Highland County Planning Commission August Meeting

The Highland County Planning Commission held it’s monthly meeting on August 26.

Zoning Administrator Josh Simmons reported that Henry Budzinski had spoken with him about the creation of a Site Plan Review Committee.  Budzinski submitted a draft of the idea, saying it would streamline the process when an application is received for a commercial business.  The committee would bring all stakeholders together for meetings – the applicant, VDOT, the health department, the town, the county and neighboring property owners.   Budzinski said there had been lots of questions and miscommunication about the recent Family Dollar application.  He said a Site Plan Review Committee is used in other locations and it would coordinate various aspects of applications and present the information to the Planning Commission.  Simmons said the idea may not work since county staff is short and processes are already in place.  County Attorney Melissa Dowd said zoning is statutory and the suggestion of citizen input may not be permissible and she asked if the committee was needed because of just one application.  Commission member Dean Beverage said he would like for applicants to come before the Planning Commission and present what they are going to do.    There was also discussion about how to make applicants attend and about adding another layer to the application process.  Dowd said there was no harm in looking at the idea and a committee could be set, but she said it would be involuntary, because they don’t have authority to make everyone participate.   Chairman Joe Malcolm suggested commission members give it some thought, get more input and discuss it further at next month’s meeting.

Simmons also reported that the new McDowell Mennonite Church had requested installation of an illuminated sign and an LED message board.  Simmons said the lighting for the sign was fine, since the light shining on the sign will be directed downward.  He said the message board is currently not permissible under the lighting ordinance.  County Attorney Melissa Dowd suggesting seeing if the church would consider a dawn to dusk message board and she said the Planning Commission needs to decide if it wants to allow message boards.  She will research how they are regulated in other areas and will ask the Town Council and the Board of Supervisors if they want the Planning Commission to draft an ordinance on message boards.

There was discussion on the Comprehensive Plan revision and Simmons plans to collect information for it on bicycling, horseback riding and ATV trails.  Regarding scenic byways designations, Dowd said the supervisors have not been willing to designate scenic byways because of the restrictions that go along with it.  Commission member Dean Beverage suggested a possible improvement to be included in the Comprehensive Plan could be a water system for Blue Grass.

And Simmons also reported that he had sent out a second violation notice on the burned out house outside of McDowell, to have the building secured.

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Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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