More green, calmer roads, fewer signs, planners hear

Comprehensive plan ideas

To review the rest of the suggestions lobbied at the comprehensive plan forums, see the following stories:

Planners recommend cat shelter

Planners OK Maazels’ tourist plans

More ideas were floated on the county’s upcoming revision to the comprehensive plan at the Rappahannock County Planning Commission’s meeting Wednesday night (June 19) at the Flint Hill fire hall.

The county’s comprehensive plan is designed to guide the county’s planning and land use decisions, and is reevaluated every five years to ensure it reflects the county’s current thinking on land use, zoning and other issues.

Flint Hill resident, innkeeper and frequent comprehensive plan commenter Phil Irwin spoke first at Wednesday’s meeting, suggesting a few more areas for the plan to focus on. Irwin, who said he’d previously spotlighted 12 areas “to look at for tweaking,” added three more: signs in the county, land management and tourism.

“There are too many signs in the county,” Irwin said, adding that he’d seen “someone manage to stick 43 at Massies [Corner].” Irwin suggested the plan address signs placed in public areas (not on home or property owners’ private land) and consider limiting them.

Irwin also said he’d like to see the revised plan find ways to promote tourism and ensure landowners responsibly and environmentally manage their land purchases, two propositions supported by Amissville resident Bev Hunter, who spoke after Irwin.

Hunter pointed out that the county benefits greatly from its proximity to Shenandoah National Park, and said she’d like to see the new plan “substantially increase the language on the importance of parks.”

Jennifer Matthews, also of Flint Hill, agreed with both Hunter and Irwin, but addressed some other issues as well. Matthews’ biggest focus was traffic calming, which she said Rappahannock was in desperate need of, especially since other areas with major through-roads had achieved it.

“If you’re standing out in the road here, you’re going to get smacked,” Matthews said, adding that she routinely sees people speed through Flint Hill. “We try to promote walking and biking . . . something needs to be done.”

Matthews, vice chair of the county’s board of zoning appeals, also urged the commissioners to address derelict properties in the county, arguing that they should have to be maintained “at some level, especially if they’re in a village.” Matthews also requested the commissioners consider regulating people target practicing with firearms in their yards, better define the concept of a yard sale and care for the county’s aging population (and the lack of health care professionals in Rappahannock).

Jackson district resident Don Loock, land conservation officer in the county for the Piedmont Environmental Council, was the last to comment, first taking a moment to compliment the commissioners on the comprehensive plan, describing it as “the best of any of the surrounding counties,” before suggesting some improvements.

Loock suggested the new plan emphasize and leverage Rappahannock’s rivers by establishing conservation easements for local lands that border (or contain) rivers, as well as start official “scenic river designations.”

He also suggested the commissioners provide some incentive to keep the school district buying local products – it helps local businesses and could lead to those businesses selling to other, outside school systems, Loock suggested – and work to establish more county parks. The parks, Loock offered, could help attract more families to the area, especially since “most of our population isn’t out hiking.”

Wednesday’s meeting was the final open forum on the comprehensive plan. County Administrator McCarthy said this week that he’ll be compiling the community’s comments and present them to the commissioners at their July meeting, soliciting their feedback on the comments before deciding what to focus on with the new plan. A draft of that new plan, McCarthy said, will most likely appear at the commission’s September or October meetings.

In other action, the commission also chose to table a special-use permit allowing Susan Fitzgerald to use the single-family home currently on her property as an efficiency dwelling while her new house is being built. The application was continued to the commission’s July meeting because the commissioners had several questions about it and McCarthy was absent from the meeting.