WISE — County supervisors gave their unofficial blessing Thursday to Appalachia’s pursuit of a town boundary adjustment.
Town officials need the county’s approval to add roughly 1,000 acres to town limits. They are looking at property that includes the former Bullitt mine and transloader site, land overlooking that site, the Powell River Trail and Washington Rock.
Appalachia officials postponed moving forward on the request while Dominion Energy was studying the site, Mayor Ted Collins explained.
Dominion recently decided to pursue a hydroelectric power project in Tazewell County after determining the Bullitt site would not do the job.
Councilman Travis Anderson said the boundary adjustment would take in land suitable for industrial development and ecotourism.
Appalachia is working with the U.S. Forest Service on trail development and maintenance, he said. Meanwhile, the town aims to work with Big Stone Gap and Norton on extending the Powell River Trail.
Trout are being stocked in the river once again, and the water is much cleaner than in years past, providing an amazing fishing experience, according to Anderson.
The properties in question include the Dark Hollow trail and a potential scenic overlook facing Roaring Branch, he said. This adjustment would present the opportunity to add parking at the Roaring Branch trail, he noted.
There also is discussion of building a walkway that would connect the Powell River trail to the Roaring Branch trail. Appalachia will maintain the trails, saving the forest service money.
The boundary adjustment would not include any houses or commercial buildings, Anderson said.
District One Supervisor Fred Luntsford left his seat and took the podium, speaking in his other capacity as Appalachia town manager.
Town officials are simply looking for a nod of approval to work with attorneys and continue moving the process forward, including a survey of the land, he said. At a later point, the town would come back to the county to set a public hearing and formalize the change.
Vice Chair Robby Robbins called it a good plan and said the town has a unique opportunity.
District Three Supervisor John Schoolcraft asked what the town needs from the county.
County attorney Karen Mullins explained that a boundary adjustment requires the parties to reach an agreement, notify all the property owners and conduct a public hearing. If supervisors vote to approve it, the circuit court will be petitioned for final approval.
A draft agreement could be ready for supervisors to review in October, she said. The board could be positioned to vote in November.
District Three Supervisor J.H. Rivers asked how many property owners would be involved. Luntsford said he thinks the number is five.
Town officials have previously said most of the land is owned by Penn Virginia, A&G Coal Co. and the forest service.
District One Supervisor Bobby Cassell noted there are hunting clubs leasing some of the property in question. He asked whether their activity would be restricted.
Luntsford said once the boundary is adjusted, the town could negotiate with the clubs. He added that the clubs leased property after the town expressed interest in a boundary adjustment, and he doesn’t know how much land they have leased.
Supervisors indicated no objections to the town moving forward.