Greene County Planning Commission December meeting

Greene County Administration Building
Kara Reese Pennella
Greene County Field Officer

Action Summary:
Jefferson Area Board for Aging rezoning request from R-1, Residential, to SR, Senior Residential, on approximately 15.16 acres located on Preddy Creek Drive – Disapproval Recommended
Public Hearing regarding request to revise Greene County Zoning Ordinance to permit Equine Uses in A-1, Agriculture – Deferred

Work session Call to Order 6:40 pm

Prior to their regular meeting the Planning Commission held a work session to discuss proposed changes to the County’s Business Zoning Districts. There was a general discussion regarding whether it would be better to place all retail together instead of including separate definitions for each type of retail store. The Planning Commission also discussed whether there should be two or three business districts. Individual definitions for differing types of businesses were also an issue. At the end of the work session staff indicated that they would place the revisions into ordinance format.

Work session Adjourned 7:22 pm

Regular Meeting Call to Order 7:32 pm

I. Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission Presentation on the Comprehensive Plan

B. Wanner of the TJPDC provided an overview of the County. He included statistics projecting that the population in Greene County will double by 2030. Estimates regarding Greene’s workforce were also provided. The presentation estimated that 5,761 of Greene County Residents commute out of the county for work.

B. Wanner then reviewed the current topography of Greene County that may limit the growth areas. First, areas protected as part of the national park were highlighted. Next all slopes 15% or more were shown. Finally, a map of all viable farmland in Greene County was shown. B. Wanner recommended that the County preserve its farmland because he believes that our ability to ship food across the Country or from other parts of the world will be limited or cease in the future.

The second portion of the presentation was intended to explain to the Planning Commission what a Comprehensive Plan is and what is should do. An overview of the current comprehensive plan was included. B. Wanner noted that with respect to current designated growth areas that the current Comprehensive Plan was “working very well.”

The Planning Commission was given an opportunity for questions. The Commission was very interested in the basis for population projections and current job distribution. It was unclear whether information regarding employment was from 2005 or 2007, but it appeared not to factor in the recent opening of Lowes and other new projects that have been approved over the last year. B. Wanner noted that the 2030 population estimate was based on a 2003 Model by the Virginia Employment Commission. He also stated that the population projection is just an estimate and that population changes are a moving target.

B. Wanner then asked the Planning Commission to engage in a mini-workshop to assist with developing a vision statement for the Comprehensive Plan. Commissioners were asked to state what they valued most about the County.

N. Slezak felt that it was most important that the information collected at the public meetings be included because it is what the public wanted. He expressed some concern over the format of the evening’s workshop and how the information gathered from the Commission would be used and presented to the public.

B. Martin observed that after attending the public workshops he felt that the most important issue in the County was maintaining quality of life. This included having the means to allow citizens to earn a good livelihood with a close proximity to home and schools, addressing traffic issues, maintaining a rural ambiance and having manageable taxation. This requires sustainable and appropriate growth. He noted that he was not anti-growth but wants to be sure that it is appropriate growth.

N. Slezak commented that he felt most people in the county want growth but want it done in a way that preserves their quality of life. The county needs to grow in a way that it manageable. He noted that water is going to be a big issue for the county. We must have adequate water for growth to occur. This is an issue that he believes must be addressed in the current comprehensive plan.

D. Lamb stated that he was not against growth but that the County’s rural beauty needs to be preserved. He indicated that future challenges to Greene County included managing urban sprawl, improving public transit and addressing traffic issues.

J. Frydl observed common themes at the public workshops which included preserving the rural feel of the county while increasing and attracting businesses. He also noted that many citizens expressed a desire to improve Ruckersville and create a town feel there.

A. Herring also indicated that attracting more high paying jobs for residents and promoting growth while maintaining rural areas were important. He believes that a water and sewer plan that addresses the county’s needs for the next 30-50 years is very important.

B. Wanner summarized that comments he heard from the Commission noting that quality of life was a common theme. He concluded by telling the Commission that “you all are just what we want you to be…Good stewards of Greene County.”

II. OR#08-005 Request to Revise the Greene County Zoning Ordinance to Permit Equine Uses in Agriculture Zoning Districts on Lots Consisting of 5 Acres or Less.

Staff Report:
This is an application to permit equine uses on 2-5 acres of land zoned A-1 either by right or by a special use permit. This application had been previously deferred at applicant’s request to allow time for staff to answer some of the Planning Commission’s questions. Staff reported back to the Commission that it may single out specific types of animals and allow some farm animals and not others. Staff also provided some information on overgrazing and recommended pasture sizes. In addition to the applicant’s request staff also included some definitions of equine related uses such a private and public stables.

J. Frydl noted that although he and staff had conducted a site visit in this case the report was probably not relevant because this is a general ordinance revision.

