On the Ground

Comprehensive Plan Still in the Works

Over the next several months, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will continue to review proposed revisions to the county’s Comprehensive Plan, with a public hearing and final adoption expected sometime early 2015. The Comprehensive Plan is the county’s planning guide for issues including land use, development, rural preservation, natural and historic resource protection, economic development, and transportation.

The Rural Area chapter review is completed, and it will continue Albemarle’s long-held commitment to rural preservation. In September and October, the Board of Supervisors will review the Growth Area and Transportation chapters. Public input will continue to be critical. Contact Jeff Werner for more information at jwerner@pecva.org or 434-977-2033, ext 29. The draft revisions are posted on the county’s web page at albemarle.org under Comprehensive Plan Update.

Improving Habitats

PEC continues to work with volunteers to monitor water quality at four sites in the Spout Run watershed. Over time, the results will show whether ecological condi­tions are improving, staying the same or deteriorating. In the fall, we will work with the County on riparian tree plantings to increase streamside vegetation. This will help to improve the ecology of the stream by creating better habitat conditions, with the ultimate goal of making Spout Run a healthier stream and benefiting people and animals in the watershed.

County Reviews Comprehensive Plan

Culpeper County is reviewing its Comprehensive Plan, starting with an update of its demographics chapter. Numerous other sections are also slated for review in the coming months. PEC will be following the Planning Com­mission’s discussions and preparing comments where appropriate.

Comprehensive Plan Redrafting and New Proposed Cell Towers

Fauquier County is redrafting the telecommunication section and the environmental and cultural resources sections of the Comprehensive Plan. These two chapters have a huge impact on the work that PEC does in protecting scenic, historic and environmental resources of the County. To see the Comprehensive Plan amendments being proposed, please visit pecva.org/our-region/fauquier.

Additionally, new cell towers are being pro­posed throughout the County, which may bring better service into more remote rural areas, but could also bring an intru­sive industrial type use into areas valued for their picturesque landscapes. Currently, a 154-foot monopole is being proposed just outside of the village of Casanova. We are concerned that the height and design of this proposal are inappropriate for the site selected, and it will have an impact on tourism, property values and enjoyment of the outdoors in the Casanova community. There are technological alternatives to taller towers, as well as less intrusive locations for an antenna.

Upzoning Commercial Properties

Several property owners in the Ruckersville area have applied in the past year to upzone their commercial prop­erties. One declined to say whether they will eventually build something that conforms to Greene’s mixed-use, multimodal vision for its growth areas. Another pre­sented a concept that offers more of the same sprawl development that has previously failed in the Route 29 corridor. We are encouraging Greene’s leaders to hold to their vision and not be swayed by the uncertain promise of commercial tax revenue.

Costs of Growth

The current Loudoun Board of Supervisors has only approved a small number of new residential units, appearing to finally recognize the true costs associated with this sort of development—in particular, the need for schools and other public facilities. This year, PEC contrib­uted to that general understanding by commissioning a fiscal review of a proposed residential rezoning.

This past July, the Loudoun County Planning Commis­sion approved the commission permit for a proposed water tower to be built on the south side of Red Hill Road at Stone School Lane. The Planning Commis­sion also recommended that the Board of Supervisors approve the special exception with conditions. The Board held their hearing on Sep. 10, and you can learn about the outcome of the meeting by visiting www.loudoun.gov. PEC is recommending a denial of the commission permit because it’s clear from the adopted policy of the County that the uses established within the Transition Policy Area are to be distinctive in design from the uses located within the Suburban Policy to the east. We’re also are recommending denial of the special exception because it doesn’t conform to the policies and guidelines contained with the Revised General Plan.

Get Involved

In the spring, Madison County has initi­ated a rural and tourism based economic development strategy aimed at promoting local agriculture and its many access points to trails in Shenandoah National Park and the Rapidan Wildlife Area. The County is facilitating broad stakeholder input by orga­nizing several different working groups that are meeting regularly throughout the end of the year. To learn more or get involved in a working group, contact Ernie Hoch at 540.948.7500 ext. 100.

Boys & Girls Club and Rt. 3 Plan

A partnership between PEC and The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia has created new opportunities for Orange County youth to experience the natural environment and history of the surrounding region. Recent activities have included picking blueber­ries at a local farm, paddling the Rapidan River, and hiking along the Appalachian Trail. Future trips to local farms this fall will involve picking apples and learning about raising turkeys. Orange County is moving forward with the Small Area Plan for the Rt. 3 growth area. Some of the details of the plan are still unclear, and what we know is not good. The plan includes a renewed call for the realignment of Rt. 20 through the Wilder­ness Battlefield and the straightening and widening of Flat Run Rd (Rt. 601). The plan also calls for 6 million gallons per day of future water use—greater than 5 times the current use.

From Native Grasslands Management to Exploring the Bruce Jones Nature Preserve

Don Loock, Agricultural and Rural Economy Pro­gram Manager, and a small group traveled to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in July to learn more about native warm season grass management. The group visited The Center for Native Grasslands Manage­ment, where they heard expert Dr. Patrick Keyser speak. They also visited several research sites around Knox­ville.Knowledge from the trip will be used to augment management efforts in the county, including at Over Jordan Farm in Rappahannock as part of a Conservation Innovation Grant project supported by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Celia Vuocolo, Sustainable Habitat Program Assistant, led a very popular Pollinator Walk at the Bruce Jones Nature Preserve with Jennifer Davis of Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Virginia Working Landscapes on August 16. The walk focused on using native plants as a food source for pollinators, how to increase pollinator habitat, and the restoration work that Bruce Jones has achieved on the property. Due to the popularity of the program, a second walk will be held on September 14 and will focus on late season pol­linator habitat and food sources.

This article was featured in our Fall 2014 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View.