2012-03-28 / News

County gets first look at new comp plan draft

By Michael Buettner NEWS EDITOR

Wallin Wallin The Planning Commission got its first look at the next version of the county’s comprehensive plan last week, and residents now have their first opportunity to read and comment on the new draft.

The first two pieces of the plan that residents can examine and comment on are the land-use plan map and land-use categories, which were among the most controversial segments of the draft plan rejected last month by the Board of Supervisors. Many residents, and some county officials, found that draft’s categories confusing and overly restrictive.

Acting Planning Manager Steve Haasch said one of the department’s overall aims in drafting new land-use categories was “to try to protect our existing neighborhoods.” Haasch said the new land-use plan “uses existing densities as a guide,” and its categories “are founded on the existing categories, knowing that the existing categories may have to be amended.”

The Planning Department’s proposal lists a total of 19 land-use categories and explains how they relate to existing categories and how they differ, if they do. The aim is to keep the categories streamlined and the explanations clear and specific.

For example, one of the most confusing categories in the rejected plan was its “Countryside” designation covering the far southwestern part of the county. It maintained the existing five-acre minimum lot size for single-family homes with sufficient road frontage but added a new provision for “landlocked” lots with no road frontage.

Initially, the plan called for a 25-acre minimum for such lots, but that minimum was cut to five acres in a later revision. Either way, it created confusion among landowners who believed it imposed new restrictions on their ability to develop their property.

The new draft covers that portion of the county with a “Rural Residential/Agricultural” category that corresponds to the existing A-Agricultural zoning. It allows for single-family homes on a minimum of five acres fronting 250 to 300 feet along existing public roads or on a minimum of one acre created through family divisions.

A single-family home on less than five acres is “appropriate” if the parcel was created before the adoption of the five-acre requirement. (Farming is also appropriate.) More intensive development will be considered if private developers will commit to financing and building additional infrastructure such as utilities, fire stations and roads.

Another major difference from the rejected plan, Haasch noted, is the “limited mixed use in specific areas,” compared with the rejected plan’s wide promotion of mixed-used development.

In general, he said, the new plan “does not restrict property rights.”

Overall, Planning Commission members gave cautious approval to the segments presented last week, while urging department staff to avoid negative language. “We have to be careful about telling people what they can’t do,” Matoaca District Commissioner Edgar Wallin said.

Bermuda District Commissioner Dale Patton agreed. “This needs to be something the county can get behind,” he said.

The land-use map and categories can be viewed and commented on until 5 p.m. today, March 28, at

All comments submitted will be anonymous unless the sender chooses to identify himself or herself.

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