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Back to the drawing board for North Main apartments

SoVaNow.com / April 12, 2018
The controversy surrounding a proposed apartment complex on North Main Street in South Boston, ended Monday night when the owner withdrew a zoning application that set to come up for a public hearing before South Boston Town Council.

Councilman William R. Snead said he received a call asking to withdraw the application from Glenn Garrett, the local contractor who represents property owner Howard B. Powell Sr. in the matter.

The project calls for developing 15 one- and two-bedroom, market-rate apartments at the site of the shuttered medical clinic on North Main. Powell requested that the site be “down zoned” from a B-1 Neighborhood Business District to a R-4 High Density Residential District to accommodate the project.

Snead, commenting on the matter at Monday’s Council meeting, said Garrett told him during their phone conversation that this was his first experience with a zoning issue, and if he had to do it all again, he would bring detailed drawings with him.

At an April 4 meeting of town planners to review the apartment project, several citizens voiced concerns that the plan to repurpose the old medical clinic would likely damage the aesthetics of the neighborhood and drag down property values. All complained about not having drawings of what Garrett proposed to build.

In a subsequent phone interview with the News & Record, Garrett said, “I had no idea what I was walking into on April 4, and clearly my expectations that I might need to answer just a few questions was wrong.”

A lifelong resident of South Boston, Garrett said he did not want to create ill will or hard feelings in the community. “I thought it was a good plan, but it was not worth setting up battle lines with me, or between neighbors,” added Garrett.

Although withdrawn, several community members asked to make additional comments on the application during the public comment portion of the meeting. In response to a question by resident Walter Boelte, Town Manager Tom Raab explained that the R-4 zoning request moved the zoning closer to the town’s long-term plans of adjusting some areas back to residential zones.

John Greenbacker commented that problems could have been avoided if Garrett had provided drawings of the envisioned apartments, noting that the sketches Garrett brought were only shared with council members, not with any of the residents in attendance.

Sarah Greenbacker’s mother, Ann Zimmerman, suggested that the town should purchase the building and repurpose it to serve as the new home of the South Boston-Halifax County Museum of Fine Arts & History.

Snead said he would not be pleased to see a neon laundromat or tattoo parlor sign on N. Main Street, and he suggested that the neighbors meet with Garrett to talk. Snead said he believed that Garrett would be willing to sit down for a productive discussion.

Council members made two suggestions concerning notice to adjacent homeowners of planning commission public hearings — to place notices on social media as well as in the newspapers, and to follow the Halifax County Planning Commission’s practice of sending certified letters to all adjacent homeowners.

In other business, Town Council voted unanimously to approve, in concept, a proposed South Boston Rotary Club plan to fund the removal and replacement of trees along Main Street in downtown.

Mike Lyon, of Brooks Lyon Funeral Home, presented the club’s plans to apply for a grant of approximately $12,000 to remove and replace the 30-year-old Bradford Pear trees along Main Street. “Rotary wants to be front and center, and a co-leader in the positive things happening in our community,” said Lyon.

Removal is the major cost, said Raab. It costs $1,000 to remove and replace one tree using town crews. The proposed replacement trees — Regal Prince Oak — cost approximately $150 each. “This will be a 3-4 year project,” says Raab. “We can’t do this all at one time.”

Lyon added that Rotarians would help collect brush and debris, load trucks, help plant, and provide water on a weekly basis and during the dry season.

Council also took action on the following agenda items:

» Approved a National Small Business Week Proclamation covering April 29 through May 5, for the Town of South Boston.

» Voted 5-1 to approve an ordinance amending the code of the Town of South Boston, Chapter 114 Zoning – to add new definitions for distillery, microbrewery, and micro-winery, and to list them as commercial use types as permitted in the B-2 General Business District, the B-3 Central Business District, and B-4 Downtown Business Expansion Districts. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Snead.

Lisa Francisco, local attorney and property owner, along with her husband Jeffrey, of the 210 Factory Street building in South Boston, formerly known as the Venture Center, spoke in favor of the ordinance amendment and explained their plans for a microbrewery.

» Held a public hearing on the proposed 2018-19 budget in which no one spoke in support or opposition. This was the first reading of a three reading process and no action was required by Council.

» Approved a resolution affirming a commitment to fund South Boston’s share of roadway projects under agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

» Approved a resolution acknowledging the Virginia Department of Transportation’s agreement to replace the Summit Drive superstructure and guard rails by Dec. 31, at no cost to the Town of South Boston.



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