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Supervisors split 5-2 over BZA action

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By John Barnhart

In an unusual decision, the Bedford County Board of Supervisors voted 5-2 last week to appeal a decision by the county’s board of zoning appeals. That ruling overturned a decision by the county’s planning department that a used equipment sales business in Montvale was not in compliance with zoning requirements.
Board Chairman Roger Cheek and District 7 Supervisor Gary Lowry cast the only dissenting votes against the appeal.
“He’s just not in compliance with zoning,” said District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard, who requested the action.
Reed’s operation is in Pollard’s district and she said she has received citizen complaints about it. She added that her late husband, Bobby Pollard, who held the seat before her, had also received complaints.
“We don’t want to shut his business down,” she said. “We just want him to come in compliance with zoning.”
Pollard said that a business that is grandfathered under the zoning ordinance can expand up to 50 percent. Expansions beyond that require a special use permit. Pollard alleges that Reed has added to his business beyond what he was grandfathered for and has not requested a special use permit.
“I’m not on either side,”she said. “I just want what’s best for the community.”
Cheek had a different take on it.
“That was a unanimous decision and it should stand,” commented Cheek, referring to the BZA vote.
Cheek said that Reed’s business dates back to 1988. This was a time when there was no zoning at all in Bedford County. A system called the Land Use Guidance System (LUGS) was adopted in 1989. This was replaced by a traditional zoning ordinance in 1998.
Cheek went on to say that, due to the nature of his business, Reed is going to have more product on his site some times more than others.
“To me, it’s become harassment,” Cheek said. “The man’s trying to make a living.”
Cheek believes that, by appealing the BZA decision in Reed’s favor, the county has started down a road that it ought not to take.
“I think we’ve gone to meddling when we do this,” he said.
“I’ve been harassed for 20 years over this,” said Reed.
Reed said that he purchased the property in July 1988 and started operating his business there a month later. The nature of his business, selling used general equipment, hasn’t changed during the 22 years that he’s been there.
Reed said that he received a cease and desist order from the county’s planning department and appealed this decision to the BZA. He said that, after the BZA hearing, the BZA told him that there was no evidence to support that cease and desist order.
During a 15-minute citizen comment period that preceded last week’s supervisors meeting, some of Reed’s neighbors complained that trucks were dumping material on Reed’s property. Reed said that he had allowed the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to dump dirt and asphalt from road construction on his property. He said he had a permit for this, although the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) revoked it. According to Reed, after an inspection, DEQ agreed that there was no problem with dumping dirt and asphalt there. He said that VDOT, however, chose to dump this material elsewhere due to his neighbors’ complaints.
Appeals to BZA decisions are heard in Bedford County Circuit Court. During a phone conversation on Monday, Reed said that he had not been officially notified of the county’s action.