Dear Members of the Board of Supervisors:
The Comprehensive Plan, presently being reviewed and revised, can be a valuable tool for the county in planning in an organized and consistent fashion how best to meet the needs of county residents and to maintain Rappahannock’s open spaces and rural character, as appears to be desired by the vast majority of citizens. As noted by the Board of Zoning Appeals, a number of citizens, and in a previous United Citizens of Rappahannock (UCOR) letter, there are deficiencies in the present revised version of the plan.
In reality, the task of properly developing a revised Comprehensive Plan is hard work. It entails, at a minimum: amassing and reviewing data on where the county is now and how it has changed since the earlier versions of the current plan were put together nearly 40 years ago; determining what county residents want and how to reconcile potentially conflicting desires of residents (e.g., expanding cell phone service desired by many residents may entail having more towers which are opposed by many residents); and recommending what land use and other policies will advance and implement the plan.
The task of simply committing to paper a plan reflecting the factual conclusions and recommendations of the Planning Commission is a significant task. The members of the Planning Commission need help in completing this task to ensure that the plan’s policies and implementation will be of greatest benefit to the county. Saying that help is needed is not criticism of the Planning Commission or its members. The Planning Commission members are well situated to make assess data and make judgments. The Commission, however, needs assistance in collecting data, maximizing citizens’ input, and in the actual organization and writing of the plan. Expecting commission members, who are essentially unpaid and working full-time, to do all the work of producing a revised Comprehensive Plan is unfair and unrealistic.
Accordingly, UCOR recommends that the Board of Supervisors temporarily fund assistance for the Planning Commission. First, we believe that an experienced facilitator should be retained to prepare for and conduct public sessions to garner meaningful public input. Second, the county should provide funds to hire a professional to draft, taking into consideration public comment and the views of the Planning Commission, a revised plan. Once the draft is complete, further revisions may be appropriate, as directed by the Planning Commission. This professional could be the same person who facilitated public sessions or someone else. In any event, it should be someone with expertise with the Commonwealth’s requirements for comprehensive plans and who has had experience and favorable recommendations from counties with similar policies to Rappahannock’s (i.e., maintaining our rural character and desire to maintain open spaces).
Co-Chairs, UCOR Issues Committee