D. Sutton stated that he is seeking a revision to the ordinance that would provide the ability to apply for a special use permit to allow equine uses on 2-5 acres zoned for Agriculture use. Through the special use permitting process the Planning Commission could then address specific issues that might affect the property or surrounding neighbors.

Public Comment:
N. Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum addressed the ordinance revision noting that his comments were limited to the policy not applicants specific piece of property. N. Williamson provided the Commission with some information regarding Roanoke’s regulation of horses which is very clear and easy to understand. It provides for 1 horse per 1 acre in agriculture districts. He encouraged the Commission to adopt a similar straight forward Equinine Exception. Such an exception is important to the rural character of the community and would bring Greene County in line with the policies of surrounding counties.

Comments from the Planning Commission:
J. Frydl stated that he had done some research regarding how other counties address horses in their Agriculture Districts. He noted that in many counties farm animals are permitted on the minimum lot size allowed in the agriculture district. He noted that while it might not be recommended to keep a large dog in an apartment many people do so quite successfully. He does not feel that the county should be so involved in micromanaging peoples lives. He noted that the current method of determining how many farm animals are permitted on a piece of property (a 1000 lb cow unit) is very confusing. He favors a simple ordinance that allows citizens to apply for a special use permit to allow horses on less than 5 acres in the agriculture district.

B. Martin favored a special use permit over a change in by right uses; however, he was concerned that because of these economic hard times that people may not be able to care for horses. He is concerned about abuse and neglect of the animals. He also expressed some concerns about the size of the pasture required and would like to see a minimum pasture requirement.

N. Slezak was also warned that while simplicity is good, people may take advantage of the situation. He would like to see a minimum pasture size.

D. Lamb was also concerned about the smaller size pature. He also noted that there may be situations where a horse on a small lot is exercised regularly and then put up at night.

The Commission then had a general discussion about what they would like to do. They asked staff to provide them with some draft language for an equine only special use permit with conditions including a proposed minimum pasture size.

A. Herring moved that they defer the application until January 21, 2009. The motion passed by a unanimous vote.

III. RZ 08-004 JABA Request to Rezone 15.16 Acres from R-1 to Senior Residential.

Staff Report:
The property is located off of Preddy Creek Road, south of the water tower. Applicant has provided some written proffers. Most other aspects of the project remain the same.

C. Murray spoke on behalf of JABA stating that their mission is to provide affordable housing for seniors. He provided examples of other JABA projects in neighboring counties. He proposed the creation of a phased project with 34-40 units constructed in phase I. C. Murray then provided his own analysis of the traffic and fiscal impact of the project. Applicant proffered 1) affordable housing units with 80% of units being offered below market rates 2) a well site 3) a community center 4) 3 transit stops and 5) a library drop box.

Public Comment:
Four citizens who live near the proposed project spoke against the rezoning. They were also concerned about traffic along Preddy Creek Road. One citizen expressed concern that if the land was rezoned and the project failed they would still be stuck with the increased density from this rezoning.

A. Wilkinson provided her own financial analysis of the project to the Board. She also addressed concerns regarding traffic.

N. Williamson of Free Enterprise Forum spoke regarding the financial analysis provided by both the applicant and A. Wilkinson. While he believes that each party had good intentions, fiscal impact statements need to come from a neutral party and neither side’s numbers should be used by the Planning Commission in making a determination regarding this application.

Comments from the Planning Commission:

A. Herring was pleased that JABA was more prepare for this presentation. However, he finds the location perplexing and believes that traffic estimates do not account for deliveries and visitors. He was also concerned that the proffers did not provide specific time frames for the community center and well site.

N. Slezak was glad to see the proffers in writing. He was still concerned about citizen opposition to the project and the failure to address traffic concerns.

B. Martin was also concerned about traffic. He also asked whether any other sites had been considered for this project.

J. Frydl understands that this is a work in progress, but feels that the county needs more commitment from JABA in order to approve this. He also noted that it appears that current water and sewer access is not reasonably available as required by ordinance. He noted that while potential access may exist, it is dependant on other projects that have not yet gone forward and have no definite timeframe in which to do so.

D. Lamb was concerned about how high each building would be. He also was concerned about the failure to address traffic issues.

A. Herring moved to deny the rezoning application. J. Frydl seconded the motion which passed by a unanimous vote.

IV. Minutes from November 2008 – approved

V. Other Matters

The Planning Commission discussed what the next step in the Comprehensive Plan is. Staff indicated that they would develop a schedule for the first part of 2009.

N. Slezak expressed concern over whether there was any progress on the water plan. A general discussion followed in which all Planning Commissioners expressed a desire to be more informed about what goes on at Board of Supervisors meetings.

Adjournment 10:35 pm

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