New Canton request rejected by Buckingham Planning Commission

Published 7:39 pm Thursday, March 2, 2023

DILLWYN – Olympia Moore wants to put a business on property she owns in New Canton, to help the community grow. It might be a restaurant, a grocery store or something similar. She just doesn’t know yet, because there’s no buyer or proposed tenant in place. She wants the property rezoned, however, to help with that. That may take a bit longer to happen. After five months and four trips before the planning commission, the group rejected her request in their Monday, Feb. 27 meeting. 

The vote was actually deadlocked at 4-4, despite the fact nobody actually said they were against the idea. The argument, instead, was the same one as in previous times when this came before the commission. Some members of the group want to know what specific type of business Olympia plans to bring in. Others point out that there’s no county law requiring applicants to say what they’re planning to do with their property, after a zoning change. 

“I think it’s a good idea that you want to have some kind of business down there,” commission member Danny Allen told Olympia on Monday night. “The only thing is, the planning commission’s job is to have an idea of what you want to put up before we approve it.” 

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Allen’s argument is that the planning commission shouldn’t approve a rezoning request without knowing what’s going in. It’s hard to go over business requirements and check to see if the project meets Buckingham’s ordinances when there is no plan. 

Why change now? 

But his fellow commission member, Joyce Gooden, questioned why they’re suddenly doing it this way now, when other applicants in the past weren’t treated the same. 

“I’m still at a loss why as a board we’re having issues with Ms. Moore’s application. She has a list of things she can put up and she’s agreed to that list,” Gooden said. “(County law) does not say you must tell us what you’re going to do. And asking her to hold off until she finds a buyer does not make sense. We haven’t asked anybody else (to do that). We’ve said come back, try this, try this.” 

Gooden also pointed out that multiple times in the past, someone has announced what they’re planning to do with a property and after getting their request approved, changed their mind. So even if she did say a restaurant or grocery store was coming in, that didn’t guarantee it would actually happen.  

“Her application fits the corridor,” Gooden said. “We have softballed so many people. We have literally held other peoples’ hand. I don’t get it.” 

Olympia Moore owns a 13.77 acre parcel of land at 29661 N. James Madison Highway in New Canton, in one of Buckingham’s designated growth areas. Moore inherited the property. The issue is it’s currently zoned A-1 (that is, zoned for agriculture). Moore wants the county to change the zoning to B-1, in hopes of attracting some businesses to buy or lease it. 

Now the last time this came before the commission, the argument was that part of the documentation wasn’t complete. And that was true at the time, as it was missing a road review by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). But that review has been finished and the planning staff confirmed on Monday that Moore’s application was complete this time. 

New Canton residents say growth is needed

Olympia had several members of the New Canton and Arvonia communities on hand Monday night, to support her request. And each of them pointed out new businesses are needed in this area. 

Olympia Moore’s husband Curtis said he and his wife have been married 26 years. And before their marriage, she brought him up to the New Canton area. 

“(Now) 26 years later, it’s still the same,” Curtis Moore said. “Ain’t nothing changed. The people, they want progress. Kids grow up here, there’s nothing for them to do, (so) they leave. They don’t come back. There’s no jobs, there’s nothing for them to do here.” 

Olympia’s mother, Delores Johnson-Green, echoed her son-in-law’s comments. Mrs. Johnson-Green said she’s talked to homeowners and potential business owners, all of whom want to see more growth in the area. 

New Canton resident Pamela Logan sent her thoughts in a written letter of support. She pointed out that there are no restaurants, banks, bakeries or even a Sheetz in the area. 

“New Canton and Arvonia residents must travel to Dillwyn or Fluvanna County in order to get goods and services from any of these businesses,” Logan said. “I know that there are many businesses we could benefit from on this end of the county.”