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Zoning meeting draws public interest

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By John Barnhart

t look, Monday night, at proposed changes to the county’s zoning ordinance.

    Bedford County’s community development department held an informational meeting in the County Administration building’s ground floor training room. The walls were covered with maps of each district showing the current zoning and the proposed new zoning. The maps for the proposed new zoning were covered with clear plastic sheets that allowed people to write suggestions on them. The proposed maps were the first draft of the zoning maps.

    The event was more of a zoning open house than a meeting with an  agenda. It lasted from 4:30 until 7 p.m. and people could come as they had opportunity. George Nester, director of community development, and his staff were on hand to listen and answer questions.

    The meeting was well attended with a steady flow of people coming in shortly after the door opened. Nester said that the county staff were mainly getting questions.

    James Hall Jr., who lives in District 5, was one of those who came in to see the changes. His property is in an area zoned AP (Agricultural Preserve). The new map shows the area zoned AG (Agricultural). Hall wondered what the difference was.

    According to Nester, AG and AP are similar. When the county adopted a zoning ordinance in 1998, it essentially adopted Roanoke County’s. Nester said that the county is using Montgomery County’s ordinance as a guide for the new version. Montgomery County’s was chosen because that county has the same type of development as Bedford County. It is also located between two metropolitan areas and these urban cores affect both ends of the county. There are also a lot of residents who commute to jobs outside the county.

    “I don’t want to see any more development,” said Kathy Husted. “That’s what we moved away from.”

    Nester said that 80 percent of the land in Bedford County is currently undeveloped. The plan is for the bulk of the county to stay rural.

    Ty Mosby, who works for an engineering firm, had a double reason for coming in to take a look. The firm Mosby works for has a lot of clients in Bedford County ranging from residential developers to commercial and industrial clients. He wants to see how the proposed changes would affect them.

    “But, I live in Bedford County, so I’m here for me, too,” he said.

    Mosby said that what was on display is just touching the surface. The details, which will be worked out in the winter, will be really important.

    One of the issues the details will contain is clustering. Nester said that this creates a smaller development footprint and keeps it from being strictly along roads and from gobbling up as much land. He said that state law requires local zoning ordinances to allow cluster development as a use by right in 40 percent of its agricultural and residential zones.

    Nester expects to draft most of the ordinance’s language this winter. This involves writing the details that Mosby referred to.

    Nester promised additional neighborhood meetings. The county is currently working on setting up times and locations.

    He said that each property owner will receive a notice in the mail notifying them of the proposed zoning of their property. Property owners will be able to make an appointment with a planner to talk it over.