By a 4-0 vote following a lengthy discussion at its regular meeting on Tues., April 11, the Clifton Forge Town Council ended the Armory Authority.
The Council’s action returns the responsibility for the operation of the Clifton Forge Armory to the Town, officially disbanding the Clifton Forge Armory Committee.
Prior to the vote, Mayor Jeff Irvine who has played an instrumental role in the renovation of the facility that included refurbishing the restrooms noted that at one point the Clifton Forge Armory Committee had built up $30,000 in its treasury.
After pointing out that the Town could have done more to help publicize the facility on its website and social media, Irvine joined the other three members of Council in casting a “yes” vote to return control to the Town.
Town Manager Chuck Unroe noted that the Town had supported the Clifton Forge Armory Committee by paying the utilities for the facility that ran between $12,000 and $14,000 per year.
Council considered a request from Robbie Barber, a Clifton Forge resident. He offered to purchase 21 acres from the Town in order to harvest the timber and develop the land into a commercial enterprise about which he was unwilling to divulge any details.
Barber quipped, “I’m not going to tell you my ideas because you might take my ideas.”
His comment resulted in a round of laughter from those in the audience and some chuckles from members of Council.
After pointing out that the property is not generating any revenue for the Town, Barber remarked, “If you don’t take this opportunity (to sell the property), nothing will happen.”
Unroe noted that a decision could not be made by Council at the meeting, and he discussed with Town Attorney Jared Jenkins whether or not a public hearing on the matter should be scheduled before proceeding any further.
Irvine pointed out that the property in question is problematic in that it lacks a right-of-way except for one across a cemetery and that logging trucks would not be appropriate without another right-of-way.
He also noted that there are draining issues that hamper the development of the property.
As for the zoning issues concerning the property, Unroe said that any zoning law can be changed by the Town Council.
“The property is designated as a sanitary landfill, but it has never been used as a landfill,” Unroe revealed.
He invited Barber to further discuss the possibility of purchasing the property by meeting with him in his office on April 13.
Irvine noted that during his 13 years on Council that someone had attempted to purchase the property prior to Barber but that Town Manager Darlene Burcham had nixed the project.
Barber agreed to bear the expense of having a study of the property conducted in coordination with the Town that would oversee the process.
At one point of the exchange with Council members, Barber said that the purpose of the Town is to make money and that the property in question is not yielding any revenue for the Town.
Councilwoman Debbie Laudermilk took exception to his conclusion that the purpose of the Town is “…to make money.”
She told Barber that the purpose of the Town is not to make money; rather the purpose is to provide a safe and pleasant environment for the Town’s residents and visitors.
In other business, Council voted 4-0 (Councilman Shorty Wolfe was absent due to being out of Town on missionary work) to approve department reports as written: Code Enforcement, Police Department, Public Works, Library, Water Plant, Fire Department, and Armory, the last report before the Town Council voted to take over management of the Armory Authority.
After the vote was taken to end the Armory Authority, Unroe promised, “All previous events booked will be honored.”
He added, “It’s not an effort to grab money, I just think that it will be better served under the Town.”
Unroe gave a comprehensive report on upcoming events in Clifton Forge, and he noted that the Ridgeway St. and Commercial Ave. intersection paving repairs and Ridgeway St. and Main St. intersection paving repairs should be completed by April 13.
The upcoming events include Earth Day, April 22; Cora Dance Alleghany, April 20-23; Community Gathering at The Historic Masonic Theatre, April 27; and Shenandoah Ballet’s “Snow White and the Poisoned Apple,” April 20-30 at The Historic Masonic Theatre.
The Sensory Trail will be dedicated on May 8, and Unroe noted that the late Reverend Gordon Hammond will be honored for the donation that his widow provided in support of the project.
Also, the Town Council plans to block off Main St. in front of The Historic Masonic Theatre for Juneteenth on June 19.
During the public comment section of the agenda, Dominique Washington spoke in support of the Town and its cooperation with those groups that are working to improve the quality of life for everyone in Clifton Forge.
Unroe reported that there have been 12 bids for the community garden spots and that seven have been approved.
He noted that the most frequently asked question about the community garden spots is, “What will happen if someone steals our tomatoes?”
Unroe’s remark resulted in laughter from those in the audience and members of Council.
There is a $35 fee for anyone who is approved to tend to one of the 12 garden spots, but Unroe revealed that an anonymous donor has provided funds to help those who need financial assistance. He invited those interested in securing financial assistance for applying for a garden spot to contact him regarding the matter.
During the “Council Comments” section of the agenda, Ben Nicely said that he looks forward to working with the Armory, and he thanked Barber for coming to the meeting.
Laudermilk spoke about her role of representing Clifton Forge at regional meetings where she is attempting to secure support for Clifton Forge, and she noted that solar power and solar farms are being discussed on a regional basis.
Unroe noted that Virginia has now determined to use portions of public land for solar energy development which will require Jenkins to provide guidance on zoning for such projects in the future.
Vice-mayor Dale Burdette praised Clifton Forge’s maintenance crew for tree trimming throughout the Town and landscaping work on the Smith Creek Trail.
Irvine thanked Public Works and Unroe for working hard to make Clifton Forge a better place to live. He also thanked Burdette for attending a ribbon-cutting celebration, one he was unable to attend.
Council adjourned to a closed session pursuant to Section 2.2-3711 personnel based upon Code Section A:3 and to VA. Code 2.2-3711 (A) (8) for consultation with legal counsel.
Following the adjournment to a closed session, Council returned to an open session to certify the action taken during the closed session before adjourning the meeting.