Is a PUD beneficial? Farmville planning commission asks questions

Published 7:30 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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FARMVILLE – There were no votes taken or issues decided. Instead, the Farmville planning commission turned their attention toward questions on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Is a planned unit development a good fit for Farmville? What would it mean for the town? 

During a called work session, members of the town’s planning commission asked questions and listened to Lee Pambid’s answers. Pambid, who serves as Farmville’s Director of Community Development explained the whole idea was to make the town more flexible and inviting to developers and different companies. 

“We’ve [had] multiple development inquiries,” Pambid said. “Five to be exact. And they’ve been asking about our processes and they’ve been asking about things that aren’t quite enabled in our subdivision and zoning ordinance. A planned unit development ordinance would help them out [and] provide flexibility.” 

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Pambid argued that the town’s zoning and subdivision ordinance, which determines what can be built and where, should change as times and conditions change. As it stands now, he added, there’s not much flexibility with the rules. 

“We’re trying to be more flexible,” Pambid said. “To put in a more flexible process for developers, so we can potentially get to a yes on certain proposals, proposals that are appropriate.” 

Currently by the book

The problem right now, Pambid said, is that under current laws, everything has to be almost strictly by the book. There are no exceptions. And that’s created problems as developers look at places to build in town. 

“We’ve got developers taking a look at Farmville and saying they’ve got a proposal or a certain housing product they want to bring, but they can’t because of the current ordinance,” Pambid said. 

He argued that the current rules almost demand a suburban style of development, which he felt was not appropriate for a small town like Farmville. That translates into large lots with larger single family homes. But when you’re trying to recruit new teachers, new college graduates and other younger residents, they often can’t afford a property like that. And at the same time, they don’t always want to live in apartments. They want other alternatives. 

Farmville planning commission urges caution 

When it comes to planned unit development, much is said about the potential to bring in more residents, more restaurants and more jobs. But as Farmville Planning Commission member Rhett Weiss pointed out, none of that is guaranteed. 

“More rooftops don’t always mean more revenue,” Weiss said. 

He pointed out that if used incorrectly, a planned unit development project could put the town in debt. 

“You can have a lot of residences, but not the commercial tax base to go with it,” Weiss said. “If all we end up doing with a PUD is, other than a convenience store or a park here or there mixed in is creating a lot of rooftops, we’re also creating a lot of expense to the town.” 

After all, where will the new kids go to school? Do we have enough money to expand current schools to accommodate the influx of students? Do we have enough firefighters to respond to calls?

“If we are expected to take on an additional three miles of streets, do we have the manpower and staffing to push the snow or pick up the trash?” Weiss asked. “I just want to make sure we’re being thoughtful.” 

Weiss proposed that any group with a PUD project be requested to submit a fiscal impact analysis, so the town can better prepare. But as this was just a work session, the group didn’t vote on the idea. 

How would it work? 

Basically, if a PUD is allowed, a developer could come in and propose something that the planning commission and then the town council could look at. To get through, it would require both a planning commission review and a town council decision. 

“Nothing happens with the planned unit development without that happening,” Pambid said. “The developer would have to come back for a site plan approval and a subdivision approval if there are lots.” 

Now the planning commission decided, since they already have a full agenda for their Wednesday, Feb. 15 meeting, to postpone any further talk about PUDs until March. A public hearing will be set soon for some point in the first week of March, with the commission taking this back up on Wednesday, March 15.