Joint Public Hearing on June 26

At Thursday night’s meeting, the Highland County Planning Commission conducted a joint public hearing with the Board of Supervisors and the town council.

The evening began with an initial review for a property on Rt. 250 east of Headwaters. The property, which has an existing shop that was probably an auto shop at one time, was recently purchased by John Vandevander, who plans to use the existing structure for All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) service. The business may also include mechanic services such as welding and fabrication of farm equipment, trucks, and trailers.

A Highland County native, Vandevander wants to provide this service so that farmers and community members won’t have to travel so far to service their vehicles. He explained that everybody in the community has to truck or trailer their machines clear across the mountain either to Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, or Petersburg. Vandevander believes he could offer a good service and save Highland County farmers and community members plenty of money.

The public hearing for the ATV/UTV service shop was set for Thursday, July 24th.

Over a dozen people attended the meeting to participate in a joint public hearing regarding an application for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to use dog kennels in a zone designated for farming and agricultural pursuits. The boarding facility, Lucky Dog Kennel, is a renovated 12×16 utility building on a private residence. Nicknamed the “dog cottage” by owner Rhett Wilson, the building could comfortably board up to five dogs at a time, and has housed puppies and adult dogs for the Highland County Humane Society in the past.

One speaker in favor of the kennels remarked that for years, he and his wife have had to take their dogs to Fairfield VA, almost 70 miles from Monterey, to find a proper kennel.  He and several other speakers indicated that it seems appropriate to use agricultural zoning for animal kennels, especially in a rural county like Highland where there’s lots of available space. There are a lot of people who have a need when they are out of town to keep their dog in a good place while also keeping their money in the county.

A farmer and neighbor spoke out in opposition to the conditional use permit application, due to his concern that dogs would be on his property and serve as a threat to his livestock. The Planning Commission agreed that the following conditions should be in place: dogs should always be on a leash or within an enclosed fence when outside the kennel, and the owners should not plan any expansion beyond the current facility, with a five dog maximum. The Board moved to table the subject for next week to work through the details of the conditions.

The Board and Planning Commission also conducted a joint public hearing for a Conditional Use Permit application for an agricultural business in a residential neighborhood. After moving back to Highland County eight years ago, Brittany Whitelaw began gardening to feed her family. She now sells her organically grown food at the farmers market, and would like to start a business with an orchard and two greenhouses, bringing good, organically grown food to the community. Like the ATV/UTV shop and Lucky Dog Kennel, the main goal of this small business is to keep money in Highland County.

An adjoining landowner spoke out in opposition to this conditional use permit application, due to the possible business’s close proximity to her residence. The Board and Planning Commission agreed to grant the Conditional Use Permit with restrictions, including good year-round screening to divide the two properties.

The Planning Commission and Town Council also heard from Kirk Billingsley, who submitted a Conditional Use Permit for a beverage bottling facility in town. Billingsley is interested in making the old theater section of the Maple Restaurant building into a cidery, with a tasting room and production facility.  “I’m delighted,” Mayor Warner said, “when I think that something is going to come here. And if it can draw people, maybe that would encourage somebody else to do something.”

Before the meeting came to a close, Francis Finn was recognized for his seventeen years of service. Mayor Janice Warner also received a round of applause in recognition of her forty one years of service to the Town of Monterey.

Story By

Megan Moriarty

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