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Zoning re-write issue rises again in South Boston

South Boston Town Council and town planners received very little public input or feedback during their deliberations over a comprehensive zoning ordinance rewrite last year.

That all changed at a joint public hearing in December between council and planners, where a number of Seymour Drive property and business owners asked council to keep the Seymour Drive area zoned M-1 (manufacturing), rather than B-2 (business) as called for in the rewrite.

Several of them reappeared Monday and spoke during the citizen comment portion of council’s meeting, again asking them to keep Seymour Drive zoned M-1.

R. J. Lackey, a partner with Woods Rogers PLC of Danville, who had spoken at last week’s planning commission meeting, spoke on behalf of developers John Cannon and Ward Burton asking council to consider tweaking the proposed Dan River District to include “multi family.”

Burton and Cannon are looking at developing land along the Dan River for residential purposes, Lackey explained.  

“You know they have a reputation for doing the right thing and doing things first class, sparing no expense,” said Lackey.

“I’ve been around South Boston, and you’re trying to take advantage of your assets, your history and your buildings. I see one thing you haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to, and that’s your river.

“Part of the development in downtown South Boston needs to be riverfront property,” he said.

Lackey told council Burton and Cannon have purchased riverfront property with a vision of developing condominiums or loft style residences.

“For urban development, you have to have people living down there to go to your stores and frequent your shops,” noted Lackey.

“I went through your zoning code, and the proposed Dan River District would be perfect,” said Lackey, who asked council to add “multi-family” to the zoning classification for the Dan River District.

“The present zoning has the ability to have residential on this property, so you’re actually getting back what you’re taking away with the new zoning classification,” Lackey pointed out.

“Give due deliberation to a piece of the puzzle you do not have in downtown South Boston,” he concluded.

Morgan Miller passed out a petition signed by a number of Seymour Drive and Wall Street property and business owners.

“We’re asking council to send the zoning rewrite back to the planning commission to tweak it a little bit,” said Miller.

“You know our position - M1 would not adversely affect the Destination Downtown mission,” he added.

Seymour Drive business owner David Myers, who also spoke at the public hearing, wants his property zoned M-1, noting the decline of manufacturing the past several decades in South Boston and throughout the country.

“In 2008, everything just went out in our community, Burlington Mills, J.P. Stevens, Tultex, Sales Knitting, all these places were gone, and these people had nowhere to turn,” said Myers. “This community turned to small business to get them through.

“Today, we have very little manufacturing,” added Myers. “When the industrial revolution came through, manufacturing made this country the greatest country in the world. Somewhere in the present we’ve lost that direction, and we’re still struggling.”

A community cannot survive economically without manufacturing, Myers warned.

“The only way we’re going to get back on our feet is with manufacturing,” Myers continued. “Right now, for some reason in this country, it seems manufacturing has been put on the back burner.

“I’m speaking for everyone, the property owners along Seymour Drive, we want that opportunity for manufacturing, and we have it under M-1. This community needs to remember that manufacturing made this nation.

“We would like you to consider that. We as business owners and family members want to do the right thing and do what’s right for our business and the community,” Myers concluded.

“You have to understand we have to take our family first, our business second and our love for the community has to come third. We have to do what’s best for our survival, because if we survive, our community survives.”

Tim Connelly, controller for Workman Oil Company of Forest, which owns three tracts of land on Seymour Drive, and Verlyn Emswiler, who also owns property in that area, also argued for keeping Seymour Drive zoned M-1.

“We have the right now to have a light manufacturing facility there,” said Connelly. “If this plan is adopted, you will no longer have that right, now or later on.”

Connelly added rezoning that area would affect the residential property values and limit what they can do with their property if they wish to sell.

“I think this community knows more what people need than people from outside the community,” said Emswiler, adding, “People have been here all their lives, respect what they want and work with them.” 

Wall Street business owner Garland Ricketts urged council “to act in a way that allows us to sit down and come up with something that will benefit the town.”