Boone council postpones decision on park repairs
by Anna Oakes
The Boone Town Council on Tuesday postponed a decision on significant repairs needed at the town-owned Daniel Boone Park until after an Oct. 26 visit from representatives from the Institute of Outdoor Drama.
The council directed town Cultural Resources Director Pilar Fotta to work with other town staff to develop ways to address other immediate issues in the meantime.
Town building inspector Todd Miller presented a report compiled from a Sept. 19 inspection of the buildings and grounds at the park. Last month, the council directed town staff to develop a list of maintenance tasks needed at the park prior to next season.
The Southern Appalachian Historical Association currently leases the property from the town to produce the "Horn in the West" outdoor drama and for the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, but the town is transitioning to a license agreement for SAHA's use of the property in 2014.
Miller said the Black Powder Building near the stage is suffering from roof failure and poor electrical conditions, recommending that power be removed and the building remain unoccupied until repairs are made. He said the stage and backstage structures are structurally unsafe and should not be used for any purpose.
Miller also recommended the removal of lighting fixtures attached to trees along the walkway from the parking area to the amphitheater, which he said violate electrical codes and present a hazard for electrical shock and fire.
Town manager Greg Young said the council needs to determine which repairs are the town's responsibility and which repairs should be SAHA's responsibility. Architect Randy Jones and town attorney Sam Furgiuele cautioned that an engineer's estimate of what immediate needs would cost could trigger other changes that would have to be made. Jim Byrne, special assistant to the town manager, reminded the council that the last time the town hired a structural engineer to assess the property, he wouldn't do so for fear of losing his seal.
"It may be that we can't afford to improve this property for it to be used currently," Councilwoman Jamie Leigh.
"We discuss bringing in somebody professional to look at all this, and even the bandaid solutions are going to be not in the tens of thousands, but higher than that," Councilman Andy Ball said. "It's not an investment that we're in a position to make with the funds we have available right now."
Leigh and Councilwoman Lynne Mason spoke to the need to review all of the town's capital needs and rank them.
The council also approved a Unified Development Ordinance amendment that would authorize the use of temporary storage containers on vacant lots for up to 30 days. The change was the result of a request from relief organization Samaritan's Purse, which currently uses storage containers on a vacant lot in town for its Operation Christmas Child project.
Council members agreed to meet with the Watauga County Board of Commissioners to discuss extraterritorial jurisdiction appointments to certain town committees, proposing Nov. 20 as a date.
The council did not adopt recommendations by the Boone Planning Commission that would have expanded the ordinance to occupied properties and to the U-1 zoning district, indicating they would prefer to explore those changes as part of the ongoing UDO revisions.
The council approved an agreement with the U.S. Army CORPS of Engineers to restore the stream banks on the South Fork New River from the Boone Greenway Trail covered bridge to the second bridge on the Greenway.
The project's estimated cost is $2.65 million and requires a local match of approximately $900,000 in cash, in-kind services and easements, according to Byrne. Byrne said project partners Appalachian State University and the National Committee for the New River are helping the town provide the required match.