New Canton request now advances to public hearing

Published 3:57 pm Friday, March 17, 2023

DILLWYN – Olympia Moore’s request for New Canton is moving forward, even without approval from the Buckingham County Planning Commission. Last month, the commission deadlocked in a 4-4 tie, unable to find a majority to either reject or endorse her desire for a zoning change. But in Buckingham County, there’s another option. In such cases, residents can then take their request directly to the board of supervisors. And that’s what happened on Monday, March 13. 

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. Some residents of the New Canton and Arvonia areas have come out to meetings in support of the idea, arguing that their community needs more business. They especially want to see a possible restaurant move in. 

“I’ve been in Arvonia now for over 20 years and after Cactus Jack closed, we have no form of a restaurant or anywhere to go for entertainment on that end of the county,” Lisa Johnson told supervisors on Monday. “We either have to take our money and spend it in Fluvanna, Zion’s Crossroads or Gordonsville. All of those places (are) actually closer than for us to come back to Dillwyn. And when people come back to visit from out of state, that’s the first thing they will say, there’s nothing here on this end of the county for us to do. We don’t even have a decent restaurant or anywhere to go.”

A question of information 

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Even the opposition in this case doesn’t exactly oppose a business coming in. They’re frustrated, however, by a lack of information. That’s what’s driven the opposition at every stage of the request. Moore, you see, doesn’t have a specific business in mind to lease or sell the property to. Some planning commission members and residents have asked how they can support something when they don’t know what will be moving in. 

That’s what Cindy Marchetti pointed out to supervisors Monday night. The Buckingham County resident questioned how traffic studies and other details could be accurate, since nobody knows what kind of business would be moving in. 

“I don’t see how VDOT could have done a really good study if you don’t know what business is going to be there,” Marchetti said. “You don’t know what the traffic patterns are going to be, how much business is going to be coming in and out.” 

That had been the argument from planning commission members who voted against the project last month. How can they go over business requirements or check to see if the project follows Buckingham’s ordinances when there is no plan to discuss? 

However, Buckingham County does not have a law on the books requiring applicants to say what they’re specifically planning to do with their property, after a zoning change. When you ask for a business permit, absolutely, you have to include details. But when you’re asking to switch from agricultural to business zoning, that’s not the case. 

What’s the difference? 

So what’s the difference between what’s allowed in agricultural and business zoning? Buckingham’s agricultural district allows greenhouses, garden shops, home-based service businesses, any farm-related businesses and that’s it, unless you go through the special use permitting process. And most businesses don’t want to deal with the hassle of that three to four month process, so they move on. 

A business district in Buckingham, on the other hand, allows everything from retail stores to restaurants, apartments to arts and crafts stores, barber shops, grocery stores, banks, bakeries, butchers, candy shops, private golf courses, drug stores hotels, museums, sporting goods and auto repair, to name a few.  

What happens next in New Canton? 

Without any discussion, the board of supervisors voted to move the zoning request forward to a public hearing. That was a 6-1 vote, with Supervisor Don Matthews Jr. in opposition. As a result, a public hearing will take place in April, during the Board of Supervisors meeting. That will be on April 17, beginning at 6 p.m.