By. Neil Williamson
Last Tuesday (6/30), the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and Greene County held an open house regarding their latest work toward the new comprehensive plan for Greene County. While we have been very critical of the process in the past, this event was professionally done and well attended. The work the TJPDC has done since the last iteration is significantly more Greene County focused.
With that being said there were several areas that the Free Enterprise Forum advised changes.
Law Enforcement & Emergency Services: Goals
Goal #1 “Manage growth so that it does not outstrip infrastructure, including emergency services and sheriff’s department,”
The Free Enterprise Forum believes this statement to be both improper and likely illegal (see adequate public facilities). In addition this has only tangential relationship with Law Enforcement and Emergency Services. We propose rewording this goal to “Provide emergency services and Law Enforcement the support necessary to protect and defend the citizens of the County”
Goal 1 “Preserve important scenic, historic and cultural resources as critical to tourism.” The supporting implementation strategy reads “coordinate the preservation of important scenic, historic and cultural resources with the County’s future land use plan and appropriate ordinances”.
As a strong believer in property rights, The Free Enterprise Forum has several concerns with these two items. We recognize the community desire to preserve certain parcels but we do not believe the only options for such preservation are land use planning and ordinances. Other tools such as purchase of development rights should also be considered. Further we do not believe there is an existing inventory of such so called “important” parcels. Finally, if the community desires private property be preserved in a specific manner contrary to the current owner’s wishes, the community must be willing to take the ultimate preservation step by purchasing the property.
Goal 4 Generate new tax revenue as well as increased business and employment opportunities related to tourism.
This goal should be reworded. The Free Enterprise Forum believes no comprehensive plan should have a goal of generating new tax revenue. The goal should be the creation of an environment that promotes economic vitality; the result is a multiplicity of benefits including new business opportunities, jobs and increased local tax revenue.
Economic Development –
Goal #1 “Create incentives for development in preferred commercial growth areas” –
Does Greene County have commercial areas where they do not want growth? Shouldn’t this goal simply be develop incentives to attract new businesses and retain existing enterprises?
Goal #2 “Support commercial growth in Ruckersville, Stanardville and the Route 29 corridor from Ruckersville to the Corner Store.”
Why are these called out considering the commercial success of Lowe’s and Meadows Farms as well as the large tract of land ready for development past the Corner Store, these geographic restrictions are out of place in the comprehensive plan again the concept should be to support the attraction of new business and the retention of existing businesses.
Goal #7 “Balance the need for increased economic development with controlled residential development and proffer acceptance”
How is this an economic development goal? How do one time proffers rise to the level of economic development? This entire goal should be stricken or at least reworded to remove the concept of proffers as an economic driver in the community.
Implementation strategy #7 “Study the feasibility of an adequate utilities ordinance.”
Over the past ten years several attempts to enact an adequate facilities ordinance have failed. This strategy should be dropped as impractical under the current legal structure.
Implementation strategy #9 “Consider developing an architectural review board to assist the County and development community in setting voluntary standards for new development and re-development.”
The Free Enterprise Forum is not familiar with architectural review regulations that are voluntary. The concept is a uniform set of guidelines that will provide design continuity in a neighborhood or corridor. While the Free Enterprise Forum believes a county wide architectural review board would be subject to regular legal challenges in court, if the community really supports such an idea it should be clear their participation will NOT be voluntary.
Natural Resources and Environment
Implementation strategy #1 “Limit the use of septic systems on slopes of 25% or greater”
This strategy should be eliminated. Effective July 1, The Virginia Department of Health will be approving the use of alternative septic systems that will render this provision invalid.
Implementation Strategy #7 “Consider the adoption of a Mountain Protection Plan”
The Free Enterprise Forum has been very involved in this highly divisive issue in Albemarle County and does not believe there is significant public support for this measure in Greene County.
Implementation Strategy #8 “Discourage road construction of slopes of 15% or greater. Permitted roads should follow natural topography and minimize grading cutting and filling,”
This strategy is internally inconsistent. It should be reworded to indicate roads of greater than 15% should be designed to permit safe passage of emergency vehicles and preserve as much of the natural condition as possible.
Implementation strategy #9 “Discourage excessive grading, cutting and filling and significant changes to the existing topography and tree cover particularly in the designated growth areas where major development is appropriate.”
Not only is this strategy internally inconsistent it fails to recognize the reality of major development in the development areas. Virginia Department of Transportation’s new secondary street requirements include a minimum number of nodes and hubs and actively discourage the use of cul-de-sacs. This connectivity requirement generates the need for significant grading of our naturally rolling topography. To follow this implementation strategy to its logical conclusion, you would have no development in your development areas.
Despite our lengthy edits, the Free Enterprise Forum firmly believes the comprehensive plan is headed in a better direction than a few moths ago. We look forward to the opportunity to continue our dialog as the process moves forward.