Saturday, July 14, 2007

How Appalachian State University Operates

The following is a time-line (January to March 2007) of the basis for Appalachian State University's current campaign to force the Town of Boone to bend to its will … compiled from public documents:

January 5, 2007, ASU Dir. of Design & Construction Clyde Robbins meets with TOB Planning Dir. John Spear for the first time about the proposed new College of Education building between Howard St. and Hamby Alley. Spear learns from Robbins that ASU has already purchased one of the tracks of land and had offers on the table for the others. Although no building or development permits have been sought nor granted to ASU, engineering studies are already underway for the building. Spear advises Robbins to apply for a Special Use permit through the Board of Adjustment (BOA), which can determine hardship or other special circumstances. Robbins replies that ASU has had bad experiences with the BOA and would rather apply for conditional zoning through Town Council. Spear advises Robbins that "the Council could not approve their development as proposed due to non-compliance with the UDO." Robbins says that ASU has been told differently in an earlier meeting with the town attorney. Spear doubts that version of events, and in any event, the town attorney does not grant building permits

January 8, 2007, Clyde Robbins submits completed application for conditional zoning to TOB, with $500 application fee, although Planning Dir. Spear has told him such a request was not grantable under the law

January 9, 2007, Planning Director Spear requests his staff to review ASU's Site Specific Development Plan and report back to him

January 11, 2007, Planning staff member George Cole reports that under provisions of town law the planned College of Education must meet the land-use intensities, setbacks, and height restrictions of the B-2 district, but that it "exceeds the maximum floor area ratio that could be permitted by a factor in excess of 10," that the required stormwater drainage plan has not been submitted, that a required tree survey of the site has not been submitted, and that information on compliance with lighting regulations has not been submitted

January 11, 2007, Public Utilities Dept. of the TOB reports that ASU's plans cannot be approved because they do not specify whether TOB would be supplying water and sewer

January 12, 2007, Planning staff member Jane Shook reports that the proposed building does not meet interior setback requirements

January 16, 2007, Planning staff member Christy Turner reports that one of the existing structures indicated for razing for the new building "is identified as a potential historic structure in the Historic Preservation Report"

January 17, 2007, Town arborist Brian Johnson reports that the vegetative buffer ordinarily required between a single family residence and this large proposed building would not be required under the requested new zoning designation and that the university has failed to submit a lighting plan

January 18, 2007, Town Planning Director John Spear informs property owners within 150 feet of the proposed rezoning that a public hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Feb. 8, as required by law

January 19, 2007, Planning staff member David Graham reports that the proposed building cannot meet setback requirements, that it is far too close to a single-family residence, that it does not meet minimum open space requirements, that it will be out of compliance with height limitations, that required appearance standards have not been addressed in the application as required by law, and that the required water and sewer availability application has not been filed. Based on this report, and the reports from staff members detailed above, Planning Dir. John Spear begins preparing his Staff Report on the requested rezoning

February 2, 2007, a valid "protest petition" is filed with TOB by owners of property within 150 feet of the proposed development. These owners include First Baptist Church. A valid protest petition will require a "super majority" vote on the Town Council of 4-5 to approve the rezoning

February 6, 2007, "The Appalachian" student newspaper reports that ASU has already purchased some (but not all) of the nine apartment bldgs. required for the site but is proceeding with the other purchases even though the required rezoning is far from assured

February 6, 2007, in a letter to Planning Dir. John Spear from ASU attorney Dayton Cole, the university withdraws its petition for the rezoning, citing "planning issues" highlighted in John Spear's Staff Report to Town Council and the "concerns of neighboring landowners"

February 7, 2007, a day after withdrawing the rezoning request, ASU attorney Dayton Cole requests in person a copy of Spear's staff report. Cole, according to John Spear, professes "shock" that staff has recommended against rezoning, though Spear says the report contained exactly the same issues he had previously outlined for Clyde Robbins on January 5th

February 8, 2007, TOB Quarterly Public Hearing goes forward without the ASU request being heard

February 13, 2007, article in "The Appalachian" says plans for the new College of Ed. "have been abruptly put on hold." Quotes Alison D. Kemp-Sullivan, asst. dir. of design & construction for ASU, saying "university met with town planners in January," were advised to get on agenda for the quarterly public hearing (Feb. 8) to request rezoning the property, and that they expected the rezoning to pass -- the latter two claims not supported by public documents (as outlined above). "The Appalachian" article reports that the proposed new bldg. would exceed the maximum floor area by more than 100,000 sq. ft., exceed the maximum height by 47 ft., is deficient in required open space by more than 15,000 sq. ft., and encroaches 97 ft. into the required 110 ft bldg. setback. "The Appalachian" article further quotes Alison Kemp-Sullivan as claiming that "two members of the Town Council had already signed the memo against the petition," implying a conspiracy against the university, but no such "memo" nor "petition" exists

February 19, 2007, in memo to Lynne Mason from John Spear: "I have never met Alison Kemp or discussed this project with her." Spear further reports that ASU was already well into engineering studies for the building before the university's representative, Clyde Robbins, ever approached the town's planning dept. Spear points out that Robbins was told in January that the proposed development would not qualify under the law for rezoning. Spear writes that ASU had no basis for "shock" over his staff report, since it contained exactly the same points of non-compliance that Spear outlined for Robbins in January

February 23, 2007, The Charlotte Observer reports that Gov. Easley's budget just submitted to the state legislature contains $34 million for ASU's proposed new College of Education

March 7, 2007, in response to a request from TOB Manager Greg Young, Planning Dir. John Spear "re-evaluates" the proposed ASU College of Education as to "intensity regulations" and "Parking Requirements," finds that the proposed square feet of floor area is 10 times the allowable square footage, that the proposed open space is deficient by 13,455 square feet, that while the "Minimum Livability Space" is very close to the requirement and the required "Street Setback" of 20 feet is met, that the Interior Setback requirement on the east property line is deficient by 93 feet, that the height restriction of 50 feet is exceeded by 32 feet, and that the university proposed supplying exactly zero parking spaces of the 800 required by law (also noting that the new building is expected to generate 1,200 additional daily vehicle trips on College St.)

March 29, 2007, "The Appalachian" quotes Dir. of Design & Construction Clyde Robbins that at the time of the land purchase by ASU, he was "under the impression" there would be no problems with putting the bldg on that site. "I met personally with town officials and the town attorney," Robbins said. ASU SGA President Forrest Gilliam is quoted: "We talked to [TOB officials] in the fall [2006] on building in that location and there was no protest. I feel we did all we could, and [Boone officials] did not act professionally." There are no records in TOB files to confirm that any meetings or conversations prior to January 5, 2007, ever took place and no evidence whatsoever that town officials "did not act professionally"

March 30, 2007, in a two-page letter, SGA President Forrest Gilliam urges Town Council to reconsider and grant Conditional Use permit for College of Ed. In passing Gilliam calls the Howard St. properties "existing slums," alleges that discussions between TOB & ASU over the site took place "in the middle of the fall" (2006), "if not earlier," and that TOB officials raised no objections at that time -- allegations not supported by the public record. Forrest Gilliam soon began urging ASU students to sign a petition against the Town of Boone

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