The future of a county step by step

After the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors directed the planning commission to redo the consultant/steering committee draft comprehensive plan, the county’s planning staff and commissioners have settled into a procedure for reviewing the comments made by the public online.

Last week’s planning commission’s work session was a good example of how the commission pours over page by page through the document and takes recommendations from public input and implements it in the overall comprehensive plan.

Chesterfield’s new countywide comprehensive plan, Plan for Chesterfield 2035, has been structured much like a zoning case. Staff provides background, which is then reviewed by the public, who then make comments. The planning commission has not allowed comments during their meetings on the comprehensive plan, but citizens can comment on the county’s website in depth if they desire. The commission reviews the comments and the planning commission is expected to complete their work on the plan, graduating by Oct.10.

Each of the planning sessions begin with reading comments consolidated by the planning staff to avoid repetitive questions or comments.  The commission reviews the comments from the previous section of the plan involving environmental issues and extended by a week the amount of time for citizen comment.  

“At the commission’s request, the environmental comment section had been extended,” said Steve Haach, planning manager last week during the commission’s session. “Staff considered 41 different comments.” He also said there had been extensive review by the county and other conservation groups.

Ruben Waller, commission vice chairman, last week read off comments culled from the internet comments section on the environmental chapter. This has been the usual agenda of the meetings, although interest lay in only a few areas. Waller called out page by page for comments from the public. He got to page 10 before any comment was recorded on the environmental chapter. The rest of the chapter went pretty much the same way as Waller read page numbers to the staff and the remainder of the commission. “As we have in the past we will review comments by the community including black line,” said Waller.

The first comment questioned fracking, a process for extracting natural gas from layers of shale deep within the ground. Rockingham County, Va. has turned down the method even though the extraction of gas would be a tax boom for Rockingham. Haach said fracking would be handled on a case by case basis as other mining requests are reviewed and voted on now.

A section keeping roosters in certain zoning areas prompted Bemuda District Commisioner Dale Patton to ask, “With the word rooster to mind, can we include other species?

The commission discussed using Falling Creek reservoir for recreation. Planning Director Kirk Turner, said most of the property around the reservoir was privately owned. Skipping ahead to page 23 out of the 27 pages in the environmental chapter, Waller questioned the use of Lake Chesdin in the same manner. Haasch noted that like the Falling Creek reservoir, the county owns very little of the lake and the watershed or river that supplies the lake.

“The watershed of the Appomattox extends all the way to the foothills of the mountains,” Haasch said. “We own a very little piece of the watershed.”

Turner reiterated that the planning staff looks at any comments made on the internet and appreciates the comments that come from the internet

“Sixty to 70 percent of the questions that have come from the public have made it to the commission,” said Edgar Wallen, planning commission from the Matoaca District. “I want to compliment the staff on being sensitive to these comments.”

Later in the afternoon the commission discussed the revised version of the Historical & Cultural Recourses Chapter. The public comment period for the Water and Wastewater and Public Facilities chapters closes on June 14.

All draft chapters can be review online at www.chesterfield.gov/comprehensiveplan.

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