ACP Decisions Considered At Highland Joint Meeting
Multiple decisions regarding Highland County and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline were made at a joint meeting with the Highland County Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission on April 26th.
The first of two public hearings involved the ACP’s request to place a construction lay-down yard on the Mey property, south of Monterey on Rt. 220. Up for discussion was a conditional use permit to rezone approximately 32 acres from residential to light industrial. Fourteen people spoke during the public hearing, with the majority in opposition. Many cited concerns for heavier traffic on roads in the county, mainly Rt. 678, or Bullpasture River Road. After the hearing, the Planning Commission’s Dean Beverage made a motion to send the Board of Supervisors a non-favorable recommendation, due to the fact that the laydown yard is too close to a residential area and because the impact would be detrimental. This was followed by claps from members in the audience, and then the Board’s decision.
Supervisor David Blanchard did not feel it would be good zoning practice to make a permanent change based upon temporary usage of the property that would occur only during construction of the pipeline, upon which Dominion Energy’s Emmett Toms suggested they would be open to defer a decision in order to entertain other proffers, such as making the zoning change temporary. Vice-Chairman Kevin Wagner expressed concern about further safety issues that may occur if the application was denied, since the proposed location was a better fit than other areas in the county. However, Chairman Harry Sponaugle also cited zoning issues, making mention that the land already is adjacent to an area that is zoned for industrial use that could be used instead.
David Blanchard made a motion to follow the Planning Commission’s recommendation, thus denying the application. David Blanchard and Harry Sponaugle voted in favor, while Kevin Wagner opposed. This decision, too, was followed by clapping in the audience.
The second public hearing involved the Neil property in McDowell. The ACP had actually withdrawn its application for another construction lay-down yard on this property earlier because of a business decision. Instead, the ACP chose to place the lay-down yard on private land (owned by Mike McCray) just west of McDowell that is already zoned for industrial use. This eliminates any needed approval from the Board or Planning Commission, so the public hearing was cancelled. However, resident Joe Neil did not withdrawal his request to rezone the portion of his property that the ACP was originally interested in. Joe Neil then requested that all of his property there, not just a portion of it, be rezoned from residential to agricultural. The Planning Commission voted 3 to 1 for a favorable recommendation to change the zoning for the originally requested portion, with the stipulation that the commission also wishes to rezone the remainder of the parcel at a later date. The Board of Supervisors then unanimously voted to table the decision to their next joint meeting on May 24th, in order to have another public hearing on the remaining parcel of land.
Business then turned to an issue discussed at a public hearing during the previous month . A motion was made by the Planning Commission’s Casey Thaler that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, from a legal standpoint, is substantially in accord with the county’s comprehensive plan. The motion carried 3 to 1 for this favorable recommendation.
Finally, a decision needed to be made about a conditional use permit from Aaron Sponaugle to place a temporary work camp for ACP workers on Maple Sugar Road south of Blue Grass, which would later be used as a camp ground. Language in the current zoning ordinance does not address such a temporary camp. After the Planning Commission addressed this issue, Ronald Wimer made a motion to pass the issue on to the Board with an unfavorable recommendation. With no second, this motion failed, so Randy Richardson made a new motion to pass it along with no recommendation. This passed 3 to 1. The Board of Supervisors then unanimously voted to table the decision to get legal clarity. They will have until May 21st to make their final decision on the matter.