Planning Commission considers Bunker Hill zoning

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By John Barnhart

Bedford County's planning commissioners finally have a solution to the old Bunker Hill plant that they can live with.

Last year, Howard Noel bought the old plant with the goal of using it for commercial purposes. The problem is that it's in an AP (agricultural preserve) zone. Its commercial use had been grandfathered when the zoning ordinance was adopted in 1998, but it's been vacant long enough that the grandfathered status was now in question.

Earlier this year, the planning commission chose to solve the problem by rezoning 395 acres surrounding the plant to AV (agricultural village). Then, the planning commission members had second thoughts about this because, while allowing commercial uses, the AV zoning would open the entire tract up to residential development, something that they did not want.

After District 7 Planning Commissioner Curtis Stephens and District 2 Planning Commissioner Lynn Barnes physically toured the area, the planning commission asked planning staff to look at three options that would be limited to the 17.27 acre plant site.

George Nester came back to them, Monday night, with a recommendation that the plant site, alone, be rezoned to AV. This would provide a transition from the surrounding AP zone, something that neither a commercial or industrial zoning would do. The plant site offers little opportunity for residential development and a proffer from Noel could preclude it. Noel, who was present at Monday night's planning commission meeting, agreed to make such a proffer specifying that there would be no residential development on the site.

The planning commission agreed to Nester's recommendation after County Attorney Carl Boggess assured them that it would not constitute spot zoning.

"I'm glad George came up with a recommendation that I can live with," commented Stephens.

Stephens said that he wanted to see something happen at the old plant, but he wanted a solution that wouldn't open the door to residential development.

A joint public hearing with the board of supervisors on the rezoning will be scheduled. The planning commission is seeking the joint hearing to eliminate further delays.