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By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff
HILLSVILLE — A Carroll County Board of Supervisors member has rescinded a motion that he made in July to vacate a plat belonging to Fancy Gap resident who wanted to make changes to his RV retreat property.
Property owner Stephen Gregson appeared at the Oct. 21 supervisors’ meeting to discuss the matter, noting that his attorney had begun a discussion with County Attorney Jim Cornwell about the matter.
At the board’s July 8 meeting, county officials discussed their concerns with a site plan variance that was approved by the Carroll County Planning Commission. Cornwell asserted that the approval of the variance was done inappropriately, which meant that the plat map needed to be vacated.
This affected Gregson’s Agape Motorcoach Retreat in Fancy Gap.
Planning Official Ronald Newman and Cornwell presented several problems with the variance, including not being able to find any reference to a public hearing being held in prior to approving the variance.
County officials did not discuss which property was in question during the July meeting. However, it was later confirmed that they were discussing the Agape issue.
According to a county ordinance that was in place at the time the variance was granted, Gregson needed to apply for a variance to change the size of the lots and the width of the road, according to a statement from Cornwell in July. No such application was found.
Following these statements, Supervisor Bob Martin moved at the July meeting to vacate the plat, and the motion was approved by five supervisors.
Gregson, who was not present at the July meeting, disputes the supervisors’ claims, saying that no variance on the property was needed.
When he brought this issue back to the board on Oct. 21, the board and Gregson debated what was said in the minutes of previous meetings.
On Tuesday, Board Member Tom Littrell told The Gazette that, as he understood it, the motion was made to ask Gregson to vacate the plat voluntarily.
Arguments arose over missing minutes that possibly contained information that could rectify the situation.
“It was my understanding from this board that if we could not come to an agreement to vacate the plat, and if there was an issue, we will schedule a public hearing. If we meet and resolve, there would be no public hearing,” said Board Chairman David Hutchins.
As the debate continued, Martin cut into the discussion. He explained that he’d had a change of heart on the matter, and requested an opportunity to take back the motion that he made in July. “Frankly, I’m uncomfortable with this whole thing, and I’m starting to second-guess myself on the whole matter,” he told the board. “I had a person tell me years ago to let sleeping dogs lie, and I don’t see anything good happening from going into this further.”
On Tuesday, Martin spoke to The Gazette about what led him to rescind his motion. “It was just dragging out, going around and around from July 8 to last night... There was just nowhere to go, and that bothered me a lot,” he said.
With information from previous minutes missing, Martin saw what was coming as a long and expensive legal battle with no winners in sight. “The more I got into this thing, the more I saw that it was a hornet’s nest. It was going to be a high-dollar, expensive proposition.”
At the meeting on Monday, At-Large Supervisor Sam Dixon disagreed with Martin’s statement. “I say that we let [the attorneys] handle this and come to a decision,” he said.
“This kind of thing is unfortunate... but if I ever make a motion that I feel later on is wrong — and I hope I never do — I would want the chance to rescind it,” said Vice Chairman Phil McCraw at the meeting.
In the end, the motion to rescind Martin’s motion was approved by a three-to-two majority with one abstaining.
Now that the motion has been rescinded, the board is back to where it started in determining what needs to be done with the plat. “At this point, it will go back to the planning commission, and I’m not sure what they will do with it,” said County Administrator Gary Larrowe.
Though Gregson said his attorney was discussing the matter with Cornwell, Larrowe said on Wednesday he was unaware of any lawsuit being filed in connection with this incident.
Gregson has alleged that the plat was denied because he raised questions about the county’s handling of a sewer project in Fancy Gap. He has asked for a state and federal investigation of the project, which he claims did not meet state requirements for advertising and bidding.
County officials have refuted his statements.
In other action, the board:
• received a visit from the Carroll County High School Chorus, which performed three songs for the board.
Impressed by the talent that they heard, the board asked if there is anything the county needs to improve. Chorus members said they need a rehearsal space.
At this time, the chorus is rehearsing in the band room, which they have managed to share very well. However, if there is a problem with scheduling, they are pushed to the auditorium.
If the auditorium is full, they lose their practice time entirely.
“It really upsets them, because they take what they do seriously, and if they lose their practice time, it makes them feel like what they’re not doing is important,” said Patricia Lineberry, who volunteers her time to help the chorus group.
• added a proclamation honoring Twin County Regional Hospital for 40 years of service.
• passed a proclamation to declare October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Carroll County. Plaques were given to several county employee breast cancer survivors, including Donna Jennings, Sharon Graveley, Amy and Brian Felts and Stacy and Buck Cox.
• approved a proclamation honoring Laurel Fork Rescue Squad for 40 years of service.
• commended Janie Harrison, former county assessor, for her work prior to her recent retirement. She was awarded a plaque for her 29 years of service to Carroll County.
• received a report from Sarah Jo Jones with Carroll County Extension 4-H on the events, statistics and future plans for the department’s program, over which she has been the agent for the past two and a half years.
The numbers she has collected so far have shown a spike in participation. As an example, from 2011 to this year, volunteers went from 85 to more than 160.
Over the past year, the group has held more than 100 contests, 164 youth and volunteers attended their camp, and a record attendance of 192 students attended their dance this year.
• heard an overview of Social Services actions from Mike Jennings.
According to his data, the foster care case load in the last 18 months dropped from 60 to 28 cases. “We must be doing something right,” he said.
He noted that expenditures in FY 2013 totaled more than $1.5 million. “The cost was reduced because of help from the Board of Supervisors, and some of the things we have been doing. I think we will see more improvement,” he said.
• received an update from Dennis Cole about HVAC work at the high school.
At this time, the work is primarily focused on providing heat in the next two weeks. Boilers are in place and two will be on by Nov. 1, he said.
There are more than 60 fan cooling units and of those, only 10 are lacking completion. Controls will be done for the units in the next week or so.
Gas pipelines have been completed, and Cole said natural gas would be flowing in the next four days.
“We will not have everything complete as we anticipated, but we will have heat, which is our main priority,” he said.
• heard findings of the Planning Commission, presented by Ronald Newman, concerning the flag pole definition on the subdivision ordinance. A public hearing on this matter has been scheduled for the December meeting.
• heard a concern from citizen William Payne concerning Cana Rescue Squad.
Payne shared that he has witnessed several emergencies where the squad could not be reached, which increased response time to help patients in need.