Orange County’s Rural Areas Under Threat

Since 2008, Orange County has had a subdivision ordinance that calls for time-phased divisions of land—limiting the number of divisions allowed on a property over a specific period of time. This aspect of the ordinance allows the County to regulate the speed of development in the rural area.

On October 2nd, however, the Orange County Circuit Court ruled that the County does not have the authority to enact a subdivision ordinance with time-phased divisions of land. This move invalidates the current ordinance and allows for the immediate division of all agricultural lands into two acre lots unless the Board takes action immediately to establish protections of the rural area.

“Elimination of the time-phased component of the subdivision ordinance means the elimination of one of the only growth management tools the County currently has,” explains Dan Holmes, PEC’s Orange County Field Officer.

Unfortunately, this ruling is not the only threat to Orange’s rural areas. The County’s Planning Commission is currently considering revisions to the Com-prehensive Plan, which include a proposed future land use map that would reclassify large segments of Orange’s agricultural lands from “Agricultural” to “Neighborhood Residential” and “Village.” This new classification would allow for greater residential density and new commercial development in some of Orange County’s rural areas. This could mean a huge increase the number of new lots, and—now that Orange’s subdivision ordinance has been struck down—these new lots could be created immediately.

Irreversible damage could be done to the County’s agricultural area in a relatively short period of time if the Board does not imme-diately begin developing a new ordinance to protect the County’s rural resources and economy.

What You Can Do

We expect these issues to be addressed after the holidays and will keep you updated—particularly as public hearings and meet-ings are scheduled. Contact Dan Holmes, the Orange County Field Officer at dholmes[at] for more information.