BOONE — Boone Town Manager John Ward said the town is ready to start the Howard Street revitalization project starting in spring 2020 and will submit an application for a $9-10 million grant on Nov. 30.

“I’ve been here so many years hoping it’ll get done and now it seems like it’ll get done,” Council Member Loretta Clawson said.

Ward told the council that 100 percent of the construction work is done. The project aims to transform Howard Street into a westbound one-way street for motorized and bicycle traffic for two blocks, from the Appalachian Street intersection, through the Depot Street intersection and ending at the Burrell Street (formerly South Water Street) intersection.

Currently, the block from Depot to Burrell Street is one-way westbound, while the block from Appalachian to Depot is two-way.

Planned improvements include bike lanes, sidewalks, parking for delivery trucks, crosswalks, two four-way intersections and the burying of utility lines.

Ward said the town has partnered with New River Light and Power, who he noted contributed money toward the design of a conduit bank that will parallel the street.

“This is a project that some have told me has been in the works for 25-30 years,” Ward said.

Ward said that approximately $4-5 million of the project involves utilities and the rest is for “aesthetics.”

The project’s intent is to turn Howard Street into another well-traveled downtown business corridor. Ward brought up the Rivers Walk mixed-use project currently under construction as well as the planned Marketplace hotel and parking deck project as developments that will bring life to Howard Street.

The federal loan the town is seeking is through the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The public hearing held on Nov. 19 was a necessary step in the loan application process, Ward said.

Council Member Lynne Mason asked when it could go out to bid, to which Ward replied that it depends on the loan application, but he anticipates early 2020. Phasing of the project will depend on the contractor selected, Ward said.

In other action, the council unanimously passed Unified Development Ordinance amendments that creates a new residential zoning district and a new principal use for housing developments for persons who are 55 and older in age, known as R5.

“55+ housing, when properly located near services, shopping, support networks and transportation, is beneficial to the general welfare and health of seniors and the public,” the ordinance stated. “55+ housing can support a variety of housing styles from single-family dwelling unit to multi-family developments to accommodate degrees of affordability and independence.”

The R5 55+ housing district can include adult living facilities and residential care facilities. Facilities built in R5 districts can be up to 10,000 square feet, have a livability space ratio of 0.27 percent and are limited to four stories or 56 feet in height.

Parking regulations for adult living communities is one space for every dwelling and for residential care facilities is one space for every four beds, plus one additional space for every two staff members.

Brooke Kornegay and staff members of the Watauga Food Council presented several recommendations for the town to consider after research on the subject over the course of the year.

Council Member Sam Furgiuele proposed a motion that included formally adopting the council’s recommended policy that 10 percent of town-purchased foods be locally sourced and to explore adopting policies supporting edible landscaping.

Other recommendations, such as promoting local food outlets, exploring the development of a shared commercial kitchen and creating and/or supporting a staff position to coordinate local food initiatives were not passed, but will be taken under consideration.

Furgiuele said there are plenty of local shared commercial kitchen options for the council to look into and that they should do a feasibility study on promoting local food outlets, including developing signage for the farmer markets and High Country Food Hub. Ward said the town would have to add money to its budget for the signage and would have to comply with current sign ordinances.

Furgiuele also recommended the council approach the county about being involved in a staff position for local food initiatives.

According to town staff, the Boone Police Department got approval from town council approval to move forward with a test of a propane conversion process with Alliance AutoGas as a sustainable and cost-saving fuel option. According to the staff information, the testing phase would consist of converting two patrol cars to propane at no cost to the town, in order to evaluate the effectiveness and potential cost savings of plant-based propane conversion.

The Jan. 21, 2020, town council meeting will now start at 6:30 p.m. after the change was approved by town council.

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