Bath’s Board of Supervisors March Meeting in two parts
Tuesday evening, March 14th was a very long and- interactive evening at the Bath board of Supervisors meeting. United States Forest Service District Ranger Elizabeth McNichols gave an update on the multi year Lower Cowpasture Restoration Project which was covered in a special report for this station still available on AlleghenyMountainRadio .org. McNichols also mentioned an upcoming Hidden Valley Day, in which the community will be invited to join in some care for this beautiful corner of the county.
During the public comment period before the full agenda was under way, quite a few residents had spoken in favor of the board supporting a survey to possibly qualify Warm Springs as a National Historic District. Ruth Seldon-Sturgill, who has extensive experience with the historic survey process, described it this way:
“You will not just get a piece of paper. Basically you will get a bona fide historian to come here, and probably spend about six months going through county records, all the deaths, the births, everything, everything in Richmond. It’s probably the most wonderful thing you could ever encourage in this community. It will bring people together.”
Board Chair, Richard Bird, started off the discussion by reading a letter signed by 26 residents of the Warm Springs electoral district, opposed to the survey, of whom not all live within the nominated area. Michael Lockaby, the board’s attorney, clarified one question regarding whether or not participation in a district is voluntary.
“If you have an individual property which is designated to be part of the National Historic Register, that is one hundred percent voluntary on the part of that person. If you have a district, which is itself designated as a part of the National Historic register, then it’s by majority vote by people within that area.” After a half an hour of discussion the board was ready to vote on Bart Purdue’s motion. He included three qualifiers to address residents’ fears about local districts and resulting ordinances. “to be budgeted in the 2017-18 budget; to remove the references of local historic districts in the comprehensive plan. And say that we will consider no more districts in Bath County until we know the effects of the Warm Springs Historic District.”
After a half an hour of discussion, the board eventually voted three to two in favor of the survey with Richard Bird and Stuart Hall opposed. Supervisors moved effectively through approving a rezoning issue, then went back into heavy consideration around solid waste issues. In short, it can cost either contractors, or the county, significant funds to haul demolition and construction debris to the City of Covington’s Peter’s Mountain Landfill. Ways to charge haulers for the tonnage can vary, and though the county did commit to a ten-year agreement to continue using Covington’s landfill, board members seem to agree there needs to be further discussion of ways to make these expenses more equitable, and to maintain this county’s solid waste sites as efficiently as possible. For now, disposal will return to forty dollars per ton, and residents, especially builders can continue to discuss with their supervisor how needs can be addressed. Another piece of this report covers the push to move ahead with the Visitor’s center plan, and master site plan, and what could have been some routine commission appointments. These issues seem to loom large while board members start to realize more in-depth examination of land use policies, and lost revenue from non-agricultural land-holders is demanding their attention.
This is the second part of a report on Bath’s Board of Supervisors’ March meeting. The long meeting was drawing to a close when the last few items included appointments to Boards and Commissions. Typically these are uneventful procedures because members are often reappointed if they are willing to continue serving. The five members of the Planning Commission had recommended to the board keeping on Representative, John Cowden. Stuart Hall nominated Lynne Ellen Black, who has served for Williamsville on the Planning Commission in the past. More than one supervisor questioned the nomination, emphasizing it was through no misgivings at all about Mrs. Black’s abilities, but that the planning commission’s own recommendation showed faith in the team they’d developed. This triggered an outburst from Stuart Hall stating he could never appoint any one to a commission who had signed a petition for his removal, based on the board’s actions back in September. He pulled out a copy of the petition, and waved it, claiming most of the people who signed it didn’t know what they were signing, and that the petitioners had caused taxpayers unnecessary burdens. A couple of members of the public did some sparring about “personal versus political”. Then the board voted 2 in favor of the planning commission appointment, with Eddie Hicklin opposed, Bart Purdue abstaining, and Claire Collins having left the room for a minute. So, the appointment carried.
The board then went on to approve Tommy Black of the Williamsville District as a new member of the Economic Development Authority. All of the importance of some other current issues such as land use, taxable revenue, solid waste, and designing a visitor’s center, left some residents wondering just exactly how to show Bath County is a warm and welcoming place.
Earlier in the meeting, the board had approved the request for proposal for designers and engineers of the Visitor’s Center. The thirteen-page document outlines what companies must provide in terms of qualifications and experience. It includes design guidelines, and a list of tasks to be included in the scope of work. The request specifies the developer to coordinate with stakeholders and the public, and make presentations to stakeholders and the public throughout the process. The master plan will be developed in conjunction with the design for the center itself. A survey identified several uses for the whole property last summer, and those are mentioned in the RFP too: an open area for events, a Veteran’s memorial, and auditorium or meeting room, some shared space with the United States Forest Service and the Historical society, and walking trails.
Interested parties should read the complete request for proposal available at the courthouse or online, and submit theirs to the Office of Tourism before 4:00 on May 12th, 2017.
For Amanda McGuire of Allegheny Mountain Radio, I’m Catharine Reagan.