By Matt de Simone
This Tuesday, Botetourt County residents in the Blue Ridge and Valley Districts will vote on the Republican candidates for the upcoming Board of Supervisors elections this November. The only offices to be on this June ballot are in those two districts. Voters in these two districts are the only voters eligible to vote in this primary. Polls are open on Tuesday, June 20, from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m.
The Republican candidates appearing on this Tuesday’s ballot are current chairman of the county board, Dr. Mac Scothorn (Valley District), who will be opposed by Robert Young (Valley), and incumbent Blue Ridge Supervisor Billy Martin will run against candidate Walter Michael (Blue Ridge).
Both precincts in each district will be open: 201 Blue Ridge (Colonial Baptist Church), 202 Rainbow Forest (new Colonial Elementary School), 501 Troutville (Troutville Elementary School), and 502 Cloverdale (Read Mountain Middle School). Polls open at 6:00 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7:00 p.m. This Saturday, June 17, at 5:00 p.m. is the deadline for early voting.
On May 22, candidates were emailed a series of questions pertaining to the county. Their responses were received and are published verbatim below. Each of their responses are listed below.
What is your vision for Botetourt?
MARTIN: To have a thriving community, to have residents from other communities relocating to Botetourt to live, work, play and visit. I also want us to continue to have excellent Law Enforcement, Fire and EMS coverage for our citizens. I would like to see our excellent school system to continue to excel in their educational process in the county. I would also like to see all our roads and bridges upgraded AND necessary repairs completed by VDOT in a timely manner. Another thing I have been a proponent of is Broadband in every location in Botetourt.
In March of 2019, I took part in the BOS visioning meeting and the following came from that meeting that I agree with: I envision a community where county residents are attaining higher educational and economic goals; are enjoying a quality of life marked by safety and security, environmental protection, quality business and residential development, and a variety of recreational and cultural opportunities; and are pleased with the value and cost of county government services.
With the mission to generate and allocate revenues and establish policies and regulations in order to pursue public safety and educational goals, protect our environment and quality of life, enhance the local economy, comply with state and federal program mandates, and provide other lawful services desired and supported by county residents.
MICHAEL: My vision for Botetourt is to better serve the people. During my travels around the Blue Ridge District, the voter’s number one issue is taxes. Thus, my overall vision is to eliminate wasteful spending and reduce taxes.
SCOTHORN: In 2045, I want Botetourt County to stand as a testament to the power of energetic, engaged, and excited citizens who have worked together to create an incredible place to live, work, and raise a family.
I want Botetourt to be a vibrant, dynamic community which honors its history while eagerly and deliberately shaping its future. We can continue to do that with a blend of innovative agricultural, commercial, and industrial development, while we carefully protect our historical and natural resources.
I want Botetourt to be the preferred place to live, work, play, and learn in the region, Enhancements in broadband will allow us to do this. Most importantly, I want us to continue to focus on smart growth and conservation which will ensure a balance between development and preservation of our beautiful landscapes and historical locations.
I want Botetourt to be safe, and I understand that this means we must make a commitment to people and infrastructure to ensure that we continue to enjoy that safety.
To summarize, I want Botetourt to continue to be the kind of place where a family like mine will want to raise their children and grandchildren.
YOUNG: Part of the charm of Botetourt County is its small town, rural feel. The current development trajectory is based on adding hundreds of apartments and big chain stores. This is not only transforming Botetourt into a bedroom community for Roanoke but it is also increasing the need for expanded infrastructure with concurrent need for higher taxes. Large chains demand tax breaks to locate here, which also increases the tax burden on individuals. A more measured approach for growth which focuses on small-business development will help keep Botetourt as a jewel of Southwest Virginia.
What do you think are Botetourt County’s greatest assets?
MICHAEL: Botetourt County’s greatest asset is its people. What they want their supervisor to accomplish is to eliminate wasteful spending and reduce taxes.
SCOTHORN: Botetourt is blessed with many assets that relate to its people and places. One of the greatest of these is undoubtedly its community spirit. Our citizens are known for their friendliness, active engagement, strong sense of unity and pride.
