BLOWING ROCK — Public hearings and input from Blowing Rock citizens will be gathered as part of the process to create a Valley Boulevard vision plan that was unanimously approved to be contracted out to Benchmark CMR of Charlotte by the Blowing Rock Town Council during a special meeting on Thursday, Sept. 19.
The Valley Boulevard vision project is scheduled for a draft report to be presented in November and a final plan due at the start of January, according to Blowing Rock Planning Director Kevin Rothrock. According to the contract, the vision plan will include a preferred development vision for the road and recommendations for town code changes that would be implemented in 2020.
According to Rothrock, the Valley Boulevard ad hoc committee met with Benchmark on Sept. 16 to discuss specifics and prepare the contract. The contact is for $20,000, paid in three installments. As part of its scope of services, Benchmark will meet with the Valley Boulevard ad hoc committee that was created by the town council in March several times by the end of the year.
Public hearing dates to listen to community input are currently scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 15 and 29, both on Tuesdays, tentatively set for Blowing Rock Town Hall. Councilwoman Sue Sweeting, who pushed for and serves on the Valley Boulevard ad hoc committee, said that both meetings will go over the same points, meaning people who go to one of the two meetings won’t miss anything.
“We wanted to get the seasonal people, which is why we’re doing it in October,” Sweeting said.
Councilwoman Virginia Powell expressed concern about holding the meetings at town hall, saying the room might be too small. After a discussion, town manager Shane Fox said he would make sure the American Legion Hall, a short walk from town hall, would be available for Oct. 29 if needed.
Sweeting said the committee will make sure Benchmark will stay focused, including a meeting on Sept. 30 to go over background research.
Powell stressed the need for community input to drive the vision, rather than Benchmark making their own determinations. Councilman Doug Matheson said the council has worked with Benchmark before and said they were very good about taking public comment and adapting to it.
“We have such an opportunity to get the community involved … we all use that road different and we need to hear from people what they’re seeing,” Powell said.
Councilman Albert Yount and Mayor Charlie Sellers said they have received citizen comments questioning the need for an outside agency and the $20,000 price tag.
“We’re doing this for the next 50 years,” Yount said.
Rothrock said as an employee who’s been with the town for years, it’s good to have experts come in with a fresh perspective to help the town.