Planning Commission digs deeper into revisions of comp plan

Chesterfield’s Planning Commission was back at it last week as they tackled another few pieces of the countywide comprehensive plan. For those who don’t care to be involved in the process, the evolution is like watching paint dry. At least this time, it’s quick drying.

The sections of the 2035 plan, as directed by the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors are being reviewed work session by work session. Last week’s session was devoted to revised land use categories, a review of the land use map, comments on the revised map and some original comments that citizens made on the internet.

In addition, the planning staff made some mechanical changes to some portions of the plan at the request of the commission.

“We have reformatted them to make it more readable and to flow a little bit better,” said Steven Haasch, planning manager. “We’ve incorporated bullets where we can, where it makes sense, to make the categories a little bit easier [to interpret.] We’ve clarified some of the ‘by right’ development that’s available in the rural, agricultural area.”

Many comments from the public concerned land use (the county’s suggestion of how citizens can use their land) in agricultural areas. In the plan rejected by the Board of Supervisors, there were areas in the western part of the county, which could only be subdivided into 25-acre plots, and across the southern portion of the county, there were significant areas that would be designated as five-acre parcels.

In the Rural Agriculture land-use category the revised plan states “Since publicly financed infrastructure improvements including utilities, roads, schools, fire stations libraries, parks and other public services are not planned in this area during the life of this comprehensive plan, it is anticipated that development for this period will be limited to:”

  • Single family dwellings on a minimum of five acres fronting 250 to 300 feet along an existing public road;
  • Single family dwellings on a minimum of one acre created through family divisions; and
  • Single family dwellings on less than five acres in instances where the parcel was created prior to the adoption of the five acre requirement; and
  • Farming.

“I’m wondering how we might expand some of the agriculture areas,” said Edgar Wallin, planning commissioner for the Matoaca District.

Haasch reminded the commission that at this time none of the boundaries of land use were set in stone and that the commission and the public could still suggest changes in the size and categories of the land use areas.

Other land use categories, which covered some new categories (lower to higher density) included: Residential Agricultural; Low Density Residential; Suburban Residential I; Suburban Residential II; Medium-High Density Residential and High Density Residential.

In the commercial area, the Planning Commission discussed business related classifications, including some new categories such as: Neighborhood Office; Corporate Office; Convenience Business; Neighborhood Business and Community Business.

While some uses staff recommendations were accepted, many were dissected and reinvented, as were others, by the Planning Commission.

Mixed use, meaning a mixture of uses, in some cases an integration of businesses and residential or different types of businesses were discussed as were the following:  Community Mixed Use and Regional Mixed Use.

Industrial classes, which include the most intense uses, meaning heavy businesses such as Corporate Office, Research and Development and Light Manufacturing were left as presented by planning staff. Uses such as I-1 through I-3 are manufacturing uses or intense services areas, for the most part, and the Planning Commission considered the staff recommendation appropriate.  

Reuben J. Waller, Jr., representing the Midlothian District said he was concerned with industrial land use that should have parity with land uses in different parts of the county.

“Concerning Meadowville, I see Northrop Grumman in one section and Amazon in another,” Waller said. “In terms of the Watkins Center, at Midlothian and Rt. 288, we have a financial institution and a couple of medical buildings. Should the designation, in part, be similar to what we’re talking about in the Watkins Center? Should consideration be given to change Meadowville?”

“The land use map is taking into consideration the land use that is already in place,” responded Karen Aylward, Assistant Director of Chesterfield’s Economic Development Department.

Conservation/Recreation were scrutinized by the Planning Commission and included, “federal, state and county parklands, and privately owned land held in voluntary public or private trust for the purpose of preserving or promoting its natural function, character or historic significance.”

It was made clear that the exact land-use map boundaries could shift or change upon the completion of the transportation department’s plan, which has yet to be completed or discussed.

While the Planning Commission made comments on transportation, most concerned interchanges on Route 288.

According to planning documents prepared for last week’s meeting the commission had some discussion on the East/West Freeway Interchanges. The East/West Freeway is not planned to be constructed for years, possibly decades from now, but “these areas are not currently shown on the Land Use Plan Map. The map will be updated to reflect possible roads and interchanges at such time that the Transportation Department completes the transportation chapter of the plan.

Preliminarily, discussions have identified the possibility for Regional Mixed Uses around the interchanges and to require that development be phased in conjunction with construction of the East/West Freeway, the availability of public utility systems and the provision of other public facilities to support the proposed uses.”


Land Use/Zoning

The main problem I see with the current land use map is that we are continuing to use block based zoning, where each parcel of land in the county that is developed or not developed is set aside for a specific functions. This is actual causes the county a lot of problems when it comes to economic development. The main one is a presumption of denial if the type of development a developer wants to develop, does not meet the land use map for where they want to develop. This can cause good project to move on to other areas, where it is easier to change the zoning, even with in the county, which will increase sprawl. In my opinion what the county needs to do is to move towards zoning based on having the developer minimize their trespasses and nuisances they create on the existing development. This could include things such as minimizing light spill over, noise and even conforming to existing building styles and functions. Correctly done, you would open up more options for each parcel of land. Instead of the one allowed use that exist today, unless you have the money, time and other resources to go through a rezoning process.

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