Thursday, July 12, 2007

ASU Steps Up Its Campaign against Town of Boone

Our thanks to for bringing to light an e-mail this a.m. from some ASU alumni calling themselves "Appalachian Advocates."

The e-mail says "a MINORITY of the town leadership of Boone [is trying] to block ASU's funding for [the proposed new College of Education between Howard St. and Hamby Alley]."

This is simply untrue. A solid 4-1 majority of the Town Council voted on a procedural motion, signaling that the university's project cannot proceed as planned because it does not meet town regulations. By anybody's math, 4-1 is NOT a minority.

Secondly, the sentence quoted above alleges that Town Council members are opposed to the funding for the Education building and are somehow trying to sabotage it.

This is also untrue. The Town Council members have stated their full support of the funding (see below) and the need for a new Education building. There's NEVER been ANY attempt whatsoever to block ASU's funding for the College of Education.

Fact: the university paid over $4 million for less than an acre of land (much of that money going, incidentally, to the family of a sitting member of the ASU Board of Trustees) and began engineering and design work BEFORE they bothered finding out whether they could build the building they wanted on that particular piece of property WITHIN THE LAW.

When they found out they could NOT build that building WITHIN THE LAW on that piece of property, they went ahead with the purchase of land anyway and then began misrepresenting the facts to their constituents -- to ASU students and now alumni. They began to claim that they had verbal indications as early as last fall that everything would be a-okay. (Note: when it comes to building permits, neither the Town of Boone, nor any municipality on the face of this green earth, gives "verbal indications" of approval. They grant written, signed, stamped, and dated PERMITS under the law. The university knows that but chooses to tell past and present students elaborate tales to the contrary.)

Back to the e-mail from Appalachian Advocates: "There will be no negative impact from this project."

Based on what? The professional planning staff in the Town of Boone's Development Services Dept. found a number of negative impacts that they forwarded to Town Council, namely the destruction of a number of viable rental housing units and a total failure of the project to comply with town development rules (maximum allowable floor area, building height, open space, and encroachment into required building setbacks), plus the project would depend on the town for water and sewer services, resources that the Town of Boone is currently struggling to maintain. There are also storm water, traffic and parking concerns. The site desired by the University is zoned R-3 (multi-family residential). The proposed site is adjacent to the university as well as our downtown area, which the town is committed to protecting for local businesses. The university has a lot of undeveloped land that is zoned U-1 (University) which allows for much higher density development and was established to provide for university planning and expansion. The plan presented to the town exceeds the allowable floor area by 100,000 square feet, which is ten times the allowable square footage. In addition, the project fails to meet the minimum open-space requirement. This project would put a non-residential structure next to a single-family residence and would not meet the required interior setback.

Interestingly, the Appalachian Advocates' e-mail seems most outraged that members of the Boone Town Council had recently been in Raleigh to talk to legislators (as though the university hasn't been there on a nearly daily basis doing exactly the same thing, trying, in fact, to get a member of the legislature to introduce a bill declaring ASU exempt from local law).

We asked Boone Town Council member Lynne Mason this morning about the foregoing and just obtained the following statement from her:
"For the record I can state that there is absolutely no truth to the accusation that the town is trying to block funding for this project. In fact, we are in full support of funding for this project and would welcome the opportunity to work with ASU on evaluating the feasibility of the other sites identified by ASU. The only conflict is the proposed site in that it does not meet our local zoning ordinances. The town cannot issue the zoning permit unless we change our ordinances, which the majority of the Town Council does not support as we do not believe this would be in the best interest of our entire community. The town would also like the opportunity to work with ASU on a master plan that will address future university expansion and its impact on the community. The mayor, two council members and the town manager did go to Raleigh as we heard that ASU was trying to get special legislation adopted that would exempt them from local zoning. We were not there to block funding for this project and in fact clearly stated our support for full funding."
More on the university's behavior to come in subsequent posts.

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