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Campground guidelines discussed

A possibility of enhancing guidelines for campground properties or creating a permitted use for campgrounds was discussed between members of the Cumberland County Planning Commission last Monday.

Planning Director and Zoning Administrator Sara Carter relayed to the commission what members of the board of supervisors had said during an Oct. 10 meeting where a public hearing was held concerning a conditional use permit (CUP) for a recreational vehicle (RV) campground. She expressed their concern that guidelines for different campgrounds did not seem to be consistent for all applicants.

Carter suggested the board consider “use by right,” or permitted use, which differs from a conditional use permit in that establishments can be allowed if they fulfill the requirements of a zoning district. They would not need approval by commission or board members.

“It may almost be time to consider taking some of those things and making them by right, making the definitions fairly minimal, but then having another section of zoning ordinance that we have development standards,” Carter said. “So they would be by right if you can meet all of the standards. That is the approach you’ve taken in terms of some of these things, but we haven’t gotten to the point where we really have been able to take our hands off the reins on those completely for RV campgrounds.”

Writing the options on a whiteboard, Carter said the first potential option would be to establish a policy statement that would detail how each aspect relating to campgrounds would be evaluated by the commission. The campgrounds would continue to require a CUP, but the policy statement would be included in the process. Commission members would discuss aspects of the potential campground, make a recommendation and have the board adopt.

Another option, Carter said, would be instead of a policy statement, the definitions for the requirements the campgrounds would need to meet would be further enhanced. The commission already has existing definitions relating to the campground requirements. The definitions under this option for aspects of a campground would be expanded further and include discussing the density of the project, details regarding the Comprehensive Plan and potential buffers.

Lastly, Carter said members of the commission would implement development standards for campgrounds, then have campgrounds require a permitted use rather than a CUP, which would be a potential separate chapter for development standards. The campground standards could potentially be permitted for A2 or R2 zoning, Carter said. R2 could be applicable in the cases that the areas have water and sewer.

The applicant’s ability to meet the standards would determine whether an individual campground could be developed, Carter said. Planning Commission Chairman and Third District Representative Dr. William Burger supported development standards and noted that applicants should regularly check and fulfill Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) guidelines for campgrounds or other projects as regulations constantly change. Members noted challenges between state departments and past campground applicants.

Carter said she would use the discussion with the commission to develop more concrete potential guidelines for future campground applications, and then she would prepare to schedule a public hearing about the guidelines.