Highland Planning Commission And Supervisors Approve Rezoning Hooke Brothers Sawmill Site

Monterey, VA – Another full house greeted the Highland County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors at their meeting last week. Deliberations on Jacob Meck’s rezoning and conditional use permit applications for the Hooke Brothers Lumber Company site in Mill Gap were the main items of interest to members of the audience.

Since George Washington National Forest lands are adjacent to this site, notification and opportunity for comment must be provided to the US Forest Service. That notification was not done prior to the December meeting, so the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors had to wait to do their final vote on the rezoning issue until the Forest Service could respond. Jim Whitelaw read a letter from District Ranger Patrick Sheridan.

“On January 25th I visited the site and the primary concern the forest service has would be entry of material into the watercourses as a potential leakage or accidental spills,” says Sheridan in his letter. “I have no opposition or conflict with Allegheny Disposal plans as described in your letter.”

Ranger Sheridan’s letter continues with comments on Mr. Meck’s plans.

“Your proposal to manage the site material and your contingency plans for emergency response are sound,” says Sheridan. “I believe your operation will provide the necessary safeguard to reduce the risk or unexpected outcome and respond to it effectively, should one occur. I request that I be contacted should an accident happen.”

The Planning Commission members, by unanimous vote approved a motion to pass the rezoning request on to the Board of Supervisors with a favorable recommendation. There were no further comments by the Supervisors and they passed a motion to approve the rezoning request by unanimous vote.

With that completed, the Planning Commission then moved on to the public hearing on Mr. Meck’s conditional use permit to operate solid waste disposal, recycling and portable toilet businesses on the Mill Gap site. County zoning regulations require that the sewage storage tank be located at least 50 feet from any wells or streams. Mr. Meck had a site plan at the meeting showing that his tank would be more than 50 feet from Townsend Draft and more than 200 feet from residences on adjacent properties.

During the public comment period Beth Armstrong and Luanne Scott spoke against granting the conditional use permit. Planning Commission members were surprised when Mr. Meck mentioned that he planned to crush motor vehicles on this site as part of his metal recycling business. Chairman of the Planning Commission, Doug Gutshall, expressed concern that this activity had not been listed on the application and Mr. Meck then responded.

“Mr. Meck, in your permit application, you didn’t make any mention that you’re going to crush cars, unless I’ve been misinformed here,” says Gutshall.

“As far as specifically mentioning that, you are correct, Mr. Chairman,” says Meck.

Mr. Meck explained that crushing vehicles is part of his metal recycling business.
Supervisor Blanchard then asked about tire recycling and storage and Mr. Meck responded that some tires would be stored on site, but not for long periods of time and that the same was true for the crushed motor vehicles. Supervisor Wagner expressed concern about leakage of fluids from the crushed vehicles. Mr. Meck’s plan is to store the vehicles on site for a short period before shipping them out.

After further discussion, the Planning Commission approved a motion to pass Mr. Meck’s conditional use permit request on to the Board of Supervisors with a favorable recommendation. Further discussion and questions from Supervisors Blanchard and Blagg were followed by comments from Supervisor Wagner, who then summed up his concerns.

“I do appreciate your interest in our community and I just hope you’re patient with us as we iron out exactly what conditions are applicable,” says Wagner. “We’re kind of behind the curve learning what needs to be done and the best way to scuplt it to protect both you and the community downstream. I’m not necessarily ready to approve anything or take action on anything tonight; I’d like to review the recommendations of the planning commission.”

A motion to table the vote on Mr. Meck’s conditional use permit until the February 7 meeting of the Board of Supervisors was approved.

Stay tuned later this week for more from the Planning Commission meeting.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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