On Sept. 3, the Watauga County Board Of Commissioners filed an Application for Text Amendment to the Valle Crucis Historic District Ordinance. The applicants have asked that all public schools be grouped with Bona Fide Farms in section 2.3 of the ordinance and that sections 2.4 and 2.5 not be applicable to public schools. Of course, a public school shares nothing in common with a Bona Fide Farm. This would exempt any school from most all performance standards and requirements of the ordinance. As a 35-year resident, I believe the Valle Crucis Historic District Ordinance was put in place for good reason.
Section 2.4 specifies a maximum building height of 30 feet. The application claims this would prevent the school from having a gymnasium of 40 feet or higher. If the amendment is accepted, there would be no regulation regarding height for neither the gymnasium nor any other part of the school. The sky’s the limit.
Section 2.5 addresses performance standards. It prescribes 30-foot buffer zones as well as requiring specific landscaping and planting of trees and shrubs. It prescribes the number of parking spaces, where parking is to be located and visual screening from the road.
An impervious surface ratio of 12 percent has been established for the reservation of perpetual green space. Impervious surfaces do not absorb water and consist of buildings, parking areas, driveways, sidewalks and any area of concrete, gravel or asphalt.
Lighting of nonresidential land use is also to be controlled. It is clear that the county commissioners have applied for this amendment in preparation to build a new school within the historic district. The standards in sections 2.4 and 2.5 will be problematic if built on the Hodges site. Of particular importance is the introduction of impervious surface. The board of education propose a 75,000-square-foot building. This alone takes up 12 percent of the property. Add an acre for parking, an acre for driveways and sidewalks, and more for basketball courts and athletic areas. nearly 5 acres. This far surpasses the 1.72 acres allowed (12 percent) and will increase water runoff, pollution and flood potential on surrounding properties, the trout stream and Watauga River as well as eliminate green space.
Regardless of the purpose of the development, there is no reason to grant a blanket exemption to an ordinance which is in place to contribute to the general health and welfare of the residents of Valle Crucis.
The county commissioners stated “Applying the restrictions of the Ordinance, as written, to the construction of a new school within the District, without creating standards unique to schools, will place undue hardship on the County.” However, in asking to be exempt from Sections 2.4 and 2.5, they are asking for schools to be not accountable to any performance standards, and as they stated, “without creating standards unique to schools.” Public School should not be held to lesser standards than any other use, rather they should set an example protecting our environment and communities.
Bill Pressly, Valle Crucis