- Special Sections
- Public Notices
The Forest Volunteer Fire Department plans to build a new fire house on county-owned property near the intersection of Va. 122 and Va. 811, near the Forest Library.
According to Monty Coleman, the Forest fire chief, the current firehouse is 50 years old and only has three bays for firetrucks. Forest has grown significantly in the past half-century and the fire department has grown to meet the increased need for fire protection. The department now has six trucks shoe-horned into this space.
Plans call for construction of a 10,000 square foot building with 12 bays, six in the front and six in the back. Coleman told the planning commission, Monday night, that the department wants to build a facility that will serve the community's needs for another 50 years. He said that the plan is to break ground in March.
The planning commission is not required to hold a public hearing on this request. Most of the planning commission's members felt that the request was not controversial and, therefore, did not merit a public hearing. Furthermore, County Attorney Carl Boggess warned that delaying action until the planning commission's March 18 meeting would mean that the board of supervisors would not get it until March 25. A 60-day clock began ticking when the request was received on Jan. 28. If no action is taken within that time frame, it becomes an automatic approval.
A majority of the planning commission felt, however, that some delay was warranted. Curtis Stephens, who represents District 7 and is also a member of Forest Presbyterian Church, sought a delay to get feedback from the church. Forest Presbyterian will be the firehouse's next door neighbor.
The planning commission voted, 4-3, to delay a decision until the Feb. 19 meeting to give Coleman time to meet with Forest Presbyterian's session, the church's body of elders. Stephens, who has served a term on the church's session, promised to get the elders to move expeditiously.
Planning commission members Lynn Barnes, Steve Stevick and Frederic Fralick joined Stephens in voting to postpone the commission's decision. Rick Crockett, Robin Hartman and Steve Wilkerson opposed it.
In other business, the planning commission voted unanimously to hold a public hearing to rezone 395 acres between Va. 122 and Bunker Hill Loop to AV (agricultural village). This allows some business uses. The current zoning does not and some existing business there are non-conforming uses grandfathered when the zoning ordinance was adopted in 1998.
The old Bunker Hill plant is in this section, but has been vacant for several years. After it was purchased by Howard Noell for business and light manufacturing use, last year, the question came up as to whether it had grandfathered status.
George Nester, the county's director of planning, listed rezoning that section to AV as one of the ways the county could deal with this. The comprehensive plan identifies this area for future commercial and light industrial use. Rezoning to the larger area would avoid the problem of spot zoning and bring the zoning into conformity with the way the land is actually being used.
Monday night's meeting was the planning commission's organizational meeting and Fralick, who represents District 4, was reelected chairman by a 4-3 vote.
"My vote, tonight, wasn't that I didn't think you are doing a good job," commented Stephens, who cast one of the dissenting votes.
Stephens said that he would like to see the chairman rotate among the members on an annual basis.
"I feel every person here is qualified and able to chair this commission," he said.
Lynn Barnes, who represents District 2 and also voted against Fralick, agreed with Stephens.
The planning commission's bylaws state that the chairman may serve two consecutive terms. Setting up a rotation will require a change in the bylaws.
The planning commission voted unanimously to set up a subcommittee to look at proposing such a change. This will include looking at how the board of supervisors' rotation works. Barnes and Robin Hartman, who represents District 6 and voted for Fralick, will serve on this subcommittee.
Rick Crockett, who represents District 1, said that the chairman has normally served two years and then been replaced by the vice chairman. Crockett has been on the planning commission since 1994. Steve Wilkerson, who represents District 3, has also been on the planning commission since before the turn of the century. He said that he can't remember any other system.