BANNER ELK – Banner Elk Town Council held its monthly meeting on Monday, Oct. 11, where an annexation request of two parcels of land measuring approximately five acres, zoned commercial, were approved by council. Council also called for a public hearing regarding a pair of items.
The council called for public hearing regarding a petition for a contiguous annexation of two parcels of land, as well as a public hearing for an ordinance amendment to Section 902 “Commercial Campgrounds” for a particular section which involved a need to discuss potential campgrounds in Banner Elk and how to address trash, fires, and preparation of food storage against bears and vermin.
One of the specific ordinance amendments in question was the requirement for an opaque buffer to residential properties if a campground were to be placed on particular lots. Zoning Administrator Cheryl Buchanan noted that the detailed ordinance was not crafted with the expressed interests of the potential campgrounds in mind but rather crafted with the benefit of current homeowners in mind. Additionally, homeowners in Banner Elk had expressed concern at potential campgrounds and what the homeowners would have to look at on their property.
Buchanan explained that if a campground is not bordered by an adjacent homeowner property they could apply for a variance that would not require an opaque buffer as stated by the ordinance. This will be addressed at the public hearing scheduled for the regular November monthly council meeting.
The Historic Banner Elk School site plan was also on the agenda, and the plan has experienced some constraints because of Covid. Council discussed the existence of three old trees that may interfere with the road connection as part of the site plan. Some members of the council were concerned about removing such old trees in order to create a straighter connecting road. Town Manager Rick Owen stated that from his knowledge, the trio of trees, possibly oak trees, are in poor health and may not make it past the construction phase anyway.
Council Members VonCanon, Tufts, and Dunn expressed concern about removing such old trees. Removing the trees would not add any additional parking, but would make more efficient parking within the site plan. Owen concluded by saying that an arborist may be consulted, as well as the tree board regarding the removal of these trees and that this project is a public improvement and not simply for historic value.
Updates on the agenda also included Owen’s manager’s report, noting that the recent golf tournament fundraiser raised $40,000 toward the debt payment on the Historic Banner Elk School. Owen also noted that municipal elections for the town will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Two seats on the council, currently held by Councilmen Robert Tufts and Mike Dunn, are up for reelection and are running unopposed.
The council discussed the occupancy tax, which currently has a one-third allotment to infrastructure and a two-thirds allotment toward advertising. The consensus among the council was that, like some other municipalities, the current allotment should be switched, where two-thirds would be alloted to infrastructure.
The general idea for the shift is that the advertising budget on occupancy tax helps get new people to visit and live in the area, whereas the infrastructure budget is designed to accommodate those visitors and residents. A proposed swap would allow those funds, for a predesignated amount of time, to be spent on infrastructure, which held the consensus in the meeting.
In order to make the change, a local bill would have to be introduced into the state government at the General Assembly, and that time is of the essence.
In regard to the upcoming Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, both the fire department and police department have been prepping diligently for the event. These emergency service departments will also have a new addition to their safety toolkit, as a medium of seven cameras will be utilized that will allow emergency personnel to see all gates, crowds and traffic areas to aid in the assistance of potential emergency situations such as lost kids and health issues.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of Banner Elk Town Council will take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8.