BLOWING ROCK — The Blowing Rock Town Council approved a conditional use permit for the Moody Building at 125 Sunset Drive to be converted into a restaurant/retail space with a parking lot during its meeting on July 9.
The application was approved under the condition that three of the 24 planned parking spaces be available for public use to make up for the three spaces alongside Sunset Drive that would be lost to allow a two-way driveway with site lines to be built.
Part of the building would include a wheelchair-accessible ramp going to both Sunset Drive and the back parking lot behind the building, which will remain in its current location.
A point of contention with the application was losing the three public parking spaces on the street, with Councilwoman Virginia Powell saying she didn’t want to lose one public space.
“I just feel like we can’t lose three spots,” Powell said.
Councilwoman Sue Sweeting added that she felt like losing the spaces would hurt neighboring businesses that don’t have their own parking.
Property owner Bob Lovern, who’s developing the project, said the net gain of parking spaces would be a positive for the town.
“I honestly don’t look at it as a loss of three spaces, I see it as a gain of 12,” Lovern said.
James Brown, who along with his wife, Marlene, owns an adjacent piece of undeveloped property that borders Main Street, spoke against the project, saying it would hurt him and his easement from Sunset Drive to access the property and asked for a one-way driveway around the building with parallel parking.
Powell’s motion to deny the project did not receive a second.
Two others properties received zoning approval at the meeting. The lot at 7855 Valley Blvd., owned by Ronald and Diane Cambria, was unanimously approved for conditional-use rezoning to allow for potential retail sales, office or restaurant usage. And the Inn on Cornish, the under-development 21-room boutique hotel at 567 N. Main St., received unanimous approval for an amendment on the encroachment agreement previously approved by council in November 2017. According to a letter submitted by developer John Winkler, the need for the amendment was an unintended oversight.
In other news from the meeting, the council tabled a discussion on a potential agreement with First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock to formalize sidewalk, curb and gutter, landscaping and other types of upkeep along the shared border with Sunset Drive, pending further discussions with Town Manager Shane Fox.
According to a letter by First Baptist Church Deacon Chairman Reggie Bray, the church asked the town to pay for the cost of a stairwell and crosswalk on Sunset Drive and for permission to build a gravel parking lot for up to nine spaces adjacent to the church.
Mayor Pro Tem Albert Yount said that in a recent discussion, Bray told him that the church was willing to allow public parking in their paved parking lot with the potential for expansion, with the exceptions of Wednesday night and Sunday during services, as long as the town allows the gravel lot and builds the stairwell and crosswalk. Speaking on July 10, Bray confirmed the conversation.
The discussion came after council directed Fox in June to approach the church about a formalized agreement on uses and upkeep. Currently, there is no formalized agreement.
The makeup of the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority board will be slightly altered after council unanimously approved a motion to shrink the “business/tourism” appointee to one and put an elected council member on the board. The five-member board will also have an “at-large” member and two hotel/motel members.
According to previous language, a council member could represent any of the other three qualifications, which as noted by Blowing Rock Planning Director Kevin Rothrock, could have led to issues if there was already an at-large member.
The council approved a Valley Boulevard-only focus for an ad hoc committee that was formed in the spring.
According to Rothrock, the committee has already met three times. The 2019-20 town budget includes $20,000 for the group to bring in a consultant who would try to gain a consensus among residents and business owners on what a vision for Valley Boulevard would look like.