At two community meetings last Tuesday, Bermuda District residents commented on the revised draft of the Comprehensive Plan– a guide mandated by the state of Virginia for every locality to illustrate its direction for growth and change –when members of the county’s Planning Commission and staff heard their input first at the Bensley Community Building with 12 citizens in attendance and then at Thomas Dale High School with only 13 citizens attending.
Considered the county’s “blue print for the future,” according to Glen Larsen, assistant director of the Chesterfield County Planning Department, the Comprehensive Plan’s initial draft was completed in January 2011 under a contract with the Renaissance Planning Group for $869,920; 20 meetings later, the Planning Commission presented two newly revised versions as of Sept. 6, to Bermuda residents at the meetings: one, the “Mark-up” version illustrating the changes, the other a clean version with the edits accepted. In review of the two versions, nearly one-third of the plan had been removed from the “Markup” version.
According to Barbara Fassett, Chesterfield County planning manager, the review process by the Planning Commission and county staff put forth edits that both removed and added to the draft revised comprehensive plan. Responding by email, Fassett stated, “The county staff has not done an analysis regarding how much was removed and how much was added.”
“The plan is a guiding instrument, it’s a planning document; it’s not a policy,” said Sam Hassen planning commissioner for Bermuda, clarifying that, among other things, the plan suggests a future land-use pattern as the county moves into the future.
Local attorney and School Board candidate Carrie Coyner champions the movement to revitalize specific areas in the district. She felt businesses looking to build and locate in Bermuda, if given a “general idea of where we want them to locate, a lot of times it helps to attract folks,” she said during the Bensley meeting.
She feels a problem lies in the plan’s assessment of “too specific” of a designation of where Chesterfield wants businesses to build, suggesting the county needs to be “very open minded” in our areas we want revitalized because lenders who are looking to build in those areas, whose financing plans are reviewed on the Federal level, will be referring to the plan.
“So what we put in our plan, even though we say we use it as a guide, to [lenders] it’s one of the elements they’re really focusing on in deciding whether or not you get approved for a lot of these financing projects in riskier areas, which a lot of our revitalization areas are,” she said.
Fassett stated the major changes between the Jan. 6 draft comprehensive plan and the revised plan presented at the community meetings include “Land Use category changes; generally lowered densities; addition of manufacturing and general business categories; overlay categories added (USC watershed, villages, UDA); Land Use Map Changes; Thoroughfare Plan changes: fewer lanes of pavement and less congestion; additional East/West Freeway in southern Chesterfield; Addition of a separate Environmental Quality Element; Incorporation of Revitalization Element into Economic Development Element; Addition of a Special Area Plans Element; and, more user-friendly format of plan.”
A major speaker at the Thomas Dale High School meeting was Freddy Boisseau, a computer programmer who lives off Ruffin Mill Road. His comments pertained to the thoroughfare component in the plan, more specifically the addition of the East-West Freeway, which is anticipated to serve as an extension connecting 360 to Interstate 95 in Walthall.
A resident of the Walthall area, Boisseau said his experience in putting in “a major arterial like this” tends to bring additional development; however, he said that he sees no development being done in any major way.
“If you put that corridor in there, you are going to have to provide a connection from that point to Rt. 10,” he said, “because if you do not, you will have a major problem. Right now the roads that connect Rt. 10 to that corridor – to that Ruffin Mill Road extension and that industrial park – do not and cannot support traffic patterns of that nature that the industrial park is accustomed to …”
The only two options to the industrial park, Boisseau said, are Enon Church Road, “a heavy residential area,” and Ruffin Mill Road, “an extremely twisty, very narrow road.”
“That’s the thing that bothers me about this plan,” he continued, “is that so many assumptions are being made about what we will need in the future, that if those assumptions are wrong, I’m afraid that those that come behind us are going to find themselves heaved in and not able to do what they need to do in order to move forward.”
The newly revised Comprehensive Plan will be available for a final formal public hearing on the newly revised Comprehensive Plan Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Fassett stated if needed, this public hearing will be carried over to Oct. 6. in the county’s public hearing room. “The Planning Commission will not take action regarding the recommendation related to the revised draft comprehensive at these public hearing,” she stated. “A date for the Planning Commission to consider and the action of recommending the revised draft comprehensive plan to the Board of Supervisors has not been scheduled.”
For more information on the Comprehensive Plan, visit www.chesterfield.gov/cp, or contact Barbara Fassett at 748-1081.