BANNER ELK — During its November regular meeting, Banner Elk Town Council received good news regarding the annual audit report of the stores comprising High Country Municipal ABC, which since 1998 has been comprised of one-third partnership between the municipalities of Seven Devils, Sugar Mountain and Banner Elk.
Sara Brewer appeared before the council for the annual audit report and shared that at the close of the most recent fiscal year on June 30, 2019, sales were up $223,000 from the previous year, for a grand total figure of $3,649,579, a gross sales total of $69,904 greater than the previous year. Brewer noted around the Aug. 1, each of the three towns comprising High Country ABC received a $15,000 bonus.
“Our previous year has been very good to us, and we hope that that continues,” Brewer said.
Brewer added that the profit distributions have increased to each of the three towns, as well as an increase has been made to alcohol law enforcement and alcohol educations monies for the current fiscal year.
Since the 1998 merger of the towns for the single board, a combined total of $4,572,502 has been distributed to the municipalities.
Brewer also noted that accountant Bill Combs, who conducted the audit of the business, reported a clean audit, and that sales for the month of October had increased more than $80,000 than the same month the previous year.
Council also held a public hearing to consider a Zoning Ordinance amendment regarding building height in the Mixed Use Zoning District. The only property with the designation in town is the former Cannon Hospital property.
Zoning Administer Cheryl Buchanan spoke to the topic, noting that the amendment would be a suitable allowance for that particular site, as the site had been abandoned for a number of years and the building was found to be in disrepair, and that leaving a portion in order to maintain the height would not be a good scenario for the developer, adding that the Planning Board had given a positive recommendation for the change.
Following the close of the public hearing, the board unanimously approved the amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to amend the height restriction for the Mixed Use Zoning District.
In other news and notes:
- Council heard a request for a public hearing regarding a rezoning request from David Jennings of two parcels on Highway 194 near Edgar Tufts Road. Jennings owns one parcel and is purchasing the second property from Rob Robbins, and the two properties are adjoining. Buchanan reported that Robbins had personally visited her office and provided a letter supporting the rezoning. The property to be sold to Jennings is currently zoned R-2 and Jennings is asking to have the property rezoned as C-1P, Commercial, as well as the other parcel, currently zoned as CUD, to C-1P also, as Jennings wishes to recombine the two areas into a single parcel for expansion purposes. Jennings noted that he had met with NCDOT, as well as several nearby property owners, regarding his intentions and had received no negative feedback. Jennings added that NCDOT recommended he use the entrance on the first parcel off Old Turnpike Road as an entrance only, while exiting onto Hwy. 194 off the proposed rezoned other tract, citing that the sight lines for the larger trucks utilized with the business would be more favorable in that Scenario. Following a period of discussion, the council approved by a 3-1 vote to call for a public hearing on the proposed rezoning at its regular December meeting.
- Town Manager Rick Owen reported that he is continuing to work as follow-up from the previous month’s meeting to provide final site plan recommendations to the council in reference to the Historic Banner Elk School construction project.Owen has met with Mountain Electric officials regarding the logistics of underground wiring at the site, which Owen noted needed to take place in the earliest stages of the renovation of the property, adding that a contractor utilized by MEC was on hand at the meeting and would be providing a cost of work for the underground wiring.
- Owen reminded the council of the upcoming “Small Town Christmas” activities taking place Dec. 6 to 8 in the town, including the town Christmas Tree Lighting, Ensemble Stage presentation, Reindeer Run at the Tate-Evans Town Park, the town Christmas parade and new Polar Plunge event.
- In his manager’s report, Owen shared the need for the town to consider a text amendment to its personnel policy in reference to its call back and on-call/standby pay. New language would call for a rotating schedule to offer clarity of language, distinguishing between on call and standby. Overall, Owen noted that the cost to the town would be an estimated $5,000-6,000 annually, but that no budget amendment would be necessary for this fiscal year to enact the edition requested. Council approved the request to revise the policy.
Police Chief Kevin Hodges reported that he had been invited this past October to present in Chicago at the International Association of Police Chiefs regarding the opioid epidemic in relation to smaller municipalities after attending an Intergovernmental Research convention event in July in Knoxville. Hodges also placed a request to the town regarding a change to officer uniforms, including the integration of tactical-style uniform pants that were sleeker and not possessing “balloon pockets.” Hodges noted that the uniform transition would be done slowly due to the high cost of apparel, and Council directed Hodges to carry out the aforementioned requests.
The next regular meeting of the Banner Elk Town Council will take place at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 9, at Banner Elk Town Hall.