Nearly three weeks after receiving a blistering letter from the Board of Zoning Appeals critical of its ongoing revision of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, the Rappahannock County Planning Commission at is regular meeting Wednesday night vowed to fill the biggest “gaps,” while keeping in mind it can’t please everybody in the process.
“I don’t think that we’re at a point where we’re addressing all of these [BZA} concerns, I’m not sure that we’ll ever be at a point where we’re addressing all the concerns. We’re certainly not going to make everybody happy with this Plan at any point going forward,” Planning Commission Chairman Gary Light informed fellow members.
Light’s remarks came more than an hour after two BZA members, David Konick and Ron Makela, reiterated during the Planning meeting’s public comment period that the current draft revision lacks “specific steps” that carries the county into the future — from language surrounding broadband and affordable housing to fire and rescue services.
Konick said Wednesday night that his own review of current language in the 2019 draft reveals it not only mirrors the 2004 and 1998 Comprehensive Plans, but is “identical to 80 or 90 percent” of what’s written in the 1980 Plan.
“Much has changed in Rappahannock County in 38 years, but it is not reflected in the Draft Plan,” the BZA said in its letter to the Planning Commission, dated March 3. “Many of the bullet points on ‘what is planning’ of the Draft Plan remain either undone or copied verbatim from the previous plans back to 1980 or earlier with no analysis.”
The letter continued: “Our representative on the Planning Commission, Mr. Bird, confirmed that the Commission has not had any meaningful discussion regarding verification of much of the information in the Draft Plan that was carried over from previous editions, or concerning the significance of some of the new data and has not made any substantive changes to the Draft Plan to deal with the trends they reflect.”
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At Wednesday night’s meeting, Light assured those in attendance that no public hearing on the 2019 draft would be scheduled until one or more “work sessions” were held — between members of the commission and ideally with the Rappahannock Board of Supervisors.
Meanwhile, Piedmont District Supervisor Christine Smith, the BOS representative to the Planning Commission, said the BZA’s letter was a “good checklist” to move forward with, given it pointed to specific deficiencies in the 2019 draft Plan. She said the letter’s suggestions would help “smooth the disjointedness” in the current revision.
Planning member Rick Kohler said while there is certainly room for improvements to the 2019 draft it didn’t mean the commision should “start over” from scratch, instead it was important to “get something on the table.” He added that there isn’t any excuse for the county to be so far behind in updating its Comprehensive Plan, suggesting in the future that it be a working document “year to year.”
Planner Al Henry said while he appreciated the letter from the BZA, he thought it not appropriate to include its members in future Planning Commission work sessions, as Konick suggested.
In other action Wednesday, the Planning Commission:
• Proposed that an ongoing application from John and Beth Cappiali surrounding a contractor’s yard permit for their property at 14168 Lee Highway, and more specifically a separate application for the construction of at least one storage building at the same site — which one neighbor has claimed amounts to a junkyard — be considered for a future meeting.
• Moved to schedule public hearings on separate applications that include: a family apartment at 40 Angel Kiss Lane in Castleton; a tourist home at 151 Blue Ridge Avenue in Chester Gap; and an expansion for Glen Gordon Manor at 1482 Zachary Taylor Highway in Huntly, allowing for a total of 14 guest rooms from the present 9, to be built within existing structures, while doubling the number of 100-maximum guest events (mostly weddings) each year to 12 from the current 6.