POWHATAN – The Powhatan County Board of Supervisors spent a significant portion of its meeting last week on a rezoning case that was ultimately deferred to allow for more time to gather information and deliberate.
During the board’s meeting on Monday, May 24, the supervisors were scheduled to hear connected rezoning and conditional use permit cases regarding a property in the western end of the county that houses a tow truck business. They spent more than 50 minutes on the rezoning case before voting to defer both cases without taking action.
The applicant, James Sumrell II, applied to rezone 4.665 acres of land located on the east side of Maidens Road, approximately 600 feet south of its intersection with Old River Trail at Michaux (4050 Maidens Road). The request to rezone from General Commercial to Crossroads was being made to allow the operation of an automotive wrecker service on the property.
Two people spoke at a public hearing on the first case, raising concerns about noise, the potential for ground water pollution, the impact on residents and the nearby Michaux-St. James Foundation, the number of cars allowed to be stored, possible repair working being done, and more.
Afterward, the questions the board members asked took the discussion in a variety of directions but didn’t even fully cover all of the issues they said they had with the project. Some of the topics included the number of cars allowed to be stored; storing them inside versus outside; whether or not to require a fence; improvements to the property; allowed uses for the property now and in the past based on its zoning; and whether or not any existing or potential entrance on the property can meet the county’s access management standards.
Sumrell said he has already been operating the business successfully at the site and has been a good neighbor, including making improvements to the property and cleaning up tons of trash that had been dumped there. He answered questions about his business history in the county and elsewhere; the improvements he has made and plans to make to the property, and existing buildings on the property.
The board also questioned why Sumrell’s business isn’t on the sheriff’s office’s approved tow list and even asked Sheriff Brad Nunnally to speak to the issue.
Recognizing that they still had too many issues and unanswered questions, the board voted unanimously to defer the case until June 28.
Other business handled at the meeting included:
* The board voted unanimously to approve a conditional use permit to allow an accessory dwelling unit at a home within the Woodlands subdivision.
The supervisors did not raise any issues with the dwelling itself, but they made a point of making sure the applicant knew that the board approving the conditional use permit did not supersede the fact that the neighborhood has covenants that do not allow the accessory dwelling.
* A resolution to amend the fiscal year (FY) 2021 operating budget and appropriate $892,844 in the School Grants Fund for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding was originally on the consent agenda. Bill Cox, who represents District 4, asked for it to be pulled off and considered as new business.
Cox had questions about what the funds will be used for in the school division and if any of the monies can be used to supplement the operating budget and potentially reduce the county transfer. He did not try to stop the funds from being appropriated but said that with these and future federal funds, he wanted better descriptions about how they would be used and what restrictions had been placed on the school division with allowed uses.
* The board had a conversation with Ramona Carter, director of public works, to get an update on the courthouse parking lot expansion project, a capital project that was part of a previous bond project.
The supervisors have been very critical of the justification for this project and its high price tag, and the fact that Carter said estimated costs have increased was not well received. She said this was due to construction costs going up and fewer companies being interested in the project, which means bidding would not be as competitive.
When asked about justification, Carter said that before the pandemic, she heard frequently from local businesses who were upset that people showing up for court dates were parking in their lots. She also said that a temporary lot built behind the courthouse where court and clerk’s office staff now park has alleviated part of the problem.
The board members were completely against spending $558,929 on redoing the gravel sheriff’s parking lot that lies between the commonwealth’s attorney’s office and Four Seasons Restaurant. They said the money would be better spent elsewhere and asked staff to make a list of potential projects that could benefit from the funds.
The board ultimately decided to move forward on paving the temporary lot between the courthouse and the commonwealth’s attorney’s office that is used by staff. That comes with a price tag of $21,871.
While they didn’t authorize any changes to the off street parking area on Old Buckingham Road, they did say staff could reach out to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and see if the agency could help with that project to bring costs down.
* Bret Schardein, assistant county administrator, led a discussion with the board about revising the county’s inoperable vehicles policy. The discussion centered not only on the number of allowed inoperable vehicles but where they can be located and how they need to be shielded. After a brief discussion, the board decided there was enough interest in looking at the policy and asked staff to bring back some suggested revisions.
* The board decided to begin the review of the proposed updates to the long-range comprehensive plan recommended by the planning commission. They scheduled workshops on the comprehensive plan for 3 p.m. on four consecutive Wednesdays – June 9, 16, 23, and 30 in the Village Building. The meetings are open to the public.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.