County may not be able to use Wallace property

James HowellStaff

August 22, 2012

The commissioners met for their bi-monthly meeting on Monday and discussed the future of the Helen Wallace property, along with a new scenic byway.

The Wallace property, along with $10,000, was given to the county through the will of the deceased Helen Wallace. This is a two-acre piece of land, along with a house, located on the Ashe County side of Garvey Bridge across from River Camp USA on the New River. The Wallace residence was appraised for $135,000.

After the appraisal, the county filed for a one-to-one matching grant from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF). The Wallace residence was used as the matching portion of the grant, giving the county $135,000 for the construction of an environmental education center.

However, renovating this property as a parks and recreation site presents several problems.

After review, this project was met by some resistance from County Manager Pat Mitchell, who said, “I don’t know that we can do it for $135,000.” She also said that the scope of the project cannot be done as laid out.

Mitchell met with the parks and rec board shortly before the meeting. She said, “There was not much support from the parks and rec board to do anything with it (the property).”

The house that sits on the property has been eroded and new handicap accessible bathrooms would need to be installed.

Also, thanks to its decentralized location, the site would simply be out of the way for most of the population. General maintenance would also present logistical problems, since a crew would need to make a trip to the Alleghany border to take out the trash, maintain the landscaping and the bathrooms.

The county hasn’t spent a dime of the $135,000 grant, so the next step is to see if the county can de-obligate the grant without any repercussions. Also, the county will see if the deed for the Wallace property can be moved to the state. After revisiting the issue, Commissioner Gary Roark said, “I would just wash my hands of it.” Roark’s fellow commissioners agreed with that notion, desiring to de-obligate the grant.

Scenic Byway

In other business, Planning Director Zack Edwardson spoke to the board on behalf of a resolution of support for the application of a scenic byway.

Along with promoting tourism, as Edwardson said, it “helps protect the scenic beauty of 221.”

The road will extend from where NC194 splits and goes into Todd, then goes from Deep Gap toward Baldwin on to NC163 moving toward Alleghany.

After the installation of this byway, no new billboards will be allowed to grace the roadside. There haven’t been any new billboards raised since 2006 under county law, but this byway would be additional protection by the state against erecting new billboards.

To protect the byway further, the state will start a pool of money that will be used to buy out existing billboards. The result would be the systematic removal of all billboards along the roadside.

There will be no restriction of on-sight signage. This means businesses will be able to promote themselves through signs raised on their own property.

Making this scenic byway will also open the opportunity for future grants.

This project would not encumber any funds from the county, and will not prevent the widening of US221. Referencing the byway, Commissioner William Sands said, “There’s not really a downside in this.” The application for the byway was approved by consensus vote from the commissioners.

Interim Parks and Rec Director

At the beginning of the meeting, the board officially recognized Scott Turnmyre as the new interim director of parks and recreation. Upon the congratulations of the commissioners, Turnmyre said, “I’m looking forward to providing leadership and getting some programs on the move,” and that “every household can be touched by what we provide.”

After citing working with the youth as a privilege, Turnmyre mentioned he might also work with programs for senior citizens.

Other happenings during the meeting include:

• Michelle Ball spoke for the approval of Administration Contract and Policies/Procedures/Resolution for the Scattered Site Housing Program. With the help of a $400,000 grant, three local houses will be restored and two will be reconstructed.

• Judy Bare gave a Farmland Preservation Program update. During which, Bare said, “People don’t realize what goes into preserving a rural area.” She also reported that 17 percent of the N.C. labor force is agriculture.