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Halifax County supes shelve Shepherd’s Gate rezoning request / November 07, 2013
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors acted quickly Monday to remove consideration of a Shepherd’s Gate rezoning request from their agenda. The motion, made by Barry Bank of ED#5, called for delaying the matter indefinitely. It passed on a 7-1 vote, with ED-4 Supervisor Doug Bowman casting the lone opposing vote.

Bowman said he felt the rezoning would have to be brought back to the Board for action, since it was supported by the county Planning Commission and is consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan. Staff had recommended approval.

In making the motion, Bank sought to attach the stipulation that the matter be brought back only at his suggestion, since he represents ED#5 where the property is located. However, the board did not incorporate Bank’s suggestion in the approved motion.

The matter was first tabled after a lengthy discussion followed a public hearing before the Board back in September. At that time, one of the property owners in the Shepherd’s Gate Subdivision asked that it be rezoned from M-1 to R-1 since 56 percent of the property was used for single family residences.

At that public hearing, two local business owners and two other property owners asked that the zoning remain as M-1.

In other business, supervisors recognized 54 current and past fire department heads and thanked them for their leadership, dedication and commitment in providing for the safety of the citizens of Halifax County.

All told, their length of collective service totals 475 years of volunteer work on behalf of local residents.

Supervisors also adopted an updated Emergency Operations Plan which has to be revised every four years. This year the county and the Town of South Boston are working together on the plan, which will be used to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of natural or man-made disasters — hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, high winds, and other calamities that may strike the area.

According to Emergency Services Coordinator Kirby Saunders, citizen involvement will be essential to the operation of the plan. More information about the role that citizens may play will be forthcoming, Saunders said.

Board members also heard a report from Animal Control Officer Todd Moser, who offered several suggestions for increasing financial support for the operation of the local animal pound.

He suggested the Board should consider allowing the sale of dog tags at the offices of local veterinarians, and also possibly offer a discount for those who have their pets spayed or neutered to prevent an overabundance of animals.

Moser advised that the floor of the animal pound needs to be renovated since it is a coarse, concrete surface which retains dirt and germs and does not meet state requirements.

Cheryl Watts of the local Humane Society praised the work of Moser’s department, but said it is a physical impossibility for his office to be able to cover the entire county.

Also offering comments about the fostering of abandoned animals were Larry Bishop and Penny Lloyd of the SPCA. Bishop said his group is trying to offer discounts for those who will spay or neuter their pets, and he is hoping to help raise money to renovate the pound.

County Administrator Jim Halasz pointed out that the cost of operating the animal shelter runs somewhere between $240,000 to $260,000 per year, with only a portion of the revenue coming from tags and fees. These levies bring in about $45,000 per year, with taxpayers footing the remainder of the bill. He said his office will be looking for ways to cut costs to save money for taxpayers.

Board members also heard a report from Todd Moser, who this year served as general manager of the Halifax County Fair. Moser estimated some 600 to 700 more attendees this year than last, and he credited several civic groups, including Heritage Festival members, for helping to make the event so successful.

He said he and fair owner James Edmunds are already looking at bigger grandstand acts for next year’s event.

Supervisors also approved a Project Priority List provided by the US 501 Committee which will be sent to the Virginia Department of Transportation for inclusion and funding in the Six Year Plan.

ED#1 Supervisor J. T. Davis, who serves on the 501 Regional Coalition, said 501 is a dangerous road to travel and it is his hope that the local project priorities will be “shovel ready” in the event that funding is sent here.

In other business, supervisors approved the county’s participation in the Virginia Association of Counties Plan (VACO) for long term disability, a plan that Halasz said is equal or superior to the VRS policy, out of which the county earlier opted.

The Board also approved an ordinance that will allow applicants for business licenses to file their applications and pay their fees on April 1 rather March 1, as currently required. Their approval came after no one commented on the proposed change.

Two citizens took advantage of the public comment period at the end of the meeting to express their disagreement with action taken by the Board earlier in approving a $5,000 donation to the Virginia Coalition to help in keeping the ban on uranium mining in Virginia.

Michael Hudson asked Supervisors to give a public response to the legality of their donation of taxpayer money to hire lobbyists.

Thomas Hudson echoed his cousin’s words, saying that he had entrusted the Board to spend taxpayer money on things the county needs such as trash collection and support for the Sheriff’s Department. He said expending money for lobbyists, he felt, was inappropriate.

Two other speakers, however, disagreed as Buster D’Amato and Bernard Mitzler both said they felt the donation was necessary to help preserve the welfare of the community.

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