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Nelson planning commission talks updates to comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance

Nelson planning commission talks updates to comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance

Nelson County Overlook

Nelson County as seen from an overlook on the Rockfish Gap Turnpike in Afton, Virginia on Thursday, August 14, 2020.

The Nelson County Planning Commission recently discussed moving forward on updating parts of the county’s comprehensive plan.

The update to the comprehensive plan — a document used to map out future growth and goals for development in the county — has been on hold after money to bring on a consultant for a more substantial review evaporated.

The funding measure helped offset the costs of the personal property tax relief for the first half of the year, which the Nelson County Board of Supervisors passed in April.

The county had to use $100,000 requested for the purposes of the comprehensive plan to provide personal property tax relieve to residents suffering loses as a result of the pandemic as well as meet other budgetary needs.

With money to bring on a consultant no longer available, commission chairman Mark Stapleton said during its August meeting he would like commissioners to target smaller changes during a regular or special meeting.

“At some point I’d like to take some time for us to put our heads together and see if there’s some other way to address those things we might think are high value, low hanging fruit kind of targets,” Stapleton said.

Commissioner Philippa Proulx, who represents the North District, said commissioners could make piecemeal changes to the document rather than replace the entire plan at one time.

State code requires the plan be updated every five years. Last updated in 2014, the county did perform a review of the document in 2019 but staff has eyed a larger, more extensive overhaul.

Also during the meeting, commissioners came to a consensus to allow staff to begin looking into potential changes to county zoning regulations that would allow for some agricultural uses on residential-zoned properties.

According to Dylan Bishop, director of planning and zoning, there have been several instances where residents live on residential-zoned properties that are equipped for agricultural use with certain conditions. Bishop said Amherst County has taken a similar measure.

For example, she said there is a residential-zoned property that is roughly 7 acres that is set up to house horses, but has not been used for that purpose in the past two years.

In the preliminary discussion, Bishop said residential properties could be used for agricultural purposes so long as there were no “nuisance conditions” caused by odor, noise, dust or other factors.

“So if you live in a residential zone but you have at least 2 acres and you want to use it for agriculture, then that would be something that’s by-right, but I wanted to bring it to you guys to discuss first,” Bishop said.

Proulx said she supported staff looking into the idea, but questioned if a 2-acre property, originally suggested by Bishop, would be large enough for livestock or other agricultural uses without being a disturbance to neighboring properties. She instead suggested staff consider making it a 5-acre minimum.

“Five sounds more reasonable than two,” Michael Harman, who represents the West District, said.

With the consensus from commissioners, Bishop told members proposed changes from staff would need to come back before the commission for review before being moved to a public hearing. From there it would go to the board of supervisors for consideration.

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