The Future of Greene County

Public Hearing Scheduled for 2015 Comprehensive Plan Update

The County’s Comprehensive Plan is a locality’s vision statement and 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 regarding development. Localities are required by state law to periodically update their Comprehensive Plans.

Make Your Voice Heard About Greene’s Vision for its Future

On November 19 at 7:30 p.m., residents will have the opportunity to share their ideas about Greene’s future with the county Planning Commission. The commission is holding a “public hearing” to hear from residents as it begins its review of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The current Plan was approved in 2010.

This may be the only chance residents have to voice their opinions to the whole commission and influence what actually gets revised in the Plan. Below are some suggestions for areas of the Plan that should be reviewed carefully. If you have other ideas on what the Plan should improve on, contact your Planning Commissioner.

Planning Commission Pubic Hearing
Wednesday, November 19, 7:30pm
Stanardsville, VA

Things to Consider

1. Planning for Various Modes of Travel

The 2010 Comprehensive Plan does not make a specific enough case for having multiple modes of travel within the County’s growth areas (Ruckersville, Corner Store and Stanardsville). The automobile has always been the only way to get around these areas, but that needs to change with future development. The Plan should make clear that in the growth areas sidewalks should be required on at least one side of the street in all new subdivisions. They should also be installed along roads that link one development to another. Bicycle lanes should be seriously considered on some streets, as well. Currently the Plan says sidewalks are optional in low-density neighborhoods, and commercial and residential developments even in high-density areas continue to be built without any way to walk or bike safely. Having alternative ways to move around will improve the health and well being of Greene County residents.

3. Better guidelines for growth area development

In the Ruckersville and Corner Store areas, individual property owners are requesting to upzone their land to make it more attractive for development. The problem is they are doing so with minimal guidance from the County, and without any coordination with their neighbors who also own property. The Comprehensive Plan may need to include more detailed guidelines for what development should look like in these areas. The 2010 Plan says the County wants this development to be “mixed use,” which means to create a “town” environment in places that today are the epitome of centerless sprawl. If the commission concludes more details are not appropriate for the Comprehensive Plan itself, alternatively the Plan could establish a schedule for writing “small area plans” for parts of Ruckersville and Corner Store. Either way, this would provide better direction to developers as to what Greene really wants to see in those areas.

As part of the review process, the commission should start a process to establish Greene’s own “design guidelines” with standards for residential density (typically measured in housing units per acre), architectural style, and site layout. The 2010 Plan lists this as an objective as a way to promote “traditional neighborhood principles best suited to Greene County,” but action is needed.

In addition, with regards to growth areas, the commission should add language in the Plan that says that with mixed use development projects, commercial and residential components should be sequenced so that one does not get completed before the other is begun. That is what may happen at Kinvara/Lily Ridge, as a result of the Board’s decision last summer on that project’s proffer amendment. If the commercial component never comes, or takes many more years to come, the County’s tax base is hurt; neighbors are left with few places to shop; and the interconnected roads that would help take pressure off Rte. 29 do not materialize.

3. Support for both rural and urban agriculture

Though the 2010 Plan has a chapter on agriculture, it could be expanded somewhat to draw connections between farmers and other residents. Why not write goals and objectives to address how the county wants to make sure its agricultural base is helping address food insecurity? The Plan could look at the importance of local sources of nutritious food for the public schools, the Feeding Greene food pantry, and others. Urban agriculture, or suburban if you will, should be identified as a valuable resource in residential and commercial zones, with appropriate limits given the small lot sizes. Many residents may be interested in small-scale farming but are barred from doing so by zoning restrictions.

4. Reforms of wireless and broadband program

The Plan should lay out in general terms a map of where the County wants to go with broadband and cell phone wireless facilities. This would prepare the groundwork for code changes. An antiquated wireless ordinance put the County in a difficult position over the past year when a tall, unattractive cell tower was proposed along one of Greene’s most scenic roads.

5. Strategy for businesses in the rural areas

The County needs to address in the Plan how much business it wants in the rural areas. Demand for bed and breakfasts, agritourism venues and other tourism-oriented rural businesses is growing, which is a good thing if managed well. It’s appropriate to include in the Plan some performance standards for these and other small businesses that want to be in the rural areas, and how many of them the rural areas can reasonably absorb. Standards might include number of vehicles, number of events, noise limits, lighting as well as other factors.

6. Implementation

Finally, there is a need to make the last chapter of the Plan, Implementation, action-oriented. There should be concrete actions listed corresponding to each chapter of the Plan, with dates for action and county agencies or other groups identified as the responsible parties. These changes would help give the community more of a sense that the Comprehensive Plan is a living, breathing document, not one that just sits on a shelf.