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Reject the rezoning requests

The charm and beauty that Farmville has along the High Street neighborhood, along with that of the many surrounding streets, is one that draws people to this community, and it’s one that keeps them here as they enjoy the serenity these areas offer through their spaces and views.

These spaces, which span Appomattox, Buffalo, High, Grove and many other streets, serve as very important pillars for the town through the rich history they offer, the aesthetic values of the homes and green spaces and the very unique and comfortable residential living these areas offer near Longwood University’s beautiful campus and in proximity to downtown Farmville.

It’s clear to us that a five-story student housing complex at the intersection of High, Oak and Appomattox streets, and the requests from Robert and Sherry Martin and Walk2Campus Holdings to rezone 37 of their respective properties from R-3 Residential to R-3A Residential — with the added request to vacate the existing density requirement of the zone — would do nothing short of creating the possibility of eliminating the nature of these areas.

Such changes could result in the destruction of numerous historic homes and the erection of multi-storied housing complexes.

We call on the town’s planning commission to recommend denial of the requests and strongly urge the town council to follow its recommendation.

As we said earlier, the character of one of Farmville’s most beloved and historic communities would be forever changed should these requests be granted.

The presentation by the developers and engineers the Martins are working with lacked crucial details during the July planning commission meeting, leaving a sea of questions for the audience to swim through.

Rezoning these properties, as resident George Bagby told the town council Aug. 9, would create more problems than it would solve. He was one of 18 people who voiced stern opposition to the rezoning requests amid a packed room of about 50 people. We share their concerns regarding parking, noise, traffic congestion and, most importantly, the precedent these rezoning requests could set.

Farmville attorney Harlan Horton’s comments were very poignant.

Reading the purpose of the town’s zoning ordinance during the meeting, he cited the ordinance was “for the purpose of health, safety, convenience or general welfare of the public, and accomplishing the objectives of the Code of Virginia,” also noting the priorities set in the ordinance in its opening statement.

Just because Longwood University is zoned R-3A Residential does not mean that, even if some of these properties are on the opposite side of the road, they are entitled to be zoned that way. On one side is a university and on the other are residential properties.

The town’s zoning ordinance, along with its comprehensive plan, are tools planners and town officials use when determining where growth should occur and be planned for in Farmville.

We contend that rezoning these properties would go directly against the town’s existing comprehensive plan — one used to help guide growth and development.

“Farmville is ‘open for business,’” the plan reads, “and receptive to innovation, yet mindful of the responsibility to preserve its historic and natural resources for future generations.”

Under the header of “A Beautiful and Historic Community in Central Virginia,” the plan continues, “its rich history and its current status as a center of trade and commerce is preserved and enhanced by its dedication to architectural integrity and improvement of the natural environment through a system of parks, green spaces, walking trails and waterways.”

Rezoning these properties would go against this statement.

“I am opposed to changing the ordinance as it’s been requested by the Martins and Walk2Campus,” Horton said during the Aug. 9 meeting. “I also believe that the residential nature of that area and its historic components are consistent with our identity in the Town of Farmville, and I think, as someone said, once that changes, we can’t go back … Are we historic Farmville? Do we want to preserve that? Growth can happen with proper planning for the future.”

We agree with him. This important decision is one that could set a new course for everything Farmville is and could ever be.

It’s a decision that needs to be considered with the utmost importance. In the interest of the charm, history and balance the area currently occupies, the decision should be denial.