ABINGDON, Va. — The Washington County Board of Supervisors will hold a work session to discuss the proposed ordinance governing natural gas drilling in the county.
Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday night to plan for a workshop to delve into the ordinance.
Odell Owens, who made the motion to hold a workshop session, said it’s needed because the board hasn’t had the ordinance very long — the Planning Commission voted to send the ordinance to the board June 23 — and he wants to have the meeting within the next few weeks.
Board members tentatively set a date for next week. The special called workshop meeting will be announced at least three days before it occurs, County Attorney Lucy Phillips told board members.
The Planning Commission had worked on the draft since June 2013, although the issue of specifically permitting gas drilling in the county has been discussed at the county level for about four years. The draft ordinance says drilling would be allowed by special exception permit, and outlines the northwestern part of the county where drilling can occur.
Board members also hope to have a representative from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy on hand to explain the drilling process and answer questions.
At the conclusion of that meeting, the board could then refer the ordinance for further study or revision or pass it back to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission will need to hold a public hearing before passing the ordinance back to the board for another public hearing before the ordinance is approved.
About 20 people addressed the issue during the meeting’s public comment section.
Most spoke against drilling, and against hydraulic fracturing.
In other board action Tuesday, board members voted unanimously to send a resolution to local and federal legislators, as well as federal agencies, saying they oppose housing illegal aliens in the county, unless they’ve been charged as criminals and are treated accordingly.
The resolution that was approved was drafted by board member Jim Baker, who rewrote a resolution that County Administrator Jason Berry had drafted and put into the draft meeting agenda.
The topic of housing immigrants or refugees came up at the last board meeting, after it was made known that federal authorities were apparently considering the vacated Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, Virginia, as a site to house children who have fled Central America. Residents in Lawrenceville, Virginia, protested the housing of about 500 immigrant children at Saint Paul’s College, which closed a few years ago.
Baker’s resolution is more general, opposing the housing of all illegal aliens in the county, regardless of their age or situation.
“We don’t wish to be a target for illegal immigrants, and support other localities and local officials trying to fight it,” Baker said after the meeting.
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