BOONE — A portion of Hunting Hills Lane off of State Farm Road will be renamed in honor of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. following unanimous Boone Town Council approval Aug. 15.
The council approved the renaming of the section of street from State Farm Road to a bridge that separates recreation fields and the Boone Greenway Trail from a residential neighborhood. Boone Town Manager John Ward advised the council that the portion of street could be renamed without a change to the street name or street numbers at the neighborhood.
“I think we’re making an important statement here this evening,” Boone Mayor Rennie Brantz said just before the vote.
The idea of renaming a Boone-managed street was first discussed at the council’s June 20 meeting and was discussed again at the July 16 meeting. The public was given the opportunity on Aug. 13 to offer opinions on those streets that had been brought up in conversation for potential renaming so far, such as New Market Boulevard, Howard Street, Old E. King Street, State Farm Road and Meadowview Drive.
Before the public comment period on Aug. 13, Council Member Sam Furgiuele proposed Hunting Hills Lane, which he said a community member suggested, as another renaming alternative.
He said he originally proposed New Market Boulevard and quickly learned that the people that did business on the street did not like that idea, nor State Farm Road. He said that some of the reasons expressed he found to be legitimate, especially when it came to costs businesses would bear — specifically the local medical practices. Furgiuele explained that he had originally suggested New Market Boulevard because of its proximity to Hardin Park School.
“I thought it was important for us as a community to communicate to the children how important leaders are of all races,” Furgiuele said. “Children learn from the things they see. I thought that that would be a sign of respect.”
Furgiuele said Hunting Hills Lane would still offer an educational component for those visiting the Boone Greenway or the future Watauga County Community Recreation Center.
On Aug. 15, five residents of Hunting Hills Lane spoke against the name change during the public comment period, and a petition signed by 21 people was presented to the council.
“I appreciate the people coming out tonight about this, but I believe that Hunting Hills, for that section, — conditioned upon what (Ward) said, that no addresses are changed for people on the other side of the bridge — is appropriate,” Furgiuele said. “I understand that people aren’t enthusiastic about it, but I think it’s important. The discussion has gone on too long.
“I think that what we’re doing by honoring him is honoring our own African American community in Boone.”
Of the majority of people who came to speak at the Aug. 13 public hearing, the majority expressed approval of the Hunting Hills Lane option as well as reasons why the others were not viable choices.
Julia Snyder, who owns a family and cosmetic dentistry practice on New Market Boulevard, spoke to the council in June and again at the Aug. 13 meeting.
She said she wanted to express gratitude to the council for listening to the concerns of the citizens, and thought the Hunting Hills Lane was a “great alternative.” Snyder added that the newly proposed location made more sense if the intent was to have children see the street name, as children are now more likely to be on tablets and phones while in the vehicle.
“If you put it in an area that’s specifically for recreation for children, they’re more likely to get their head out of a screen and see it and maybe take more note of it,” Snyder said.
The council also returned to the subject of amortization, or the phasing out of non-conforming uses in low-density residential zones.
Town attorney Allison Meade was first directed to develop recommendations on amortization in January of this year. She then reported on the issue in February, and was then directed to draft an ordinance that would have a three-year phase-out program in low-density residential zones. An option of 20 years would have been offered for those who could prove their property was in use before town zoning was implemented, or was a legal, grandfathered non-conforming use. Property owners also had the option to seek conditional rezoning with waived fees, under that proposal.
The proposal was heard again in April and had changed slightly to a three-year phase-out for buildings originally constructed as single-family dwellings or accessory dwellings, and 20 years for buildings originally constructed as multi-family dwellings that aren’t in compliance with their zoning. Council members discussed limiting the amortization plan to illegal non-conforming uses only during the June 18 meeting.
The council once again picked up the discussion during the Aug. 13 meeting, when Furgiuele made a motion to move forward with an amortization ordinance for a three-year period that only addresses the discontinuation of non-legally created nonconforming uses in R1, R1A, RR and R2 zoning districts.
Council Member Lynne Mason was not at the meeting, but had Town Manager John Ward read aloud a statement. Mason said in the statement that she believed there were other measures the town should try first before turning to amortization. Council members Loretta Clawson and Connie Ulmer voiced concerns for moving forward with amortization.
Since the council would not have three votes in favor of the motion, Council Member Marshall Ashcraft said he would not second the motion. Therefore, the motion died. The conversation about amortization ended by Ashcraft saying, “Let’s move on.”
Ward also reported back about potential regulations on short-term and homestay rentals — typically associated with online marketplaces such as Airbnb. The council hosted a public hearing on June 28 about the topic, and it was revisited on July 18. Ward stated on Aug. 13 that he had consulted with the local legislators, and the topic of legislation that would bar local regulation of short-term rentals was not anticipated to be brought back up this session of the state legislature.
Additionally, Ward said he had been contacted by various groups with offers of access to a full assessment of all Airbnb or similar operations in Boone. He added that he could access regulation ordinances or registrations done by others, so they aren’t “reinventing the wheel.”
Furgiuele made nine to 10 suggestions for what an ordinance could include during the July 18 meeting. Ashcraft addressed issues he had with a few of the suggestions, including the proposal that “these operations must register and maintain within the town and name immediate contact of a local manager.”
Ashcraft said this seemed more permissive than he would do at this stage, and he would prefer a permanent resident to be on site. Another suggestion was “must be a limit of units per property made available for short-term rental depending on the zoning district involved;” Ashcraft said he preferred one short-term rental per property to start with. The last suggestion that Ashcraft had concerns about was “neighborhoods designated as neighborhood conservation districts could be prohibited from these uses by signed petition.” A percentage or number of people who would need to sign the petition was discussed in July, and on Aug. 13 Ashcraft said that perhaps two-thirds of a neighborhood would suffice.
After about a 50-minute conversation on the topic, Furgiuele made a motion to move forward with crafting a draft ordinance using his suggestions from the July 18 meeting as an initial framework, while taking Ashcraft’s points into consideration. The motion passed, with Ulmer voting to oppose.
Anna Oakes contributed reporting to this article.