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Meeting discusses county future

Approximately 40 members of the public, county leaders and representatives of the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC) met at the Victoria Public Library on Thursday to discuss how the county is set to look in the future during a Comprehensive Plan meeting.

During the meeting, CRC representatives gave a presentation about the plan and what it can mean for the county.

Notes from the presentation provided by the CRC cite that a comprehensive plan is “a locality’s master plan for the future.”

It details the goals and aims of the county and preserves items important to the county while also encouraging growth in an organized and balanced way.

The plan “should reflect the ideas, values and desires of the citizens” and “should include a vision about the community’s preferred land use pattern,” the presentation cited.

During the meeting, participants broke into four groups and discussed what Organizer Andre V. Gilliam called the foundational conversations about the county’s comprehensive plan in the acronym PARK (Preserving, Adding, Removing and Keep Out).

Between eight to 10 people met in each group and discussed the things they wanted to preserve about the county, the features they wanted to add, remove or keep out.

Spokespeople for each group voiced what the residents in their respective group had expressed.

Things that members of the county suggested preserving, according to “Preserving” spokesman Mike Hankins, were a low tax rate, only increasing the tax rate for important reasons; relaxed ordinances for land and lawns; a rural environment; access to the area health care centers; the area parks and historical buildings and friendly people.

He addressed a citizen concern about members of the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors showing respect to members of the public, saying that they would work to be transparent, barring the cases of when supervisors meet in closed session.

Aspects members of the county suggested adding, according to “Adding” spokeswoman Wanda Morrison, were reliable internet and phone service; dry cleaners and tailors; automotive care; recreation centers and activities for senior citizens and adults, including a gym; places that sell coffee and ice cream; expanded area parks; health care with a specialization in substance abuse treatment; clothing stores; a drive-in movie theater; fast-food and sit-down restaurants; upgraded law enforcement; grocery stores with prepared meals and centers that teach life skills for young adults.

“Removing” spokeswoman Patricia Harper-Tunley highlighted blight, such as vacant buildings or litter on the roads, as something that could be fixed or removed from the county.

“We want to make it more inviting,” Harper-Tunley said of the county while addressing the subject of vacant buildings.

CRC representative Todd Fortune said the vacant buildings have been an issue in neighboring counties as well.

“As far as the empty storefronts, Victoria is not unique,” Fortune said. “Our council, we have five counties and a number of towns. We see this pretty much throughout the region.”

A few members of the public suggested methods to address empty buildings or homes in disrepair, including starting a community program in which neighbors help other neighbors keep up their properties.

A member of the public suggested installing anti-bullying programs in the area schools, a preventative measure in light of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Fortune and Harper-Tunley suggested resources including the Virginia Department of Education.

“Keep Out” spokeswoman Robyn Fowler listed keeping away crime, drugs, litter, stray animals, industries that would pollute the air, poverty and blighted properties, noting the Town of Kenbridge has a list of blighted properties that they give to an inspector to periodically check.

CRC representatives, using a map, placed markers for potential items that people wanted to keep or add in the county. For example, they added markers to the area parks and to note a place for a potential drive-in theater.

A final community meeting was held Tuesday at the Kenbridge Community Center auditorium.

To learn more about the Comprehensive Plan, contact Community Development Planners Gilliam at agilliam@virginiasheartland.org and Fortune at tfortune@virginiasheartland.org.