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Votes

Possible Rezoning for Old Town Hall

Joint public hearings scheduled for next month.

The Town of Clifton may soon change its Comprehensive Plan for the first time in 11 years. At its meeting Tuesday night, Aug. 7, the Town Council conducted a public hearing on the rezoning of the Old Town Hall property. A decision was made to have two joint public hearings between the Town Council and the Planning Commission at the council’s next scheduled meeting on Sept. 4. The first hearing will be to discuss a possible amendment to the Comprehensive Plan to change the property’s designation in the plan from residential to low-impact commercial use. The second hearing will consider actually rezoning the site.

When local architect Royce Jarrendt made a proposal some time ago to rehabilitate the old building, add to it and turn it into office space, the town created a new zoning designation — "low-impact commercial" — that it considered applying to the site to ensure that it would not be used for retail business. But the town never completely discarded the possibility of rezoning the plot for full commercial use.

"I do not want that property zoned commercial," said resident Judy McNamara at Tuesday’s hearing, adding that the intersection where the Old Town Hall stands is already busy and has no sidewalks, while a number of children live nearby. However, she said she would not oppose a low-impact commercial designation. Several others echoed her sentiment.

"I specifically said I would only do low-impact," said Jarrendt, adding that he would be willing to keep the building in the residential style.

In addition to scheduling hearings on the subject next month, the council voted to formally scrap the possibility of rezoning the property for full commercial use.

COUNCILMEMBER Pat Layden gave an update on the town’s progress toward having Buckley Bridge repaired. Earlier this summer, the town put out a request for proposals to repair the bridge, which was rendered unsafe by flooding in June 2006. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has agreed to cover most of the repairs. Four contractors responded to the town’s bid, and the town has selected one of those, said Layden. The only catch, he said, is that all of the contracts had cost estimates well above FEMA’s calculations. The town will have to request additional funding but will have to front the money itself and hope for a refund, as FEMA is not likely to respond before construction is complete.

"We’re at risk for about $24,000 out of our own pocket," said Councilmember Wayne Nickum. If all goes well, said Nickum, the town will pay 12 percent or 13 percent of the total cost, now estimated at about $90,000.

Layden said he hopes to have a contract executed next week and repairs underway in two weeks. He noted that this would put the repairs about a week behind schedule, but he assured, "The feeling is that even if it slips a week, and there’s no problem with the weather, it should be completed on time."

Without the bridge repaired, the town will not be able to host its annual Haunted Trail event in late October at Buckley Park, as the bridge is the only access to the park.

Other matters discussed included meetings with Verizon and payment to the organizers of the upcoming Wine Festival.

Councilmember Mike Anton said he would soon be meeting with Verizon to find out why the company’s fiber-optic cable service remains unavailable on Water Street. He also said he had scheduled a meeting with the company last week to discuss the possible burial of cables in some parts of town, but the Verizon representatives had not shown up, although they called later.

Mayor Tom Peterson noted that the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) had shot down the town’s plan to pay 20 percent of the profits from this weekend’s Wine Festival to the event’s planners, who Peterson said had been "working very hard" since April. ABC Agents had made it clear that they would not grant the event a permit if the planners were paid more than 10 percent of the profits, he said.