Facing a revised rezoning application and a mount of opposition from Cluster Springs residents, Halifax County Board of Supervisors took no action on a rezoning request in the area when they met Monday evening.
Originally Donnie Green, POA for Ruth Green had reapplied for rezoning of 37.69 acres from A-1, agriculture to B-2, general business at 6002 Huell Matthews Highway and included a “No Land Disturbance Zone” of 50 feet width along all non-road frontage property lines. Green also has submitted two previous applications for rezoning that were denied.
But, when zoning administrator Detrick Easley approached supervisors before the public hearing, he said he had received a revised application from Green to rezone two parcels that total 9.37 acres.
Easley also told the board because the planning commission did not bring a recommendation to the board after meeting about the application for rezoning of 37.69 acres from A-1, agriculture to B-2, supervisors could not take action.
Jerry Lovelace of Lovelace Consulting, LLC represented the applicant, and told supervisors, “I friendly disagree with Mr. Easley. I think you can act tonight.” Lovelace is a former zoning administrator.
County code section 53-6 “application for amendment, conditional use permit or plat vacation, fees; public hearing,” states “applications shall be acted upon by the board of supervisors only after such applications have been referred to the planning commission for a report.”
“You received a report,” Lovelace pointed out.
But, Easley told the board the county attorney had been consulted and agreed that supervisors could not take action on the application.
Lovelace also went on to explain the revised application pointing out that the revised application did not include the 50-foot No Land Disturbance Zone.
But, he also said, “Since the Aug. 18 meeting of the planning commission, Mr. Green has taken numerous steps to address the issues, concerns, objections that have been raised by everyone.”
The revised application would include a 25 foot buffer, to be incompliant with the county zoning ordinance, Lovelace pointed out.
He also addressed the concern of lighting urging supevisors to consider establishing a dark sky ordinance for the county.
Not only did he say it would “cut down on some of the hassle you and the commission have to deal with,” but it also protects Staunton River State Park’s dark sky park destination. Staunton River State Park was named an International Dark Sky Park in July 2015, becoming the first park in the state of Virginia and the 25th park in the world to receive the designation.
Lovelace also noted that the town of Halifax has dark sky concepts within its building and design ordinances.
He also addressed another concern previously raised by ED-8 supervisor William Bryant Claiborne, who was concerned about no plan of development.
“You have a plan of development now. Two parcels to rezone to commercial. Mr. Green stated he will come back at a later time for a R-1 residential request for a multi-lot subdivision he proposes for the backside of the property,” said Lovelace.
He also said some have called it “speculative rezoning,” and said that was reason for denial.
“The county of board of supervisors has engaged in speculative rezoning since April of 1972 when it adopted a zoning ordinance… Speculative rezoning goes on all the time by you so I’m not sure how you can say that’s a reason to deny what someone else wants when you’re doing it yourself,” said Lovelace.
He also said he has been requested to meet with property owners, but he said at least 15 individuals have written letters in opposition, and under current guidelines with COVID-19, he said he cannot meet with 15 people at once. He also said meeting with them individually would be a “logistical nightmare.”
“The applicant has listened to, and more importantly heard the objections and concerns of you, the planning commission, of the neighbors and have come up with effective and reasonable proposals that address all of that. This proposal is in total, 100% compliance with two comprehensive plans that were adopted by two different planning commissions and two different board of supervisors after four advertised public hearings and two community meetings. This proposal clearly has more than sufficient merit to warrant approval. I don’t know what else to tell you gentlemen. We’ve done what we can,” Lovelace added.
However, ED-2 supervisor Jeff Francisco offered another concern. Even with the revised application, he said the “north side still goes right up to Mr. Owen’s property line.”
The ED-2 supervisor said he would like to have a natural buffer on that side, and Green agreed to put a 50 foot No Disturbance Zone there.
ED-1 supervisor Ricky Short questioned Lovelace on what Green would like to do with the property.
“He does not have a specific use in mind at this point in time. The property becomes much more marketable with that classification,” said Lovelace, who also went on to stress that no one has asked to put up a billboard.
Following supervisors’ questions and concerns, three individuals spoke in opposition to the application.
Brenda Yancey, a resident of election district six, said, “I’ve heard an eloquent presentation but I’m not hearing any substance or plans for commercialization, and I believe the residents of cluster springs would like to be involved in the planned progress of their community.”
She also went on to say that Kenneth Owen had wanted to attend the meeting to represent his property, but was unable to attend due to being sick.
Donna Hudson, who is from the Cluster Springs community, said they would like to benefit from planning.
“We do recognize that this is an area designated for growth, and we do not come in opposition of growth but we certainly would appreciate your controlling and planning for growth so that the community remains a place that you would like to have your home.”
Gary Rogers, who also lives in the area, who questioned the process saying he thought since the application was revised, he thought it had to go back to the planning commission first.
But, he said he was pleased with the No Land Disturbance Zone in the initial application. He also said he disagreed with putting it next to Owen’s house.
“If it’s going to be developed on the backside with housing or whatever it is, at some point, I would think you need a border all the way around it,” said Rogers.
He also offered concerns about traffic and said he was in support of a dark sky ordinance.
“I am asking you all to please put some restrictions on this before its approved,” Rogers added.
ED-6 supervisor Stanley Brandon told those attending that he was “glad to witness dialogue,” and he noted that he did not see anybody in opposition of growth, but he said individuals referenced “positive growth.”
“No one is saying don’t develop your property,” said Brandon. “They’re saying what’s coming?”
He also pointed out that he did not hear from anyone in support of the application, and said that it’s very important for those in support to come to the meetings and speak on Green’s behalf.
“I’m all for growth, but I want to make it right. Hopefully, we can come together and get a better understanding,” said Brandon, who then went on to make a motion to postpone the matter until receiving a recommendation from the planning commission.
The board unanimously approved the motion with a seven to zero vote with Claiborne absent from the meeting.
The Halifax County Planning Commission is expected to revisit the matter.