Highland County Planning Commission Meeting July 2023

The Highland County Planning Commission held a regular meeting on Thursday, July 27.

The Planning Commission considered a rezoning application for a 21 acre tract at Bullpasture River Road, a half mile south of McDowell.  The property is currently zoned industrial and the request is to change the zoning to agriculture.   The applicants are the current owners Benjamin Hansel, Jonathan Hansel, Janine Bailey and Sybil Hansel.  The property is under contract and the buyers have requested the zoning change.  The property is located on a bluff and is reached by a long gravel road that also serves other residents and the McDowell Battlefield.  The Planning Commission set this application for public hearing, to probably be held at it’s next meeting on August 24.  The public hearing may be a joint one with the Board of Supervisors, since the request must also have the Supervisors approval.

Planning Commission members also discussed a Conditional Use Permit Application for a Diesel Mechanic Shop for commercial vehicle repair.  The applicant is Tyler Lightner and the property owners are Herb and Teresa Lightner.  The location is 185 Lightner Drive.  Tyler Lightner explained that vehicle repair is currently a part time job for him, in addition to his full-time job with VDOT.  He said he is using an existing building and has worked on six vehicles so far this year.  At this point, he is planning for hours to be Monday through Friday 3:30 to 8 and Saturday 8 until 8.  There are no plans for additional lighting or signs to be installed and plans are for a limit of three vehicles to be parked outside, in addition to the six vehicles owned by the applicant.  Zoning Administrator Josh Simmons said VDOT has looked at the location entrance and is planning to do a sight distance measurement soon.  Planning Commission members stressed to Lightner that hours, lighting and the number of vehicles are what neighbors are typically most concerned about with auto repair shop applications.   The Planning Commission also set this application for a public hearing at it’s August 24th meeting.  Zoning Administrator Josh Simmons explained to Commission members that this application came about due to noise complaints about the shop, and the applicant didn’t realize he needed an application for the business.

Planning Commission members unanimously renewed the Conditional Use Permit for another two years for the campground at HistoryTellers Productions.

Josh Simmons also reported that he had received a call from someone looking for property in Highland to start a retreat, where a lodge and cabins would be built on the property.  Simmons said he was concerned about the number of additional structures possibly being built on the same lot.  He said he couldn’t find anything in the zoning ordinance that met the definition of a retreat.   County Attorney Melissa Dowd encouraged Simmons to write up what he would like to see regarding a limit on the number of structures.  The Planning Commission can then consider amending the zoning ordinance.

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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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