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Orange planners say comp plan needs work

After more than a year of work to update the Orange County Comprehensive Plan, planning commissioners agreed that the plan needs even more improvements.

The commissioner’s decision came after the majority of the 28 speakers at its public hearing Thursday expressed disapproval of one or more aspects of their proposal.

Three of them were Spotsylvania County residents who expressed opposition to inclusion of the Wilderness Gateway Study in the updated plan. The three—all residents of Millridge Lane, just east of the Orange–Spotsylvania border—specifically challenged the proposal to create an impoundment of Wilderness Run that would straddle the dividing line and flood their land.

“I stand to lose at least 20 of my 25 acres,” said Robert Foster.

Commission Chairman Donald Brooks described the impoundment proposal as “the Wilderness Gateway Study talking, not the Orange County Planning Commission.”

Numerous speakers expressed displeasure with the A2 definition used in the future land-use map, which they saw as allowing residential and commercial growth. They called on the commission to keep the county rural.

“Why are we opening our county to sprawl?” asked Jack Snider of Chicken Mountain Road. “Do our citizens really want this? This whole project has been pretty much a secret.”

Speakers also expressed a preference for the 2006 comprehensive plan, last updated in 2009, with a land-use map that showed the county as almost completely agricultural.

Dianne Strong of Barboursville, however, felt that the commission had done a good job in mapping the existing conditions and patterns of growth in the county, and supported the proposed plan.

“We have to recognize what is here before we can have a future,” she said.

Bill Speiden, representing the Orange County Farm Bureau, presented numerous suggested changes, including measures to protect the Evarona Limestone Spur from business and industrial waste contamination.

The spur, running along the State Route 15 corridor to Evarona, he said, is the second largest source of Orange County’s water after the Rapidan River.

Steve Yelton of Barboursville said he felt that many of the views being expressed contradicted the wishes of the majority of county residents. He supports the proposed plan and said he would like to see more commercial development along U.S. 33.

Henry Lee Carter of Orange, speaking as a citizen rather than representing the Orange Town Council on which he serves, said opponents of economic growth and development were making an “idyllic presentation of the way Orange should be,” not the way it is.

Noting that some 80 percent of county land parcels consist of fewer than 20 acres, while 9 percent are 20 acres or greater, he said the opponents seemed to advocate an approach of, “Let’s run the lesser 80 percent of the people out of the county so us 9 percent can have our beautiful vista.”

Jim Walsh, president of the Lake of the Woods Association, pointed out that the proposed plan includes no information on the inundation zones of the community’s two dams, and suggested that no development should occur within these zones.

He said LOW, which he said has about 8,500 residents, supports a Tourism Corridor Overlay concept to protect the rural appearance of development along the Route 3 corridor, and also supports implementation of recommendations of Orange County’s 2009 water supply study to deal with potential water shortfalls.

Commissioner George Yancey said he supports keeping the county rural, but also wants residents to be able to buy a sport coat, shoes or shirts there and for children educated in Orange schools to be able to find jobs in the county.

The county, he said, “needs to have a substantial tax base so it can survive the future.” Without commercial development, he said, taxes on land will continue to rise.

Commissioner Andy Hutchinson suggested taking the public input and making changes, where needed, to the plan.

Chairman Brooks agreed, saying it was “not ready for the Board of Supervisors yet.”

The four commissioners present voted unanimously to table the draft for further work. Commissioner J.P. Tucker was absent due to a family funeral.

Dan McFarland:

dmcfarland@freelancestar.com

 

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