Hearing this Thursday: Orange Unveils Sprawling Vision

 This text was taken from an email alert we sent out on April 30th, 2013:

Speak Out at the Public Hearing this Thursday


As I mentioned last month, the Planning Commission has released a draft plan for the future of Orange County that takes a startling turn from the plan previously approved by residents of Orange. It includes a map that lays out what the county would look like in 2035 — including major development along Route 20 and increased residential and commercial development on agriculturally zoned land, among other things.

Broad changes to the Comprehensive Plan will have a huge impact on housing values, future tax rates, and the rural character of Orange County

Making matters worse, they scheduled the public information session (where people are supposed to learn about the proposal) on the same night as the public hearing (where people are supposed to weigh in on the proposal).

Info Session, Public Hearing on Thursday

Date: May 2nd, 2013
Public Information Session: 5:30 – 7:00pm
Public Hearing: 7:30pm
Location: Gordon Building – 130 West Main St., Orange

The last time Orange adopted a new plan (in 2006), there were 5 community meetings and a survey that 20% of Orange residents took. This time there’s been close to nothing. Tell the Planning Commission that this is not the right vision for Orange County and doesn’t reflect what citizens want for the future.

New Map Outlines Fairly Drastic Changes

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.

The full map is available from the first email. I took a shot at summarizing what it means in the last email alert I sent out >>

After reviewing the draft Plan text and map, there are a number of concerns:

  • The Plan assumes that every property that is currently 20-acres or less is “residential.” This starting point becomes a justification for needing to open up vast plots of land for residential development by 2035.
  • The plan now allows for Rt. 20 to be 4-laned from the Town of Orange to Rt. 3 and realigned through the National Park. “Potential Economic Development and Village” designations along the Rt. 20 corridor have also been added – further development along this corridor will further degrade the County’s transportation infrastructure and rural character.
  • A new designation of ‘Town Suburban Residential’ has been added to the outskirts of towns and the Route 3 growth area, allowing for higher density development. In the case of Orange, this amount of land is equal to the size of the town and in the case of Gordonsville, more than twice the acreage of the the town is being slated for this development. This is a problem, because suburban sprawl puts major strains on transportation infrastructure and services.
  • For more of my analysis on the draft, visit the Orange County section of our website >>

Is this the Citizens’ Vision?

When Counties update their Comprehensive Plans, there’s often a temptation to allow a big increase in new development and expanded commercial activities in the rural area that are unrelated to agriculture — particularly during a down economy. In this case, the County’s new draft Comprehensive Plan will do just that. This will have a huge impact on housing values, future tax rates, and the rural character of Orange County.

As I mentioned above, in 2006 there were 5 community meetings and a County-wide survey. But throughout the past year, the County has shown little interest in public input and the new draft Comprehensive Plan reflects that.

Which begs the question – who’s vision is this?

To make sure that the vision for Orange is one that its residents truly support, it takes participation today. Which means a good turnout this Thursday and a lot of voices weighing in. I hope to see you there. Let me know if you have any questions I can help with beforehand!


Dan Holmes
Orange County Land Use Officer
The Piedmont Environmental Council

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