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Halasz lists Courthouse issues for town’s input

SoVaNow.com / February 16, 2017
Halifax County has submitted a list of seven items that cover unfinished details of the Courthouse Project to officials in the Town of Halifax, asking their input on matters that range from streetscape modifications to changes in the courthouse’s brick retaining wall.

Halifax Town Manager Carl Espy offered details of the exchange this week with county administrator Jim Halasz, who emailed the list to Espy on Friday. The exchange comes as Halifax town officials consider whether to issue a zoning permit that would allow renovation and expansion of the historic courthouse to proceed.

In the correspondence, Halasz suggested that many of the items on his list do not require responses for the county to obtain a zoning permit from the Town. Rather, he said the questions are a starting point for resolving final details of the Courthouse Project, and give Town Council members and others an opportunity to make their views known.

According to Espy, Halasz also invited Council members to add to his list or clarify items that the county has brought up. Halasz indicated that he wants to make a comprehensive list to be able to provide assurances that county officials have at least heard the town’s concerns.

Several Council members have complained about what they say is a lack of transparency and communication from the county regarding its plans for the iconic courthouse, orginally built in the early 1800s and expanded several times over its long lifespan.

The discussion took place Tuesday night at the regular monthly meeting of Town Council.

Items for Council to consider as the county moves forward with completion of a dimensional site plan include the following:

The layout, grading plan and amenities of the courthouse grounds.

Plans for the retaining wall, including such details as the brick style finish and wall elevation. The town is also asked to consider the impact on utilities and their possible relocation as work proceeds.

The number of parking spaces that are set aside in the courthouse plan, and what may happen to on-street parking spaces.

Landscaping would include a schedule for planting new vegetation and the fixture of new lighting.

Other details include VDOT approval of street improvements and approval of the Halifax County Service Authority for water and sewer connections. The letter also asked town officials to consider the relocation of internet fiber connections.

Lastly, the letter asks what should be done with the Commonwealth Attorney’s building.

Council members Bill Confroy and Jack Dunavant say they still have many questions about the project: what the courthouse will actually look like once work is finished. Both council members say they want a greater role in determining the scope of renovations.

Councilman Mike Trent also has expressed concerns about the plans for the Commonwealth Attorney’s office.

Mayor Kristie Johnson urged council members to get their questions to Espy so he can get back to Halasz with a reply.

In other business Tuesday night, Council vote to accept an offer from Mid Atlantic Broadband Cooperative for a donated emergency generator for the Halifax Police Department.

They also approved the Planning Commission’s recommendation to name Ron Reiter to another term as head of the commission.

Members also approved a contract for Police Chief Stuart Comer and set a public hearing on a rezoning application from the Halifax Historical Society for a half acre lot and structure located at 110 Mountain Road from R1 to R2 which will allow the society to make it their permanent home.

Council also approved the write-off of some $4,040 in delinquent real estate taxes, although the town will continue to try to collect the overdue taxes.

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