Adoption of a hazard mitigation plan by South Boston Town Council Monday evening brings the town one step closer to fulfilling its plan of transforming the Riverdale part of town into “green space” to minimize damage caused by frequent flooding of the Dan River.
“We had to have this plan done on a regional level in order to qualify for funding for the Riverdale mitigation project,” explained town manager Tom Raab. “This plan needs to be done every five years.”
The town had applied for a $2.5 million hazard mitigation grant, with the goal of buying out the existing businesses in Riverdale and turning that part of town into green space. Adoption of the plan makes the town of South Boston eligible for the funding from FEMA and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, which will cover 95% of the mitigation project, with the town pitching in the remaining 5%.
Councilman Joseph “Joe” Chandler made a motion to adopt the hazard mitigation plan, and the motion carried with unanimous council approval. The town coordinated with the Southside Planning District Commission in the preparation of the multi-hazard mitigation plan, in accordance with the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. The plan identifies mitigation goals and actions to “reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property in the town of South Boston from the impacts of future hazards and disasters.”
With the adoption of the hazard mitigation plan, Raab is hopeful the town will receive the grant money to move forward with its long-range strategic plans for Riverdale. Riverdale is the gateway to downtown South Boston from the south on U.S. Highway 501.
“The plan is to offer the businesses in Riverdale an opportunity to move,” Raab said. “There are some empty buildings down there, as well. We’ll have everything appraised and make an offer on those buildings.”
Raab told council in an Aug. 13 strategic planning session that the Riverdale area of town had already been zoned as the “Dan River District,” which limits the amount that business owners could invest in the area, helping the town move forward with its plans to transform the flood-prone zone into green space.
In discussions about the future of Riverdale at the strategic planning session, Chandler offered that he would like to see “well-landscaped green space” in Riverdale, a part of town that currently is “not very attractive” for visitors coming into town and floods often. So far this year, the Riverdale area has flooded in February and May.
In other business at Monday’s meeting, town council approved a resolution to amend the town’s zoning ordinance regarding the operation of skill games.
The proposed amendments to the town code would allow the operation of skill games in businesses in all of the town’s business districts provided the business has an ABC license. Currently, the town code allows for skill games to be operated by special use permit only in two of the town’s business districts: the B-2 (general business) district and B-4 (downtown business) district.
The proposed amendments also defines skill games to mirror state law. The General Assembly of Virginia recently amended the Code of Virginia exempting skill games from the definition of illegal gambling and allowing the operation of skill games until July 1, 2021. During the one-year timeframe, the skill games would be legal with a $1,200 monthly tax on each machine per month, and localities would receive 12% of the profits from the machines.
Vice-mayor Bob Hughes made a motion to approve the resolution, and councilman Winston Harrell seconded the motion. The motion carried, with councilman Bill Snead casting the only dissenting vote.
The South Boston Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendments to the town code in the multi-purpose room of the Washington Coleman Community Center at 6 p.m. Sept. 30, and the town council will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendments at the same location at 7 p.m. Oct. 5.
In other business, town council voted to charge off delinquent taxes, as requested by the town’s finance director Mickey Wilkerson. Councilman Thomas “Tommy” Elliott made the motion, and vice-mayor Bob Hughes seconded the motion.
Town council also recognized the mayor’s youth advisory committee members present at the meeting.
“I would like to thank the youth for the interest you have in your community,” Hughes told the committee members. “I can’t tell you how much I look forward to working with you all and learning from you.”
Gregory Scott, JROTC Army instructor at Halifax County High School organized the committee to give young people a hands-on opportunity to learn about local government. Nevaeh Hodges, a high school senior, was selected as head mayor of the committee.
Before the meeting adjourned, two citizens spoke in the citizen comment period.
Anthony Womack, founder of the community organization Men of Sinai, discussed the progress the community is making on establishing a public park in Sinai, and he hopes his group can continue to work with the town of South Boston on future community development projects.
He also told council the group is working on a “large community garden” for residents to enjoy.
Ronnie Duffey, a member of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, thanked council for all the work they are doing on behalf of the town’s citizens.