Highland County Planning Commission’s September 2023 Meeting

The Highland County Planning Commission held its monthly meeting on September 28.

The continuation of a public hearing was held for a Conditional Use Permit application.  It was continued from last month’s meeting so the Planning Commission could get additional information about the right of way on the property.  The application is for a diesel mechanic shop for commercial vehicle repair.   The applicant is Tyler Lightner and the property owners are Herb and Teresa Lightner.  The property is located at 185 Lightner Drive.

Applicant Tyler Lightner submitted a letter which was read at the meeting.  Lightner wrote that his mechanic work is a hobby.  He said he did not intend to work on farm machinery, heavy equipment or big trucks.  He said he worked on vehicles for family and friends and has worked on ten vehicles over a two-year period.  He said it is a hobby, mostly without compensation, as he gets paid, but there is no profit.  He said if there is no profit, it is not a business, not a commercial use, and so no Conditional Use Permit should be required.

Zoning Administrator Josh Simmons said the application is commercial vehicle repair according to the county’s ordinance, which calls for a Conditional Use Permit.

During the public hearing, there was discussion from both sides about the condition of the driveway and the entrance.  There were concerns that the driveway is not wide enough, needs culverts replaced, needs resurfacing and needs to have the entrance widened.   There were also comments that the road width is sufficient, the width of the entrance is sufficient, because trucks pulling hay trailers have no trouble at the entrance and the driveway has had no problems with the weight of those trailers.

County Attorney Melissa Dowd clarified that the Planning Commission had no authority to direct the property owners to improve the private road.  She urged Planning Commission members to set aside the road issue and consider if this was an appropriate use for the property, considering the objections of neighbors and the value of the business.

The Planning Commission voted to send a favorable recommendation of the Conditional Use Permit to the Board of Supervisors, with the following conditions:  a maximum of three vehicles at a time for repair, shop hours 3:30pm to 8pm Monday through Friday and 8am to 8pm on Saturday, installation of a privacy fence for the benefit of neighbors David and Dorothy Lightner, installation of a fence around the Herb Lightner property to keep livestock away from vehicles, and VDOT approval of the driveway entrance for commercial use.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on this Conditional Use Permit before voting on it.

The Planning Commission also considered a Variance Application for waiver of a setback requirement.  The ordinance lists a five-foot setback and the applicant is requesting a one-foot setback.  The property is at 32 West Main Street in Monterey and the applicant is Valentina Meehan.  Meehan plans to build a new event barn at the back of the property to replace an old one that was torn down.  The Planning Commission voted to send a favorable recommendation on the variance to the Board of Zoning Appeals.  The Board of Zoning Appeals will hold a public hearing, before it votes on the application.  The Board of Zoning Appeals is currently one member short, but work is underway to find another member.

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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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