Planners tackle amendments

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford County Planning Commission began tackling the latest set of board of supervisors initiated amendments to the subdivision and zoning ordinance last week.
    Although the supervisors ultimately voted, at their Monday night meeting, to eliminate the requirement for developers to hold neighborhood informational meetings, the majority of planning commission members were uncomfortable about the idea. District 4 planning commission member Frederic Fralick felt it was important to maintain transparency.
    “I don’t see why we would want to take away transparency,” he said.
    However, the importance of the meetings can vary from project to project. District 2 planning commission member Jeff Burdett, who worked in the county’s community development department a decade ago, recalled some neighborhood information meetings that were attended by large numbers of people and others attended by one person “that you thought you were going to have to call the sheriff on.”
    Burdett wanted to modify the requirement by eliminating the requirement to mail out notices to neighbors and run newspaper ads.
    This motion failed 2-5 with Burdett and District 6 planning commission member Derrick Noell voting for it. District 1 planning commission member Lewis Huff, District 7 planning commission member Jerry Craig, Fralick, Planning Commission Chairman Steve Wilkerson and District 5 planning commission member Tommy Scott voted against it.
    The planning commission ultimately voted to keep the neighborhood meeting requirement by a 4-3 vote with Fralick, Noell, Wilkerson and Huff voting in favor and Craig, Burdett and Scott voting against it.
    The planning commission also addressed the extension of existing private roads. Burdett said he had tried, and failed, to get this included in the zoning ordinance back in 1998. However, he felt that a developer doing this should, at the developers expense, bring the rest of the road up to the extension’s standard. The supervisor-initiated amendment calls for the extension to be 20-feet wide. He felt this is needed to protect the homeowners on the existing private street. He said the space is there to do this because all private streets platted since 1975 have a 50-foot right of way, so the space to widen the road is there.
    Wilkerson agreed that the minimum standard for the entire street should be that of the extension. He added that he has no problem allowing a land owner to carry out development that had been denied due to regulation. Burdett said they needed to help the landowner while protecting the interests of the homeowner.
    “It wouldn’t be right to have heavy equipment go over that road, tear it up, and have the people who live on it have to pay for it,” said Scott.
    Wilkerson noted that bringing the existing road up to Virginia Department of Transportation standards would open the landowner’s property to all the development possibilities afforded by the zoning district.
    The planning commission’s consensus was to require the developer to bring the existing road up to the standard of the extension. Community development staff was directed to bring language to the planning commission, to implement this requirement, to members for their Dec. 17 meeting. Scott asked that this language include a requirement for the developer to fix any damage done to the existing road during house construction.