By Matt de Simone
Fincastle Town Council approved the rezoning of a portion of the Old Jail property owned by Botetourt County from “Public” to “Commercial” during the monthly meeting last Thursday night at the Fincastle Volunteer Fire Department Training Room. The Botetourt Planning Commission recommended council’s approval following a recent meeting.
In February, the county leased the property to Donald and Caroline Naysmith, two preservationists who recently moved to Fincastle. The lease is for 40 years (at $1 annually) which is required for grants and credits due to the building being a historic structure.
County Assistant Administrator Jon Lanford spoke to council during a public hearing.
“From Botetourt County’s perspective, we feel fortunate that the Naysmiths found us,” Lanford told council during the meeting. He mentioned that when the county performed reference checks, they spoke with a state representative in North Carolina working in the state’s equivalent of the Department of Historical Resources who told the county, “If the Naysmiths are doing a project in Virginia, that’s great for Virginia.”
Councilman Richard Flora opposed the rezoning. stating the significance of the property to the town.
“I think we have the cart before the horse,” Flora said during the meeting. “We need a plan for the courthouse square. There are four significant buildings that we need to plan for.”
Flora mentioned a “promising” planning grant application (for up to $1.2 million) that’s currently on the table designed to prepare a plan for implementation dealing with historic preservation marketing Fincastle as a destination. Flora stated he understands the jail is on county property, but due to it being in Fincastle, he feels that more thought needs to go into planning between the Board of Supervisors and the Town of Fincastle. Flora feels “there is no plan.”
Mayor Mary Bess Smith responded saying, “My opinion is… we want that building to look like it looks. And that’s what they (the Naysmiths) tell us that they’re going to do. So, whether we control and pay for it, or whether they control it and pay for it and do it now—to me, we end up with the same end result and maybe, at some point in the future, we can talk with the county… maybe we can go to them and maybe lease all of that property. Granted, the Naysmiths will be in the Old Jail, but I don’t think we’d do anything different with it if we had it. That, to me, seems to be what we ultimately agreed to.”
Treasurer Bill Gaul agreed that there needs to be a plan. He said he couldn’t think of a better use for the building and thinks going with the Naysmiths’ plans, despite him being surprised at the 40-year lease, is the best course of action.
The proposed plan is to restore the upper levels of the building to appear like the jail did many years ago. The Old Jail’s proposed gift shop/coffee shop is intended to generate revenue allowing ongoing maintenance and operation of the building.
Council approved the rezoning application with the proffers that were offered through the planning commission, 5-2. Council members Mayor Smith, Gaul, Ed Bordett, Paige Ware, and Pam Binns approved the rezoning application, with Richard Flora and John Thomas in opposition.
Additionally, Town Council unanimously approved the application by Hix Brothers Enterprises, LLC for a Special Use Permit to operate a mobile restaurant (food truck) in the 200 block of Botetourt Road (Route 220) between the intersections of 220 with Back Street and Federal Street. The food truck will operate Monday through Friday with the plan of serving the workers involved in the upcoming courthouse renovations.
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