NOVEMBER 20, 2008 issue

Boone Council Deliberates Zoning Requests Thursday

Approval Means New Looks for Depot Street and Highway 105

Story by Kathleen McFadden

If its rezoning request is approved, Appalachian plans to convert the rock building on the corner of Depot and Rivers streets into a state-of-the-art broadcasting complex and significantly upgrade the building façade. What this rendering doesn’t show is the planned three-story addition to the rear of the building. Two rezoning cases were on the agenda for Boone’s Quarterly Public Hearing on November 13. ASU requested a change in the zoning of the rock building on the corner of Rivers and Depot streets from B-1, Central Business District, to U-1, University District. Boone Five, LLC requested rezoning a tract on Highway 105 from a split B-3, General Business, and R-1, Single-Family Residential, to CDB-3, Conditional District General Business.

No one present at the public hearing spoke in opposition to ASU’s request. The second case, however, was controversial because the rezoning would permit the construction of a 100-room Marriott Courtyard hotel.

The Boone Area Planning Commission considered both cases at its meeting on Monday, November 17, and the Boone Town Council members are expected to vote on the two cases at their meeting on Thursday, November 20.

Depot and Rivers
Appalachian has owned the rock building on the corner of Depot and Rivers street since 2000, and it formerly housed the university’s communications disorders clinic. The clinic has moved to the recently renovated University Hall, and Appalachian planners have come up with a new idea for the site.

That new idea, however, has no real bearing on the rezoning request because the town council is required to consider the full range of permitted uses in the proposed zoning district.

Although Interim Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Greg Lovins did not present the university’s specific plans at the public hearing, several students from the Department of Communication and Dr. Glenda Treadaway, interim dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts, spoke in favor of the plan to convert the building into a state-of-the-art broadcasting complex.

Lovins explained that the existing building would be retained and the façade would be cleaned up and enhanced with windows replacing the current metal coverings on the ground-level openings. A 5,900 square foot, three-story addition would be built into the university-owned parking lot behind the building. Plans are to manage stormwater via a rainwater catchment system.

University attorney Dayton Cole cited several policies from the town’s Comprehensive Plan and indicated how the project would comply with those policies. In addition, Cole said, “This property is not in my view in the downtown proper. In terms of history and use it’s on the fringe and won’t erode the present critical mass of businesses. I think it will benefit downtown in a number of ways and will bring more students and employees as pedestrians to downtown.”

Patrick Beville, a university project engineer and a member of the Kraut Creek Committee, spoke in favor of the rezoning on behalf of the committee. Beville pointed out that the university had partnered with the committee in a creek restoration project behind the building, and consequently, Beville said, “I feel confident the university is not going to do anything to disrupt the creek.”

At their meeting on Monday, the Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of ASU’s rezoning request.

Highway 105
Plans to construct a Marriott Courtyard hotel on Highway 105 across from the Hampton Inn and next door to Peabody’s have been in the works for three years. The hang-up is that a hunk of the property is zoned single-family residential, a zoning that does not permit commercial development, so the zoning would have to change for the project to go forward.

Opposition from the property owners in the neighborhood above the tract, coupled with the general district zoning request the principals first requested, resulted in the town council’s denial of the initial rezoning request. A general district rezoning does not bind the developer to a specific project, but would permit the full range of permitted uses within that zone.

The Boone Five LLC principals were back last week, however, with a conditional district zoning request that would bind them to a specific project, subject to whatever conditions the town council imposes. As he introduced the case, Development Services Director John Speer told the council that the neighbors had file a valid protest petition, so approval of the request would require a three-quarters or supermajority vote of the town council.

Damon Malatere of Boone Five explained that the plans for the hotel had changed considerably from the early concept of an L-shaped building with underground parking. The current plan is a four-story, flat-roofed building with parking behind, a retaining wall along the rear of the property and extensive vegetation to provide buffering from the neighborhood. Because of the design changes, the delays and the design concessions for the neighbors, Malatere said, the cost of the project is up to $14 million. “We’ve never spent that kind of money before,” he said.

“I feel we have gone to considerable lengths to get this done,” he said.

Malatere pointed out that over the past 20 years Boone has seen a net growth of only 225 hotel rooms. “Boone’s going to grow whether people like it or not,” Malatere said, “and based on what we think will happen here, we’re going to need those rooms [in the new hotel].” Malatere said the anticipated opening is in May or June 2012.

After architect Bill Dixon explained a number of the concessions for the neighbors—types of lighting, a flat instead of a pitched roof, the retaining wall and vegetative buffer, limited delivery hours and dumpster access—Malatere again addressed the Planning Commission and Town Council. “Three years and $400,000 later, here I stand,” he said. “We can’t stand another year of maybes. We want to go to vote on Thursday. If nay, we will move on. But no matter what goes there will affect the neighborhood…Look at what alternatives could go there. Two or three fast food joints could go there.”

Following Malatere’s presentation, several neighborhood residents spoke.

Lynn White lives on Wintergreen Drive above the site for the proposed hotel. She presented a date-by-date summary of her opposition to the project. White said she considered a three-story hotel more reasonable than the proposed four-story building, adding that effective buffering was not being provided. White also asked for a number of other conditions on the development, including the restoration of a cut that was illegally made into the hill across the street that destroyed the natural buffer between her property and Highway 105. The illegal cut was not made by the developer.

“To us, our neighborhood is priceless,” she said.

White’s son also called for the restoration of the berm to its original height.

Other neighbors who spoke in included Susan Owen, who said, “After three years, I still believe there’s a win-win situation here somewhere.” Owen asked for a relocation of the vegetative buffer area, a gray roof on the hotel and no light pollution from the project.

Public hearing attendee Judith Phoenix said, “I don’t live in the neighborhood, but I believe in neighborhoods. There’s a lot of talk in Boone about what we’re going to become. It starts now. We’ve got to look at what we’re doing.”

Jeff Collins and Greg Parsons, owners of the land and of Peabody’s, spoke in support of the project. Collins pointed out, as Malatere and Dixon did, that the proposed four-story hotel is no higher than the originally proposed three-story building. Parsons pointed out that the adjacent property owners currently can see only commercial development from their windows.

At their meeting on Monday following the public hearing, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the rezoning request, but stipulated a number of recommended conditions.