It’s been way too long since we’ve provided our readers with an update on efforts to preserve the former Amherst Baptist Church.That silence doesn’t mean work isn’t being done – quite the contrary! If you haven’t been by on a Thursday afternoon, our farmers market is now in full swing. After an iffy start to the growing season, fresh produce and meat is now in by the bushels, crafts are included the first Thursday of every month, and music can be heard every third Thursday.
But as for the church – well, it remains iffy. You might recall that in March, the county board of supervisors approved two motions: one to demolish the building, and another to advertise it for sale. That sent us Second Stage workers scrambling. After several meetings, we decided to ask the supervisors to meet with us in a work session so that there could be real dialogue rather than the formal presentation, question, answer format required in a supervisors meeting. In that workshop, we were prepared to offer to renovate the building using donated funds if the county would permit a lease with terms that would allow us to recoup our investment.
That request made it onto the supervisors’ agenda for their May 20 meeting. But before our request could be entertained, Supervisor John Marks made another surprise motion, this time to remove the building from “for sale” status and to “move ahead with the demolition as appropriate,” whatever as appropriatemeans. The motion passed 3-1, with Mr. Curd being absent.
Mr. Marks stated that “to agree to a work session such as this would be setting a troublesome precedent.” Evidently, meeting with one’s constituents and learning their desires, needs, concerns and the like is troublesome to him.
While this has certainly sent us scurrying, we continue to fight the good fight. We are moving forward in the belief that our effort is good for the county and that we will prevail in the end. We are now legally incorporated in the state of Virginia, and have applied for nonprofit status with the IRS. While that application is in process we continue to partner with AGAR as our fiscal agent. Our board is presently comprised of Steve Martin, Suny Monk, Sally Mock, Janice Augustine, Craig Pleasants, Cindy Henderson, Laura Fails, Michael Dowell and market manager, Cooke Harvey.
The supervisors’ most recent action to demolish the church, on the surface, seems to be final. Still, they can reverse their decision at any time. (Well, right up to the time they release the wrecking ball.) The best thing we – and you – can do is to continue to talk to your supervisor and express your desire to not see another county landmark demolished. And please tell your friends to do the same. The more the supervisors hear the need and desire to save this building, the more likely they are to have second thoughts.
We have also been busy exploring the possibility of having this decision put on the November ballot as a referendum, giving the Amherst County voting public the opportunity to decide. Sadly, this will not be possible at this time as referendum law in the state of Virginia does not allow for such an issue. But we are circulating a petition seeking as many signatures as possible to try one more time to convince the BoS that the people of Amherst County want this building saved and repurposed.
So again, your four tasks for the summer:
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