Four Public Hearings Are Held

Published 5:05 pm Thursday, April 18, 2013

BUCKINGHAM – Four public hearings were held during the April 15 meeting of the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors.

The hearings included a proposal to rescind the rifle-hunting ordinance and add an ordinance restricting hunting from ditch-to-ditch on primary and secondary roads; the county's proposed 2013-14 budget; a special use permit request for the BARN facility; and, a road abandonment.

Rifle Hunting

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When hunting season rolls around this fall, it looks like those who thought they would be able to hunt bear and deer from the ground with rifles .23 caliber or larger will have to climb back into elevated stands that are at least 10-feet from the ground.

On Monday night, a three-to-three tie vote killed a proposal to rescind the current rifle hunting ordinance and shot down proposed language stipulating, “There are no special ordinances on hunting game with firearms in Buckingham County, Virginia other than those set forth by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and any applicable federal laws.”

Moreover, responding to an audience that overwhelmingly demonstrated its disapproval of a proposed ordinance making it unlawful to engage in hunting with a firearm between the ditches of any primary or secondary highway, the board unanimously moved not to adopt the “ditch-to-ditch” proposal.

Supervisor Danny Allen, District 7, Gold Hill Precinct, was absent from the meeting. According to County Administrator Rebecca Carter, Allen was unable to attend the meeting because he was working out-of-the area.

Before Chairman Monroe Snoddy opened the floor to public comment, the county administrator provided a slide presentation outlining the county's current rifle hunting ordinance and the specifics of the two proposals.

Jonathan Staton, District 4, Maysville Precinct, was first to the podium. Identifying himself as an avid dog hunter, he called for leaving the rifle ordinance as is.

“I don't think the rifle ordinance needs to be changed or altered in any way,” he stated.

Addressing concerns about hunters who for one reason or another cannot climb a tree stand, Staton said a 20-guage shotgun with a slug or a 12-guage shotgun with a slug is more than sufficient for hunting in Buckingham.

Commenting on the restrictions the “ditch-to-ditch” proposal would place on those who hunt with dogs, he described the proposal as “way too broad.”

Staton offered, “I think this is all coming down to people wanting to close dog hunting down. And, I am thoroughly against it.” He added, “I hope the board will listen to somebody that has experience and will stop this.”

Gary Taylor was next to comment. Noting that he called his supervisor, Danny Allen, to voice his opposition to the “ditch-to-ditch” proposal, Taylor asked that those in the audience who were also opposed to the issue and who hunt with dogs to please stand.

Responding, a large number of people in the filled auditorium stood.

Taylor stated, “You as a board, you work for them, you don't work for the game warden.”

After asking if anyone else wanted to speak, Snoddy offered, “I think you standing say it all.”

Supervisor Cassandra Stish followed by asking those who support issue one, rescinding the current rifle hunting ordinance and going with the state regulations, to stand.

Some stood and, then, when Stish clarified that she was talking about being able to shoot with a rifle from the ground, more stood and some sat down.

When she restated, “Who would like to see rifle (hunting) from the ground,” the response was similar to a crowd doing the wave-some stood others sat down.

Subsequently, Supervisor John Staton stated, “I would like those to stand who oppose rifle hunting on the ground.” Again, there was a wave-like response from the audience.

Supervisor Bill Talbert offered that he felt the board needed to vote on the issues separately. He followed with a motion to rescind the current rifle-hunting ordinance. With a second by Supervisor Joe Chambers, the motion drew the three-to-three vote with Chairman Snoddy, Chambers and Talbert supporting the motion; and Stish, Staton, and Donnie Bryan opposing.

Talbert, after asking the chair for the floor, stated that he did not think the vote was fair to all constituents because of Allen's absence.

He asked Carter, who serves as the board's parliamentarian, whether the motion could be reconsidered at the next meeting.

At that point, both Stish and Bryan voiced that the votes were cast and the issue was over.

“It was defeated,” stated Bryan. “I'd like to move on.”

Meanwhile, an audience member went to the podium and asked the chair for permission to speak.

“I think this should be brought up in the voting polls,” stated Perry Warner. “Each citizen can vote where they don't have to worry about harassment or what others think of them. Let the actual citizens of the county vote and each vote counts. Then it would be a fair representation.”

Following Warner's comments, Snoddy revisited Talbert's question about whether the board could reconsider the vote.

Responding, Carter said the only way the motion could be reconsidered was if someone who opposed it wanted to bring the issue back to the floor. She added that there would have to be another public hearing.

Subsequently, Talbert asked the county attorney, E. M. Wright, whether the motion could be reconsidered or brought back by someone who voted in favor of the motion.

After Wright questioned if Talbert wanted the answer immediately or if it could wait until the next meeting so that the issue could be researched regarding legality and parliamentary procedure, the supervisor responded that the next meeting, which is scheduled for April 22, would be fine.

Tapping the gavel several times to try to quell comments coming from the audience, Snoddy moved on to the second issue regarding the proposed ordinance that would make it illegal to engage in hunting with a firearm between the ditches of any primary or secondary highway.

Chambers, with a second from Stish, moved not to adopt the ordinance. However, that issue, too, became confusing when Stish questioned whether they were voting on a positive-negative.

