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Three changes OK’d; one tabled

Halifax County Board of Supervisors approved a conditional use permit, a rezoning request, adopted a resolution amending the Enterprise Zone but tabled action on a land use application, after holding four public hearings Tuesday evening.

The first hearing was on a conditional use permit application from Walter Coates of ED-1 to operate a gun shop out of an accessory building adjacent to his home at 1043 Parsonage Road in Nathalie. 

Halifax County Planning Commission held a hearing on Coates’ request on Aug. 27 and had recommended board approval.

Coates was the only person to speak during the hearing telling supervisors he has secured all permits, applications and licenses necessary to operate Coates Gun Shop.

Coates, who has sold guns for 20 years while running his own shop and managing Cole Gun Shop, said the gun shop he proposes to operate would be located in a 12 x 28 cabin located beside his home on Highway 501 in the Millstone community and would not have high traffic sales.

Gunsmithing will be the focus of the business, he added.

No one spoke in opposition, and supervisors voted unanimously to approve the conditional use permit subject to 11 conditions recommended by the planning commission. 

The second hearing was more contentious with two people speaking in favor and three voicing opposition to a land use application from Mary Blakeslee to allow further development of single family dwellings in ED-5’s Shepherd’s Gate subdivision.

A letter opposing the permit also was presented during the meeting.

Planners, by a 4-3 vote, had recommended approval of the application, but after hearing opposition expressed, supervisors voted to table the request without putting any timeline on bringing it back for another vote.

Blakeslee, the granddaughter of the late Dr. Singleton Belk who started the Halycon Hospital, told supervisors her family had owned the Shepherd’s Gate land for eight generations, and now they want to develop it with single-family residential housing.

However, the land is currently zoned M-1 which prohibits any new residences from being constructed.

She pointed out the majority of buildings in the Shepherd’s Gate area are single-family residences.

“We want to return the land for what our forefathers desired it to be used for – residential single family dwellings,” she said.

Blakeslee, who is not a county resident, said her family is not interested in placing low income or state subsidized housing on the land in question, but she admitted once the lots are sold, she has no control over whether the landowner receives state housing assistance.

Dean Newton, who owns several lots in Shepherd’s Gate fronting on Highway 360, told supervisors he supported Blakeslee’s request.

“My main concern is protecting what I already own there,” he said.

However, Ernie’s Restaurant owner Ronnie Green, Shepherd’s Gate landowner Ricky Nelson and Cook’s Automotive owner Les Cook said they were opposed to the land being rezoned from commercial to residential.

Green, who expressed concern Blakeslee would sell the land, and low-income housing units would be built on the land, told supervisors Blakeslee “doesn’t live here. She’ll sell it and be gone.”

He urged supervisors to leave the zoning as is. “It’s already like it should be,” Green said referring to the nearby fairgrounds, energy plant, transfer station and other neighboring businesses that are zoned M1.

Nelson, who also spoke against the rezoning, said he was born and raised in Shepherd’s Gate, and his parents still live there.

Currently, he owns six acres that are zoned M1, and he said, “I’d like to keep it that way.”

Nelson said he fears he would lose 50 feet of usable space due to county buffer restrictions if the zoning is changed.

Cook, who has operated Cook’s Automotive for 40 years on Highway 360, said when he is ready to retire he wants to be able to sell his business as a commercial business. If the zoning is changed to residential, Cook said that will not be possible.

He also owns 18 lots on Highway 360 that he said are more valuable zoned as M1 than R1.

“Rezoning my property will take away its value,” he added.

Cook also pointed out he owns the only property with an access road from Highway 360 to lots in the Shepherd’s Gate community and fears if additional houses are built behind his business, even more people would use his private driveway to get to their lots.

After hearing public comment, supervisors voted to table indefinitely any action on Blakeslee request to change the current zoning of Shepherd’s Gate land from commercial to residential.

The third hearing was on a request from South Boston Foursquare Church (The Worship Center) to rezone the former South of Dan School site from A-1 to R-2 to renovate four classrooms into apartments for temporary free housing to serve displaced families due to house fire, natural disaster, etc.

Planning commissioners had recommended approval of this request as well, and supervisors followed suit after hearing The Worship Center’s Pastor Dave Berry explain the church’s plans to help displaced families get back on their feet by offering them a free two-bedroom apartment to live in for one month.

After one month of living in the converted classrooms, the individual situations will be reevaluated, Berry said.

He explained the church plans to work with social services, the sheriff’s office, Red Cross and Tri-County Community Action in placing individuals and families in the free housing at the church.

 Also speaking in favor of the church’s rezoning request were Worship Center member Lucky Palmer and Social Services Director Kathy Andrews.

Following the hearing, supervisors unanimously supported rezoning the 10 acres from A-1 agricultural to R-2 residential.

The fourth hearing was on a request to adopt a resolution amending the Enterprise Zone increasing its size from 3,445 acres to 3,840 acres.

Over the past several months, county staff, staff from the towns of South Boston and Halifax, the county industrial development authority and planning district commission have reviewed the existing district boundaries and potential parcels for addition to the district.

When adopting the resolution to expand the Enterprise Zone Tuesday evening, supervisors removed no existing properties from the district, and the largest additions included Sunshine Mills, the former Burlington Plant in Halifax and the Huber property in Crystal Hill making these businesses eligible for financial incentives.

In other business Tuesday night, supervisors took the following actions:

Heard and approved a request from Nancy Chandler of the Berryman Green Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to proclaim the week of Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week;

w Received an update from Ag Development Director Leah Brown on the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development grant for a $25,000 livestock processing facility study;

The proposed project, set to get underway Dec. 1, will study the practicality of constructing a USDA inspected meat-processing plant within the county to serve Southside Virginia. 

Work on the study is expected to be complete by April 1, Brown told supervisors.

 Supported a pledge of moral obligation for the new financing package to refinance the ABB loan;

By extending the pledge of moral obligation, supervisors agreed to honor the $10.2 million debt, but legally they are not bound to make the payments should the authority fail to meet the debt obligations from a 2008 borrowing that was used to finance the ABB expansion.

According to the county administrator, the primary advantages of the new terms are the elimination of the $5 million balloon payment due in 2018 and lowering the interest rate from 5.81 percent to 4.81 percent for a savings of approximately $500,000 over the life of the loan.

 Confirmed the appointment of Otis Vaughan as county building official;

 Were informed the county animal shelter underwent another inspection on Tuesday;

 “The animal pound passed with flying colors,” the county administrator said.

 Set public hearings for the Oct. 7 board of supervisors’ meeting and Sept. 24 planning commission meeting on a conditional use permit application from Willie T. Francis Jr. to operate an auto body shop at 7077 Oak Level Road in ED-6;

 Appointed Douglas Bowman, the Rev. Kevin Chandler, William E. Coleman, J. T. Davis,  Barry Bank, Jim Halasz, Mike Sexton and Thomas E West to serve two-year terms on the Lake Country Development Corporation; and

 Heard a request from Virginia Coalition Chairman John Cannon for funding to continue the fight against uranium mining and agreed to place Cannon’s funding request on the agenda for the Oct. 7 meeting;

“We need help. We’re doing a good job, and we need your help to continue it,” Cannon told supervisors.