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Grayson approves zoning request

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Local fire departments, rescue squads and even individuals can now hold various recreational activities in Grayson County, with a special use permit.

The Grayson Board of Supervisors held a public hearing during its December meeting to take comments on a proposed change to the zoning ordinance to allow various recreation activities, including lawn mower races.

During its meeting Jan. 8, the board unanimously approved changing the ordinance to include the “rural commercial recreational uses.”

Nearly a year ago, Independence Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Smith approached the Grayson Planning Commission to ask for a zoning ordinance change to allow firefighters to host a lawn mower racing fundraiser.

The events draw big crowds and are lucrative for non-profit agencies. A similar race each summer in Galax packs the grandstand with thousands of spectators.

There was no mention of such activities in the previous Grayson zoning ordinance. So it wasn’t allowed, nor was it prohibited.

The change effective Feb. 1 is not only for lawn mower racing, but also for various special events held throughout the county.

After several months of discussion, the planning commission finally made a recommendation to county supervisors in December.

Supervisors opted to hold off and seek legal advice on some wording prior to deciding.

County Administrator Bill Ring provided the board with a reply from attorney James E. Cornwell, Jr.

In question was whether the wording meant people had to apply each time for a permit, or if it was valid until the applicant switches uses.

According to Cornwell, once a permit is granted, it would not expire unless the applicant wanted to change a use and/or the board placed a time condition on it.

For example, if the applicant applies under the motorized events and exhibits category, but decides to hold a fireworks show later, a new application would be required.

The board also has the authority to place a condition on a use, such as no more than twice a month, or only on Sundays.

If an application is for a motorized event to hold a lawn mower race, and the organizer later wants to hold a motorcycle race, Cornwell said, there would be no need to re-apply if the board had not specified the permit was only for lawn mower racing.

Supervisor Doug Carico questioned if a person wanted to hold an event that featured two items, such as a lawn mower race and fireworks in the evenings, if the applicant must obtain two permits.

Ring said the person could apply for the special use permit and mention that a permit was needed for both uses, and each would be allowed.

Supervisors’ Vice Chairman Larry Bartlett asked for some re-wording.

The original copy mandated that the applicant be on site for supervision at all times.

Bartlett, however, said that may be OK for the fire department, which has several members, but it may be hard for an individual to do, especially in the event of an emergency, such as having to go to the hospital.

Bartlett recommended wording be changed to say the applicant “or the applicant’s designee.”

Carico moved to approve the zoning change, and it was seconded by Brenda Sutherland.

The change creates a special use permit under the Rural Farm District designation. The requirements are:

• minimum acreage of two acres for commercial recreational structures and uses.

• on-site supervision of events at all times by the applicant or applicant’s designee.

• the proposed site must have direct access to a road designated as a state-maintained hard surface road of sufficient design to meet event traffic demands.

• the proposed site must be of size and shape appropriate for the proposed use, and have adequate buffering to protect adjacent property from potentially adverse effects.

• the site be developed in accordance with an approved plan of development.

• no use can result in sound levels to exceed 60 decibels during hours of operation, as measured at the nearest property line.

• the use is subject to any conditions deemed necessary and appropriate by the planning commission and/or board of supervisors.

• a “rural commercial recreational use” means an indoor and/or outdoor use facility where supervised recreational activities take place.