UPDATE: On Tuesday, Dec 15, the Town of Warrenton Planning Commission voted to delay their decision on the Commercial Zoning Text Amendment for 30 days, at which time they also plan to review the proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan. Additionally, staff is drafting a new option for the planning commission to consider that would require a Special Use Permit instead of allowing this change by-right, which is a positive shift. Thank you to everyone who responded to our action alert urging the town to first complete work on their master plan and be cautious about allowing this use byright.
The next regular meeting of the planning commission is scheduled for January 19, 2021.
FauquierNow Article: Warrenton planners delay by-right zoning decision
The following text was pulled from an email alert sent out on December 11, 2020 by PEC Field Representative Julie Bolthouse. To sign up for PEC email alerts visit: pecva.org/signup.
Back in July, we told you about the Town of Warrenton rushing through a new master plan. In response to concerns raised by residents like you, the town planning commission formed a subcommittee to redraft the plan. We were heartened by the pause and have been waiting on an updated draft.
However, in a truly “cart before the horse” move, the planning commission is now set to consider related (and somewhat controversial) zoning changes at a public hearing this coming Tuesday, December 15.
The proposed zoning text amendment would enable a significant acceleration of residential growth in Warrenton. Specifically, new types of mixed-use developments that include townhouses and duplexes would be allowed “by-right” on commercially zoned land. “By-right” means there would be little to no ability to improve the design or mitigate impacts from the development (e.g. traffic).
Mixed-use development is a good goal, but the Town Council should review the scale, timing and design; this is the chance to get it right! The pace of growth, and how and where it occurs, and the details, really matter.
What’s the main issue?
Zoning should be based on an approved master plan. The proposed zoning changes would come before that, ignoring the public and the process. Further, the town has not provided any information on what the associated impacts would be, which raises many questions:
- How much new residential does Warrenton need and what type (single-family detached, townhome, multi-family, etc)? How much of this should be allowed in areas currently zoned commercial? Would these changes meaningfully address our affordable housing needs?
- What infrastructure will be needed for whatever development occurs in these areas? How will the town pay for this infrastructure, or will it fall onto taxpayers? How can zoning requirements be used to meet these needs?
- What amenities does the Warrenton community want, and how can the town encourage developers to ensure these amenities are created in these areas? e.g. parks, trails, outdoor dining space, shared office space. The specifics of design make a difference and the rezoning process gives the public and the Town Council a chance to make recommendations.
Ask the town planning commission to finish their master plan review and adoption first, before pursuing new rules for development (zoning changes). These amendments will be going before the planning commission on Dec. 15.
If you are a town resident, or connected to the town in some way, send an email to the planning commission using this form letter before 5pm on Monday, December 14. Or you can speak at the public hearing, which will take place at 7pm on Tuesday, December 15 at 21 Main St. If you choose to speak in-person, be sure to bring a mask and check the Town website for updates regarding COVID-19 restrictions.
Fauquier Field Representative
The Piedmont Environmental Council