The Clifton Forge Town Council voted 5-0 at its meeting on Tues., March 14, to contribute $200 in support of the annual Bike Rodeo spearheaded by 1st Sgt. Chris Fisher of the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Department.
Fisher was the only speaker on the agenda, and he described the benefits to area children and youth that the Bike Rodeo which was disrupted by COVID-19 provides.
During his descriptive presentation, he said that every young person who registers will receive either a free bike, some kind of prize or a $20 gift certificate from Walmart.
In 2022, Fisher was certified by the Commonwealth of Virginia as a Level 2 member of the National Crime Prevention Council, having earned more than the required 1,000 points over the past decade.
Council also voted 5-0 to approve its department reports: code enforcement, police department, public works, library, water plant, fire department and armory.
In another 5-0 vote, Council approved the reappointment of Cindy Higgins to the Armory Authority Board after Vice-Mayor Dale Burdette spoke in her favor.
After a lengthy discussion concerning the pros and cons of amending Clifton Forge Town Code Chapter 46 (“Environment”), Article II (Nuisances”), Council cast its 5-0 vote to approve the amendment.
Prior to the vote, Town Attorney Jared Jenkins explained the legal ramifications surrounding disputes between property owners who refuse to keep their properties in good repair and the Town’s authority to require reasonable upkeep of their property.
Mayor Jeff Irvine remarked, “It will give us a little more power to get property cleaned up.”
The amendment gives the Town the right to bill property owners for cleanups the Town performs should the property owners refuse to perform reasonable upkeep.
Should the property owner refuse to pay the bill that will be included in the owner’s property taxes, the Town could legally gain possession of the property and sell it for the unpaid taxes.
Jenkins explained that by sending a certified letter to the uncooperative property owner, the Town can establish legal proof of notification that will stand up in court should the property owner sue the Town.
He concluded, “Should the property owner claim in court that he was not notified, we’ll have proof that the letter was delivered.”
The amendment provides information that the property owner has 30 days to perform the required cleanup.
Irvine quipped, “One owner (who was taken to court because he refused to clean up his property) claimed that what he had in his yard was yard art.”
Jenkins explained that often disputes arise between property owners’ heirs and the Town following the death of the property owner and that in some cases there are no apparent heirs to notify.
The amendment will define what the word “reasonable” is and give the Town more “teeth in implementing the ordinance.”
Town Manager Chuck Unroe pointed out that the Town had nothing to do with the closing of the Family Dollar/Dollar Tree beside Town Hall and that the store will reopen following repairs to its water or sewer system.
He read to Council a letter to the Virginia Municipal League and announced that he and Covington City Manager Allen Dressler have partnered to apply for $2 million in support of downtown revitalization, a sum that would be divided equally should it be forthcoming.
He noted that both Clifton Forge and Covington are appealing to Senator Mark Warner and Senator Tim Kaine for support in the matter.
Unroe noted that he had met with Columbia Gas officials about notification in the future concerning the company’s timetable involving work in the Town, and he revealed that Columbia Gas has agreed to meet quarterly with the Town to better coordinate future projects that will enable the Town to provide advance notice to its citizens where future work projects will be held.
He also noted that Columbia Gas plans to engage in another work project on Vulcan St. after it completes its ongoing Ingalls St. project which will take another six to eight weeks to complete.
Unroe explained that following a project which Columbia Gas completes, the company sends in its restoration team and because asphalt replacement is involved that it will be mid-summer before the restoration team can complete its work and that an ordinance will give the Town the right to reject or approve the restoration work.
Also, Unroe revealed that application packets are available at Town Hall for the Community Garden Project which will result in granting 10 residents the opportunity to raise a garden on the Town’s property.
During the Town Council’s comments, each member of Council thanked Fisher, who is from Iron Gate, for his report and heaped praise on him for all of the good work that he does for the Alleghany Highlands as a law officer.
The Town also released the following upcoming events in Clifton Forge: Virginia’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17 at 6:00 p. m. that will begin on Church St. at the Clifton Forge School of the Arts and cross Church St. to the Masonic Amphitheatre, the “Rhythm of the Dance” at The Historic Masonic Theatre (THMS) at 7:00 p. m. on March 21, “Junie B’s Essential Survival Guide to School at 3:00 p. m. on March 25 at THMS, “Cash Unchained” at 7:30 p. m. on March 31 at THMS, “The Road to Namibia” at 2:00 p. m. on April 1, at THMS and Cora Dance Alleghany’s Spring Youth Showcase at 2:30 p. m. on April 2, at THMS.
Following the comments by members of Council, Mayor Irvine gaveled the meeting for a closed session pursuant to “Section 2.2-3711 Real Estate based upon Code Section A: 3.
Following the closed session, Council returned and certified the action taken during the closed session before adjourning the meeting.