rather than the currently planned 12-foot setback.
The staff’s recommendation, along with the aerial vicinity map, site plan, overall plan, utility plan, grading plan, road profile plan, and street tree plan are all included in the material submitted to the planning board for its review.
Leading up to this week’s planning board meeting, Rothrock and town manager Shane Fox said they have fielded a variety of questions and concerns from residents around the area.
“Some residents may be seasonal, but we all work for a year-round, full-service town government,” said Rothrock. “When a CUP application is submitted to us, there is a process that we go through. That includes a review by town staff to determine if the proposed project satisfies the requirements of town code, then our advancing the CUP application to the planning board for its review and a potential recommendation to the town council.
“Before the planning board meeting,” said Rothrock, “as required by law we mail out written notice to all neighboring property owners with legal standing as defined by the state statutes. As a matter of courtesy, we go beyond that and mail notice to others in the area who might be impacted by the development. To every extent possible we are transparent in complying with the law.
“In any development case,” Rothrock said, “the landowner has rights, the developer has rights, and the neighboring property owners have rights. Just because a piece of property has remained vacant for decades, does not mean that it will not be developed by someone in the future. For example, there are several instances in town where property owners at higher elevations purchased the land below them to protect their viewshed.”
Market trends and circumstances change over time, as do market opportunities. Reached by telephone, John Winkler suggested that current demand for housing in the Blowing Rock market is the primary driver behind his plan.
“There is very little vacant land left to be developed in Blowing Rock,” Winkler said. “Given what we are seeing in the market now, there is a shortage of existing homes and our proposed development addresses that in a small way with a low-density project.”
If approved, Winkler stated that a property owners association would be formed. The individual lots would be sold and the new owners would be free to build their own homes, of their own designs, as long as they conformed to the POA guidelines.
“We might build a couple of spec houses,” he said, “but we want this development to be special. Like a lot of Blowing Rock, we think the most likely buyers might be seasonal residents, but today it is an easy drive from southern locations like Charlotte, South Carolina, or even Atlanta.”