Zoning can be an emotional topic for some individuals. But it is also a necessity that can help a region grow while also ensuring protection from undesirable developments. A zoning plan is currently being considered by the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors for the Eastern District, which includes the greater Bluefield, Va., and Springville areas.
As currently proposed, the zoning plan would prohibit certain “undesirable developments,” including wind turbines and medical waste facilities. It would not prohibit or impact residential, rural residential, and multi-use developments including agriculture, industrial and forestry, according to Eastern District supervisor Charles Stacy.
The county learned a hard lesson back in 2009, when Dominion Energy acquired more than 2,600 acres of land on East River Mountain near Bluefield, Va., for the purpose of developing a proposed large-scale wind turbine farm. The move caught the board of supervisors, and town officials in Bluefield, Va., by surprise. There were no zoning ordinances in the county at the time that would have prohibited such a development
The wind turbine farm was largely opposed by citizens in the Eastern District, and concerns also were raised in other parts of Tazewell County, including the neighboring Southern District, which includes scenic Burkes Garden and the town of Tazewell. The main problem for most folks was the location. East River Mountain is one of the most scenic vistas in our region. The thought of having wind turbines on that beautiful mountain simply didn’t sit well with many citizens. The supervisors regrouped, and passed a ridgeline protection ordinance that basically prohibited the development of tall structures on certain protected ridgelines, including East River Mountain. It is important to note that Dominion still owns the property on East River Mountain, and has not abandoned the project.
There are only eight counties left in Virginia that have no zoning, and Tazewell County is one of them. Stacy says that’s a real hindrance to growth because county officials can’t give potential investors any security on their investment.
Another goal of the zoning proposal is to ensure that the still vacant Bluestone Regional Business and Technology Center remains marketable. Stacy said the county does not want to ask companies to spend millions of dollars on a high-tech facility only to have something undesirable like a turkey processing plant nearby – or wind turbines on the scenic mountain ridge above the industrial park.
“A lack of zoning is becoming a concern with the Bluestone Park,” Stacy said last week. “You don’t want something to come and completely devalue a multi-million dollar company’s facility. That would devalue the Bluestone.”
Stacy is correct. It is long past time for the supervisors to adopt a reasonable zoning ordinance that will help in promoting future growth while also providing protection from undesirable developments.
We understand that some people are concerned about zoning, including many in the farming and agricultural communities that are prevalent across the Southern District of Tazewell County. But a successful zoning ordinance for the county’s Eastern District could help in changing attitudes in other parts of the county as it relates to future zoning proposals.
Doing nothing – and intentionally leaving the door open for undesirable developments in the future – isn’t logical or acceptable.
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