Bryan offered that if they did not vote on it, it would die. Conversely, Chambers said he thought they should vote on it. In turn, Stish said she wanted to make sure that they were wording the motion correctly.

Carter clarified that the motion should be either to adopt or not adopt the proposed “ditch-to-ditch” ordinance.

Subsequently, Chambers' motion not to adopt the ordinance drew the board's unanimous support.

Proposed FY 14 Budget

Prior to the hearing on the county's proposed $42,882,485 budget and tax rates for 2013-2014, Carter provided an overview of the proposal.

She began her presentation by noting that the proposed tax rates remain the same. Those rates, based on every $100 valuation, include $0.44 for real estate and public service corporation; $4.05 for personal property; $2.90 for machinery and tools; $1 merchant's capital; and $0.55 for aircraft.

She added, “The proposed balanced budget is contingent upon receipt of all proposed state, federal, and local funding.”

Carter spent the next 40 minutes offering an in-depth look at the budget.

She noted that supervisors conducted its budget work session on March 20; and, the proposed budget is the result of that work session. [Coverage of the work session and specifics of the budget proposal were reported in the April 12 edition.]

“It has been a difficult task dealing with new financial needs and mandates,” shared Carter, adding that the county is fortunate its revenues have been good and the departments are committed to operating as conservatively as possible.

She offered, “It is my opinion that this proposed budget, while not including every request for money, does provide for effective and sufficient operation of our county.”

Carter concluded her presentation by noting that supervisors could not take any action on the proposed budget for at least seven days following the hearing. She said the board would reconvene on Monday, April 22, to consider adoption of the budget and tax rates. That meeting is set for 6 p.m.

When Snoddy opened the floor to public comment, Dr. Wes Saxon was the only citizen to speak on the budget.

Saxon prefaced his comments by explaining he was not there to “put down” the Central Virginia Community Health Center, which he said has been a valued part of the county for a number of years.

Referencing the proposed $8,850 in funding, Saxon said the amount CVCHC is exempted from taxes “is far and above what money they are requesting.”

He stated, “They already receive money from the government. The Health Care Reform Act has the potential of giving them a lot more revenue and increasing their bottom line considerably.”

The local dentist noted that CVCHC has access to government loans and other programs that are not available to private practitioners.

“Buckingham has other providers who do provide employment, who do provide services for patients, who do not get fully reimbursed if any at all, and they do pay real estate, personal property, sales tax, et cetera,” stated Saxon.

“Private practitioners don't have Uncle Sam or Uncle Buck passing them money,” he continued. “I ask you to please reconsider the amount.”

Road Abandonment

The night's first public hearing focused on a request from Bethlehem Baptist Church to abandon a portion of Route 699, Winfrey-Inez Road.

After Carter read the board's resolution regarding its request for the abandonment, Chairman Snoddy opened the hearing.

Paul Palmore, a deacon at Bethlehem Baptist, explained the church made the request because of safety concerns for children crossing the road, which separates the church's parking areas.

Several citizens with residences along Winfrey-Inez Road also voiced safety concerns and shared their support for closing that section of the road.

After the hearing, Supervisor Staton led with a successful motion to abandon the road.

The matter is now in the hands of VDOT for its review. Then, the request will be sent to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which has the ultimate responsibility of approving or denying the abandonment.

SUP Approved for BARN Project

Zoning Administrator/Planner Rebecca Cobb provided an overview of a special use permit request by the Buckingham Cattlemen's Association for the Buckingham Agricultural Resource Network facility, an agricultural business that will include a livestock auction barn and meeting facility on property owned by H. E. Maxey, Jr. and located along Route 60, approximately one mile west of Buckingham Court House.

BARN's 16,000 square foot structure would include a closed section featuring a meeting room and kitchen; and an open-end section used as a livestock working facility.

Cobb explained that some of the original conditions were amended at the applicant's request. Those included extending the limit of time animals can stay at the facility from 48 hours to 72 hours; increasing the number of animals that can stay overnight from 100 to 200; and, increasing the number of livestock sales held per year from five to 12.

The zoning administrator said there has been some mention about changing the conditions regarding the number of animals held on the property, the number of hours they can stay on the property, and the number of sales.

However, Cobb stated, “But there are concerns with changing those conditions. One of those being that currently the conditions don't speak very much to run-off concerns.”

Referencing a map projected on the monitors, Cobb noted the blue area on the property map designates a flood plain area that backs up to the North River.

“I did speak to DCR as well as DEQ about concerns if the numbers are increased. And what they indicated to me is that if the numbers are increased they could be approaching a confined animal feeding operation,” stated Cobb.

She continued, “At this point, there aren't any permits required. There is no nutrient management plan required. But they did have concerns about run-off issues.”

Cobb explained, “But because of the way the regulations are written, again they wouldn't be required to have permits, it would be kind of a let something happen and then we would step-in type of action.”

Noting that increasing the number of hours and/or the number of animals would also increase the amount of waste, Cobb stated, “So additional changes are not recommended at this time. The conditions have already been increased by a hundred percent or more.”

No public comments were made after Chairman Snoddy opened the hearing.

Subsequently, supervisors unanimously approved the SUP with the recommended conditions.