Supervisors split over vice-chair, planner’s reappointment

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BOTETOURT – Terry Austin, Buchanan District supervisor, was elected new chairman of the Botetourt Board of Supervisors during the board’s January 26 organizational meeting. He was elected after he was nominated by new Fincastle District Supervisor Donna Vaughn, who took over for Don Meredith after he passed away after a long illness earlier this year.

After the unanimous vote, Austin told the audience of 30 county officials and citizens that the upcoming year would be difficult. He noted a shortfall of local and state revenue and a reassessment that did not significantly increase land values as reasons for what he expects will be severe belt-tightening.

“Things are going to change,” he said. “People chose to live in Botetourt County for a reason—quality of life, and that’s services provided.” He vowed the county would continue to provide those services to the best of its ability, “but for the interim, we’re going to have to live through some hard times.”

Amsterdam District Supervisor Steve Clinton was elected vice-chair on a 3-2 vote over fellow nominee Billy Martin, who represents the Blue Ridge District. Outgoing chairman and Valley District Supervisor Don Assaid and Martin opposed Clinton’s appointment. Austin, Clinton and Vaughn voted for Clinton.

The supervisors had delayed their reorganizational meeting from December in the hopes that Meredith would be able to return for January’s meeting.

Planning Commission

Austin and Assaid disagreed once again over appointees to the Planning Commission after Vaughn nominated John Griffin, the current Fincastle District Planning Commission member, to serve another four-year term.

The two supervisors have been at odds over nominees before. In November, Assaid attempted to replace Valley District planner Bill Hughes, but that resulted in a tie vote with Austin and Clinton opposed and Meredith absent to break the tie. In December, Assaid nominated Hughes after he and the planner discussed Hughes’ role as a planner.

“I think we need a different perspective on the Planning Commission,” Assaid said at last week’s meeting. He reiterated statements he has made in the past about the makeup of the Planning Commission, which consists of three members who are affiliated with the building industry.

Griffin is a developer; Buchanan District planner Steve Kidd is a builder, and Amsterdam District planner Chris Whitely is a project manager for New River Electrical.

Assaid has repeatedly said he believes this sends a wrong message to the county citizens.

Austin, along with Clinton, argued that the knowledge gained from having long-serving members on the Planning Commission outweighs any issues with their professions.

Griffin’s nomination passed 3-2, with Austin, Vaughn and Clinton voting for his reappointment.

Committee appointments

In other committee appointments, Austin and Clinton, both of whom have served on the county’s General Fund Budget Committee for many years, continued in those roles.

Assaid, Martin and Vaughn will serve on the School Budget Committee. Assaid agreed to continue to serve with the Transportation Safety Commission and he took over Austin’s role as liaison with the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission.

Martin will serve as the supervisors’ liaison with the Planning Commission and Vaughn will serve as liaison with the Library Board of Trustees.