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Supervisors will consider eight districts

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By John Barnhart

    A suggestion by District 1 Supervisor Bill Thomasson to consider creating an eighth district in Bedford County, as part of the rezoning required with Bedford’s reversion to town status, caused a sharp debate among the supervisors at a regular meeting on Nov. 14.
    The measure passed on a 4-2 vote with District 4 Supervisor John Sharp and District 3 Supervisor Roger Cheek casting the opposing votes. Board Chairman Steve Arrington was absent.
    Thomasson’s motion calls for a redistricting committee to consider an eight district county with the town comprising its own district. Last month the supervisors had voted to instruct the committee to only consider a seven district county.    
    Sharp was strongly opposed. He said that it will be impossible to create a district solely on town boundaries and an even number of supervisors creates the risk of tie votes. He added that it will also require the school board to have eight members. The Bedford County School Board currently has eight members — seven elected members and one appointed by the city of Bedford.
    He also argued that eight districts will add cost.
    District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard, however, said that there are ways to avoid ties. She said that the board could appoint a tie-breaker, or a tie-breaker could be elected at-large.
    “I think it’s good for the citizens to have a separate district,” she said.
    “The school board has dealt with eight all along and it’s been no problem for them,” Pollard argued.
    District 7 Supervisor Tammy Parker argued that it would be best not to restrict the redistricting committee and allow them to include an eight district configuration in their presentation to the supervisors if they think that’s an option.
    “I’d like the redistricting committee not to have that restriction put on them that they can’t show us what it would look like,” she said.
    “As you can see, this board doesn’t have things worked out in advance,” Sharp commented during the discussion.
    The supervisors also appointed Jeffrey Burdett to the District 2 seat of the planning commission, left vacant after Lynn Barnes resigned in September. Burdett worked for Bedford County from 1989 to 2000. He worked on the development, implementation and enforcement of the Land Use Guidance System (LUGS) which preceded the county’s current zoning ordinance. He was also involved in developing the current ordinance. In addition, he worked on the development of the county’s E-911 system and the initial development of the county’s building permit tracking system. Burdett’s roles have included chief planner, zoning administrator and erosion and sediment control administrator.
    Since 2000, Burdett has worked for Mariner’s Landing as a development planner.
    Burdett has twin bachelor’s degrees from Virginia Tech. One is in geography with a concentration in urban system cartography. The other is in political science. He is a Virginia Certified Planner and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He has also completed the Virginia Tech Certified Planning Commissioner course.
    In other business, the supervisors withdrew their previous resolution on zoning ordinance changes, which had prompted a Bedford Above Board lawsuit, and passed a new resolution to initiate zoning ordinance changes. This requires a new public hearing.
    “We are encouraged the board has rescinded its original ill-conceived zoning proposal,” a Bedford Above Board news release, passed out after the vote, stated. “However, we are concerned that this step may be a ploy to ram through the original proposal with a few strategic changes. This would avoid the board’s duty to properly and fully notify the public of what it intends to do.”
    A citizen, who spoke during the citizen comment period at the beginning of the meeting had a different take on zoning. John Briscoe called for the repeal of zoning, adding that there would be no need for a planning commission if the zoning ordinance is repealed altogether.
    “That at least would be one bunch that won’t plague the rest of us and tell us how to live our lives,” he said.