Buchanan Town Council recognized Jon Ellestad (center) for his work as interim town manager during Monday evening’s regular meeting. Mayor Craig Bryant (left) presented Ellestad with a plaque recognizing his work for the town and Council member Mike Burton (right) presented a resolution from the town acknowledging Ellestad as a “White Knight” who helped get the town through some difficult times. Ellestad told council it was a pleasure getting to know the town. He was hired as interim town manager in January after Mary Zirkle resigned. Jason Tyree assumes the town manager position on Monday, June 18.
Photo by Ed McCoy

Buchanan Town Council approved its 2018-19 budget that starts July 1, agreed to hold a public hearing to amend the town code in an effort to allow a revival on property where the Buchanan Flea Market is located, agreed to move forward to find a new town well site and decided to hold a work session to consider recommendations about the future of the gauge dock by the James River at the Town Park.

Council voted 5-0 to approve a $769,338 general operating budget and another $539,600 water and sewer revenue budget when it met in regular session Monday evening.

The budget includes a $2 monthly increase in the minimum sewer bill to accommodate what the town officials expect to be significant expense to repair and upgrade the collection and treatment facilities.

It also includes a 50-cent per month increase in residential (to $14 a month) and commercial (to $20 per month) trash fees.

Flea Market/Town Park Uses

Two requests in May to use the Town Park for private functions— a community revival and a veterans event— led to discussions about how those events could be accommodated. Town Park policy does not allow use for large private events.

Tim Young and Wally Muterspaugh— who own Buchanan Flea Market— offered that property for both events, but review of their special use permit and amendments to that permit by Town Manager Jon Ellestad and Town Attorney Jonathan Puvak finally prompted council to set a public hearing in July to amend the town ordinance and the definition of what is an “open air market.”

The flea market is allowed under the open air market designation in the town zoning ordinance, but Puvak and Ellestad said the proposed Buchanan Area Ministerial Association community revival and New Freedom Farm’s request to have a veterans event did not meet the criteria for that use.

Council seemed sympathetic to the conundrum that was created when Young and Muterspaugh had their special use permit updated to what they thought allowed “other events.”

But those “other events” went undefined and were not included in the documents when council approved amendments to the special use permit last year to allow the flea market to be open more days and have other types of activities such as farm equipment and car shows.

Young was perturbed by the decision that he could not offer the property for the two events and told council he was ready to move the flea market to another, more accommodating location.

He said he was of the opinion that council had approved “other events,” but did not challenge that until the revival and veterans event came up last month.

“The flea market is growing and bringing more people every week, but if it’s going to be a problem, I have the opportunity to take it somewhere else where it’s friendly if you keep regulating and saying, ‘No,’” Young told council.

“I asked for the revival because ya’ll couldn’t have it (on the Town Park). I asked for New Freedom Farm because ya’ll couldn’t have it. If that’s unreasonable, I don’t need to be in the Town of Buchanan anymore,” he said.

“If you have a church that wants to have a revival and you can’t have it, there’s a problem with that,” he continued.

He said everything at the flea market is “family oriented.” He said there’s no reggae festival with beer, no auto show on Main Street with a beer garden. “You (the town) can do whatever you want, but I have to ask about whatever I want to do.”

Mayor Craig Bryant told Young council wants to move forward with allowing the revival and veterans event. “We’re not trying to keep you from doing it,” he said.

And council members told Young they want to keep the flea market in town.

Puvak told Young that if  “other events” had been defined, there would be no problem.

Council voted 5-0 to expedite the changes to the definition for open air market in the zoning ordinance so it could go to public hearing at the July council meeting. The Planning Commission is expected to hold its public hearing on the proposed changes the same evening as the council meeting.

In his motion to set the public hearing for what he called a “short-term fix,” Vice Mayor Jamie Manspile called for a long-term fix to this type of issue at a later date— perhaps late summer.

In the related matter, council agreed to consider changes to the town ordinance and town policy about allowing private events at the Town Park. Manspile made the motion to have the Planning Commission start that process. Council voted 5-0 to approve the motion.

Gauge Dock

Council agreed to hold a work session at the gauge dock at the Town Park to establish a plan of action that the town could follow in dealing with the James River & Kanawha Canal facility that was uncovered almost two years ago.

Council member Mike Burton made several short-term recommendations that include cleaning up the dock area, smoothing the site so it can be mowed, fencing closer to the dock and erecting a sign describing the gauge dock’s operation and what the site may look like when it is complete.

Long term, among other things, he recommended establishing a committee to work with council to oversee cleanup, fund raising— including applying for grants, maintenance and erecting a building to house the batteau that’s been donated to the town.

He asked council to consider the dock’s historical significance and how it can attract visitors, and perhaps provide a site for educational activities and an extension of the James River Batteau Festival.

Council will set a work session to look at the gauge dock site and review and discuss the recommendations.

Two members of the Virginia Canal and Navigational Society were at the council meeting, Philip De Vos and Dr. William Trout.

De Vos told council he could see the gauge dock as the “center of your river front.”

Well Site

Council voted 5-0 to use the $50,000 grant from the Virginia Health Department to look for a new well site outside of town.

The grant was awarded when the town was having trouble with two of its wells, but those issues have been resolved for now.

Council is interested in having a backup well site should it ever be needed, but wants it to be outside of the current aquifer that the town is tapped into.

Council agreed to look outside of town for a possible site— in the Boblett’s Gap/Mountain Valley Road area. The grant will pay for finding a site, test drilling and capping.