Buckingham commission changes duplex decision. Plan moves on

Published 12:19 am Monday, July 1, 2024

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Back in May, Ivan Petersheim came before the Buckingham County planning commission, wanting to build duplexes in the area. The commission said no, rejecting the request because it would involve changing zoning across the entire county. Despite the commission’s rejection, Petersheim went and appealed his case to county supervisors earlier this month, asking for “a fair chance” to have his duplex plan heard by and voted on by them. At the time, Supervisors Chairman Joe Chambers said they would see what they could do. 

A couple weeks later, at their Monday, June 24 meeting, the planning commission was asked to somewhat reverse that earlier rejection, to at least give Petersheim the ability to present his plan to county supervisors. They did that by a 7-1 majority vote, agreeing to send the proposal to supervisors, but with a recommendation not to approve. 

The issue surrounds a property at 5516 Ridge Road. Petersheim wanted to take the building on the property, the old Whitworth Country Store, and turn it into a duplex. In his application paperwork, Petersheim said he was doing this to help provide affordable housing. Neighbors had previously raised concerns about turning that one building, which sits on 0.95 of an acre, into a multi-family home. As they pointed out, there’s nothing specifically in the request about limiting the number of families allowed. Back at the May meeting, several of them raised concerns about traffic and how a zoning amendment like that would work, with no limits established. 

The problem with the duplex proposal

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But the problem for the planning commission members had been how wide ranging his request was. Petersheim’s property and the area around it for several miles, is zoned Agricultural A1. Currently, duplexes aren’t allowed in the A1 district, hence the request for a special use permit.

Petersheim also put in a request to change Buckingham County zoning, so that a multi-family housing duplex would be allowed as a special use in any Agricultural A1 Zoning District throughout the county. 

What concerned some of the commission members is the fact this text change request didn’t come with any specifics. There were no qualifiers in place. No sizes mentioned or anything else. It just simply asked for any and all duplexes to be allowed as a special use in Agricultural A1 areas. 

“The conversation that took place had to do more with the fact Mr. Petersheim was asking for a text amendment.,” planning commission member Peter Kapuscinski. “A text amendment would allow multi-family dwellings on any A1 piece of property in the county. That’s a concern for me.” 

His concerns were echoed by Planning Commission Chairman John Bickford. 

“When you’re making that change, it does open that door anywhere in A1,” Bickford acknowledged.

Why not focus only on one piece of property?

Planning commission members had asked if Petersheim wanted to rework his proposal, to focus only on the one piece of property on Ridge Road, rather than ask for something changing the rules on agricultural land across the county.

The answer was that he hadn’t been asked but even after the rejection last month, he hadn’t offered either.