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HILLSVILLE — When the Town of Hillsville last annexed property from Carroll County in 1995, the deal approved by the state included a 15-year moratorium on further annexation.
Now, two years before that ban is lifted, a group of Carroll property owners on the town's western border want Hillsville to take them in.
Town Attorney Greg Goad explained that this procedure, because it was initiated by citizens instead of the town, is allowed before the moratorium expires.
“It's technically a boundary readjustment, not an annexation,” Goad said at Monday night's town council meeting. The town can't have any part in the process, other than to accept the request and pass it on to the state Commission on Local Government.
The effort is driven by Mike Gallaher, owner of the recently opened Espresso Express coffee shop on U.S. 58, between the highway's intersection with Interstate 77 and the western town limits. He is also in the process of remodeling a building across 58 from the coffee shop for a new restaurant, Gallaher's Grill & Steakhouse.
He said the drive-through coffee shop, which opened last month, “is growing by leaps and bounds” and desperately needs the trash pickup service the town would provide.
Though Gallaher did not mention it in relation to his steakhouse, becoming part of Hillsville would let restaurants take advantage of the town's ordinance allowing alcohol sales — a practice banned in the county.
On Monday, Gallaher presented council members with a map of properties whose owners have signed agreements to become part of Hillsville. They are on the north side of 58 — beside the coffee shop and adjacent to the county's industrial park — and the south side, where the steakhouse will be built.
(Gallaher noted that he still needed a signature from one property owner, but the man was in favor of the plan.)
He was not sure of the total acreage of the properties.
Gallaher said he had met the requirement of getting signed agreements from at least 51 percent of the property owners in the area in question.
Town officials said the one sticking point in the request was that none of the properties that want to join Hillsville are actually adjacent to the town's border — a requirement to be considered for a boundary adjustment.
James Webb, the owner of a large property between the town border and the group seeking to join Hillsville, is not interested in joining the effort.
Gallaher said that might not matter. From talking with Goad, he learned that as long as a portion of a property is in Hillsville, it is entitled to services from the town. The Webb property is in both the town and county.
Town Council Member Greg Yonce that could create a loophole that would allow the properties to join Hillsville.
Council accepted Gallaher's map and signed agreements, and planned to forward them on to the Commission on Local Government to begin the process. The ultimate decision will be up to a judge.
The town has no say in the matter.
Town council members reacted positively to Gallaher's presentation. It would add new businesses, residents and tax revenue to the town, they discussed.
Council Member Orba Alderman attempted to make a motion to approve the effort, but Goad cautioned council to wait until he had a chance to consult with Carter Glass, an attorney who helped the town with its last annexation.
Gallaher said he is hard at work to get the steakhouse open. A new roof was just added, and he's putting an addition on the back.
He also told council about his talks with the Virginia Department of Transportation about putting up a lighted “Welcome to Hillsville” gateway sign between the industrial park and Old Galax Pike.
He hopes to get Appalachian Power Co. to run electrical lines to that area, so lights and lighted signs can be put up around businesses on the east side of I-77.
Now, most of the traffic off the interstate at Exit 14 is turning west toward McDonald's instead of heading toward Hillsville. Gallaher said it could be that the east side of the interstate is darker.
“My goal is to get one more person off I-77 and get them to spend $5 here,” he said.