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Originally published: 2013-09-04 17:01:12
Last modified: 2013-09-04 17:01:56

When a bargain isn't a bargain

The recently received (and expensive) due diligence report on the proposed N.C. 194 business park is a distressing surprise. I had not worried too much about the possibility of this pointless project actually being undertaken because of the obvious difficulty in accessing the location, not to mention other issues with the property. Transportation is key for any successful business. However, this does not seem to have been addressed in the report, or at least in what I read in the Watauga Democrat.

I read that the proposed plan is to grade off the hilltops and the ridge and use the dirt for fill. This is just another blatant case of raping the mountains in the sole cause of the almighty dollar. And this work has already begun: roads are being cut, evidently preparatory to shearing off the hilltops.

There may be sizable acreage, but the due diligence report states that the site is partially unusable except for "recreation or agriculture." Goat husbandry comes to mind. Coming from New Market, the acreage is down in a hole below the mountain. Of the 200 acres available, evidently only 70 are proposed to be used for the purpose. This makes the cost per acre of usable land much more expensive. 

At that price, could not another location in the county be just as good a deal and have ready highway access and other infrastructure already in place? Location, location, location. If the Watauga County Board of Commissioners is willing to pay $1.7 million for about 70 acres of land, surely a more appropriate site could be found.

Also, the land is "wet, wet, wet." The Army Corps of Engineers will undoubtedly have to conduct a lengthy review of the impact on the multiple streams and trout waters located on the property. Trout take precedence. And "possibly" an artesian well could be located and "possibly" an access road could be cut in above the steep, twisting current access to the property?

Also, I read that Chairman Nathan Miller represents the Meat Camp district, but does not live there any longer. He stated -- I read in the paper -- that he stays in close touch with his constituents. To whom does he talk? I am told by friends who have lived in the area for many, many years that residents there adamantly do not want the project.

And, yes, Commissioner David Blust is correct, it would be a shame to use that property for an industrial park. There are not many beautiful and truly unspoiled areas left in Watauga County. The county commission is taking dead aim at one of the few remaining, with the goal of creating a long-vacant industrial park that few will be able to access, particularly in the winter. I suggest that Miller and his supporters make several personal trips out to the area in the early hours of coming winter days, when their proposed workers would be arriving. 

 I am sure, by the way, that the residents of Ashe County will be grateful to Miller for his generosity with Watauga County taxpayer dollars. The site is plumb nearly in Ashe County, and I feel certain the workers of Ashe will benefit from any jobs that are ever created.

As far as economic generators, travel and tourism have always been the bedrock of this area's economy. It would be prudent for us to leave the visitors something attractive to look at. There is no wisdom or foresight in this deal, only greed and hubris. Our county commissioners' engaging in land speculation definitely does not demonstrate good stewardship on behalf of the citizens of Watauga County nor good stewardship of the land temporarily entrusted to them. A bargain is a bargain only if it is usable, practical and makes good common sense. The proposed Miller Industrial Park meets none of these criteria.

Diane W. Blanks
Boone