Mayor reads email

Banner Elk Mayor Brenda Lyerly reads public comment email about a discussed campground ordinance during the town council meeting on November 8.

BANNER ELK – Banner Elk Town Council held its monthly meeting on Monday, Nov. 8 at the Town Hall, where the meeting began with words of congratulations by Mayor Brenda Lyerly for the reelection of council members Robert Tufts and Mike Dunn.

Council revisited through public hearing the Commercial Campgrounds ordinance, of which the planning board spent three months deliberating in association with public input.

A pair of Banner Elk citizen email concerns were addressed. Sankey Moore Painter in an email to town manager Rick Owen expressed both positivity and concern over the campground ordinance. Painter expressed approval of the change in the ordinance that called for to a five-acre tract of land instead of a smaller three-acre tract of land, but also shared concern that potential campers will go into surrounding properties, sharing that it should be the responsibility of the campground to stipulate trespassing.

Resident Steve Painter also supplied an email relaying the confusion on the intent of the ordinance that allows for tents and pop-ups but excludes recreational vehicles. Town zoning administrator Cheryl Buchanan explained that there is a specific ordinance for recreational vehicles, hence the exclusion from the ordinance being revisited.

Bonnie Betz, managerial representation of High Country ABC store, provided an audit presentation via Zoom to council. “We are proud of what our staff has achieved,” Betz said.

The ABC store has seen 5.5% financial growth, according to Betz, adding that retail sales have shown growth over the past year as well.

“Local restaurants opening back up have benefitted us greatly,” Betz added. “(Due to Covid) this has been a year of unprecedented challenges.”

New for High Country ABC has been adding an e-license for restaurants and a new inventory tracking system. A total of 3.5% of gross sales are required by law to go back to the town, however HCABC has given 11% of gross sales to the town, albeit with reimbursements. Betz concluded by saying that the store has gone through a “fair audit.”

When council was prompted for discussion, councilman Robert Tufts noted about the audit, “It looks good. Very straightforward.”

While moving into the consideration of the ordinance amendment for commercial campgrounds, the council discussed the plan of distinguishing property lines. Multiple members expressed concern over potential campers wandering into other properties without effective signage, buffers or barriers.

“(Campers) could unknowingly go onto other properties,” a concerned Mayor Lyerly noted.

“Some way (is needed) to identify where property ends,” Councilman David Lecka said. “I’d like us to consider that to be added.”

Town Attorney Four Eggers spoke about potential flagging, fencing, tree marking and other identifiable markers and would be “happy to work on drafting that language” to be added specifically to the campground ordinance at hand.

“It would be prudent on our part to include some verbiage,” Lecka agreed.

“For five acres, you cannot have just three signs,” Tufts added.

Council discussed the potential dangers of a campground under the ordinance being located adjacent to hunting grounds. The idea that maps would be given to campers at a potential campground would be the campground proprietor doing his or her due diligence because, as Lecka pointed out, “a bullet doesn’t stop at a property line.”

It was discussed that any adjacent property owners can post their own barriers, markers or signage with respect to liability.

Other concerns about the ordinance were based on the semantics of punctuation and the aforementioned clarification of the recreational vehicles being excluded from the ordinance.

A motion was ultimately passed sending the ordinance back to the planning board to “clean it up” and change the updates of the old ordinance without the need for a second public hearing on the matter due to the nature of the revisions returning to the planning board.

Council was apprised at the meeting that an additional audit based on grant funds will take place since funds affiliated with the Covid Care Act funding had been increased.

County Manager Rick Owen gave his monthly update and staff report which included a workshop on zoning that will take place via Zoom. This two-hour workshop will be offered to Board of Adjustment members and Planning Board members, with high participation hopeful.

On Saturday Nov. 20, Lees McRae College Ski Team is holding a movie fundraiser in the park. Gates will open at 4 p.m. and the film will begin at 6 p.m. Included in the event will be food trucks and beverage vendors.

The next meeting of Banner Elk Town Council will take place at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 13, at Banner Elk Town Hall.

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