By Alex Bridges
Strasburg officials continue to revise the building rulebook ahead of a public release in the near future.
The town has contracted with Planning Works to lead the effort in updating Strasburg's zoning and subdivision ordinance. Currently the firm and officials are working on creating a Unified Development Ordinance that would combine the regulations into one document.
The work on revising the town's ordinances for zoning and subdivisions comes on the heels of the update of Strasburg's community plan. The Unified Development Ordinance is supposed to help the town implement the goals of the community plan.
Economic Development and Planning Manager Kimberly Murray explained that the ordinance will have an impact on the community and affects future development of the town.
"The ordinance needs to be the regulatory tool," Murray said. "The council's articulated they want to move forward with economic development opportunities that advances the community in a sustainable way and provides more value-added jobs and more community amenities that attract businesses, but also support and enhance what the residents and the community want."
Work by the contractor and town officials has focused on a few chapters at a time. Town Council have met on several occasions in recent weeks to hear from Planning Works representatives, Murray and other officials as they work on the ordinance.
Town officials continue to review the first several chapters of the ordinance as proposed. Rather than hand Town Council a large document for its consideration, the Planning Commission and the Ordinance Committee and staff bring sections the elected leaders for discussion and to receive recommendations.
All meetings and work sessions of the committees and council remain open to the public.
"We really are actually bringing the council through the process as the Planning Commission/Ordinance Committee is working on it," Murray said, adding that the committee includes council members. "It's a conservative process but I think it also gives opportunity for the public to be more involved, too."
By the end of the process, Murray said she hopes staff and elected leaders have addressed all the topics with the ordinance.
Murray plans to hold public focus groups on the subject to bring more input into their effort. Groups likely would include downtown business owners, landowners and developers to have broad conversations about the ordinance.
The town could get a draft ordinance prepared and ready to put out for public comment in October, Murray said.
"So we'll see if we're able to make that deadline," Murray said. "It's not an impossible deadline. It really depends on how much detail they want to get into with reviewing the document."
But Murray acknowledged some parts of the document and policy issues may take longer than others.
"If we really need to take some time and we can't move through them all, then we need to slow down so that we have a good process and we get the public involvement that we need to make informed decisions," Murray said.
Consultants plan to work with the town through the end of October.
But even before the draft of the document goes to the public for hearings and input sessions, council has addressed specific parts of the ordinance and given direction to staff. Earlier this month, council took up a recommendation from staff to create more zoning areas in the already established historic district. Council directed staff to leave the single historic zoning district as it exists.
The Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday for a joint work session with council's ordinance committee to resume discussions about the revised comprehensive plan. Murray said she expects to update the panels on the council's direction for the review process.
Conditional zoning, development proffers and what the town requires on applications also remain issues under review during the process. As Murray explained, the town requires developers provide less detail on some applications than desired.
"Right now our ordinance is pretty vague about the submission materials and the level of detail, so I'd like to get more input from them -- not necessarily the monetary side of things but more the impact on the land development itself," Murray said. "The level of detail necessary to make an informed decision on whether it meets the criteria for conditional zoning or not and how much information, what type of information they need to make that decision."
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org