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Town Approves M-1 Rezoning

FARMVILLE – Town Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to re-zone a major portion of the manufacturing M-1 zone, along the Appomattox River, that was created to accommodate manufacturing, with the majority of the property actually in the flood plain.

The 53 affected properties have been rezoned to Residential R-2, Business B-2 or Business B-3.

Prospects for attracting new manufacturing to that downtown location, rather than industrial parks especially created for manufacturing, were considered remote; Town officials wanted to acknowledge the evolving use of the M-1 zone, while harmonizing property use with downtown renewal/development and respecting the natural design and aesthetics of High Bridge Trail State Park.

All existing M-1 zone enterprises are grandfathered and may continue.

Town Council's action came following a public hearing, at which nobody spoke, and a meeting of the Town's Planning Commission convened following that public hearing.

Planning Commission chairman Andy Andrews noted the number of properties that are in the flood plain and the impact that would have on any business use.

“The flood plain still applies,” concurred Town Manager Gerald Spates. “If you own a piece of property that's in the flood zone you have to comply with the regulations. It just doesn't allow you, because we've changed it to B-3, to put a business in there. You still have to comply with the flood plain ordinance. A lot of areas that are in the flood plain will be prohibitive from building because of flooding…It doesn't give permission to build it, it just changes that zone.”

The planning commission fully endorsed the rezoning.

The commission's vice-chairman, Sam Wilson, Jr., told council that, “having taken into consideration all full final public comment…(and) having duly considered it, it is the unanimous recommendation of the planning commission that Town Council approve the rezoning of the majority of the M-1 zone to R-2, B-2 and B-3 as presented to the public and council, with the one change that the property at One Mill Street be rezoned to B-2 instead of B-3.” Commission members Andrews, Wilson, Spates, Dan Dwyer, Lloyd McKay, and Dr. Edward I. Gordon, also a Town Council member, were present.

The Town's Planning Commission had been considering the re-zoning since November and a formal presentation was made to Town Council during its July work session.

The rezoning, Town Planner Cindy Morris told council members in July, would protect “the interests of homeowners and businesses from the intrusion of heavy industrial enterprises.”

The proposal would convert the majority of the current M-1 zone to either the residential R-2 or business B-3 zone and would “complement Cumberland County's adjacent zoning,” she said. “The planning commissioners looked at the west and east portions of the town and we got what Cumberland County was zoned and it matches…”

Ms. Morris pointed out in July that the action would harmonize and is congruent with the Downtown Renewal/Development initiative.

The rezoning, as noted, also respects the natural design and aesthetics of High Bridge Trail State Park.

Regarding any potential impact on taxpayers, Ms. Morris told Town Council that both the Cumberland and Prince Edward County Commissioner of Revenue offices note that the amount of real estate tax depends on the current use of property. “The mere act of rezoning a piece of property does not necessarily make the real estate tax go up or down,” she said. “That's what they told me when I called them.”

A variety of variables go into an assessor affixing a value to a piece of property, she said, and “therefore the property owner should not be concerned about this affecting their real estate value because what they look at is its current use.”

Also, she noted, rezoning would not preclude the reasonable, potential use by respective landowners of undeveloped property.

Since last November, the planning commission has been reviewing the Town's M-1 zone, which is meant to accommodate manufacturing. The zone basically runs along the river, with the majority of the property in the flood plain.

“And the reason they've been reviewing it,” Ms. Morris said of the planning comission's review, “is its applicability to the land-use map and the comprehensive plan that the Town has and as it relates to future development.”

In the Town's zoning ordinance, the M-1 zone is identified “as an industrial district,” she continued. “It is currently not conducive to the downtown area, as it was years ago. In reconsidering any potential zoning map amendments the planning commissioners considered many factors. They looked at this area, such as flood plain, the High Bridge Trail, the historic district, environmental concerns with the Appomattox River, the downtown revitalization efforts that are going on and adjacent property-the different properties and what they're zoned-traffic and protection of existing manufacturing businesses.”

There are some existing manufacturing businesses located in this area, she noted.

The proposed draft changes, that would affect 53 parcels, were only suggested after “careful consideration and discussion” among planning commission members, she said.

As an example, Ms. Morris noted one parcel in the M-1 zone. “There's a residence there, so we felt like it made sense to zone it residential, so it's in keeping with its current use. That's the intent (of the rezoning proposal) to bring it into compliance with the current use.”

After listing the pros of the proposed rezoning, Ms. Morris said the planning commission “really didn't find any cons.”

Pointing to the expected positive response from landowners, Spates noted that “the uses in the M-1 zone is very limited” and so the proposed re-zoning would give property owners more freedom regarding use of their parcels.

And he referred to the bulk of the M-1 zone as “out of place,” especially because industrial parks, which embrace M-1 uses, have been located out of town.