Our natural beauty is extraordinary, with scenic landscapes including the Blue Ridge Mountains, the James River, and a network of parks, trails and outdoor activities that allow us to enjoy the beauty of our surroundings. Botetourt County also has a rich heritage spanning over 250 years. This heritage is integral to who we are today.
We can also be proud of the assets we have built and grown. We have a robust and diverse economy, with industries ranging from manufacturing, technology, and healthcare to agriculture and tourism. We are renowned for our top-rated education system, which provides a quality education as well as a variety of extracurricular activities. We are also near several esteemed colleges and universities which allow access to higher education and lifelong learning opportunities.
Perhaps our greatest asset is the quality and character of our people, who serve and support us in many ways. We have wonderful public and community servants, and our willingness to serve is evident in our thriving churches, clubs, civic groups, and volunteer associations.
YOUNG: I believe that Botetourt’s people are its greatest asset. Many Botetourt residents are second and third generation, illustrating the love they have for the area. More recent additions have often come to enjoy our beautiful mountains, waterways, fields, trees, farms, and wildlife. If we can continue to add better services while maintain reasonable tax rates, then the combination of beauty and open spaces, along with our people, will continue to make Botetourt a very desirable place to live.
MARTIN: The natural beauty in Botetourt County is unmatched with other localities and one of our greatest assets along with the following. Our schools are also one of our greatest assets in that they have won many awards and the test scores are some of the best in the region. Plus, the New Colonial School is a huge asset for the Blue Ridge Community. I had been fighting for this school since I started on the BOS.
Our citizens are also a great asset that we all recognize in our county. I am proud of our diverse economy, rich history, outdoor amenities, restaurants, Attic Productions, Buchanan Theater, Farmers Market, State of the Art Sports Complex, and many other things that draw people to Botetourt County.
How would you increase transparency in communications with county citizens?
SCOTHORN: Ensuring transparent communication with our citizens has been a priority throughout my tenure on the Botetourt BOS. I have made myself accessible, regularly providing information and resources, and establishing connections to meet citizens’ needs.
I have been a staunch supporter of developing our Botetourt County Communications Department who are consistently disseminating information across various platforms. I also have developed a personal Facebook page, as an additional conduit to share updates and to hear concerns. I am dedicated to supporting efforts that increase understanding and transparency in these processes, ensuring our residents are not just informed, but also engaged, in the civic process with accurate information.
YOUNG: Too many times, communication is one way, with rules and decisions coming down from meetings of the Supervisors. The average person may not have time to attend meetings of the Supervisors or may feel intimidated to speak in a large group. While Town Halls would certainly be a tool I will use for more direct communication between me and my constituents, if elected I would maintain an open-door policy to include picking up the telephone and telling me how you feel about county business.
MARTIN: I think one of the ways to increase transparency is honesty, put information out to the public through media outlets, at Board meetings and Public Hearings. I talk to our citizens at every opportunity to get input and I listen to what they have to say, hear their concerns, and take action when needed. We have established a communications department that sends information our routinely to citizens in Botetourt about things going on in the County. We use social media, videos and press releases that are sent to our media partners. Tiffany Bradbury is our Director of Communications and has done an excellent job in communicating with the folks here in Botetourt and this will continue.
MICHAEL: I will hold office hours and monthly meetings with the citizens. The major concern of the citizens of Botetourt County is taxes. Therefore, my mission will be to expose wasteful spending and reduce taxes.
How would you deal with balancing the demands for increased “services” (fire, rescue, police, schools) with the need to keep taxes low?
YOUNG: Whether at the national level or the local level, there is always wasteful spending that could be cut. It is likely that a trimmer budget would already allow for improved services without having to raise taxes. As a single parent and a grandparent, I would work to redirect spending to improve much needed funding for our schools and local law enforcement. Another area that I would like to see particular emphasis on is improved volunteer Fire and Rescue. This a cornerstone, along with strong policing and improved schools, of providing a safe community for our residents and businesses.
