PRAC gets deeper look at draft comp plan

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission will take a closer look in the coming months at areas of the draft comprehensive plan that deal heavily with parks and recreation.

“The plan is very different from our current plan,” said Principal Planner Steven Haasch, who presented information about the draft plan to the commission last week. “It’s also not a final draft yet.”

The draft plan promotes a variety of objectives, including the creation of treasured places, fiscally responsible public facility provision and mobility choice and connectivity. The draft plan also seeks to protect and promote the county’s natural, cultural and historic resources, and it emphasizes economic development, including tourism.

“We like tourism in this county because we see it as free money,” Haasch said.

Many existing areas in the county are underserved by parks, he said, especially areas in the northern half of the county. The public facilities plan, which is a 20-year projection of the county’s facilities needs, calls for the addition of two regional parks, eight community parks and one neighborhood park throughout the county.

Heather Barrar, a senior planner, said parks and recreation is mentioned in almost every policy element in the draft plan. The system-wide level of service standards for parks are remaining unchanged, but a new park category, urban parks, has been added to the plan, she said.

The draft plan has a conservation and recreation land use designation, Barrar said, and open space and parks are listed as acceptable uses in all 15 proposed land use categories. Historical sites will be included in the conservation and recreation area if they are in a public park or a historic easement, she said.

“We’re pretty excited about that new category,” she said.

Stuart Connock, Jr., assistant director, planning and construction, said the hope was that the commission could, at its next three meetings, focus on the elements of the draft plan that deal most with parks and recreation. The topics would be published in advance so the commission could gather its opinions, and get opinions from the public, he said.

“I think it’s a great idea, personally,” said Midlothian Commissioner Lisa Quigley. “This is much more, you know, kind of a specialty sort of thing. … I think we’ll bring people out in a different way.”

Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia President Liess van der Linden-Brusse said her concern was whether historical sites would fall into the conservation and recreation land use designation.

“My concern is that, for example, what just happened at Castlewood. … We now have a CVS Pharmacy right next door,” she said. She said she wondered why there wasn’t a specific category for historic properties.

Haasch said one of the items in the action matrix is the creation of a historic preservation strategy. He said he thought such a strategy would encompass several levels of properties, including those the county needs to acquire to preserve and those whose owners could be encouraged to preserve them.

Van der Linden-Brusse asked why the tourism strategy was planned for year two after the plan’s adoption, and the historical preservation strategy was planned for year four. Haasch said the county needed to know what its overall tourism goals were before it could “laser in” on how its historic resources would fit into that.

“Can I tell you what your tourism goal is? Make money,” she said.

“We would agree with that,” Haasch said.

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