Board delays Mount Cross Dollar General, deals with unexpected animal shelter costs

Michael Lynch and Lane Fuller argued the merit of a Dollar General locating to Mount Cross Road, but settled with revising their plans and trying again at a later date.

On April 18, the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors meeting stretched over three hours covering a potential Dollar General on Mount Cross Road, unexpected animal shelter costs, and a deed adjustment with the former National Guard Armory in Chatham.

With opposition from the planning committee due to concerns of traffic safety, the Board denied Dollar General’s appeal in Zoning Case 3, where the company wanted to rezone 2.47 acres on Mount Cross Road from residential to business.

Michael Lynch of Engineering Concepts, project manager for the proposed Dollar General, said the site was one of the safest out of all his project locations and that it met all of VDOT’s requirements.

He said businesses shouldn’t be held accountable for lawbreakers that speed, drive while drunk, and drive while distracted.

Westover District Supervisor Ron Scearce said, “You might not be held responsible, but I do answer to all of my constituents and it’s my responsibility to keep this district safe.”

Scearce said that according to Jay Craddock of VDOT, there have been 20 accidents in the area in less than three years, and he wasn’t going to add more traffic to the issue.

Lynch said, “You’re holding business hostage.”

Lane Fuller, introduced by Lynch as “one of the top dogs” associated with the site development, said, “There are plenty of businesses already on Mount Cross Road.”

He said cell-phones and irresponsible drivers, which are everywhere, were the reason for the accident numbers and that holding up progress for those reasons would mean not building anywhere.

“We’re here to develop businesses to contribute to your tax base and to employ your citizens,” said Fuller.

Chairman Bob Warren said supporting businesses was one of his top priorities, but that safety was number one.

He said he has seen issues with the busy road firsthand, because he attends church on Mount Cross Road.

Instead of an outright “no,” triggering a mandatory 12-month waiting period to try again, Warren offered a “substitute motion to withdraw without penalty.”

“It would be hard for me to support this at this time,” he said.

Scearce said, “I would have no issues with this if there was a turn lane or other safety measures in place, but as of now, there are none, so I cannot reasonably say ‘yes’ to this, strictly due to safety.”

With funds already allocated to widening the road from Wal-Mart to Averrett North Campus (according to Warren), Scearce said he suspected it would be five years minimum before funding would free up for another project in that area.

Lynch said, “We’ll work with VDOT about a turn lane, and come back for public hearing with new and updated designs.”

The Dollar General would be a 9,100 square-foot building with 37 parking spaces and fencing all the way around its back and sides, said Lynch.

Betty Tuck of Mount Cross Road said the Board should keep the area zoned R1-residential for as long as they can. She had with her a petition against the development, signed by 163 residents.

She said Dollar General provides many nice products that will require restocking at least once a week, which means delivery trucks and trash pickups adding to the already high traffic count.

Debbie Loomis of Mount Cross Road said there were more then enough businesses like Dollar General in the area, and that she understood why a different company would want to share the profits, but for the people living there it was not a safety risk worth taking.

Tunstall District Supervisor Tim Barber said, “I’m all for servicing businesses and there are communities out there that would love to have a Dollar General, but this community seems pretty clear in not wanting to have one.”

In other community concerns, waterfront residents no longer need permits from Appalachian Power (AEP) to build or modify their docks. Instead county building permits will suffice.

Callands-Gretna Supervisor Jerry Hagerman said, “The Myers Creek Boat Dock project has been completed by Appalachian and is ready to use.”

Sherwood Zimmerman was elected by the Board to become the Leesville Lake representative to the Tri-County Lakes Administrative Commission, effective Jan. 31, 2018.

The Board also passed mechanisms to have greater regulation power over county solar energy facilities.

Staunton River District Supervisors Elton Blackstock said, “We’ve sat through several meetings regarding these changes and I certainly support them.”

Regarding unexpected expenses, the Pittsylvania County Animal Shelter ran into some issues that needed immediate attention, said Assistant County Administrator Otis Hawker.

In the 12,000 square-foot area of the shelter not being renovated, $11,000 worth of rot damage was found that needed to be repaired before the board meeting to prevent further damage, said Hawker.

Also, unsuitable soil conditions on either side of the shelter rear was discovered to have created a structural integrity risk for the surrounding pavement and building, said Hawker.

Hawker said he negotiated the initial $130,000 repair cost figure down to $58,437. He requested $30,000 from unappointed funds to help balance the costs.

The Board inquired why studies weren’t made beforehand and Hawker said tests were performed to industry standards.

The issues were geotechnical and not environmental, dealing with weight allowances of heavy vehicles and not pollution or potential ground water contamination, he said.

The Chatham Armory was another unexpected expense said County Attorney Jay Vaden Hunt “This has come back like a bad penny.”

According to Hunt, the Commonwealth forgot to add language in the original deed. Now, the Commonwealth has the right to take the property back from the county if it is not used for the public good, meaning that they wouldn’t be able to resell it until January 1 of 2034, unless the county wanted to pay $140,000 in bond collateral.

Hunt said, “I’m not advocating one way or the other, but we have been maintaining the site since the 1950s.”

Blackstock motioned to table the decision until more information was presented.

In other expenses, three sections of Heron Pointe, previously owned by a resident who went bankrupt will not be maintained by VDOT until repairs are made to bring the sections up to minimum standards.

Hunt said, “Mr. Sides (County Assistant Administrator Greg Sides) and I have been working on this for at least two years.”

With the affirmative roll call vote, the Board has begun the process of returning the segments of Heron Pointe into the VDOT system.

Regarding county courthouse renovations, it would cost $11,000 to relocate and secure the county safe, allowing the county treasurer to have an office that’s larger than a closet, according to Hawker.

A courthouse maintenance fee that charges defendants from $2 to $25 was also approved.

In other bookkeeping news, an organizational chart change was agreed to make building officials responsible for the removal, repair, and securing of dangerous structures, instead of the director of code compliance being liable.

An amendment was also added and approved to acknowledge the new county middle school parks, which is a measure required to assign maintenance crews to the parks.

In response to renegade chickens in the Westover District, county animal fencing requirements were expanded to not only fowls, but also broadly to include all livestock.

Hunt said violators could be fined up to $250 and receive a class four misdemeanor, but no jail time.

Scearce said, “99% of people will take care of their animals.”

He said the officers would give everyone the opportunity to adjust to the new rules and not just fine people as the first response.

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