Comprehensive plan input offered

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Three major documents in the town of Farmville: its comprehensive plan, its zoning ordinance and its subdivision ordinance are experiencing major overhauls over the next year and a half. The first of several public meetings took place Thursday at the Firemen’s Sports Arena to get members of the public’s input on the town, including its strengths, challenges and goals over the next several years.

Consulting organization Berkely Group representatives Catherine Redfern and Todd Gordon gave an overview of the plan and two ordinances, the process of gathering data, and the timeline to complete the process.

Redfern defined a comprehensive plan as a “document that showcases a locality’s assets and areas for improvement.” She cited a state code, § 15.2-2223, that requires a town, city and county to have a comprehensive plan. Redfern said a comprehensive plan offers details on land use, transportation networks, demographics, housing, local economy, existing businesses and businesses the town may look to attract, and public facilities.

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The town of Farmville’s current comprehensive plan was first approved in 2005, and portions of the plan and ordinances have been updated and amended since then.

She and Gordon gave a timeline of the process to gather data for the comprehensive plan and two ordinances, which they will update simultaneously. This includes conducting public workshops and surveys, conducting transportation and land use analyses, making drafts of the plan and ordinances, holding public review and refining the documents and lastly holding a public hearing and adoption of the comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance and subdivision ordinance.

“Who is involved with this process?” Redfern asked during the presentation. “Everyone.”

Redfern said the process is expected to take 20 months, with the final comprehensive plan and ordinances expecting to take effect in early 2020.

Nearly 70 residents attended Thursday’s meeting.

Redfern said so far, the Berkley Group is reviewing and diagnosing the town’s current plan and ordinances.

“The purpose behind completing that diagnosis was to see to what degree those plans and documents were in compliance with state code, and then to review content, clarity and general effectiveness,” Redfern said. The result of the diagnosis, Redfern said, was to update the town’s comprehensive plan.

“There are portions of them that are no longer in compliance with state code that happens in every municipality,” Redfern said.

Redfern said aspects of the comprehensive plan and ordinances have been updated or amended, but said the changes took place in a “piecemeal” fashion. She cited vagueness of certain codes and codes that conflict with one another as results of piecemeal amendments.

Using the example of aligning tires, she compared amending an aspect of a comprehensive plan to only aligning one tire, instead of all of them.

“We’re giving you the complete tune up,” Redfern said about the Berkley Group’s role in updating the town’s comprehensive plan. “We are balancing and aligning all of your documents, all of your tires. We’re updating the comprehensive plan, the zoning ordinance, the subdivision ordinance so that they’re consistent. They have it together. They are defensible and they meet the vision and the goals you all have for your community.”

During the meeting, Gordon and Redfern oversaw activities in which participants came up with Farmville’s strengths, challenges, a vision statement summarizing the character of the town, and goals.

The groups had 15 minutes each to come up with suggestions for the topics. One person from each group was delegated to write down group members’ suggestions, and another group member was delegated to read out the group’s ideas.

Strengths audience members suggested included the town’s historical resources, its close proximity to Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College, ample recreational opportunities due to the nearby colleges, proximity to nature through High Bridge Trail and the Appomattox River, the town being clean and often free of litter, its close proximity to medical services and having an engaged and service-oriented community.

Challenges included lack of off-campus student housing or housing options for residents and newcomers, a quality job market, a large percentage of the population being underprivileged and living in poverty, lack of support in the public school system, lack of retail and grocery options and lack of bike access on roadways. Goals included maintaining the small-town character of Farmville but offering more retail and grocery options, better supporting the public school system and creating an inclusive community for families, students, elderly, youth and young professionals.

Gordon said the next community meeting is projected to take place in October.