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Residents of Cedar Key, a neighborhood on Smith Mountain Lake, are still waiting for a decision on a rezoning request after a tie vote by the Bedford County Board of Supervisors Monday night.
A number of homeowners in the neighborhood want their land rezoned from AP (agricultural preserve) to R-1 (low density residential). The planning commission had voted, earlier this year, to rezone 16 of the 29 parcels and to fix a split zoning problem on three others.
The county's planning department sent letters to the property owners and received responses from the owners of all 29 parcels. The owners of 14 lots wanted their land rezoned, while those owning 15 of the lots wanted the zoning to stay the same. The 15 lots are owned by seven people, while the others are owned by 23 people.
Paul McDonald owns three of the lots and wants his land to remain in an AP zone. The planning commission's recommendation would have left them zoned AP.
"We intend to build homes there and have something like a family compound," he said.
Doug Rogers owns nine tracts and said that, when he bought them, he understood that they had an agricultural zoning and expected them to stay that way. He said that he plans to sell them to people who want to have a house and horses on their property.
"I would much prefer it to stay agricultural," he said.
Rogers said that an R-1 zoning would restrict what he could do. Under the current zoning, they wouldn't come under the county's subdivision ordinance.
Both McDonald and Rogers own lots on Gobbler Ridge.
William Earle said that he bought the property where he now resides 24 years ago. He's lived there for eight years.
"When I bought that property, it was my understanding it was R-1," he said.
Earle said that short-term rentals are a problem. He said that the house next door to him is used that way and he has seen 18 people in the house.
Ollie and Bernadette Woodfin own a lot on which they plan to build a house. It adjoins one of the parcels that would have retained its AP zoning under the planning commission zoning. They are concerned that the AP zoning leaves them unprotected by the county's short term rental ordinance, which does not apply to AP zones. It also leaves them vulnerable to undesirable development next door. They noted that, regardless of what McDonald now intends to do with his property, he could end up selling to somebody else and that would open it up to anything allowed in an AP zone.
Jerry Downey said they need the R-1 zoning to deal with abuses of short term rentals. He said that the entire area was originally under a restrictive covenant, in 1977, that limited all development to single family residential development. The Gobbler Ridge lots were under this and were originally subdivided for that purpose. The covenant expired after 25 years and was not renewed.
District 1 Supervisor Dale Wheeler had noted that he had been puzzled as to why residents wanted their property rezoned. He used the analogy of poking at a wood pile noting that, if you do it long enough, the rabbit will run out.
"I think I saw the rabbit run out of the woodpile," he said.
The rabbit, according to Wheeler, is the rental issue.
"It looks like we are anti-rental," he said.
"We have struggled with short term rentals and we don't have it right," commented District 2 Supervisor Chuck Neudorfer.
"How can I make the least number of people upset at me?" he asked.
Neudorfer said that he supported the planning commission's recommendation, although he said that it wouldn't make everybody happy on Gobbler Ridge.
Neudorfer, along with District 4 Supervisor John Sharp and District 3 Supervisor Roger Cheek, voted in favor of the rezoning. Wheeler, along with District 7 Supervisor Gary Lowry and District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard voted against it. Board Chairman Steve Arrington abstained, citing a conflict of interest due to a contractual agreement with an affected property owner.
The question then came as to whether this meant that the motion failed. County Attorney Carl Boggess said that he preferred not to make a ruling that night. Boggess will make a ruling on this at the next meeting. The board of supervisors next regular meeting is scheduled for April 14.
The supervisors did find agreement on the planning commissions recommendation to fix the split zoning problem on three lots. The lots were split between AP and R-1 and their recommendation made each entire lot AP. All the supervisors, except Arrington, voted for this measure. Arrington again abstained citing a conflict of interest.