MARTIN: This takes planning as to when to replace equipment, how often and how much use we can get out of existing equipment. All our emergency services must continue to find ways to achieve greater cost savings while not reducing services. I have encouraged single agency activities to reduce cost. In other words, we are stronger as “one” entity rather than individual units. Also, I encourage “maximizing grant opportunities” whenever possible. I also encourage setting aside funding for Capital projects and assets which would have priority. These service providers meet, assess and plan for the equipment needed. With the cost of a new Ambulance around $500,000 and a new fire truck over one million dollars now, we must maintain our equipment and plan for the future.
The schools commit to a budget each year and discuss the needs of the schools and budget accordingly through school budget meetings and discussions with a constant eye on savings while keeping service delivery high.
MICHAEL: I am glad you asked about taxes. As noted above, taxes are the major concern of the citizens of Botetourt County, and they want the Board of Supervisors to eliminate wasteful spending and reduce taxes.
SCOTHORN: The challenge of balancing the increasing service demands with the necessity of low taxes is always at the forefront of our considerations, especially when contending with unfunded mandates from the state and federal government, wage pressures, and the rising cost of goods and services.
During my time in office, I have consistently aimed to grow the economic base to ease the tax burden on homeowners by expanding our industrial sector. By promoting growth and expansion in areas such as the Greenfield Industrial Complex, East Park and other locations that house Botetourt businesses, we have increased our industrial tax base, which in turn, lowers the tax burden on our citizens, and expands the sources of funding to increased services.
I am focused on enhancing the commercial development around the Exit 150 area to further strengthen Botetourt’s economic base, ensuring we can maintain high-quality services while keeping taxes low for our citizens and creating jobs.
How would you protect Botetourt’s rural areas, while still allowing for development?
MARTIN: We have limited infrastructure with water and sewer which limits growth. We need to limit large water and sewer extensions which limits growth. We need to continue to review the zoning issues that come before the planning commission and the BOS carefully.
MICHAEL: I would represent the citizens rather than the developers and eliminate wasteful spending and reduce taxes.
SCOTHORN: As a member of the BOS, I have consistently championed agriculture, particularly in the northern regions of the County where utilities are scarce. The key to preserving Botetourt’s rural beauty (while supporting development) lies in our strategic growth patterns. By directing development to those areas where water and wastewater infrastructure exist, we can simultaneously spur economic growth and protect our unspoiled rural areas. I remain committed to backing agricultural initiatives that promote our cherished rural character and will continue to advocate for policies that balance growth with preservation.
YOUNG: This goes back to my answer to the first question. If we avoid becoming a Roanoke bedroom community and setting policies that cater to the big chain stores, I think we will automatically retain a rural feel. We need to get government out of the development business and eliminate government control and overreach.
How would you deal with aging school infrastructure?
MICHAEL: By eliminating wasteful spending and reducing taxes, the County should realize increased revenues. This process was demonstrated by the Trump tax cuts.
SCOTHORN: Addressing our aging school infrastructure is a pressing issue, and I firmly believe it necessitates a well-thought-out action plan by the School System. My commitment is to work to develop a funding strategy for all the County priorities that include the educational needs of Botetourt. I feel as if the first step is to encourage and assist the School System in implementing the insights that are feasible from the recent efficiency study.
Public Education encompasses the largest component of our County budget and it requires meticulous planning and consideration for significant investments like replacing schools. It is essential to approach such expenditures conservatively, examining all potential benefits and drawbacks. I feel that the new Colonial Elementary School can be used as an example for future construction projects. Above all, I will ensure that every step we take is communicated transparently to our citizens, as you are our partners in building a brighter educational future.
YOUNG: As a grandparent of children currently in Botetourt County Schools, I believe our children and school staff need a welcoming, safe educational environment. With the overcrowding issues currently in our schools, we need to analyze other projects where money might be reallocated from, such as the Gateway Crossing project where over 100 million dollars is being spent. As we redirect funds to find new sources of funds other than increased taxes, we need to work to make our school improvements more cost effective by cutting wasteful spending in Botetourt County.
