With no support, zoning referendum bill fails

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No Grayson supervisors traveled to Richmond on Tuesday to testify in support of legislation that would have allowed citizens to decide the fate of the county’s zoning ordinance.

By Staff Reports

RICHMOND — With no testimony offered before a Virginia Senate committee and no unanimous support from county supervisors, a bill was killed on Tuesday that would have put Grayson’s zoning ordinance to a popular vote.
The Grayson Board of Supervisors is divided on whether to get rid of zoning, which guides land use and development. It has split 3-2, with the majority faction opposed to zoning.

Voting along those same lines, the board asked state Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Fries) to introduce legislation that would have allowed the county to hold a referendum in November. Citizens would have been able to cast a “yes” or “no” vote for zoning, and the results would have been binding.
However, Carrico said he was only given three days to draft the bill (SB 668) and was concerned because he didn’t understand the board’s reasons for requesting it.
“It’s hard to defend something you’re not involved in,” Carrico said previously about the bill.
He summoned the five supervisors to Richmond on Tuesday to testify before the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, but none of them made the trip.
“The Grayson County Board of Supervisors was given every opportunity to come to Richmond and explain why SB 668 should be approved... However, they never contacted me nor did they appear today before the committee to explain the need for SB 668,” Carrico wrote Wednesday in an email to a constituent, which was shared with The Gazette.
The bill died by a vote of 16-0, with Carrico abstaining from the vote.
“Therefore, Senate Bill 668 will receive no further consideration by the General Assembly.”
Carrico also didn’t get the unanimous approval of the referendum that he asked the supervisors to provide.
Wilson District Supervisor Glen “Eddie” Rosenbaum, Chairman John Brewer of Fries and At-large Supervisor David Sexton all support the repeal. Elk Creek Supervisor Brenda Sutherland and Oldtown Supervisor Kenneth Belton support zoning.
That schism resulted in Carrico introducing, but not officially backing, the referendum bill in the Senate. “Legislation of this type requires significant local input and a clear indication of broad support among local leaders,” Carrico said in a letter to the supervisors.
Grayson resident Mary Lily Nuckolls, a zoning supporter who wrote to Carrico to ask him and fellow senators to vote “no” on the bill, said she was pleased with the outcome.
“Our zoning problems need to be worked out in the county and we need to continually educate our citizens about how zoning works and how it keeps us protected,” she said in an email Wednesday to Carrico, which was forwarded to others fighting the zoning repeal.
The referendum may have failed, but the zoning repeal process continues.
On another 3-2 vote, the supervisors have tasked the Grayson Planning Commission with drafting an ordinance of repeal.
The two-page document has been drafted by the county’s legal counsel, Sands Anderson, and awaits the commission’s review. It would also require a public hearing before the commission sends it back to the supervisors.
If approved, county officials said it is likely that the zoning repeal would not go into effect before January 2015, because other zoning-related documents, like the county’s comprehensive plan and subdivision ordinance, would have to be changed.
In her letter to Carrico, Nuckolls said she feels the repeal process is being rushed. The supervisors voted in December to repeal, and two months later an ordinance has been drafted.
“I feel that our citizens in Grayson County need time to be educated about how our zoning ordinance works for them. I feel that the education process must come before a decision of repeal is made.”
Many other citizens have spoken out against the appeal, in person at public meetings, through letters to the newspaper and other forums.
If the supervisors pass the ordinance when it comes before them, some zoning supporters have discussed seeking a legal injunction to stop the repeal before it takes effect.
Grayson has not received a bill from the attorneys who drafted the repeal ordinance, so county officials can’t say how much the repeal will cost in terms of legal fees and staff hours. One part of the process, notifying every landowner in Grayson of the change, is estimated to cost the county $17,000.
The supervisors will return to the zoning debate when they hold their next monthly meeting Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. The county plans to book the Grayson County High School auditorium for the meeting, after having to move last month’s meeting there due to hundreds of citizens attending.