By Pauline O. Hovey
The Greene County Board of Supervisors indicated its willingness to adapt to changes in the county landscape yesterday by voting unanimously to grant a special use permit to Bruce Shifflett for his Lydia Mountain Lodge & Cabins, a tourist attraction located in an area zoned C-1, Conservation. The permit will allow Shifflett to add outdoor recreational activities, including all-season tubing, a zip line, and an ATV trail to his Mountain Laurel Pass property. In addition, earlier that day, in a workshop with the School Board and architect SHW Group concerning the proposed school facilities project, supervisors agreed to move forward with a public hearing for January 11, 2011, for an estimated $5.3 million loan.
Tuesday’s full schedule began with the 4:30 p.m. workshop where the SHW Group representative Bill Bradley presented several very detailed handouts outlining base bids, lump sum allowances, and nine unit price allowances for additional excavation to the high school’s athletic facilities and Performing Arts Center. In addition, pricing for alternates such as baseball and softball bleachers, dugouts, and other upgrades were provided in 14 separate items. Five firms bid on the project, ranging from $3.8 million to $5.3 million, not including the alternates. Supervisor Jim Frydl (Ruckersville), who served on the project Steering Committee, commended the architectural firm for providing “professional guidance and expertise. They did a good job of estimating things out, costs vs. need.”
If approved, the county would seek financing for the project through the Virginia Public School Association, and annual payments would be less than the debt that’s being retired at the end of this fiscal year, basically substituting a new school project for the old.
At the regularly scheduled board meeting, supervisors spent more than one hour discussing Shifflett’s special permit issue request and listening to public comments on the matter. Concerned about the noise generated from potentially 10 ATVs being operated at the Lydia Mountain Cabins as a result of acquiring this permit, one neighbor, Jeanette Halpin, commented, “One’s rights stop when they infringe on the rights of another.”
The concerns of all four neighbors who spoke against the special use permit were focused on additional traffic and light and noise pollution generated by the proposed recreational activities, although all agreed that Shifflett’s business operation to date has been conscientious and commendable. That same conscientiousness motivated several residents to speak in favor of the project, noting Shifflett’s connection to Greene County, and to the mountain, specifically, having grown up in the area. Margaret Ramsey, local realtor and chair of the Tourism Council, “I appreciate the measures the applicant has taken to make sure his plans have limited effect on the nature of the area and his neighbors.”
Board members then addressed their reservations, such as the need to widen the road leading up the mountain and the effect of ATVs and outdoor lighting on the quality of life. Supervisor Frydl clarified the lighting and noise issues for the board by pointing out that any new site plans would fall under ordinances for lighting now in existence and would be required to meet those criteria. As for noise issues, he noted that, other than an ordinance addressing disturbances after 11:00 p.m., the board lacks legislative authority this area under current County code. Concerned about the lighting issue, Supervisor Carl Schmitt (at-large) moved to accept the special use permit, subject to changing the hours of operation to be limited to until sunset rather than until 9 p.m., as originally proposed. Based on that change, all supervisors approved the request.
From there, the meeting moved forward smoothly and quickly, with the board approving a resolution for financing energy performance contract upgrades not covered by Qualified School Construction Bond funding and an additional appropriation for energy service upgrades to county facilities.
One of the last items, which the board will revisit over the coming months is prioritizing 2010/2011 county projects with the Planning Commission. County Planning Director Bart Svoboda prepared an extensive project list that includes top priorities of comparing the comp plan with zoning ordinances, revising proffer guidelines, and following up on water and sewer issues, specifically in terms of special needs requests. Supervisors realize they need to define “where the line needs to be” in terms of when a property should be required to connect to the current system, and they need to sort out the agricultural-based land issue, which Supervisor Frydl explained as the “mixed farming and creative use of land issues,” noting, “We want to make sure we don’t put undue burdens on property owners wanting to keep their land.”