BOONE – The Boone Town Council, Appalachian State University and local real estate agents seemed to reach a consensus on a Unified Development Ordinance change with a 10-year sunset provision for ASU to rent commercial space in Boone’s B3 General Business zoning district.
The proposed temporary agreement, which came during a April 29 joint meeting with the Boone Planning Commission, will have to be incorporated in draft code language and approved by council at a future meeting.
With several campus construction projects ongoing, ASU engaged in the practice of leasing privately-owned space on a temporary basis for its employees, also called “swing space.” In December 2017, the town of Boone regulated these uses, including implementing time limits, in M1 Manufacturing and O/I Office Institutional zoning districts, but stopped short of allowing them in B3. The M1 and O/I zoning district time period goes five years from the start of the use, with a one-time two-year extension available upon a formal request requiring a demonstrated need.
Now, the April 29 consensus would pave the way for ASU to start renting space in B3 zoning districts during the next 10 years. The B3 zoning district mostly includes areas along N.C. 105, Blowing Rock Road/Hardin Street and East King Street.
Appalachian State Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Paul Forte called it “a great compromise,” saying ASU wants to minimize commercial rentals as much as possible.
Appalachian Commercial Real Estate owner James Milner said he and his client, Jeff Carter, commercial asset manager of The Standard of Boone, can live with the 10-year sunset provision. Milner said that allowing ASU to rent new commercial space would benefit the next renters as ASU will invest in their rental spaces.
Bill Aceto of Blue Ridge Realty and Investments said he would like to attract additional occupants into the former BB&T Bank space on N.C. 105, saying there’s currently more vacant space than demand in Boone.
“I look at these spaces and it makes sense to me,” said Boone Planning Commission member Frank Veno. “All I’m seeing are windows that are empty.”
Council and planning commission members discussed whether the temporary uses sunset clause should be seven or 10 years. Councilman Sam Furguiele originally proposed seven years, but was fine with a maximum of 10.
A controversial 400-foot exclusion zone proposed for the university’s temporary uses going from the center line of U.S. 321/Hardin Street between King Street and N.C. 105 was dropped as part of the compromise.
The council decided to hold off on changing the language for university temporary uses within the M1 Manufacturing and O/I/ Office Institutional zoning districts, which was also on the public hearing agenda.
Furguiele was cautious about ASU’s growth, saying council shouldn’t allow the university to take over business districts in what he called “ad hoc rezoning,” and said he wants to protect Boone commercial corridors.
“People are complaining we have this empty commercial space … as the community grows, the need will grow,” Furguiele said.
ASU Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Management Nick Katers said that with construction projects set to start at Sanford Hall and future renovations at Wey Hall and elsewhere, the university has a need for 200 temporary spaces for employees while various constructions projects are ongoing.
“We have no intention to move into these places permanently,” Katers told the council.
Currently, ASU houses 50-70 employees at Charleston Forge on Industrial Drive, Katers said, noting that most of the future relocations will be IT professionals and administrative staff. Charleston Forge is zoned M1.