PE Overlay District Proposal On Hold

Published 4:26 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2013

PRINCE EDWARD – If zoning were baseball, the County's corridor overlay district proposal would be locked into a six-month rain delay.

After months of work, a public hearing and some weighty discussion, County supervisors delayed taking action on the planning commission-recommended plan.

It was tabled for six months on a 7-1 vote.

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Farmville District Supervisor (701) Jim Wilck noted he has had calls from a lot of realtors and that he likes the program.

“But their problem seems to be just 'no' at this time,” he added. “And what I was told was, we're having a tough time selling property now and the more restrictions that are on there, the tougher it becomes and, in some cases, it will cause buyers to go on down the road to the next county where they don't have all those restrictions.”

Wilck added that he would like to see it put off for awhile.

No motion to approve the ordinance change was offered, but it did garner some support.

“It's great the way it is…if it would stay the way it is,” commented Leigh District Supervisor Don Gantt. He would also state that he would rather pass it that night than put it off and make changes in it that put restrictions on things.

Gantt would note, however, a few possible changes to an accompanying non-binding guide.

Wilck would ultimately make the motion to table the matter for six months. It was approved on a 7-1 vote, with Chairman William “Buckie” Fore opposing.

It was recommended that the board hold another public hearing when the board reconsiders the ordinance.

The Proposal

If approved, the zoning ordinance amendment-developed in line with the County's comprehensive plan-would aim “to protect scenic beauty and viewsheds, enhance levels of transportation service along the major County access roads, and increase property values…” It outlines that specific attention will be given to access management, multimodal transportation, landscaping, and site design.

As proposed it would apply on Route 15 from the Town limits to the Appomattox River and from the Town limits south to State Route 665 at Worsham; on Route 460 for a distance of one mile in each direction from Pamplin, Prospect, Rice and Tuggle; on Route 360 corridor for a distance of one mile in each direction from Green Bay and Meherrin; and on Route 786 were it intersects from Route 15 to the intersection of Route 628.

The board has previously had some discussion about limiting the proposed overlay district to Route 15 south of Farmville.

Addressing Issues

Prior to the public hearing, County Planner Alecia Daves-Johnson address some of the concerns brought to her regarding the proposal.

“As you can imagine, there have been a lot of questions and there seems to be a lot of confusion about the actual content of this proposed amendment,” she said. “There have been four instances where I have received calls, the caller has objected to the overlay district, and then upon further inquiry the caller has confided that they have not actually read it at that point.”

Daves-Johnson debunked the thought that the proposed district will apply to existing commercial development.

“This is not the case,” she said. “The overlay will not apply to existing development or proposed development that already has an approved site plan.”

She noted that, if adopted, it would not apply to residential or agricultural development in the future. It would only apply to commercial development.

“The concern's been brought to my attention that it will eliminate development potential or that it would cause our local economic growth to become stagnant, so I wanted to point out that there are many localities across the state that are already utilizing overlay districts,” Daves-Johnson said.

Specifically, she cited the City of Staunton, and the counties of New Kent, Isle of Wight, Loudon, Prince William County and Rappahannock.

“In some cases I found that these localities using overlay districts offer expedited site plan review processes and offer development incentives for the commercial development coming into those areas that have the overlay district criteria,” Daves-Johnson detailed. “So that would actually attract development.”

Another concern Daves-Johnson cited is that it would be easier to regulate development on a case-by-case basis. “And in theory, that sounds logical, but in practical application, that is not the case,” she said. “In practical application, it is easier to manage development applications when you have a uniform set of planning criteria that can be applied to each application.”

Buildings, she cited in addressing another concern, are not required to face backwards from the road.

Daves-Johnson said the planning commission conducted an inventory of the signs in the county and found many that would have been approved.

“The comprehensive plan is what is driving the development of this,” Daves-Johnson told the board.

Some Specifics

The proposed overlay district outlines design standards for access and circulation, parking lot areas, pedestrian circulation, new or redeveloped building design, landscaping, utilities, signs and lighting.

Among its very detailed provisions:

*Parking lots are to be located to the sides and rear of the buildings they serve “to the greatest possible extent.”

*A continuous sidewalk not less than five feet wide is to be provided from any public sidewalk or the end of any parking area crosswalk to all customer entrances of the building.

*Design and construction “of new or redeveloped buildings for commercial or civic use shall be based on and coordinated with the sale, mass, height, materials, color, texture, construction methods, and orientation of nearby buildings, as suggested in the design guide.”

*That new commercial or civic use development in a corridor district is to “incorporate as much existing vegetation as possible,” and that the planting “of major trees for stormwater management and heat-island reduction shall equal 10 percent of the aggregate parking area in islands not less than eight feet wide.”

*All utility lines are to be installed underground.

*Free-standing signs are to be mounted on bases a maximum of three feet high. “If the special location of a sign requires a base of more than three feet to provide adequate visibility the zoning administrator or planning commission may approve a taller base. No freestanding sign shall exceed fifteen feet from grade.” No sign is to project beyond the surface of the building or above the roofline.

*And exterior lighting is to be limited “to that necessary for safety, security, and to complement architectural character.” And “no light shall spill onto an adjacent property or interfere with the character of the surrounding areas.”

Confusion And Concern

But part of the confusion and concern over the proposal focused on the proposal's accompanying design guide.

Gantt expressed concern that at some point the recommended design would someday be required; he also expressed concern in the sample architecture where everything was brick.

“…In the actual ordinance, it plainly states that the design guide is not mandatory. It's merely that, a guide,” explained County Administrator Wade Bartlett.

“Today, it's a guide…I've seen this happen across Virginia,” Gantt said.

Lockett District Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones asked Gantt if he would like to see someone set up a doublewide on Route 15 coming into Farmville and open up shop.”

Vice-Chairman Howard Simpson cited that on Route 15 out to Kingsville “most of the people out there don't want the overlay on their property.”

Bartlett summed that there's really only three main items: signage, interconnectivity of parking lots, and storm water, which is going to become state law. Even the interconnectivity, he cited, it says to the greatest extent possible.

Prospect Supervisor Howard “Pete” Campbell asked about enforcement.


There were only two speakers who addressed the proposed district in the public hearing. Rick Raymond took aim at the areas where it would be enforced, offering that it “should be all or nothing.” He also suggested having a building/planning guide, which he suggested would be a protocol of what needs to be done and how. That, he suggested, would eliminate “a lot of going to the planning commission and then having it to be continued and continued…and maybe you could get it all done at one shot.”

Richard Stockton, who has some property that would fall in the overlay, also asked, “Why should I be penalized or whatever and the other people in the county don't fall under this?…I think we probably have enough rules and regulations…that you people can control all the development that we need without adding more.”

While not favoring rules for some, he offered that developing a set of recommendations would be good.