Bath Board moves ahead with BCHS parking lot
All of the “sound and fury” did end up “signifying nothing” last week when Bath County Board of Supervisors told the public their controversial offer to purchase a building in Hot Springs for a Visitors’/Community Center was no longer on the table. The month between when the board made the announcement, and when a Town Hall, and then Public hearing were held was full of flying opinions, and in the end another party outbid the county. Residents who thoroughly discussed pros and cons of a possible different location can now direct energy towards helping develop the Master Plan. Later in Tuesday night’s meeting,
The Board approved an “intent to award” a contract to one of five possible design firms for the original site.
The selected architect/engineer will be required to seek public input on phases of development, prioritizing uses, and envisioning designs for the Mitchelltown property. The Omni Homestead, who has always been welcome to participate in any tourism planning will now be officially invited to join in on this next stage.
In opening board comments, Claire Collins, Cedar Creek district, shared a perspective on negotiations that had occurred:
“When you have a building that has the potential to actually go into receivership, and possibly sit empty, and a governing body opens it up and receives public input from the community on it, on whether or not to purchase it, that then opens the door for private investment to step in, that often won’t step in in circumstances. That’s an economic development tool to be used that’s a very good tool for us to be using and learn from in the future.” Then she encouraged Bath residents to participate as much as possible in the next stages of the Visitors/Community Center. “It won’t be ready to go until it’s adequately engineered and architect based on what the community wants, and the size that the community determines they want.”
Another item addressed in one of the hearings was to remove a piece of private land in the southwestern part of the county from a designated growth area, and rezone part of it from residential to agricultural use. There was solid support for this change, and as Planning and Zoning director Sherry Ryder pointed out during the presentation, it’s unlikely anyone would be interested in putting in enough roads, power lines and water to serve more residences in that area for many years to come. Even if a three-hundred-sixty acre piece of land could be subdivided into one hundred eighty lots, as in most of the county, there is not close to enough infrastructure to support such development. The Board voted 5-0 in favor of the two necessary changes.
After the public hearing to amend the budget appropriating a maximum of 275 thousand dollars in 2017, and another 275 thousand in fiscal year 2018, the board voted 4-1 in favor of going ahead with paving the high school parking lot. Stuart Hall, Williamsville district, was opposed.
Another amendment to this year’s budget would have been required in order to cover replacement of old fuel tanks at the high school. The estimated expense is around 108 thousand dollars. Speakers in favor of being proactive pointed out costs of dealing with a leak or worse as the tanks continue to age.