Citizen Input Sought

Published 4:31 pm Thursday, October 11, 2012

CUMBERLAND – Several opportunities for public input in the County of Cumberland will be available in the upcoming month.

During the October Board of Supervisors meeting, three public hearings were authorized: two during the upcoming Planning Commission meeting on October 15 and one during the next Board of Supervisors meeting November 13. Three public forums on the County's Comprehensive Plan will also be taking place October 11, 15 and 18.

Comprehensive Plan Forums

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The public forums regarding the upcoming revisions to the Comprehensive Plan will begin with a short presentation regarding what the Comprehensive Plan is and what the process is to update it, including results from the survey conducted by the Cumberland Planning and Zoning Department.

However, the majority of the time will be focused on hearing from citizens, finding out “what citizens want to see in the county and what they don't want to see,” according to Planning Technician Rachel Falkenstein.

There will also be a mapping exercise. Copies of maps, based around the three regions where the meetings are being held, will be available. Citizens will then mark specific areas, indicating such things as where they want to see growth in the community, preserve farmland and locate certain community facilities.

The Comprehensive Plan is not legally binding; however, it is an official statement of policy that is adopted by the Board of Supervisors. It is meant to provide guidance on future physical development aspects of the County, both public and private.

The current Comprehensive Plan was last approved by the Board of Supervisors September 2006 and is due to be revised this year. At the end of the plan both general long-term goals and specific short-term objectives are outlined.

General goals are based around seven categories: Natural Resources, Agriculture, Land Use, Residential, Economic Development, Transportation and Community Facilities.

The previous plan emphasized a desire to “maintain a rural quality of life while encouraging new businesses and services in specific areas.”

Objectives that are meant to be achievable in a five-year period are listed for each goal. Specific policies are then listed under each objective.

There is a total of 141 policies listed in the 2006 Comprehensive Plan.

In an implementation review prepared by the Planning and Zoning Department and Planning Commission in 2008, a year and a half after the approval of the plan, 13 policies had already been completed that were outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. These include an inventory of all prime farmland, the creation of a capital improvement program for all public schools and local government facilities and the creation of a new public water service in the Cumberland Courthouse area.

Another 107 were designated as ongoing in the implementation report and 21 as not initiated.

The data collected from the workshops will be combined with survey results to help the Planning Commission revise the existing Comprehensive Plan. The commission will be assisted by the Commonwealth Regional Council. Ultimately, the revised Comprehensive Plan will be submitted to the board of supervisors for approval.

Comprehensive Plan public forums begin at 6:30 p.m. and are scheduled for Thursday, October 11 at the Randolph Fire Department at 2145 Cumberland Road; Monday, October 15 during the regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting at Cumberland Community Center at 1874 Anderson Highway; and Thursday, October 18 at the Cartersville Rescue Squad building at 1667 Cartersville Road.

Those interested in attending a workshop are invited to RSVP by calling the Planning and Zoning Department at 804-492-3520, so that sufficient refreshments will be provided.

Planning Commission Hearings

Besides the public forums, two public hearings will be occurring during the October 15 meeting of the Planning Commission.

During the October Board of Supervisors meeting held this week, the board unanimously approved a public hearing for a conditional use permit that would allow a broadcast tower to be erected on 37 Jenkins Ridge Road.

During the September meeting, when the request was referred to the Planning Commission, Planning and Zoning Administrator Bret Schardein announced that it will be a 195 foot tall mono-pole cell tower located 680 feet off Route 45 in District One.

The board also unanimously approved a public hearing to discuss a revision to the zoning ordinance that would allow “childcare centers” and “auctions” to be added as by-right uses in all business zoning districts. Currently childcare centers are automatically permitted to operate in B-1 Business and R-2 Rural Residential, but require a conditional use permit for B-2 and B-3 zones.

Schardein was hopeful that “our more long-term, overall updates to the zoning ordinance will address a lot of these inconsistencies.” The updates should be ready for board approval by the end of the year. However, he felt these revisions should be granted sooner in order to reduce barriers to several businesses that may be entering the county in the near future.