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Residents oppose proposed ordinance changes

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By John Barnhart

    Two board of supervisors-initiated amendments to the subdivision ordinance and zoning ordinance drew fire from some people at public hearings held by the planning commission last week.
    One area of contention was what Commission Chairman Steve Wilkerson called a “very specific” provision on private streets in subdivisions. It only applies to subdivisions that were in existence prior to 1989 and have an existing private street.
    The private street may be extended to serve a maximum of 10 additional lots and none of the lots on the street may be further subdivided. The extension must be at least 20-feet. A homeowners association must be set up to maintain the street and people on the existing street must be notified in advance of board of supervisors action on the road so that they can respond.
    David Lowry, speaking at the public hearing, criticized this proposal. He noted that there is already a provision for a hardship waiver that people wishing to build a private road can seek.
    “So, where did this come from?” he asked.
    Lowry said that, based on Freedom of Information Act requests he made, the proposal appears to have come from Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Arrington.
    He is concerned that this proposal would create more agricultural subdivisions. According to Lowry, there are 1,856 private roads in Bedford County and most are in agricultural areas.
    “The impact of this ordinance is unknown,” he said.
    Donald Newton suggested that the amendment was proposed as a favor to one particular developer — the one who developed the subdivision where he lives, which he said was developed in 1985. Newton said his private street is one mile long and eight feet wide and a 20-foot wide extension will funnel into this. He called the proposal “a good old boy handshake, wink and a nod.”
    The other amendment that drew opposition was a proposal to eliminate the requirement for short-term rental permits. The current permit requirement applies to single-family houses in R-1, R-2 and planned residential zones that are rented out for less than 30 days. It places restrictions on the maximum number of people who can occupy the house and requires septic tank inspections.
    Bill Piatt said there are 27 houses in his neighborhood that are used for short-term rentals. He also said that he has a short-term rental permit for his house.
    “If I live on 200 acres and my neighbors lived on 200 acres, I wouldn’t care what anybody did on their property,” Piatt said.
    However, Piatt and his neighbors live on half-acre lots. He said this means that what one person does on his property impacts his neighbors.
    According to Piatt, one neighbor has impacted him when, on two occasions, sewage bubbled out of the neighbor’s septic tank and ran down the driveway. Piatt complained to the county and learned that the septic tank overflowed because the number of people living in the house on a short term rental had exceeded the maximum number permitted for that house.
    Piatt said there have also been problems when large groups get rowdy at a short-term rental house. He mentioned one incident that included a six-hour karaoke party.
    Piatt predicted that all lake-front property in the county will decline in value if the short-term rental permit is eliminated and the tax revenue lost due to this will far exceed the money the county’s transient occupancy tax will bring in.
    No action was taken last week. The planning commission has 90 days after the date of the public hearing to make a recommendation to the board of supervisors and these amendments are on the planning commission’s agenda for its Dec. 3 meeting.
    The planning commission took action on two Verizon cell tower requests. One extends the height of an existing monopole cell tower, located on Bunker Hill Loop, from 80-feet to 120-feet and adds offset antennae. The other is for a new, 120-foot, monopole tower on Mill Iron Road, near Goodview Road in Goodview. Both were unanimously recommended.