What is the future plan for Prince Edward County?
Published 2:14 am Wednesday, April 26, 2023
FARMVILLE – What is the future plan for Prince Edward County? How do you bring in more business, increase the population and manage the expectations of residents? That’s what a comprehensive plan is for. Counties and cities are expected to update that every five years. And Prince Edward was on track to do that, until the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down in 2020.
“COVID slowed us down,” said Prince Edward County Planner Robert Love. “If it hadn’t been for COVID, we would have been (further) in this process before I got here in 2020. We put it on hold because we couldn’t have community meetings and public involvement (at the time).”
With the pandemic gone, the county is ready to try again. During their Thursday, April 20 meeting, the planning commission voted in favor of one option that now goes to the Prince Edward Board of Supervisors for a vote in May.
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First adopted in 1997, the current plan was amended in 2005 and redone in 2014. If you’re asking what it is, think of it like a road map. It details a county’s goals, objectives and policies. For those concerned about the number of solar farms popping up, the plan could detail where they’re allowed and how many. For those wondering about discussions and plans on how to grow Prince Edward’s population and businesses, this is where that conversation happens.
First, the Prince Edward staff needed to find a company that could help put that together. Love said they looked at what other counties in the area have done, collecting samples from a number of different groups. In the end, it came down to Summit Engineering and the Berkley Group.
Summit has done work in the past for the town of Smithfield, the town of Front Royal and the town of Cape Charles. Berkley’s name, meanwhile, may sound familiar to Herald readers, as they’ve worked with the town of Farmville previously. Love said the staff went with the Berkley Group mainly because they were impressed with the group’s work, even beyond projects like this one.
“They’ve helped a lot of counties around us,” Love said, pointing out that included developing solar ordinances, something several local residents have requested in the next plan.
Under this proposal, the project would start in October and be completed no later than June of 20205.
Why will it take that long? “Because there is quite a bit of work,” Love said. “(There’s) surveys, work sessions, public engagement and then a document.”
The school district would be involved in this, along with Longwood University, Hampden-Sydney College, the Chamber of Commerce and other agencies in the area. But Love said the current proposal wasn’t for an amendment as much as it was for a clean slate.
“The idea is we want to not edit what we had but start with a blank sheet of paper,” Love said. “Let the community decide what it needs to be.”
Part of that would be a series of public workshops. One would be held closer to the town of Farmville. A second and third would be held further out in different parts of the county. Love suggested holding them in fire stations, places big enough for people to come and see the maps.
How much will it cost Prince Edward County?
The pandemic has been over for a while now, so why did it take so long to get this together? The answer is funding.
“We’ve been planning for this since 2021 and we currently have $50,000 included in the 2022-23 budget and the 2023-24 draft budget has $50,000,” Love said. “And, if we need to, we can put $50,000 in the 2024-25 budget.”
That adds up to a total of $150,000, which is what Love and his staff estimated a comprehensive plan would cost. Berkley, however, currently says they’ll do it for $148,959.20. That includes all of their costs from the beginning to the end of the project.
While only $100,000 is currently budgeted, Love believes some of the county’s current deals will generate the rest.
“We believe, by the time we get to the end of this process where we get that final bill, we believe one of these solar sites will have come to fruition and be under construction,” Love said.
That in turn would provide the final $50,000 needed, paid for through solar siting fees the county collects.