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Halifax County supervisors field request for Virgilina school site / June 24, 2019

The Halifax County Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday night in Halifax with several matters on the agenda, including a permit application to open a church-run youth program at the shuttered Virgilina Elementary School site, and a vote to adopt a county land use tax ordinance for agricultural producers.

The meeting is slated for 6:30 p.m. at the Bethune Office Complex in Halifax, in the second floor meeting room. Supervisors are not scheduled to meet again until Aug. 5.

Items for consideration by board members include:

» A conditional use permit for My Life Matters, Inc., based in Roxboro, N.C. The organization, headed by Roxboro minister Timothy Bowes, wants to purchase Virginia Elementary and renovate the building to serve as a site for youth summer camps, retreats and conferences. The mission of My Life Matters “is to help youth of all levels become better people and adults,” Bowes told members of the Planning Commission at a prior meeting.

At that meeting, planners recommended approval of the permit, with 15 conditions that mostly pertain to building and interior features, parking and hours when programs can be held. The final decision on issuing a permit lies with the Board of Supervisors.

In presentations to county and Town of Virgilina officials, Bowes has emphasized My Life Matters’ plans to renovate the Virgilina Elementary to serve as a site for a summer youth camp, and year-round programs for youths and adults. “We plan to take several months, and up to two years, to renovate the property to make it usable” for these purposes, Bowes stated to the Planning Commission.

“We realize the school is loved by the Virgilina community and it is our intent to create a beautiful facility that hopefully we can collaborate with other agencies in Virgilina and North Carolina within the next two to three years,” Bowes added.

Virgilina Mayor Ralph Murray and Council member Jason Johnson endorsed the proposal in their comments to planners, with Johnson telling them “we feel this is the best thing for our community as we are striving to grow and this may attract more people.”

In response to concerns about proper supervision of children in a camp setting, and the safety of using an old facility, Bowes told planners that My Life Matters will perform background checks on all employees, and never allow children to be left alone at any time with only one adult. As for the school building itself, Bowes said he plans to hire a certified asbestos contractor to replace a section of piping, the only known hazard at the shuttered elementary.

The vote by the Planning Commission to approve a use permit, with conditions, was unanimous.

» Also tonight, supervisors are expected to vote on adopting a land use taxation program to provide a break on real estate taxes for agricultural and horticultural producers. The land use taxation ordinance must be approved by the end of the month to go in effect for the 2020 calendar year starting in January.

The program is meant to replace ag forestal districts (AFDs) which the Board of Supervisors discontinued this year, citing the high cost to county taxpayers. Land use taxation limits assistance only to bona fide farm producers, defined as those in the agricultural or horticultural industry who can demonstrate they have been in commercial production for the past five years, generating income of at least $1,000 per year over three years. Pleasure horse operations do not qualify.

Unlike ag forestal districts, the tax assistance would not be provided to owners of open space lands or forestry tract owners. Land use taxation allows farm producers to pay real estate taxes based on the use value of their land rather than the fair market value, a determination based on what similar properties sell for on the open market.

To qualify for land use taxation, producers must have at least five acres of land. While timber is not a category covered by the ordinance, farm producers can include up to 19.9 acres of timberland in the program with the presence of a forestry management plan.

To apply for land use taxation, producers must pay a $25 fee with each parcel. The program would be administered through the office of the Commissioner of Revenue, which would be responsible for ensuring compliance with the rules for determining eligibility. Producers deemed ineligible for the program could be subject to paying rollback taxes to make up for lost revenue to the county.

» Also, supervisors will consider a request by Tom Stutts to extend scenic river designation along an 11-mile stretch of the Staunton River from Clover to Staunton River State Park, where the Staunton and Dan rivers converge to form Kerr Lake. The designation, which must be approved by the state, would mean that the Staunton through Halifax and Charlotte counties would be considered a scenic river in its entirety.

» Supervisors will consider a change to the site footprint for Foxhound Solar, in the Clover area, from 1,479 acres to 1,142 acres. The solar generation facility was previously approved by supervisors, but the developers are seeking to update the conditional use permit to allow for modifications to the layout. Once built, the solar array will be capable of producing up to 83 megawatts of electricity.

The project is set to be built at Green Level Road and Mountain Laurel Road.

» Supervisors also will receive a progress update on the courthouse renovation project. County Administrator Scott Simpson, in his notes to board members, said the general contractor and architect are close to unveiling a design for a new building behind the courthouse to replace two torn-down structures — the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and the old courthouse annex, which housed general district court and juvenile and domestic relations court.

With a final design, the county will have pricing information that can be factored into the total budget of the Courthouse Renovation Project.

Board members will also consider appointments to the Improvement Council, Board of Equalization, Library Board, Tri-County Community Action Agency and other groups with vacancies to fill on their boards of directors.

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