Vinton Planning Commission considers flea market at Colonial Downs location

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The Vinton Planning Commission held a public hearing on granting a Special Use Permit to Andrew Braxton to operate a flea market at the former Colonial Downs Off-Track Betting (OTB) site in Vinton.

The Vinton Planning Commission met on August 3 to consider a request from Andrew (“Ty”) Braxton for a Special Use Permit to operate a flea market at 1125 and 1135 Vinyard Road, the former Colonial Downs Off-Track Betting (OTB) location.

The property is currently zoned GB General Business. Operating a flea market in the GB District requires that a Special Use Permit be considered for recommendation to Town Council by the Planning Commission, and then heard and approved by Town Council.

Vinton Planning Commission members are Chairman David Jones, Vice Chairman Keith Liles, Robert Benninger, William Booth, and Robert Patterson.

On August 3, the Planning Commission first held a brief work session on the proposal followed by a previously advertised public hearing. The public hearing began with a presentation on the petition by staff, comments from the petitioner, public comments, and then discussion and voting on the Special Use Permit by the members of the commission.

Braxton hopes to lease the property from owners Henry and Sarah Brabham. Vendors would pay Braxton rental fees to set up booths.

The business would be named “We the People Flea Market” and would have outdoor day vendors and more permanent indoor vendors, selling typical flea market fare. The day vendors would remove their wares and stands at the end of each day. The outdoor vending area would be well maintained with no trash at the end of the business day. Under the business plan submitted, a restaurant, snack bar, and coffee shop are being planned by Braxton inside as well. The business will also offer clean indoor bathrooms with baby stations. Braxton plans to provide security at the facility by hiring off-duty police officers.

Two citizens spoke at the public hearing— one in favor and one opposed. The individual who spoke in favor has previously operated a booth at the now defunct Happy’s Flea Market on Williamson Road and considers the Vinyard Road location to be a good one.

The citizen who opposed the proposal thought a flea market in Vinton is a good idea, but not at the Vinyard Road location, which is a congested area with a great deal of traffic at the nearby Lake Drive Plaza shopping center, and several fast food restaurants.

Another citizen submitted a comment by phone to the Planning and Zoning Department prior to the meeting and was opposed to the selling of merchandise outside the building.

Planning Commission members voted 4-to-1 to recommend that Town Council deny the Special Use Permit. The four who were opposed to the petition felt that a flea market is a good idea and that Braxton had submitted a “great business plan,” but that the proposed site on Vinyard Road was the wrong location for the business.

The one member of the Planning Commission who voted to approve the Special Use Permit stated that he believed that it was not a bad location for the flea market, and that such a business would in fact bring in revenue to the surrounding businesses and to the Vinton area in general. Customers and vendors would spend their dollars not just at the flea market, but in surrounding restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses. He also stated that the town doesn’t need another building to remain vacant for years, such as the former Rite Aid building at 1000 Hardy Road.

The formal procedure is that the petition is next presented to Town Council who may or may not accept the recommendation of the Planning Commission.

Vinton Planning and Zoning Code Enforcement Officer Karla Turman will brief council on the issue at the next Town Council meeting to be held on August 15. A public hearing will be held at the council meeting on September 5 in Council Chambers at the Municipal Building with citizens invited to offer their opinions on the petition.

In other action at the Planning Commission meeting, members were briefed on a VDOT Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment (OIPI) Tier 3 Grant for $65,000 which would support planning for and adopting revisions to the Vinton zoning and subdivision ordinances in the designated Urban Development Areas (UDA). If awarded, the funds would be used to hire a consultant to update the zoning and subdivision ordinances. After discussion, all five members voted in favor of recommending that Town Council approve of staff submitting the grant application to OIPI.

(Thanks to Karla Turman and Julie Tucei from Vinton’s Planning and Zoning Department for their assistance with this article.)