Monday, March 19, 2007


Last Thursday the Boone Town Council voted 4-1 to pull the plug on a misguided attempt to accommodate Appalachian State University, a measure that would have allowed this Town Council, or any subsequent council, to micromanage all sorts of development projects, not just University ones, and to give themselves the power to grant approval to any project they deemed worthy, despite existing ordinances prohibiting said development.

This initiative grew out of ASU’s attempt to wedge an out-size new College of Education into space between First Baptist Church and the Presbyterian Church, in violation of several existing town ordinances regulating buffers, set-backs, height, etc.

In a letter to the editor (scroll down) published in Friday’s Watauga Democrat, the day after the Town Council squelched the idea, county resident Margaret Eggers criticized the initiative as a power-grab: " is not logical for the Boone Town Council to grant itself the 'super powers' to decide whether it can override the very ordinances which it itself passed in the first place!"

We agree.

Currently, town ordinances grant the Town Council the power to permit a proposed development according to a site-specific development plan. But a developer must meet all the requirements of the zoning district where s/he wishes to build.

For instance, if a developer wants to build a small grocery store to serve a specific neighborhood's needs, and wants to build that grocery in an area zoned only for residential use, s/he could approach the Council and ask for special permission to do so. If the Council, after considering the neighborhood's concerns, decides it is a good idea and a proper use in the district, it can allow the permit, but the development would still have to meet all regulations for setbacks, buffers, height regulations, etc. that are required in that residential zone.

The proposal that was voted down last Thursday night would have given the Council the power to allow the same neighborhood grocery even if it didn't meet all the regulations of the zoning district.

We agree with Margaret Eggers that such a change would have been disastrous for the Town of Boone. Should that "text amendment" be enacted, all zoning in the town would be effectively rendered meaningless, since the Town Council could have permitted whatever it pleased, wherever it pleased, regardless of existing zoning. An Auto Zone in University Village, for example, or a strip mall on Stadium Drive, maybe. Bad examples, perhaps, but that was certainly the implication of what was proposed. Any bully developer could conceivably in the future ramrod just about anything through, given the right set of Town Council members.

Margaret Eggers was wrong about one thing, however. She predicted that the ordinance "will surely pass the March 19 hearing and vote." In its 4-1 vote, the Town Council canceled the special March 19th hearing and killed the initiative stone cold dead.

Only one council member argued for and then voted to keep the power grab on the table: Dempsey Wilcox.

No comments: