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Five Public Hearings

BUCKINGHAM – Five public hearings were conducted during the October 9 meeting of the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors.

The hearings included two zoning cases involving requests for special use permits; proposed amendments to the Noise Ordinance and the Music Festival Ordinance; and a request to rescind the Golf Cart Ordinance.

Tower Approved

Introducing the first case, Zoning Administrator Rebecca Cobb explained that Clear Signal Towers, LLC was requesting a special use permit for a 195-foot telecommunications tower on the property of Thomas Brown, off Route 60, in the James River Magisterial District.

She said the planning commission held its public hearing on August 27. Cobb shared that at that time, no comments were made either for or against the request.

According to the zoning administrator, the planning commission was recommending approval of the SUP with conditions crafted by Cobb and Cityscape Consultants.

No comments were offered after Chairman Monroe Snoddy opened the hearing. When the hearing was closed, Supervisor Cassandra Stish moved to approve the SUP and drew the board's unanimous support.

SUP Approved for Metal Movers

The second hearing focused on a SUP request from Clifford Atkins, owner of Metal Movers, to operate a junk/scrap metal yard as a special use in the A-1, Agricultural, District on property owned by Louise and Jessie Davis along Route 60.

Cobb shared that when the planning commission held its hearing on August 27, a letter was read opposing the request on the grounds that the operation is industrial in nature. She added that one adjacent landowner called the office and voiced that they did not have a problem with the business.

The hearing's first speaker began by noting that the previous business, Jesse's Auto, was a good neighbor and suitable for the A-1, Agricultural District.

However, she said Metal Movers is more characteristic of an industrial operation and should be located in an area already zoned or targeted as industrial rather than in the A-1 District.

<!– 1upcrlf2 –>Supporting the justification for zoning as well as the board's need to adhere to its Zoning Ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan for the county's proper growth and development, she pointed out that the business is located less than a mile from the western border of the Courthouse Village Center District.

Noting that the Comprehensive Plan views the area as one of the more concentrated residential areas in the county, she added that the area also encompasses historic buildings and landmarks.

Concluding with a quote from the Comprehensive Plan regarding the Courthouse Village Center District, she read, “Due to the historical significance of this Village and tourism potential, development in this Village Center should be well planned and future land uses compatible with the historic character of the area.”

The next speaker stated that Metal Movers is a great thing because it has helped clean-up the county.

Another offered, “Nobody is arguing that they are not doing a good job. That's not the case. The case is it's in the wrong spot.”

Owner Cliff Atkins told supervisors that he had cleaned up the area around the business. He added that the business has also helped a lot of people in the area.

Supervisor Bill Talbert asked Atkins if his intent was to grow as big as the recycling operation in Farmville. He added, “I can't see that.”

Atkins responded, “I don't think we'll ever get that far.”

Talbert continued, “So you are going to stay on the local level and just help the local people?”

Atkins replied, “Yes. I'm lucky to do what I can do.”

Talbert offered, “I understand that but things do grow.” He added, “I'd hate to see it,” noting that he agreed with the comment about the location.

Responding to the first speaker's reference to noise generated by the demolishing of vehicles, Tina Atkins said the business uses grapple loaders, two Bobcats with forks, a John Deere rubber tire loader with a grasp on it to bring the vehicles to the scale, a press loader and a Husky Brute loader.

“The only crushing that goes on there with the vehicle is the grapple comes down and smashes the top and it goes in the container,” said Ms. Atkins. She added, “Everybody has told us that we have the cleanest junkyard around.”

Vice Chairman Danny Allen asked, “So your noise maker is really just a piece of equipment?”

She responded, “It's no different making a noise pushing the top down on a car, putting it in the container than it is picking the metal up and loading it into a container.” Ms. Atkins added, “It's not as noisy as a logging operation.”

An employee of the business was the last speaker to the podium. After explaining the recycling process, he added that it would make “a little noise” when something is torn apart and hauled away. Continuing, he offered, “A whole lot of people around here get a little bit of money in their pocket because we are there, including me.”

After Snoddy closed the hearing, Supervisor Stish shared that during her tenure on the planning commission she helped to author the Comprehensive Plan. She explained that the creation of the special districts-the Village Center Districts and the Historic Districts is one of the centerpieces of the plan.

“Making sure that we have activities and industries in their appropriate spots is also integral to making sure that we uphold our plan,” stated Stish. “When you start eroding your plan by making zoning decisions that are essentially spot zoning decisions, you have comprised a lot of things down the road.”

Conversely, Stish said she was having a difficult time with the idea of closing down a business that is thriving, employing people and putting cash in the hands of people who are hurting due to the economic times.

She told Cliff and Tina Atkins, “I'm trying to come up with a King Solomon's idea here of giving you enough time to be able to scout around and see if we can work with you to help you find another location here in the county.”

Ms. Atkins offered, “It's nothing that we oppose.” She explained that they had looked at another location but the lease agreement was out of their league.

Stish explained that she wanted to make a motion recommending a one-year period for the SUP, not the two years recommended by the commission, with the intent the couple find a better-suited location for their business.

She added, “That is a very critical zone right there. It's the heart of our county seat.”

After Stish offered her motion, it drew a second from Supervisor Donnie Bryan. Following more discussion, the motion resulted in a three-to-three vote with Stish, John Staton, and Bryan agreeing to the one-year SUP; and Allen, Joe Chambers, and Talbert opposing. Chairman Snoddy abstained.

At that point, Allen moved to approve the SUP as initially recommended by the planning commission. In a five-to-two vote, the motion passed with Allen, Staton, Snoddy, Chambers, and Talbert casting yeas, and Stish and Bryan opposing.

