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Jefferson Villas residents caught in middle between PSA and supervisors' past decision

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By John Barnhart

Who’s fault is it that trees were planted over a Bedford County Public Service Authority (PSA) waterline at Jefferson Villas in Forest?

    The Bedford County Board of Supervisors discussed this issue when District 4 Supervisor John Sharp brought it up at the end of Monday night’s meeting. Jefferson Villas is in his district.
    The supervisors approved the project in 2004. At that time the developer proffered to plant a vegetative buffer consisting of trees and this proffer was accepted when the supervisors approved the plan. According to Sharp, a PSA representative signed off on the plans, even though the plan showed the trees being planted over the PSA’s right of way. Now, according to Sharp the PSA has told the homeowners that they could be held liable for any damage that the tree’s roots cause to the water line at some future date.
    Sharp said that the problem the homeowners face is that they can’t legally cut the trees down. When the supervisors approved the development, the developer’s proffer took on the force of law. According to Sharp the situation represents a ticking time bomb for the homeowners who are caught in the middle. He believes the county should provide a resolution.
    According to County Attorney Carl Boggess, the developer voluntarily put forth a proffer to plant a heavy vegetative buffer in front of the lots. Once the supervisors approved the project, the proffers became part of the ordinance and the homeowners can’t cut them down. It also means that the supervisors would have to hold a public hearing before voting to eliminate that requirement, should they chose to do so.
    “The PSA signed off on it. We signed off on it, and now it’s law,” Boggess said.
    District 1 Supervisor Dale Wheeler agreed with Sharp, saying that the homeowners should be held harmless.
    “We approved a plan to put the dynamite under the chair and light a cigarette,” he said.
    At District 2 Supervisor Chuck Neudorfer’s suggestion, the supervisors voted 6-1 to instruct county staff to look into the issue and see if a resolution can be reached.
    Board Chairman Annie Pollard was the lone dissenter.
    “I think it’s up to the developer and the property owners to resolve it,” she said. “The county approved the plan that the developer presented. I don’t see where the county has anything to straighten out.”
    In other business, the supervisors unanimously approved, as part of the consent agenda, to authorize the Sheriff’s Office to accept a $600,000 grant for the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) Task Force, previously known as Operation Blue Ridge Thunder. The grant, from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, funds 11 full-time staff positions through March 2012 and does not require a local match.
    The supervisors also unanimously approved a revision to the county’s pay plan. This revision adds six EMT/firefighter and six advanced life support/firefighter positions, a move that the supervisors authorized Jack Jones, the county’s chief of fire and rescue, to do last month to make up for a shortage of volunteers. The pay plan revision moves a Sheriff’s Office field deputy to an investigator position and adds an administrative analyst, a sergeant and a part-time investigator to ICAC. It also changes the classification of the community resource and prevention coordinator in Youth and Family Services to a licensed therapist.