Efforts remain underway by residents of the eastern part of Surry County to fight against the encroachment of retailers into rural areas. At Monday’s meeting of the Surry County Board of Commissioners, county leaders heard from residents who are taking a new approach to bolster their defense of the rural way of life they prefer.
Heather Moore, of Moore’s General Store, rose to discuss the scenic byway along Highway 89/Westfield Road. She has taken a new approach from the moratorium on retail growth that was recently sought. As her presentation was made during open forum, it was informational only and the board took no action.
Moore explained her proposal thusly, “Upon sale of any commercial property along the Scenic Byway, excluding those in city limits, a special use permit would be required for new commercial business. This would not affect existing businesses’ current operation, only new businesses.
“This would allow stricter regulations such as, building aesthetics or landscaping, as well as mandate a period of public notice and public hearing. There hearing would be just like that in a residential rezone where a community can come together and oppose a purposed business if it is not in harmony with that area or for the betterment of the scenic byway,” she continued.
“If a community has no opposition to the business applying and the application meets the special use requirements, then it would be approved,” she said, and her example has some a real-world example. Teramore Development LLC, seeking to build a Dollar General, had no problems with public outcry over other locations such as the one being constructed at Mount View Drive which sailed through the planning board and the board of commissioners.
The dissection of the county’s land use plan by Moore and Melissa Hiatt, who was among those who asked for the moratorium, was key to the defeat of the Westfield Road rezoning. The stiff resistance of residents of Sheltontown has gained attention again from outside the county.
The nonprofit group Institute for Local Self-Reliance said officials there “Are preparing a strategy guide and updated report for civic leaders and citizens concerned about the proliferation of chain dollar stores.” They will be citing this area’s recent slingshot takedown of a retail Goliath by a concentrated groups of residents prepared/armed with knowledge of the land use plan.
Moore added, “We were farmers long before we became store owners, our rural landscape and clean water access are the heartbeat of our operation. Taking steps to preserve that for our children is of the utmost importance to us.”
Mandy Love said the Yadkin Valley has “really come alive lately” and the byways should be the same way. “They should draw people to explore sections of our county, to enjoy the drive along the ridge, and to support the small communities along the way.”
She said that byway helps visitors find “authentic experiences in communities where they can support small businesses” and by supporting the proposed change the commissioners can help preserve the quality of life in that area.
In other board news:
– The commissioners issued a proclamation declaring November to be National American Indian Heritage Month. The proclamation from the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution American Indians Committee reads, “The contributions of American Indians have enhanced the freedom, prosperity, and greatness of America today.” Further, the proclamation urges Surry County residents to observe the month with appropriate festivities.
– The use of Rogers Realty for auctions of county surplus items has been successful. In 2020 the board made a change in which Rogers Realty took over as the administrator of vehicle auctions for the county from GovDeals, an online marketplace for government entities. Based on the results of the subsequent auctions including “increased sale capacity” and the ease of the process, the county is retaining Rogers Realty as the auction house of record for surplus items auctions.
Additionally, a change was approved to the process for selling totaled county vehicles that will simplify their sale. For totaled surplus vehicles valued under $30,000 the board has delegated authority to the county’s purchasing agents, finance officer, and deputy finance officers to manage the sale — without holding an auction. These agents will be responsible for securing a fair market value, conducting the sale, and maintaining all records of the sale.
– The state is providing equipment that will allow for remote court proceedings across the state by outfitting two courtrooms in each county for remote access. Each county will have to incur the costs of wiring speakers and cables for microphones which has been estimated at $8,613 per courtroom. Installation of the equipment is recommended to be overseen by the administrative office of the courts and the current county management information systems budget can absorb the installation costs. The board approved of the proposal.
– Mount Airy High School was awarded a Need Based School Capital Fund grant for renovations and upgrades to its Career and Technical Educations (CTE) building in May for $1,750,821. The grant program called for a local match and the commissioners approved Surry County’s grant match in the amount of $92,149.
– Finally, County Manager Chris Knopf asked the board for permission to use remaining Invest in Surry funds for two projects in Dobson. Renovation work in the basement level of the Historic Courthouse in Dobson nears completion with only two rooms on that level still incomplete.
The boiler room and an area used by county human resources were to be completed in a future project, but Knopf felt it would be smart to have the crew on site remain and complete the extra two rooms than add it onto the next renovation work bid. The commissioners inquired and were told the work in the boiler room would leave the historic boiler untouched. This reallocation of funds was approved.
He also informed the board that the county was investigating the potential of extending public water and sewer lines to the county animal shelter and Fisher River Park in Dobson. The cost estimate was $2.2 million to make the new connection which led Commissioner Larry Johnson to ask if there was an alternative such as adding another private septic system.
“Bring me options, numbers, and grant possibilities,” Johnson requested which led the matter to be tabled for future consideration.