The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday night, March 12 to rezone and donate Blairs Middle School to The Landmark Group, who plans to transform the school into apartments. 

The Landmark Group representative John Stiltner told the board the project involved the creation of 55, moderate income apartments at the cost of his company around $9 million. 

“This is a great opportunity to provide housing and preserve the history of the school,” county administrator David Smitherman said on behalf of the supervisors who petitioned the planning commission to recommend rezoning the school. 

Stiltner said the school would have 11 single bedrooms, 29 double bedrooms, and 10 triple bedrooms in sizes up to 1,300 square feet. 

The Landmark Group is working to apply for historic tax credits once the necessary paperwork is accepted by the state to deem Blairs Middle School as historic property.

Stiltner said the plans envisioned for the school include a dedicated space towards the schools heritage in addition to a full renovation of the gymnasium for public use at a ‘nominal fee’ for the county.

Also in the plans is to build a field house and storage area for Southside Soccer Club to keep gear and concessions items in. 

Citizen Wayne Robertson spoke out against the project and said the county should consider the need for another high school. 

“I keep hearing reports that things are getting ready to happen at the [Southern Virginia Megasite at Berry Hill]. Schools are overcrowded. This is a perfect spot for a school,” Robertson said. 

Citizen Edward Hairston told the board that as a 1966 graduate of Southside High School, the project excited him. 

No time table has been set for the beginning of renovations for Blairs Middle School. 

In other business, the board recommended that a revision for  special use permits in Pittsylvania County code to go before the planning commission. 

The revision would allow AEP to bypass applying for multiple special use permits over several parcels of land in order to reach the Southern Virginia Megasite at Berry Hill with power. 

If there were no changes to the county code, AEP would have to apply for a special use permits for each individual parcel of land.

AEP officials told the board during work session that in either plan, they would still have to get permission of the landowner and pay for the right of way for the power lines.

The board  unanimously approved several items during the meeting. 

A revision to the elderly and indigent real estate exemption was approved. 

The revision states that if a person is already receiving an exemption, they can not be kicked out of the system if there is a change in circumstances. 

Tim Barber said he had family express concerns after they received notice that the taxes for a loved one had to be paid in full three days after they passed away. This revision would prevent that from happening in the future, and would prorate it based on the year.

The supervisors also approved an engineering contract for the Ringgold Rail Trail. 

After Tropical Storm Michael devastated portions of the trail on Oct. 11, and FEMA declared Pittsylvania County a disaster area, funds were made available to study and repair the trail among other areas in the county. 

Assistant County Administrator Gregory Sides told the board the county would ultimately be responsible for 5-percent of the costs associated with the repairs. The state would be responsible for 20-percent and the federal government 75-percent.

“Dewberry has provided a proposal for the engineering work on the Ringgold Rail Trail at a cost of $150,336, and a proposal for similar Ringgold railroad work at a cost of $13,680,” Sides said. 

The supervisors approved Pittsylvania County staff to participate in creating an overall comprehensive broadband plan. 

The plan will come at no cost for the county and will be done in collaboration with the Center of Innovative Technology. 

An animal nuisance ordinance that was presented to the board is going back to the legislative committee after being recommended that no action be taken. 

The ordinance’s language according to county attorney Vaden Hunt was not acceptable among citizens, and the opportunity to go back to committee will allow the county to work with citizens to correct any issues. 

The board voted to add a late filing penalty of $100 to the land use filing ordinance. 

Prior to the fine, if landowners missed a filing deadline they would have to wait until the following tax year to refile. 

The fine allows them to file in the same year. 

For appointments, Elton Blackstock appointed Christopher Barbour to fill the vacant seat of Stedman Payne on the Pittsylvania County Department of Social Services board. Barbour will serve until June 30, 2019. 

Willie T. Fitzgerald and Tim Barber were reappointed to serve four year terms on the Pittsylvania County Service Authority. Both of their terms end on March 31, and the new terms will begin April 1. 

The next board of supervisors business meeting is set for 7 p.m. on April 16 in the Pittsylvania County General District Courtroom. 

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