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Thumbs up to apartment development

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford County Planning Commission has given a thumbs up to an apartment development at Thomas Jefferson Crossing in Forest.
    Part of a multi-phase development, the 16-acre parcel in question, had originally been slated for 77 single-family homes. The developer came before the Planning Commission to get approval to build 228 apartment units there instead.
    A petition opposing the project, said to contain signatures from people at 30 addresses, was presented to the Planning Commission. Most speakers at the public hearing favored it. They included the president of the Forest Lakes Homeowners Association.  Forest Lakes is an adjoining neighborhood. He said that they were originally concerned about sediment running into the neighborhood’s lake, which was recently dredged. Now, they are satisfied that provisions have been made to meet their concerns and they now favor it as they are getting a lot of erosion from the property as it now stands.
    “It makes sense to me to have these units,” commented District 4 Planning Commissioner Frederic Fralick, after the developer’s presentation and the public hearing.
    “I would much rather have the 77-unit development,” said District 1 Planning Commissioner Rick Crockett.
    However, Crockett noted that the developer made good investment to mitigate the project’s impact. He also noted that the county long ago designated this area for development of that density.
    “This is an extension of a PD1 development,” District 2 Planning Commissioner Lynn Barnes said.
    Barnes said that this is a perfect example of a PD1 development working as it should. He also liked the way the developer worked with the community to meet residents’ concerns and said that it’s a model for other developers to follow.
    “I think, all things considered, that this is appropriate,” he said.
    The Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the apartments.
    In other business, the commission began the process to make microbreweries a permitted use in certain commercial and industrial districts. The county’s zoning ordinance currently does not have a provision for them. The microbreweries will be limited to a maximum output of 15,000 barrels per year and may have an associated restaurant if the district allows restaurants.
    The text amendment will come back to the Planning Commission for a public hearing in February.
    This meeting was Crockett’s last Planning Commission meeting. Crockett, who has served on the Commission for 18 years, was not reappointed. The Board of Supervisors has appointed Lewis Huff to fill the seat. Crockett’s appointment expires on Jan. 31 and Huff will take the seat for the Planning Commission’s next meeting, slated for Feb. 6.