MARTIN: The infrastructure for aging schools is handled through the School Board. They continually review the needs for the schools in this County and determine what work needs to be done. The school would determine a cost for repairs or replacement and forward a request funding to the Board of Supervisors. The BOS would then carefully study the impacts of the cost and ask for input from the citizens for funding approvals. This a complicated issue that almost every county across the nation is dealing with.
What would you do to improve the exit 150 corridor at the intersection of U.S. Routes 220 and 11? Much has been said about the area where the old truck stop was located, along with the empty Berglund Outdoor Store, former restaurants (Shoney’s and Country Cookin’), Mountain View Plaza, and the old filling stations along northbound 220. How do you believe that the county could encourage property owners to make improvements in that area? What sorts of development do you think are appropriate for the vacated properties?
SCOTHORN: The Exit 150 area holds considerable potential for development and revitalization. Promising initiatives are underway, such as the imminent renovation of the old Shoney’s site. I anticipate this project will act as a catalyst, sparking further redevelopment efforts in the area, thereby enhancing its attractiveness, and spurring continued investment. Expanding opportunities for redevelopment and revitalization were the catalysts behind the Gateway Overlay Corridor, which seeks to encourage further investments in the area. These investments will create jobs, increase revenues, and help ease the tax burden on our citizens.
I would also encourage a sidewalk system from the Exit 150 Interchange/Appalachian Trail area to the YMCA at Daleville Town Center to enhance the safety of our youth as they travel from Lord Botetourt High School to the areas around the school.
We continue to work to attract additional desirable commerce to Botetourt. Exit 150 is a huge asset for the County, since it has the potential to generate revenue from visitors traveling to and through Botetourt, with new and expanded shops, restaurants, and other amenities.
Many citizens understand that the old truck stop was condemned due to safety issues, however, many do not realize that VDOT and the Commonwealth of Virginia now own that property, and do not intend to allow for its development. I am working on plans to improve maintenance and beautification of the area, through public private partnership opportunities.
The old gas station and carwash along 220 north have been a concern of mine for years. With some possibility of redesign of the south bound exit ramp off I-81 we may be able to remove the obstructions and make the area safer while providing more visual appeal. However, ultimately, this property is not owned by the County, so the rights of the property owner must be considered as well.
YOUNG: The old truck stop is on an exit ramp, and its access and flow were ruined by the recent traffic flow changes by the county and VDOT. I would like to see county relationships with these agencies improve to try to partner with them to make necessary changes without stifling small business in our county. County government needs to facilitate small business instead of putting up roadblocks to the process of obtaining building permits and business licenses. People will do more and grow more if we help them and do not display an anti-small business attitude. Conversations I have had with county residents during my campaign indicate a desire for more nice restaurants in the area. As an example of appropriate development, I would work with potential small business owners to facilitate planning and permitting for nice restaurants and stand-alone businesses that would increase the destination appeal of the county while maintaining the rural, small community feel of the county and its natural beauty.
MARTIN: I’ve been told by folks in Botetourt that they would like to see nice restaurants or a high-quality hotel in the area. I think a retail presence in this area would be a positive development as well. Of course, the first thing to consider is how to attract a contractor or developer to invest in this area and willing to pay the cost of the land to build or develop. Some owners of this property would have to agree selling their properties. A developer or contractor usually contacts our planning department if they have a project. Shoney’s is being redeveloped as we speak, and a new restaurant will be developed there soon in a new building. There are other folks interested in developing property around exit 150. The exit 150 overlay adoption is assisting to draw in investment to the area.
MICHAEL: I would represent the citizens rather than the developers. And what the citizens want most is have their taxes reduced and eliminate wasteful spending.
For more details on how I’ll eliminate wasteful spending and reduce taxes, please visit my Facebook page, Botetourt Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, which also includes monthly Board of Supervisors meeting summaries. If you will trust me with your vote, I will fight to eliminate wasteful spending and reducing your taxes.