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Pittsylvania planners oppose Coles’ request for land / August 09, 2018

Danville Register & Bee
Reprinted with permission

A few months ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court case on uranium mining, the Pittsylvania County Planning Commission unanimously voted against recommending approval for the president of Virginia Uranium’s request to rezone a plot of land.

Several concerned residents spoke during the meeting, citing concerns that the rezoned land would be used for uranium mining if Virginia’s long-standing moratorium is lifted.

In the request, Virginia Uranium President Walter Coles and Alice Coles wanted to rezone 24.13 acres of land near South Meadows Road from residential to agricultural.

According to documents in the Coles’ request, the land had been sold to the pair in 2007 by Marline Uranium Corp.

Westover resident Karen Maute said she believed they were “getting things in line” in case the ban ended. In such case, the use of the land for uranium mining would require a special permit and fall under the jurisdiction of the board of zoning appeals rather than an elected board.

“Let’s not jump the gun,” she said. “Let’s not rezone the property prematurely.”

Halifax County resident Sarah Dunavant called the rezoning “seemingly innocent,” but called attention to potential damage that could be caused if the property was used for uranium mining. Dunavant also is a member of We the People of Virginia, an anti-uranium mining group.

Multiple residents said they worried about the health concerns associated with uranium mining and the lack of regulations on the industry in Virginia.

Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Will Cleveland said they believed companies are waiting to potentially take advantage of the nonexistent regulations in the state should the moratorium cease.

“No one wants uranium mining except for the people who think they can profit off this,” he said.

Representing the Coles at the meeting, Rick Armstrong stated the Coles wanted to rezone their personal property to match with the surrounding land parcels and apply for land use tax benefits. He said the pair uses the land for animals to graze on.

“What he’s interested in is getting his taxes reduced and get it used for land use,” said Armstrong. “He should be available to get that like any other citizen would be.”

Armstrong added, “If he had told me in any way that it was about uranium mining, I don’t think I would be here right now.”

Supervisors Joe Davis and Charles Miller spoke against approving the request.

Davis stated he would never vote for uranium mining in the region, whether the state lifts the ban or not. Before making the motion to recommend for the board of supervisors to deny the request, he said he didn’t foresee the supervisors approving it either way.

The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors will review the request at their monthly meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21.

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