However, later in the meeting, after the board completed its agenda, Chairman Snoddy shared that he had been thinking about Metal Movers.

He stated, “I know when we passed zoning that we put a lot of work in it and it looks to me like every time somebody wants to build something or do something we just pull it back and go ahead and build or whatever we want to do on that spot that we had zoned for something else.” Snoddy added, “So tonight, I'm changing my vote to no.”

During the ensuing discussion and questioning, Snoddy indicated that he was talking about the first motion, when he abstained.

Subsequently, Allen stated, “He abstained. It's all over with.” He added. "We've had another motion in the other direction since then.”

County Administrator Rebecca Carter advised, “The motion approved would have to be rescinded. Then, a motion would have to come back to the table to accept your motion, Supervisor Stish.”

However, no further action was taken and Snoddy declared the meeting adjourned.

Noise and Music Festival Ordinances Amended

The next two hearings did not draw any public comments. Prior to each hearing, Cobb provided PowerPoint presentations offering overviews of the proposed amendments. Subsequently, following each hearing, supervisors approved the respective revisions.

During her overview of the proposed amendments to the Noise Ordinance, Cobb explained the revisions include more definitions to help clarify what can be enforced.

She said specific prohibitions include horns, except as a warning; radios plainly audible 50-feet from any vehicle; radios and televisions plainly audible across property boundary (between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.); and general unreasonably loud noises between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Cobb clarified, “The horns and the radios that is at all times. And, then the other things are from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.”

Exceptions, explained Cobb, include church bells, emergency vehicles, parades, fireworks, school-related activities, fire and burglar alarms, railroad equipment, production of agricultural products, and public utility repairs. She added exceptions also include household tools, lawnmowers and other lawn equipment operated between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

According to Cobb, the revisions also include an undue hardship waiver that can be granted by the board of supervisors. She added that she was proposing that the violation be the same as in the zoning ordinance-a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $2,500.

During the board's discussion on the revisions, Supervisor Staton asked if the use of jake brakes or exhaust brakes on road tractors were included. He added that he has received several complaints about them.

Cobb responded that the ordinance did not include anything about brakes.

Supervisor Talbert questioned if the county had enough money to hire about four more deputies to enforce the ordinance.

Offering that the deputies have enough work now, Talbert stated, “Then we are going to pass an ordinance because somebody is making a little extra noise.” He added, “You are just adding more to our good, fine sheriff's department here in Buckingham County.”

Subsequently, Supervisor Bryan moved to adopt the Noise Control Ordinance as amended. After a second from Stish, the motion passed with Staton, Bryan, Allen, Snoddy and Stish voting in favor; and, Talbert and Chambers opposing.

Focusing on the proposed amendments for the Music or Entertainment Festival Ordinance, Cobb noted that the ordinance has not been changed since 1980. She added that some of the changes are necessary to align the Music or Entertainment Festival Ordinance with the Zoning Ordinance.

Cobb explained that the Zoning Ordinance requires a SUP if an event is open to the public and more than 300 attendees are anticipated. She added that exemptions include religious events, private ceremonies, or events held by Buckingham County or its agents.

According to Cobb, that section from the Zoning Ordinance is included in the revised Music or Entertainment Festival Ordinance. Furthermore, a SUP would be required. As such, the applicant would apply to the BOS within 60 days of the event and a public hearing would be required.

Cobb added that the violation would also reflect that of the Zoning Ordinance.

Following Cobb's presentation, supervisors, in a unanimous vote, approved the proposed revisions to the Music or Entertainment Festival Ordinance.

Golf Cart and Utility Vehicles Ordinance Stays

A move to rescind the county's Golf Cart and Utility Vehicles Ordinance yielded to interest in possibly expanding the ordinance, which as it currently stands is specific to Route 703, Jones Town Road.

During the public comment segment of the August meeting, a resident expressed safety concerns about the use of golf carts and four wheelers on Jones Town Road and asked that the county rescind the ordinance.

At its September meeting, the board responded to that request by scheduling the public hearing for its October meeting.

Prior to the hearing, the county administrator read from the ordinance, which stipulates that golf carts and utility vehicles operated upon the designated streets shall abide by all laws and rules of the road applicable to motor vehicles traveling on the streets of the Commonwealth.

Moreover, the ordinance stipulates required signage on the vehicle and the road; and, requires liability insurance with coverage of not less than $50,000 per accident.

When Snoddy opened the hearing, Robert C. Jones was first to the podium. Noting that the ordinance has been on the books for nine years, he questioned why it had become an issue now.

The next speaker, David Jones, stressed that the ordinance does not include the use of four-wheelers (all terrain vehicles) and added that people using four wheelers on a state road are breaking the law.

Explaining that he uses the golf carts/utility vehicles in connection with his business, he said he did not feel it was right that he be penalized because of those who are illegally operating four wheelers on the road.

After the hearing, Talbert moved to let the ordinance stand. Chambers followed with a second.

During the ensuing discussion, Stish shared that instead of rescinding the ordinance she would like to have another public hearing to consider adding Woodland Church Road along the section that is contiguous to the Satchidananda Ashram border.

“So actually instead of rescinding it, I'd like to expand it,” said Stish, noting that the section of Woodland Church Road does meet the 35 mph or less speed limit requirement.

Carter explained that VDOT has to review the request before the board can consider incorporating the section of road into the ordinance. In turn, Stish asked that the request be submitted to VDOT.

Subsequently, Talbert's motion to keep the Golf Cart Ordinance as written passed with a five-to-two vote. Snoddy and Staton cast the opposing votes.