Friday, July 11, 2014
Here a plan, there a plan...
Goochland County is in a planning state of mind.
The supervisors are working on a strategic plan; master plans for fire-rescue and utilities are underway, as is an arterial transportation plan for the Broad Street/Ashland Road corridor.
On July 10, the Goochland Planning commission devoted most of its monthly meeting to a workshop on the upcoming review of the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (Comp Plan.) District 2 Commissioner Matt Brewer was absent.
At the start of the meeting Senior Planner Jo Ann Hunter reported that a conditional use application filed by the Seventh Day Adventists to convert a Manakin Road home and barn into a church facility had been withdrawn in the face of vigorous opposition by neighboring property owners.
Hunter then gave a brief overview of matters expected to be on the Planning Commission agenda in coming months. The initiative to update county land use ordinances to align with state law continues. The concept of “public assembly” will be addressed and will pertain to all situations of gathering, not just churches.
In recent years, a gracious plenty of religious organizations have purchased land and moved to Goochland. Current ordinances only require a CUP if a gathering place exceeds a certain square footage. The intent of the proposed change is not to impinge in any way on the right to worship, but rather to guide large groups to places able to handle traffic and avoid neighborhood disruption. In recent years, churches, which are exempt from property tax, locating on Broad Street Road have been required to install left and right turn lanes.
As part of the ordinance review a clear, fair process to enforce CUPs will be established.
Turning to the Comp Plan review, Hunter explained that the previous review, which began in 2007 and was approved in early 2009, was quite extensive. As little happened in the interim, due to the economic downturn, this year’s review will focus on distilling the essence of the plan into a useful, accessible document.
Simplification is a worthy goal. Comp plans seem a little like the Bible—passages can be used to support or refute pretty much any proposal. Designed to be used as a “guide” for land use decisions, the Comp Plan is sometimes ignored.
A case in point is the rezoning of Bellview Gardens about a decade ago to permit homes to be built on smaller lots served by public water and sewer. This has and will be the source of much heartache for homeowners and toothaches for developers.
The Comp Plan is the ideal mechanism to “preserve Goochland’s rural character” in the face of development pressures, especially in the eastern part of the Broad Street Road corridor. Hunter said that many people declare that they do not want Goochland to “look like Short Pump,” but are hard pressed to offer definitional details beyond less traffic and paving.
District 5 Commissioner Tom Rockecharlie said that roads in eastern Goochland are pretty much at capacity “regardless of what VDOT says.” He believes that a connector road between Broad Street Road and Route 6 is necessary to deal with traffic resulting from recently approved subdivisions on Hockett Road. (A traffic signal will be installed at the corner of Hockett and Broad sometime this fall, according to VDOT.)
Rockecharlie also pointed out that the new McDonald’s doesn’t look anything like the renderings submitted, so why does the county bother with overlay restrictions and design standards?
Hunter conceded that those standards need more teeth. She also said that roads parallel to Broad Street Road would ease congestion there.
The village concept, which has been a feature of previous Comp Plans, needs another look, suggested Hunter. Sandy Hook, Hadensville, and Georges Tavern/Fife are unlikely to develop in any meaningful way and should be reclassified. Most development in the next few years is anticipated in Centerville, Oilville, and Courthouse Village, which badly needs better access to Interstate 64 to grow.
Simply stated, the village concept seeks to concentrate growth in areas equipped to handle high density development including townhomes and apartments. To date, the county has no multifamily zoning classification to facilitate this.
The first comp plan review of the 21st century concentrated on the Oilville Village, even specifying the permitted height of buildings and width of sidewalks on interior streets. Homes and businesses were to be connected to promote walkability. Since then, “growth” in the Oilville Village has consisted of a nice strip shopping center and upscale, but cookie cutter, subdivision that do not articulate with each other in any way.
Another goal of the village concept is to control dreaded sprawl by limiting the large lot subdivisions that allegedly destroy the rural character of the county. At least one planning commissioner needs tutoring on this matter.
Hunter presented demographic charts that show county growth evenly distributed over the five districts. (See the meeting packet on the county website www.co.goochland.va.us for details.) This is not expected to continue in the next few years as the more than 500 dwelling units approved in the past few years are built.
In general, Goochland is getting older and is rich. As the word gets out about our high quality public schools and entry level housing options become available, this could change too.
As with every other current county initiative, one goal for the Comp Plan is to make it shorter, simpler and more business friendly.
The Comp Plan review will consider amendments in the land use envisioned for several areas in the eastern part of the county where conditions have or are expected to change as in the shift from industrial to residential used along Ashland/Pouncey Tract Road.
This Comp Plan review will include a community gathering in each district and public hearings at the planning commission and board of supervisors before final adoption, which is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2015.
The Comp Plan is supposed to be the “community vision” for growth in the county. In the past, it’s been the vision of a small group of people because no one else paid attention.