Planners continue look at zoning ordinance amendments

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford County Planning Commission has nearly finished its comments on the board of supervisors’ proposed amendments to the county’s zoning ordinance.   
    District 2 planning commission member Jeff Burdett said that the corridor overlays requirements are fine in rural areas but too restrictive  at points where the corridor goes through developed areas. In those areas, the planning commission members want to eliminate the overlays’ additional setbacks and allow larger signs.
    “The areas that are rural, we would be preserving them,” Burdett said.
    Burdett and District 4 planning commission member Frederic Fralick are working on recommendations and will bring them back to the full planning commission next month.
    The planning commission discussed lot sizes in agricultural subdivisions in AR and AP zones. The supervisors have proposed reducing the minimum lot size from three acres to one. District 6 planning commissioner Derrick Noell suggested leaving minimum lot size at three acres, noting that the county has never had a cluster development option before. He suggested waiting for a couple of years to see if cluster development works for rural landowners.
     District 7 planning commission member Jerry Craig countered that due to the current housing slump, which he expects to continue for some time to come, two or even three years won’t be enough time to tell if cluster development is working.
    District 5 planning commission member Tommy Scott suggested a compromise size of 1.5 acres.
    Burdett suggested a different compromise, with a minimum lot size of two acres in AP zones and one acre in AR.
    The recommendation that finally passed, on a 4-3 vote combined Burdett’s and Scott’s proposals. It sets a minimum lot size of 1.5 acres, with 150 feet of road frontage, in AP zones and one acre, with 100 feet of road frontage, in AR zones. Burdett, Fralick and Noell cast the dissenting votes.
    They also took another look at private road easements.
    “I’ve never seen anything good from these,” Noell commented.”It becomes a burden to the community.”
    Noell said people on private roads often end up in situations where they can’t afford to maintain the road and can’t afford to move. If there is a covenant that requires all property owners on the road to help pay for the cost of maintaining it, and some refuse to do so, then everybody else has to come up with money to hire an attorney to file a civil suit. He said 80 percent of private roads turn into a problem.
    “I’d like to see documentation on that,” said Craig.
    The planning commission recommended denying private road easements on a 5-2 vote with Craig and Scott casting the dissenting votes.
    There was one exception to their disapproval of private roads. Burdett suggested allowing them in cluster developments with a maximum of seven lots. That’s the maximum size cluster development in AP zones and Burdett said that a land owner with limited road frontage would be unable to take advantage of the cluster development option if he had to build a road to Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) standards because that would be too expensive.
    “It’s just not cost effective to do it with that few lots,” he said.
    Burdett suggested that these private roads be constructed to a Bedford County standard which Tim Wilson, director of community development, will design and present to the planning commission. Wilson said that this will meet VDOT standards at all points except for the requirement for a hard surface. The hard surface, he said, is the expensive part.