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Originally published: 2013-09-26 20:29:53
Last modified: 2013-09-26 20:31:08

County seeks extension of old high school water reserve

by Anna Oakes

The Boone Water Use Committee on Wednesday said the town should seek verification of the old high school property's water needs before agreeing to extend a 150,000-gallon-per-day reserved water allocation for the site.

Since 2011, the town has reserved a future allocation of water for development of the 75-acre property, which is owned by Watauga County and has been on the market for several years.
The site is located off of N.C. 105 within the Boone town limits.

In March 2011, the Boone Town Council voted to reserve an amount of 70,000 gallons per day for the project, but in April that year increased the reserve amount to 150,000 gpd "in recognition that the previous reserve amount of 70,000 per day may not be sufficient for this property," according to meeting minutes.

The reserve initially was set to expire Dec. 31, 2011, but was later extended until Dec. 31, 2013.

In an Aug. 23 letter to the mayor and Boone Town Council, Watauga County Board of Commissioners Chairman Nathan Miller requested that the town extend the expiration date of the 150,000-gpd reserve.

"The 150,000-gallon-per-day water reserve is critical in the continued efforts to market and sell the property to potential buyers," Miller said. "This point has been made clear by each of the different developers the county has met with on the potential sale."

A potential sale of the property to Templeton Properties fell through earlier this year when developer Phil Templeton claimed that the town's regulations made his project unfeasible.

But since then the county and town have continued to hear from developers interested in the property. Earlier this month, the county commissioners agreed to provide a 5 percent commission to brokers Wright Properties, Elliot Wood and Edward Chapman if they bring a successful offer on the former property from potential buyers Scott Sullivan and Chip Kassinger.

On Wednesday, Water Use Committee members questioned whether 150,000 gpd was an accurate calculation of the water needs for the project. Committee member Patrick Beville said he had learned through conversations with county personnel that the county had not calculated predicted water usage at 60 percent of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources' discharge rate schedule.

To estimate the total gallons of water needed per day for a project, the town calculates usage at 60 percent of DENR's discharge rates for various uses. Town leaders have indicated in the past that they believe the DENR schedule is outdated and does not account for the efficient appliances of today.
County Manager Deron Geouque did not immediately return a call Thursday seeking confirmation of Beville's statement.

Committee members noted that the town has received a number of large water allocation requests in recent months and that the town has a limited amount of water it can allocate until a new water source comes online.

Beville moved to recommend that the town send a letter to the county asking leaders to demonstrate how they arrived at the 150,000 gpd figure.

"In order to move forward with it, we need to understand the reason for the number," Beville said.
Committee member Rennie Brantz, a Boone Town Council member, was the lone vote against the recommendation.

"Is that going to make it more difficult to sell that property, not to have something in the bank?" Brantz said.