Christiansburg’s FY2023-2024 proposed budget does not currently include community grant money earmarked for Wonder Universe this year, causing concern for those parents who frequently bring their children to the museum.
Many residents spoke during the town council meeting’s citizen comments session in support of Wonder Universe Museum and the need for continuing financial support from Christiansburg Town Council.
Previously, Wonder Universe was located in Blacksburg, but volunteers and supporters of the museum decided to change its location to the Uptown Christiansburg (formerly the New River Valley Mall) to provide for a more centralized location, according to Jessica Jeter, Chair of the museum.
“We currently have over 600 Christiansburg family members, which exceeds the number of Blacksburg family memberships,” Jeter said. “This just shows how important it is to Christiansburg.”
Doug Adkins of Christiansburg shared with the council that, not only is Wonder Universe a place to visit for residents, but it is also a destination that travelers seek in relation to museums across the state of Virginia and beyond.
“We’ve taken several visitors that have come to our house during the weather and showed them the museum,” Adkins said. “It is on the map for people coming to our area.”
One resident pointed out that some of the non-profit organizations, considering the town’s financial needs that must be met, will not receive financial support every year.
“There is only so much we can do, and these organizations are all going to get an opportunity to hear the word no, because the way the process is now set up is that you can only get three out of five years,” said Christina Waltz of Christiansburg. “So, this year Wonder Universe and Montgomery Museum got their chance to hear no.”
Council members adjourned, deciding to revisit a discussion later about citizens’ requests for the council to reconsider financial support for the non-profit Wonder Universe.
David Hagan, co-owner of Shelor Motor Mile in Christiansburg, also addressed council members during citizen comment on Tuesday night. Hagan requested an apology for the council’s response to the request for proposal (RFP) concerning the recent naming rights for the new Christiansburg Huckleberry Park. Previously, Shelor Motor Mile completed the request for naming rights with a financial support of $500,000, the minimum allowable donation that would permit naming rights per the RFP. Shelor’s offer was rescinded by council.
Hagan stated that he had been approached by the council to submit the proposal and had followed the instructions as they had determined in their RFP.
“Naming Rights Agreement, Section 2, name of the park Motor Mile Christiansburg Huckleberry Park, section 29, confidentiality nondisclosure,[states] ‘sponsors and owners shall not at any time have any press release or make any public comments without consent from the other party,” Hagan said. “We followed the exact terms of the RFP.”
According to Hagan, they would have been fine with re-negotiating the RFP and not mentioning Shelor at all.
“I feel that our company and employees were mishandled, and you should apologize,” Hagan said.
Council members expressed their apologies to Hagan later in the meeting.
“I want to give you my personal apology as a person,” Johana Hicks said. “As citizens of Christiansburg, [we] have paid so much money into it and obviously $500,000 is a lot of money and we are grateful for that.”
“I think he completed the application just as we presented it to him,” Tanya Hockett said, in response to Hagan’s comments. “He’s right. Shelor Motor Mile doesn’t deserve to bear the brunt of any anger or frustration from the public.”
In rezoning and conditional use permits, the council voted on several requests during the meeting.
Both rezoning and conditional use permit requests were approved with a 6-0 vote for an automobile body shop on the southeast corner of Route 460 Bypass and Roanoke Street of 1.976 acres. The rezoning will be a change from B-3 General Business to I-1 Limited Industrial use. Public hearings were previously held on May 23, 2023.
Shepherd Contracting LLC, owner of the property located at 4600 Roanoke Street, requested to rezone approximately two acres from Limited Business District B-1 to General Business District B-3 with an additional request for a conditional use permit to establish a contractors’ storage yard. Both requests received a 7-0 approval from council members, with conditions as listed per the Planning Commission’s approval on May 15, 2023.
A 209-unit, multi-family planned housing development proposal on 18.77 acres located on Farmview Road, NE, was submitted by Denstock, LLC. The requests included a vacation of a .169-acre right-of-way at the eastern end of Farmview, Road, NE, as stated in the town council’s agenda documents. Council members voted unanimously in approval of the vacation of the land and a conditional use permit to allow the development that would provide one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. Conditions do apply and are present on the town’s website at www.christiansburg.org.
Mayor Mike Barber opened further conversation on the appointment of school resource officers (SROs) to the county’s public schools. Barber gave a brief history of the previous discussions surrounding the funding and support of SROs in Montgomery County Public Schools.
“I talked to Miss Hockett about putting this on the agenda and the thing that’s most appalling to me is that we’ve asked the Board of Supervisors to meet with us as two governing bodies in one location to come up with a mutual plan for how we’re going to cover down on school resource officers, and for the record, the best answer they’ve given us was out of our last council meeting they would meet with us at 6 o’clock on the same night as our council meeting,” council member Tim Wilson said. “The schools belong to the county…we just asked for a reimbursement for that funding.”
Hockett followed with comments including, “If we can’t sit down and discuss this with the Board of Supervisors, I don’t even know; we are powerless.”
Other members of the council agreed that they would want to sit down with the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors very soon. The mayor was the deciding vote previously, with a 3-3 split among council members, to remove the SROs on July 1 with the intent of having further discussion with the County.
According to Mayor Mike Barber, “to hire a heavily qualified resource officer going forward, they have to [have] two years’ experience on the road and they have to go through a training for school resource officer. If this is a new hire, that they hire in specifically, or even in the future if we hire in specifically for this, they have to go through the academy which is eleven months, two years on the road, and then qualification in the summer.”
After each member had an opportunity to speak on the topic, the council decided to continue seeking out an opportunity to meet with the county supervisors to resolve the conflict.
Additionally, Christiansburg Town Council voted 6-0 in approval of Matthew Estes’ recommendation to the Circuit Court, Board of Zoning Appeals.
“I’ve been a member of the Christiansburg community for about five years now. Born and raised in Syracuse, New York. I currently work for Moog in Blacksburg, Virginia,” Este said.
The search for a new police chief is also underway. Eight applicants have been received for the now closed advertisement for the position of Christiansburg’s Police Chief.