Update: On December 13th the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass the new Business Park zoning district. Nothing has changed since November, the vote was only put off to December due to a procedural issue. The district although envisioned to be utilized primarily in the Service District, can still be approved for sites in Villages.
The Fauquier Board of Supervisors has recently been considering potentially significant changes to the County zoning ordinance – the creation of an entirely new zoning classification called Business Parks and significant changes to the two industrial zoning categories, Industrial Park (I-1) and Industrial General (I-2). The Piedmont Environmental Council has several concerns regarding the proposed Business Park zoning district and changes to the I-1 and I-2 industrial zoning districts.
PEC does not take issue with the new zoning per se and supports the limitation of this new zoning district to the service districts. The goal of this new district is to attract new development to the county, so restricting it to service districts meets the county’s goal of directing growth into the service districts where the needed infrastructure to accommodate such growth and economic development is present or planned for. We support and urge the Board to retain such a limitation.
The Board discussed the proposed changes at its meeting on September 13th but decided to postpone a decision until the staff can take a closer look at some of the questions raised by citizens, community groups, and the Supervisors. If you have not already, please contact the Board of Supervisors with your concerns about these proposed changes before their next meeting on October 11th. We will keep you updated on any new language drafted and when the next public hearing date is scheduled.
Why the Concern?
Concerns regarding Village Planning
The most recent proposal would allow rezoning to Business Park zoning in Service Districts and Villages where consistent with the comprehensive plan. We remain concerned about the inclusion of the language in the draft ordinance concerning villages. Fauquier’s villages are one of its greatest assets and shape the character of the county. Their future growth deserves heightened scrutiny and planning.
The Comprehensive Plan currently has very limited information about what type of industrial development the county seeks to attract and hardly any plans for the future of the more than forty villages. This is where efforts to revamp the zoning ordinance should start, rather than providing more flexibility in the zoning ordinance and allowing future development proposals to dictate the county’s future.
As an alternative, PEC suggests that the language concerning villages be removed at this time from the draft zoning ordinance and the county and community proactively amend the Comprehensive Plan regarding villages incorporating the community’s visions.
Concerns about Consistency with the Comprehensive Plan
The purpose for the new Business Park district is not clearly defined and there is no tie to the Comprehensive Plan as there is with existing commercial and industrial districts. To protect the integrity of the county’s planning, the Business Park zoning district needs to be specifically tied to the County’s Comprehensive Plan in the same way that the commercial and industrial districts are.
Limiting the Business Park district to service districts and villages identified in the Comprehensive Plan as appropriate for commercial or industrial development is a good step but is still a reactive policy if the Comprehensive Plan language for villages is not updated by the County staff with community input.
Concerns with Lack of Standards
The Business Park district, although described as a planned development type zoning with increased flexibility and a mix of uses, is being constructed as a conventional zoning district. As a result, the new zoning district would tout all the benefits of planned development districts while not having any equivalent standards. All other mixed use type districts – PRD, PCID, PDMU, MU – include additional standards to ensure that the variety of uses allowed are planned carefully and do not negatively impact each other, adjacent properties, or exceed the County’s infrastructure capacity.
Without standards the only assurance the County has about how these districts will develop are from the voluntary proffers. An enormous amount of faith is being put into the rezoning process. Voluntary proffers are not sufficient bargaining powers in this situation and proffers can be amended by future Boards further emphasizing the need for sufficient standards.
Concerns with Specific Uses
The county needs to clarify the definition of “distribution center” and articulate the desirability and need for this newly-defined use in the county. The current definition describes distribution center as “facility used for receipt, temporary storage, and redistribution of goods as they are received.”
This use on 10 acres or less will be allowed by-right in I-1, I-2, and in the Business Park district with no apparent limitations, even though the use, even on ten acres, would include intense truck traffic and a large building foot print. The by-right nature and lack of limitations on this use contradicts the vision for Business Park as explained in the Staff Report dated September 13, 2012: “heavy truck generators are discouraged, in anticipation of a broad mix of uses attracting the general vehicular public.”
Concerns with Amendments to Industrial Zones
The amendments to the industrial zoning categories were meant to better distinguish I-1 from I-2 but instead blurred the line further. Some of these changes, such as allowing heavy industrial on I-1 by special exception and allowing a whole new gambit of commercial business and personal services on I-2, make the distinction between the two industrial districts meaningless and allows the proliferation of commercial uses in land not zoned commercial.
Land that may have been zoned I-1 with no intention of accommodating heavy industrial uses and land zoned I-2 with no intention of accommodating commercial business uses are now vulnerable to those unforeseen uses.
What to do?
If you have not already, please contact the Board of Supervisors with your concerns about these proposed changes before their next meeting on October 11th. We will keep you updated on any new language drafted and when the next public hearing date is scheduled.
Please contact our Fauquier Field Officer, Diana Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org, with any questions or concerns.
Click here to see the email sent out to our Fauquier membership on September 10th about this issue.