Midland Trail Designation Nixed

Published 1:56 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2015

BUCKINGHAM — After previously adopting a resolution of support for the Virginia Byway designation of U.S. Route 60 as the historic Midland Trail, Buckingham supervisors voted to disapprove of the designation at their December 8 meeting.

The action, which saw District Two Supervisor and Board Chairman Donnie Bryan cast the lone vote against the motion, was taken after District Three resident Robert Johansen urged the board not to support the designation.

Many localities in central Virginia have supported the idea of extending the Midland Trail designation as a National Scenic Byway into Virginia, including Cumberland, Nelson, Appomattox, and Lynchburg.

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According to the Midland Trail’s website, the “Midland Trail National Scenic Byway is the road of choice for those who want to leave the interstate behind and see the best of West Virginia as Route 60 winds the 180-miles across [West Virginia’s] midsection offering a drive filled with fabulous vistas, world-class rafting, outdoor fun, art and artisan treasures & pioneer history.”

According to Rebecca S. Cobb, the County’s zoning and planning administrator, the County received a letter from VDOT in October regarding the designation of Buckingham’s portion of Route 60 “…and letting us know that with the designation there could be some sign restrictions, and pointed us to the Code [of Virginia].”

If the County supported the byway designation, Cobb said that future off-site advertising signs erected along 60 would potentially have to abide by certain requirements.

“Some of the signs would be considered…non-conforming and just would stay as non-conforming. So, its not going to change any existing signs,” Cobb emphasized.

“Currently, right now, because of our zoning and that most of the property along Route 60 is zoned agriculture, A-1, it’s almost as if we already have a scenic byway designation because currently VDOT uses some zoning rules in that if it’s zoned for business, then they allow larger signs for off-site advertising. However, because we have mostly zoned A-1, we are already restricted to the smaller-sized signs,” she noted.

Cobb offered the example of the off-site sign that Slate River Veterinary Clinic has on Route 60 at the intersection of Twin Creek Road, across from the high school. “That property is zoned A-1, so they are limited to a small sign, two square-feet. That’s going to be the steadfast rule if we designate it [Route 60] as a scenic byway.”

She said that if part of Route 60 was rezoned as business, “we could let VDOT know that and then those businesses right there that are doing off-site advertising could have larger signs. But if it’s designated as a scenic byway, that is not going to be an option. We’re always going to be limited to the two-square-feet for off-site advertising for businesses and eight-square-feet for churches.”

Currently, off-site advertising signs can be a maximum of two-square-feet for businesses and eight-square-feet for churches if the property is zoned agricultural. If the property is zoned business, the business signs could be bigger, she explains. But, the designation of a scenic byway would keep the existing off-site sign requirements in place.

“There’s only a potential change in that if we didn’t designate it as a scenic byway, and in the future, this area becomes more business-zoned, then there could be larger signs for off-site advertising,” Cobb said.

On-site business advertising is not affected by the designation, she cited.

“Because along Route 60 [is] mostly zoned A-1 currently, a scenic byway designation is not going to make any immediate changes. The signs that are there are going to remain there. The types of signs that you see will continue to be there…If it is designated as a scenic byway, then that means that it’s going to continue to be the signs that you see,” she told supervisors before the public hearing was held.

Cobb noted that the County’s Comprehensive Plan lists the areas along Route 60 for “potential growth. It could see zoning changes later there. And zoning changes is now what would allow us…larger off-site advertising options.”

“In the future, that area could be zoned business or village center. And, if it was not a scenic byway, and in the future it was zoned business or village center, then that would open up for larger signs,” Cobb told The Herald.

Johansen, the sole speaker during the hearing, said he owned “possible commercial property” at the intersection of 60 and High Rock Road. He said the designation would take away some of his property rights, explaining that he opposed the designation because, “Route 60 is hopefully going to be developed. If you’re going to have commercial property, you’re going to need water, sewer, and you’re going to need infrastructure, roads…I don’t want to see anything that will hamper future development.”

Johansen continued by citing the need for industry and jobs in the county.