The Columbia County Board of Commissioners wrapped up business for 2012 with an agenda that featured rezoning proposals, personnel issues and laying the groundwork for the new consolidated fire department, but the matter on most minds seemed to be the affect the tragedy in Sandy Hook had on the community.
The Commission spent considerable time listening to arguments in favor of rezoning parcels on Rose Lane in Martinez to clear the way for a storage facility. Proponents argued that because the land had limited access, an odd configuration and some drainage issues that any entrepreneur willing to put effort into improving the plats should be welcomed. David Miles, the developer planning on building the facility said that his plan was the best use for the property because its shortcoming made other development prohibitively difficult.
“If the county passes on this on this opportunity, I’m sure this land will get divided up,” he said, addressing the Commission. The way it lies it would lend itself to that. It will get developed one acre at a time.”
The problem with that, Miles said, is that it would be more difficult to address drainage issues if multiple interests are involved.
In the end, the Commission unanimously elected to deny the rezoning, opting instead to see what interest the recently adopted Opportunity Zone, which includes the property, might attract.
“We don’t hesitate to believe you can build a viable business there,” said Commission Chair Ron Cross. “We just want to ensure that what we are doing is best for the county.”
The Commission also unanimously approved the resolution to cover certain volunteer members of Columbia County Fire Rescue under the county’s worker’s compensation plan. The resolution is part of the county’s plan to assume control of the Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue, which had previously operated as a contracted service.
The Board also voted not to renew the contract of Troy Post, the current executive director of the Columbia County Development Authority.
Talk of county business, however, was tempered by reactions to the Sandy Hook, Conn.
Columbia County resident James Stachowicak made an impassioned plea to eliminate gun-free zones so that all citizens might play a part in guarding against a mass shooting in Columbia County. Columbia County News-Times publisher Barry Paschal informed those present that 26 angels, one for each of the Sandy Hook victims would be placed on the Columbia County Christmas Tree at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20. Letitia Clark, the mother of Ryan Clark, the first victim of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting will place the first angel.
The meeting concluded with a heartfelt appeal by District 2 Commissioner Trey Allen, who pleaded that although the tragedy had stirred strong emotions and opinion, that level-headed consideration and compassion become watch words moving forward.
And with that, the year’s work was done.