Orange County

Update 8/1:

Roughly 50 people attended the Planning Commission public hearing on the comprehensive plan. 20 of the 24 citizens who spoke at the hearing were advocating to retain our rural character, speaking to issues ranging from the over-sized Route 3 growth area to allowing for incompatible development in agricultural areas. Despite numerous suggestions that the plan failed to represent the citizens vision and was not ready, the Planning Commission voted to forward the plan to the Board of Supervisors. Only one member (Andy Hutchison - District One) voted nay.

The Board will now take up the plan and will likely set a hearing date for September, if they feel comfortable with the draft.

Attend the Hearing and Add Your Voice

What: Public Hearing on the Comprehensive Plan - Planning Commission
When: Thursday, August 1st at 7:15pm
Where: 235 Warren St., Town Of Orange, Community Meeting Room, Orange 

Join us at the hearing to:

  • Ask for a plan that reflects the largely agricultural nature of the county
  • Ask for a plan that accommodates, not recruits, new residential development
  • Ask for a realistic growth area on Route 3
  • Ask for economic development that enhances, not detracts from, our rural character

More on the Draft Plan:

Orange County has been discussing the Comprehensive Plan off and on for over a year, and for the most part without public input. A locality's Comprehensive Plan is the road map for the future. It is the community's most important document regarding land use, transportation and resource utilization; and it is the basis for decisions and regulations (zoning) regarding development. When approving or denying new development proposals, they are judged on their consistency with the plan.

Localities are required by state law to periodically update their comprehensive plans. When counties update their plans, there's often a temptation to allow expanded commercial activities, unrelated to agriculture, in rural areas -- particularly during a down economy. We are in the midst of this update. It is important to note that this draft is severe departure from our current plan, creating brand new classifications such as Village and Town Suburban Residential and recommending expanded proposed commercial activities (Potential Economic Development) south of Orange on Route 15. This designation also appears on Route 20, on agriculturally zoned land within the Wilderness Battlefield National Park, and is tied to a potential realignment of the road to the Route 3 intersection.

Many agricultural areas are being targeted for increased density and commercial. As well, expanded economic development areas and new villages appear to completely ignore the destructive force of sprawl, allowing strip commercial along major transportation routes - those that serve as the commuting routes for county residents. The disconnect between what this map calls for and what the market will sustain is staggering. The impact this plan would have on housing values, future tax rates, and the rural nature of the county are extreme.

You can view the plan on the County’s website:

Map for Future Land Use is on page 67.

Potential Talking Points/Concerns:

  • Route 3 growth area still excessive in size. One issue from the 2006 plan has remained. With almost the entire corridor designated for Town Suburban Residential and Potential Economic Development, it is likely that the corridor will continue to be targeted for housing and commercial in a haphazard manner. The area designated for development has grown to include lands to the north and west of Lake of the Woods. With over 1500 approved and unbuilt lots on the corridor, vacant homes for sale, and plenty of commercial zoning to accommodate new business, new lands are not needed. In fact, the growth area should be shrunk to accommodate the next 20 years of growth, an adequate planning period that prevents premature expenditures on costly infrastructure.
  • A-2 (Agriculture) designation appears to encourage residential densities and commercial activities. This definition encourages the conversion of agricultural lands to future residential and commercial use by calling for scattered development throughout the designated area. Much of these lands contain prime agricultural soils, a feature that should be protected. Lands with prime soils should be located within our agricultural conservation area (A-1).
  • The plan continues to ignore Route 3 resident’s calls for better design standards. Orange should adopt a Tourism Corridor Overlay District. With no standards and no limits to the level of growth called for on Route 3, we will likely continue to get low-end commercial and residential sprawl associated with the Route 3 corridor outside of Fredericksburg. The Tourism Corridor Overlay District concept could provide certainty on the appearance of the corridor, providing some comfort in our goal of marinating our rural character and identity. The District would require context sensitive designs for development along our gateway entrance to the County and the Wilderness Battlefield National Park.
  • The plan now allows for Route 20 to be 4-laned from the Town of Orange to Route 3 and realigned through the National Park. The Route 20 Corridor Study (recommending 4-laning and realignment) is once again incorporated into the document. However, this time, any language suggesting Orange should do nothing to initiate the 4-laning or realignment has been removed. The designation of Potential Economic Development in the National Park also demonstrates the desire for the realignment.
  • The addition of the Potential Economic Development and Village designations along Route 20 raises questions about how effective 4-laning would be. New development causes new traffic lights and numerous curb cuts along the corridor. Sprawling development along this corridor will further degrade the County’s transportation infrastructure and our rural character.
  • The new designation of Town Suburban Residential indicates higher density development on outskirts of our towns - The definition includes mixed use development in areas adjacent to town boundaries (and Lake of the Woods) with moderately intensive residential and commercial development. Suburban growth is not desirable from a planning perspective. The fact that we would even have a proposed suburban designation is cause for concern. This designation ignores thousands of approved and unbuilt units within our towns and growth areas – like Round Hill in the town of Orange or Wilderness Shores on Route 3. It is stated that water and sewer services should be extended into the new Suburban areas.
  • Orange County has used existing land use patterns as the emphasis for all changes in the plan. Unfortunately, they have manipulated the data to ensure higher levels of development throughout the County. For example, parcels of 20-acres and less are now being referred to as Residential. This change has allowed the county to place many rural and agricultural lands in the path of development and is the justification for much of the shift in our Future Land Use map. As well, many parcels of 25 to 100-acres and greater are being pulled into these areas recommended for higher development simply because they are adjacent to these 20-acre “residential” properties.
  • Economic Development designation occurs within the National Park boundary. While this land is privately owned, its use and zoning are agricultural. This change ignores the importance of the battlefield, and raises concerns about the treatment of major historic resources.
  • Much of the Route 15 corridor between Orange and Gordonsville is shown as Potential Economic Development. Sprawling commercial and industrial development will destroy the corridor’s largely agricultural feel.

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