By Elizabeth Wilkerson -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- In the coming years, Strasburg needs the flexibility to attract and accommodate different types of development, several members of the Planning Commission said Tuesday.
At the commission's Tuesday session, town planner Judson Rex said the group had discussed residential density and how it impacts the character of a community at its last meeting. The commission decided to seek guidance on the issue from the Town Council, he said.
Rex said he'd prepared three growth/density scenarios and hoped to have a commission recommendation on one of them to present to the council at its Saturday work session.
The high-impact scenario is based on a 1.7 percent average annual growth rate and an average density of two dwelling units per acre, he said, so lots of people would be moving to town but homes would be built sparsely.
In that scenario, the town's population would double by 2050 and 3,174 new residential units would be needed, he said. About 2,500 of those units would need to be built in future growth areas now in the county, requiring about 1,500 acres of land, he said.
The scenario is "intensive," Rex said, and it "pretty much fills up everything inside the interstate."
Councilman Scott Terndrup suggested the group consider the pros and cons for each scenario. Rex said the 1.7 percent growth rate was a little high, but using it would allow the town to "plan conservatively."
The high-impact scenario absorbs more land, Terndrup said, so there's less space for commercial and industrial growth.
Commissioner Carl Rinker said he favored the moderate-impact scenario, which is based on a 1.4 percent average annual growth rate and a density of 3.5 dwelling units per acre. In that scenario, the town would have about 5,250 new residents by 2050, and almost half of the roughly 2,450 new dwelling units that would be needed could be built on existing lots or infill areas.
"You've got a balance there, it seems to me," Rinker said.
Commissioner Robert Flanagan said he favored that scenario as well, but would prefer a density of 3 dwelling units per acre.
An advantage of the scenario is it requires less land, Rex said, but underestimating the growth and density in the comprehensive plan could create problems for the town down the road.
Later in the discussion, Rex said the low-impact scenario, which is based on a 1.1 percent average annual growth rate and a density of 5 dwelling units per acre, would not require the town to grow much physically. But, he said, the scenario would require that many lots in town be used for townhouses, condos or apartments.
Of all the scenarios, the low-impact option would change the character of Strasburg the most, Rex said.
After further discussion, Terndrup asked whether the high- and moderate-impact scenarios could be blended. Rex said he'd bump the growth rate up to 1.7 percent and lower the density to 3 dwelling units per acre.
Rinker said he liked that suggestion, and Flanagan said it took the best of the two scenarios. Terndrup said the town needed to have the flexibility to accommodate both traditional, single-family homes and more dense, mixed land uses.
Rex said he'd prepare a report for the council's work session based on the blended scenario.