Herald Election 2023 Q & A: Buckingham Supervisors District 3
Published 11:28 am Saturday, November 4, 2023
We have reached November, with just a few days left before Election Day. With that in mind, we’re continuing to reach out to Buckingham candidates in all contested races, asking them to answer several questions. Each candidate in a race receives the same questions and the same amount of time to send answers in.
This piece is for the District 3 seat on the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors. That’s between Republican D.R. “Don” Matthews Jr. and Independent Michael E. Palmore.
Matthews is the incumbent, currently serving his second term on the board. With a business degree and employment background in corporate management, Matthews served 25 years as an independent business owner of Sheppards’ Country Corner, Inc. He served numerous times as a guest speaker for organizational meetings, presented at Buckingham County High School for student events, and was a co-founder of the first Athletic Booster Club supporting Buckingham County High School students.
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As for Mr. Palmore, he did not respond to the Q & A by presstime. If we get answers from him as well, we’ll be glad to add them in.
Q. How do we attract more businesses to Buckingham? In 2024, what can we do to grow the commercial tax base?
Matthews: When discussing business opportunities, the focus of creating jobs in a controlled development has been a common denominator for business growth. The Board has developed several incentive packages for businesses to help increase interest and have businesses relocate here. Buckingham is centrally located with easy access to Richmond, Charlottesville, and Lynchburg. As co-chair, I have worked with the Board to create a new economic development committee with stakeholder representation from the community and from all districts. The committee is comprised of business owners, school representatives, and residents. The committee has been meeting regularly and has looked at manufacturing and distribution companies, as well as, IT companies, meat processing, and/or breweries.
The overall goal from the stakeholders and from public comment has been to maintain the rural countryside of Buckingham while bringing in business and jobs for the community. We are currently increasing our internet availability with the goal of county-wide coverage. We have also offered tax incentive packages to promote new business growth.
Q. Following that up, how do we reverse the current trend of population shrinkage? How do we attract more residents to Buckingham?
Matthews: We are working diligently to keep our tax rate low and thereby attract residents. Research supports the connection of strong schools to increased residency. We are working hard to support our school division’s budget with increased salaries of staff; the end goal is keeping our trained and professional work force here in the county.
Q. The Knight Valley property has been sold by the county, then bought back by the county and now, after reversing a decision to sell timber on the property, it seems to be stuck in limbo. What’s the future for that piece of land?
Matthews: The Industrial Park was established to encourage business development and controlled growth. This property brought no tax revenue to the county since purchased approximately 28 years ago. The Knight Valley project died due to lack of support in rezoning. Additional monies were spent to purchase the land back at the request of many residents, and there was no increase in taxes due to this reacquisition. The legal implications moving forward were determined to be no longer in the best interest of the county.
To date, the property has been appraised for approximately $1 million. I serve on a stakeholder committee that is discussing the marketing of this property. The decision to sell the timber was discussed as a Board after careful research and the sale of timber was considered not financially advantageous to the community, as clearing the cut-over would be expensive as well as building the infrastructure within this location. In addition, the Supervisors did not feel it appropriate to use taxpayer monies to purchase the nutrient credits if the timber was cut. Therefore, the Economic Development Committee was tasked with the objective of marketing that property for future development. Serving as the co-chair on the Economic Development Committee, we are working hard to ensure that the marketing of this property will benefit growth and job opportunities. The committee has welcomed all ideas and is leaving no stone unturned. Presentations to the full board will be forthcoming. Therefore, the project is not stuck in limbo.
Q. Gold mining has been a point of discussion for more than a year now in Buckingham. But after all the studies and group meetings, we still don’t have any actual end result, with the planning commission deciding to wait until 2024 and include it in the comprehensive plan discussions. What should the final result of all this be?
Matthews: The State of Virginia conducted a study on mining in Virginia. This process took almost a year and results were received this past winter. As representatives of our entire county, the Board of Supervisors takes this process seriously. Through discussions, research, and understanding of best practices, the goal would be to develop processes and procedures that protect our environment, control unwanted practices, and support development using Special Use Permits through the Comprehensive Planning Process. We feel it is not appropriate to act hastily as we want the best for Buckingham and our citizens.
Q. Are there specific resources or tools you feel Buckingham County isn’t using enough?
Matthews: District 3 was a test site for house-to-house internet service. This proved a success and a much needed service. This has been expanded to all districts; however, this process is lengthy and requires contracts prior to work performed. This service is in the process of expansion and should be forthcoming very soon to all homes in Buckingham. This project was made possible through careful planning of resources from Federal monies that did not cost our tax payers a dime.
These resources and grants should continue to be investigated and utilized to enhance our community at low or no cost to the taxpayer. Use of the Commonwealth Regional Council to assist with economic development may prove advantageous and a new resource for our county.
Discussions with a new regional economic group to help determine revenues for increasing economic growth is a way of gaining insight without the expense of hiring consultants in this field. Using feasibility studies to determine if companies such as Tyson Foods, for example, would be interested in building a processing facility in this region, of which Buckingham should be considered the most centrally located.