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By Douglas W. Rideout Jr.
Bedford

    The people’s voice of concern for the future of Bedford County is documented and formulated into the Comprehensive Plan, which was tabulated by scientific surveys. In a true democracy the “voice of the people,” as expressed in the Comprehensive Plan, is carried out by the elected leaders. One major issue of concern to 95 percent of all citizens surveyed is the protection of Agricultural Lands within Bedford County.
    We have heard numerous statements by various Board of Supervisors (B.O.S.) members, in which they claim they are maintaining this policy of protection for the Ag. Lands. Their actions prove otherwise. Examples of this can be provided by understanding a short historical summary as to the evolution of the Zoning and Subdivision ordinances here within Bedford County.
    In 1963 Bedford County instituted a Subdivision Ordinance to help regulate developments. This included the requirement that all subdivisions provide public roads constructed to the Virginia Department of Highways specifications.
    By 1968 Virginia had grown rapidly, creating more traffic as families began acquiring second cars. The State therefore issued new regulations to upgrade the specifications on roads to be built for subdivisions.
    In 1975 Bedford County decided to institute additional regulations to the Subdivision Ordinance. These included the allowance of private roads, not built to State specifications.
    In 1988 the first Comprehensive Plan was implemented. In addition to the matter of providing protection to the Agricultural Lands, this first “voice of the people” expressed concern for the issue of private roads. These roads had become a problem for fire and safety access, and the courts were spending too much time on litigation, pitting neighbor against neighbor, disagreeing over maintenance boundaries and the like.
    The next year, 1989, brought the installation of the Land Use Guidance System (LUGS) to replace the existing Subdivision Ordinances. It instilled the citizens’ concerns from the Comprehensive Plan with the elimination of private roads from the subdivision process. All subdivision roads, therefore, had to be public, and built to the Highway Department standards. This was basically a repeat of the policy from 1963 to 1975. The implementation of LUGS was an attempt to control growth in the county without conventional zoning methods. It was an abysmal failure, however, for many reasons, among which was the allowance of one acre lots creating sprawl eating into the Ag. Lands.
    In 1998, LUGS was therefore terminated, and the current Zoning Ordinance which we have today was implemented. The stated purpose of this new Zoning Ordinance was to implement the Comprehensive Plan. This included numerous methods for the preservation and protection of the Ag. Lands. Among those were the requirements for 3 acre minimum lot sizes with limited numbers of divisions per parcel of land.
    In 2000 the current Subdivision Ordinance was implemented. Aside from the one special exemption of a “family subdivision,” all roads were once again specified to be for public use and up to state standards issued by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
    Following the millennium, the citizens’ voice was tallied once again through scientific surveys, which resulted in the new Bedford County 2025 Comprehensive Plan becoming implemented in 2007. Among other principles renewed was the strong sentiment to provide preservation and protection to the Ag. Lands throughout the county.
    This brings us to the present B.O.S. proposal to amend the current Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances of Bedford County. The proposal allows private roads, or “easements,” back into the Subdivision Ordinance. This provides a way for developers to reach into the Ag. Lands which are not on public roads, and turn these into “minor subdivisions,” of up to five house developments. It also allows one acre lots back into the Ag. Lands. These proposals provide housing developers a much cheaper way to build. They are also direct violations to the Comprehensive Plan.
    What the B.O.S. is proposing are documented failed policies from 1975 and 1989. The Ag. Lands will become littered with one acre sprawl, driving out the farmers. Again, we will have private road problems with neighbor against neighbor litigations in court, as well as the additional troubles of access by public responders to these areas. There are already 1,876 named private roads within Bedford County.
    How is it possible for B.O.S. members to claim concerns for protecting the Ag. Lands, on the one hand, and submit proposals which ultimately result in the complete destruction of the Ag. Lands on the other hand. The records of the past, if heeded, provide lessons in order that we not repeat mistakes made previously.