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Planning commission recommends Cedar Key rezoning

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By John Barnhart

Last week, Bedford County's planning commission found a solution to a zoning problem that members believe will satisfy the greatest number of people.

Cedar Key is a subdivision at Smith Mountain Lake near the state park. Twenty-nine of its parcels are in a section zoned AP (agricultural preserve) rather than R-1 (low density residential). Mark Jordan, a planner with the county said that all the property owners have been contacted. Three property owners want their land to remain AP and 13 of them want it rezoned to R-1. Jordan noted, in a response to Steve Wilkerson, who represents District 3, that the planning commission does not have to rezone all the lots

Some property owners own more than one lot and Doug Rogers is one of those. Rogers owns nine of the tracts and said, during a public hearing, that he wants his land to remain AP.

Rogers said that his land has minimal lake frontage, but the tracts would be a good place for equine enthusiasts to build a house and have horses. This is something that is easier to do in an AP zone.

People living in the subdivision wanted their lots to remain R-1, a number noting that it was originally developed in the '80s as residential property. Residents say that this was via a restrictive covenant on the property. Bedford County had no zoning at the time ? its zoning ordinance was adopted in 1998. Bernadette and Clint Woodfin, who are not yet residents, but building on their lot, said that an AP zoning would allow things in that are not in keeping with the neighborhood.

Others are concerned about short term rentals.

"One of the main reasons for wanting change are short term rentals," said Jerry Downey.

Downey noted that the county's short term rental code does not cover rentals in AP zones.

"I would have a hard time shoving rezoning down Mr. Rogers' throat," commented Wilkerson as members of the planning commission began to discuss the issue after the public hearing.

Wilkerson noted that the tracts made up two distinct sections with 12 contiguous lots consistent with an agricultural zone. Rezoning the others R-1 will make them consistent with how they are being used. It would give them the protection that an R-1 zone provides. This would mean that only three lots, owned by people who don't want their land rezoned, will end up zoned R-1.

Curtis Stephens, who represents District 7, agreed that rezoning these lots, while leaving out the 12 contiguous lots that Wilkerson spoke about, would bring the zoning into conformity with their use. His motion passed 6-1 with Robin Hartman, who represents District 6, casting the dissenting vote.

After this vote, County Attorney Carl Boggess noted that they could also fix three lots that were split zoned.

"Ideally, that's what I had in mind," Wilkerson said.

"I think we would be remiss in our duties if we didn't clean it up," commented Rick Crockett, who represents District 1.

Crockett's motion to do this passed unanimously.

The planning commission also revisited a decision to have a public hearing on rezoning a 300 acre tract around the old Bunker Hill plant, on Va. 122, to AV (agricultural village). The rezoning was originally proposed in order to allow the old meat packing plant to be used commercially. It is currently in an agricultural zone. Some members of the planning commission were concerned that an AV zoning would open the door to residential development that they didn't want there.

Steve Wilkerson suggested that they look at the area, identify the properties that make the best candidates for commercial development within the next 25 years, and rezone them commercial. Barnes and Stephens agreed to drive to the area in question, look it over, and report back to the planning commission on March 3.