Brian Vincent: Why Farmville is considering PUDs

Published 12:05 pm Friday, May 12, 2023

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part guest column from Farmville Mayor Brian Vincent, going over his thoughts on planned unit development. The full series was a speech he gave at the Wednesday, May 3 town council work session.

Brian VincentThe Planned Unit Development ordinance is a zoning amendment in part, about affordable and diverse housing. This is a big issue, not just in our locality, but across the Commonwealth and across the country.

“From 1960 through 1990, the median home price was equivalent to two and a half years of household income. By 2020 that had nearly doubled: House prices were more than four times annual incomes. For the first time in U.S. history, young people are no longer better off economically than their parents were at the same age. An American born in 1940 had a 92% chance of doing better than his or her parents. A millennial born in 1984, who’d be thirty-seven today, only has a 50% chance. The share of young adults living with their parents reached its highest level on record in 2020.” That’s from Adrift, by Scott Galloway

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Many paths, but I’d like to highlight a few high level ones:

Humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. Cars have been around for 120 +years. Yet we’ve zoned everything with cars in mind for a long time. It wasn’t always that way. And people are starting to rethink the wisdom of it. Our citizens have begun questioning it. The situation was exacerbated by the proliferation of single family home zoning for suburbs, etc.

Baby boomers are a very large generation and they wanted bigger and bigger homes on bigger lots to raise their families. More incentive to zone for cars.

Maybe we should rethink this? When you combine the siloed isolation of suburbs with the advent of the internet and cable news we’ve now siloed out into an existence in which we rarely have to interact with people who are different than us, from different generations than us, different backgrounds, etc. That creates fear. The kind of fear that can be monetized and can make media and social tech entrepreneurs very rich. But it makes us as a society worse off. That lack of diversity in housing and population has another effect. It also weakens a locality’s resiliency. One of my campaign mantras was fortitude. I want us to be a resilient community.


One reason is the search for more tools that can help us get to more diverse housing for the reasons alluded to. Another major reason is because our citizens have routinely asked for more affordable and diverse housing. They asked for that, more green space, more trails and bike friendly roads. They wanted us to make Farmville a more pedestrian friendly town, with more diverse housing. PUD has the potential for us to get there, we just have to include that in the ordinance. Our citizens also want more amenities, they want another grocery store. We need more people for those companies to consider us. You may think, ok but Farmville had multiple grocers before? Yes, and that was before analytical data and GIS mapping became a large component of market research. Now they look at data, and say “nope, won’t work there.”

So incremental growth to attract diverse business opportunities is another reason for a potential PUD, to solve for these issues. This tool, and potentially others, may be able to help us get there.

Cities and towns across the commonwealth and across the nation have PUD ordinances. They were not all adopted through Comp plans. Many I studied came about due to specific projects. I talked to the Mayor of Ashland. They have a PUD. Their planning department told me it was adopted around 1996, or so, and was due to a specific project. That project never materialized. They told me they have a current project using the PUD ordinance though.

The Town of Scottsville considered a PUD ordinance originally around 2020 and they’ve debated it and other zoning changes a couple times since. They had a Small Area Plan crafted with reports from town staff, mixed use / mixed income reports by Arnett Muldrow Associates, flood modeling by Timmons Group, etc. It has come up in relation to a specific project on the river front a couple times.

Scottsville is a town of 500. A very small town. I talked to their mayor. He said their town manager, a sharp guy I’ve had the pleasure of seeing present at several conferences, had worked hard on some possible zoning amendments including a PUD.

The mayor said council members and community members called for flexible zoning, called for zoning changes. He said the town manager poured a ton of effort and thought into all these project potentials to help with Scottsville’s revenue, and then the folks who called for them, said nevermind. That town manager just got hired in a new locality. He’s leaving Scottsville. They have been advertising for a new town manager for some time , and the mayor told me they are having issues getting qualified applicants.

We have seen that same issue in our search for a new community development director. He asked me to spread the word that they’re looking for someone. To top it off, recent articles relay that because the town doesn’t want to raise taxes, and they don’t want to zone for new development that would increase the tax base, the Scottsville budget had to be slashed by 25%. Services will suffer. Perhaps finding a way to say yes, being flexible, would have helped Scottsville. It seems to be helping in Ashland. That’s a reason to consider PUD.

BRIAN VINCENT is the mayor of the Town of Farmville. He can be reached at