Board receptive to Appalachia boundary adjustment request

Mike Still • Sep 6, 2019 at 6:00 PM

WISE - The Wise County Board of Supervisors will look at a proposed boundary adjustment agreement with Appalachia in October.

Appalachia Town Councilman Travis Anderson joined Mayor Ted Collins and District 1 Appalachia Supervisor and Town Manager Fred Luntsford to outline the boundary proposal to the board Thursday.

Anderson said the adjustment would bring about 1,000 acres of undeveloped land on the western end of Appalachia into the town. That area includes the former Westmoreland Bullitt Mine and the town-maintained Powell River Trail.

Anderson said the Bullitt Mine site would give the town a developable site for prospective industrial businesses, while the adjustment would help move along the town’s ecotourism plans.

Including the Powell River Trail in the adjustment would open up possibilities for linking the trail with Big Stone Gap’s Greenbelt and with the Forest Service’s Roaring Branch trail between the two towns, Anderson said. A former dumpster site at Washington Rock along Alternate Route 58 would provide parking to Roaring Branch and also a starting point for a pedestrian bridge to expand trail access.

The proposed area contains no residential or commercial structures, Anderson said.

Luntsford said the town was seeking a “nod of approval” from the supervisors to start the process for the adjustment. The outline of the proposed area falls along existing property boundaries for the five landowners affected by the plan.

“I personally think this is a good plan,” Supervisor Vice Chairman Robby Robbins said.

“We’re just looking for our shot,” Luntsford said of the economic and tourism development opportunities with the plan.

County Attorney Karen Mullins said that, while the terms annexation and boundary adjustment are often used interchangeably, the town’s proposal could involve fewer steps than an annexation.

Mullins said the process for an adjustment would begin with a draft agreement with general details which the county and town would have to put to a public hearing. After the hearing, the board and town council would have to finalize the agreement draft for submission to Circuit Court. That petition, Mullins said, would require more detail including the surveyed area for the adjustment.

A draft agreement could be prepared by the board’s October meeting for review, Mullins said, and the board and council could schedule a joint public hearing as early as November if they chose to move ahead on the adjustment.

“I think we need to move ahead on this,” said District 3 Supervisor John Schoolcraft.

District 1 Supervisor Bobby Cassell asked if any hunting clubs had land within the proposed area. Luntsford said some clubs may lease land but none owned sites there.

Board Chair Dana Kilgore asked if hunting club leases in that area would affect the town’s development plans.

“That’s a hoop we’ll have to jump through,” Luntsford said.

Kilgore said the county needs recreational hiking and biking trails to attract tourism and for residents’ use too.

Kilgore and the board agreed to have Mullins and County Administrator Mike Hatfield work with town officials to draft an agreement for review at the board’s Oct. 10 meeting.

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