State mandate concerns board, some citizens

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford County Board of Supervisors were unanimously uncomfortable with a text amendment to the PD-1 zoning district, a type of planned development district, that will provide for urban development areas.

    The problem the supervisors face is that they are under a state mandate to provide these. The county would also have to repay a $50,000 Virginia Department of Transportation grant if the supervisors fail to approve the amendment.
    Some of the public doesn’t like the PD-1, especially with the text amendments.
    “It is a monster,” said Virginia Lynch, who spoke at the meeting.
    Lynch noted that the changes come as a state mandate.
    “It basically creates a commune and it’s all about control,” she said.
    Lynch also said that the changes did not list what the consequences would be for a person who violates the rules.
    “This ordinance is clearly not about freedom, it’s about control,” she concluded.
    According to County Administrator Kathleen Guzi, PD-1 is an existing district that the supervisors established several years ago at the request of a developer. Adding the state mandated urban development areas to the PD-1 zone allows developers to have these as an option. A developer wouldn’t have to use them if he didn’t want to.
    The supervisors remained concerned about the language in the text amendment. District 4 Supervisor John Sharp noted the language restricting flashing lights.
    “You wouldn’t be able to have Christmas lights,” Sharp said.
    “The state requires us to do something that’s really stupid,” he added.
    “We are trying to simplify things and this does not seem to simplify,” said District 5 Supervisor Steve Arrington. “I do have some problems with the restrictiveness of it, even if it is an option.”
    District 1 Supervisor Dale Wheeler said that in the past, zoning was an entirely local issue. Now the state is involved and even the federal government, through the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency’s shoreline management plan mandate on Smith Mountain Lake.
    “You guys have lots of fun,” Wheeler said to his fellow supervisors. Wheeler was defeated in the Nov. 8 election and will not be returning to the board in January.
    The supervisors chose to delay action on the amendment, giving county staff time to revise the wording to eliminate restrictions that aren’t required by the VDOT grant.
    The supervisors voted unanimously to take $50,000 from the contingency fund to demolish buildings at Camp 24. The minimum security jail has been closed by the Blue Ridge Regional Jail and the property reverts back to Bedford County at the end of the year. Sheldon Cash, the county’s director of public works, said that the existing buildings are early 1950s vintage cinderblock structures and pose a long-term liability issue for the county if left standing.
    “As you can imagine, the buildings on the site are in pretty bad shape,” Cash said.
    “The buildings need to come down as soon as possible,” he said, asking for $30,000 for demolition, $7,500 for asbestos removal and $7,250 for contingencies. Cash said that they have inspected the buildings and have not seen a great deal of asbestos. The contingency is to provide for any asbestos surprises they may encounter as they begin demolishing the buildings.
    At the end, Board Chairman Annie Pollard asked the supervisors to adopt a formal policy declaring that they will not pick up the cost of any non-mandated state programs that the Commonwealth stops funding. Her idea was not supported by a consensus.
    “I’m reluctant to tie my hands behind my back,” said District 4 Supervisor John Sharp.
    Both District 7 Supervisor Gary Lowry and District 1 Supervisor Dale Wheeler said that they were unwilling to make such a decision as they will not be on the board next year.
    “Seeing I’ll be in the Yucatan during that period and not in Bedford County at that time, I’m going to leave it up to my Republican successor,” Wheeler said, joking that he was going on an archaeological expedition to Yucatan to look for evidence that the world will end in 2012.