At a routine meeting last month, the Pittsylvania County Planning Commission failed to agree on a special use permit for The Dock at SML LLC.
The company petitioned for a special use permit on four parcels of land totaling 23.25 acres of land at Smith Mountain Road and Locust Lane in Pittsylvania County’s northwest barrier with Franklin and Bedford Counties at Smith Mountain Lake.
“We fell in love with this property,” partial owner Jeff Wilson said. “We really liked the quaint feel of Smith Mountain Dock and Lodge. You see three generations of families down there looking at carp, feeding the fish, taking a boat out. The marina has been there over 60 years. Our interest was to clean up some of the operations. After cleanup work, we want to bring it back to life.”
Wilson and his cohorts identified a serious need for covered boat storage in this area. Eyeing the frontage for boat storage necessitated this hearing.
Four Locust Lane residents came forward with a common plea. Locust Lane is not a state-maintained road. Neighbors on that lane, which is not paved but instead layered with crush-and-run gravel, recently pooled together $30,000 in private money for repairs.
“Locust Lane is the issue,” neighbor Ronald Root said. “Locust Lane has deteriorated seriously. It’s almost too dangerous to drive on it.”
The other three neighbors agreed, citing damage to vehicles and impassable conditions.
According to local residents, before going bankrupt, former owners of the Smith Mountain Lake marina would routinely aid in road maintenance. With the recent change of hands and an upcoming influx in construction and commercial vehicles passing the road to either build or later access the new businesses Wilson and company have planned, Locust Lane homeowners wanted to see an agreement that The Dock at SML LLC would pay for road maintenance or acquiesce and use a public roadway for entry to the property instead.
After an hour of discussion and argument at the April 6 meeting, Commissioner Janet Mease (Callands-Gretna) made a motion to approve recommendation to the Board of Zoning Appeals, but with the condition that commercial vehicles utilize State Road 626 (Smith Mountain Road) instead of Locust Lane for entry to the property. That motion was followed by more than a full minute of deafening silence as none of the six other commissioners were willing to offer a second. No one made an alternative motion.
At this unique and somewhat rare impasse, Pittsylvania County Attorney J. Vaden Hunt informed the board that they would have 60 days to reach a decision or else the petition would be approved automatically. It was at that juncture that a motion was made to table the topic until the board’s May meeting, a motion that would pass with seven votes in favor of tabling and one abstention.
Wilson and the Locust Lane homeowners, the ones who spoke at the meeting comprising many of the handful who live at the lake full-time and not seasonally, will have to reach some compromise by the next meeting or, as Hunt said, “It’s back to the drawing board.”
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