LU airport

More than 100 people attended a Bedford County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, concerning an appeal by Liberty University concerning the New London Airport in Forest.

Bedford supervisors appoint commission members

{child_byline}By Shannon Keith


BEDFORD — More than a dozen of concerned residents attended a special-called meeting of the Bedford County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday in advance of a planning commission meeting next week concerning the New London Airport, which is owned by Liberty University.

The board voted 6-1 Tuesday to appoint John Moisa as the District 3 representative on the planning commission and Nicholas Kessler as the District 4 representative.

Former District 3 member Ron Steele stepped down last month after the commission’s September meeting and District 4 member Josiah Tillett stepped down in May after he accepted a job in Tennessee.

District 2 Supervisor Edgar Tuck, District 3 Supervisor Charla Bansley, District 4 Supervisor John Sharp, District 5 Supervisor Tommy Scott, District 6 Supervisor Andy Dooley and District 7 Supervisor Kevin Willis voted in favor of both appointments. District 1 Supervisor Bill Thomasson voted against both of the appointments.

The appointments come in advance of a scheduled planning commission meeting at Jefferson Forest High School next Tuesday at 7 p.m., when the commission is scheduled to hear an update on the proposed zoning and future use of the New London Airport in Forest. The university is questioning the county’s interpretation of what it can do at the property, which it purchased in 2015.

During its meeting in September, the commission voted to table discussions about the drafting of a zoning ordinance amendment that would create an Airport district, a first for Bedford County.

Supervisors directed staff to draft the amendment following a closed session during its Aug. 12 meeting that, according to the board’s agenda, concerned the New London Airport. The airport, located off New London Road about 3 miles south of U.S. 460, is zoned AP, Agricultural Rural Preserve district.

According to Bedford County Director of Community Development Gregg Zody, the airport is a pre-existing, non-conforming use containing pre-existing, non-conforming structures. If approved by supervisors, the proposed zoning ordinance amendment would create an airport zoning district and change the airport’s present zoning.

In March, Liberty submitted a request for 467.83 acres — which includes the 131-acre New London Airport at 1114 Wheels Drive — to be rezoned from AP to PCD, Planned Commercial Development, which would allow for a variety of land uses while also protecting surrounding property.

The university submitted plans to develop a general aviation facility for its School of Aeronautics on the property, which Liberty purchased in 2015 for $1.8 million. The 467 acres owned by the university has a combined tax value of about $4.2 million, according to information from the Bedford County geographic information system’s website.

The rezoning request was scheduled for a public hearing during the planning commission’s March 19 meeting, but the university withdrew the request prior to the meeting.

The commission voted to table the vote on the rezoning request in September until Zody could provide more information and pending the outcome of two appeals from Liberty University regarding LU’s legal limits of expansion of the New London Airport — both of which were denied by the Bedford County Board of Zoning Appeals last month.

Thomasson questioned both appointments recommended Tuesday — made by Bansley and Sharp — which would represent the two districts affected by the potential airport expansion.

“We usually get these recommendations a week or more in advance,” Thomasson said. “I would ask for 30 days to look over these.”

Both Bansley and Sharp spoke in favor of their recommendations.

“John Moisa is great and he has been a neighbor for many years,” Bansley said. “He will do a great job.”

Moisa and Kessler will take office immediately and will represent their districts during the planning commission’s Oct. 15 meeting. The commission is scheduled to hear an update from staff about the potential rezoning of the New London Airport in Forest to a new Airport district. The meeting is open to the public and will include a comment period.

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Shannon Keith covers Bedford County for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5530.

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