IW supervisors amend home business regs, table request for debt

Published 10:37 am Monday, February 20, 2017

The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the conditional use application of Windsor District resident Gary Burke to construct a contractor office and storage facility on his property on Muddy Cross Drive, and amended the Isle of Wight County Code to create a uniform process for home businesses to apply for conditional use permits during their regular scheduled meeting, held Thursday at 6 p.m. in the board room of the Isle of Wight County Courthouse complex.

The board was also presented with a request from Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton that the county take on approximately $10 million in debt to finance the division’s renovation and career training plans for Smithfield and Windsor high schools.

Burke had applied for the conditional use permit after discovering that his business plans would have been in violation of county ordinances pertaining to home occupations. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the permit 10-0 at their January meeting with the conditions of limiting Burke to no more than 15 vehicles on the property and having to store any materials indoors or in a storage yard screened from view.

The motion to amend the county code came as a result of the recent applications of Burke and fellow Windsor District residents Preston and Valerie Artis, who were apprised of legal issues concerning their non-emergency medical transport business after it had already opened, leading them to seek rezoning. The board’s motion to amend article V section 5002, which passed unanimously, allows any home occupation that exceeds the county’s requirements to apply for a conditional use permit.

The application of Burke and the change to the county code were both given public hearings, during which no citizens spoke for or against either topic.

The board decided to table Dr. Thornton’s request for debt service until its next work session after Newport District supervisor William McCarty expressed concerns and other members of the board mentioned that state law requires the county to hold a public hearing before taking on any new debt.

Expressing his concerns, McCarty cited that the county was already had the second highest per capita debt in Virginia and that if the board were to take on an additional $10 million of debt, that would put the county at number one.

“That’s not a badge we want to wear,” he said.

According to Thornton, the division would pay back the debt at a rate of $750,000 per year over 20 years, with that money coming from the funds the division would save by pulling out of participation with the Pruden Center in Suffolk, which he estimated would save the division approximately $1 million per year. The remaining $250,000 saved would be used to hire teachers for the division’s new in-house career training programs.

McCarty also was concerned that the new technology the division would be purchasing with the debt, such as a new mechatronics lab, could become obsolete years before the debt was paid off.  Hardy District supervisor Rudolph Jefferson also voiced his concern that if a new superintendent at some future date decided to change the division’s educational plans, the county would still be stuck with the debt.

Thornton countered that the debt would be well planned out and payed for, and that if funding for the educational plans was not approved, the division would still be required by the state to provide career training services through Pruden or some other means. He added that only 55 percent of IWCS graduates go on to college and that this plan was designed with the 45 percent who will go straight into the workforce in mind.

The board also voted unanimously to support and endorse the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance’s five-year higher wage growth plan, which HREDA president and CEO Rick Weddle presented to the board, and to update its hazard communication and chemical safety program to reflect changes in department titling and remove the list of chemicals used from the County Code because it requires constant updating.

The board concluded by sending the rezoning application of Preston and Valerie Artis back to the Planning Commission so they could change it to a conditional use permit under the new changes to the county code, and then went into closed session.