What needs to change? Buckingham County residents offer ideas

DILLWYN – Todd Fortune’s worked on a lot of comprehensive plans over the years. As deputy director of the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC), he’s heard plenty of unique ideas. And yet, there are still some requests from Buckingham County residents that caught him by surprise. 

Back on June 15, the CRC held a community meeting at the Buckingham County Community Center, asking people to give their opinions on what needed to change, what they liked and what should come next for the area. This is the first step as county officials start developing a comprehensive plan, basically laying out a road map for Buckingham’s focus over the next few years. 

Only 26 people signed in for this June meeting, giving their opinions. And some of those suggestions, as Fortune pointed out, were unique. After compiling all the data collected from residents so far, he gave a presentation during the Monday, July 24 meeting of the Buckingham County Planning Commission. Residents asked for diversity of vegetation, meaning they want a wider variety of plants and trees on county owned land. They want a tire amnesty day, where the county would collect old tires from residents for free. There were also requests to better preserve historic buildings and to do a better job of growing the county’s ethnic diversity. 

“We’ve done a few comp plans and those are things I haven’t really seen, so I found those interesting,” Fortune said. 

Residents also asked that efforts be made to reduce light pollution in the county. And while they want more shopping and restaurant options, there’s also a desire to preserve Buckingham’s rural character. 

And some suggestions were creative. One called for used rail cars to be made into housing for those in need. Another suggested using rail cars as bridges. 

“We are seeing some things here that we don’t see in other localities,” Fortune said. 

What’s on the Buckingham County wishlist? 

Those were just the suggestions. The “wishlist” of things people wanted to see came after. And it was a pretty big one, taking up parts of three pages.  

A big request was for more affordable housing, in more feasible locations. Residents also want more parks, a dog park, more activities for children and teens. They want the county to get involved with more economic development projects, including the previously mentioned better options for shopping and more restaurants. Residents also asked for better health and wellness education, as well as to see the county support the arts more. They also suggested working with schools and bus drivers to provide a stronger emergency response system. 

Work in progress

Some of the other requests mentioned by residents are already in progress. One was a request for more medical options. And that is a need. Out of Virginia’s 133 counties, Buckingham ranked 124th in health factors, according to the latest Community Health Assessments. But over the last month, one new operation has opened its doors and a second announced plans to do so within the next 30 days. 

Troublesome Creek Medicine officially opened on Monday, July 17. The primary care practice is located at 15911 North James Madison Highway in Dillwyn, the brainchild of Chris Hucks. A 20-year veteran of medicine, he started as an emergency medical technician (EMT) with the rescue squad before becoming a flight paramedic, a registered nurse and now a family nurse practitioner. After seven years as a nurse practitioner, he felt it was time to open his own practice to be able to meet patients where they are without restrictions.

The staff at Troublesome Creek includes Hucks, a full-time and a part-time nurse, two office workers and one female nurse practitioner who specializes in women’s health who will come in one day a week. Residents of all ages can come to receive primary care, including labs, physicals, vaccinations, sick visits and referrals. Hucks also does home visits for those unable to come into the office due to being homebound or not having transportation.

A week after Troublesome Creek Medicine launched in Dillwyn, another medical operation announced plans to open in town. Centra Medical Group says its primary care clinic will open this fall at 65 Brickyard Road. 

If that address sounds familiar, there’s a good reason. This was formerly the location for Buckingham Family Medicine, Sentara’s primary care clinic, before the company shut that down in 2021. The building and land was donated to the county, which in turn gave it to Centra.

Centra officials say their Buckingham clinic will include four exam rooms, one procedure room and will have lab and x-ray services on site. There will be a physician and a nurse practitioner operating out of the building.

What about the internet? 

And of course, no discussion about the county’s future would be complete without mentioning high-speed internet. As part of the community meeting, residents asked for better service. That’s the goal of the RISE Project by Firefly Broadband, which is slowly making its way across the county.
Here in Buckingham, Firefly’s project has completed more than 4,100 passings, meaning that the fiber project has laid fiber past the home or business, whether they have chosen to connect or not. This is mostly on the western side of the county. On the eastern side of the county, Dominion Energy will be building a “middle mile.” This fiber optic cable infrastructure is like a backbone that Dominion will build for Firefly to branch off from. This means this portion of the county can expect a connection around 2025.

What happens next for Buckingham County? 

Now it’s up to the CRC officials to develop the data a bit more. That means looking at which areas of Buckingham County to single out for targeted growth, which in turn helps leave rural character intact and possibly achieve some other parts of that wishlist. 

The group will work on this “rough draft” over the next month, before coming back to the Planning Commission with a proposal this fall. 

 

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