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Strasburg set to adopt development rules

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg's sweeping new development rules appear poised for passage.

Town Council met Monday to continue its discussion of the Unified Development Ordinance, a large document that incorporates Strasburg's subdivision and zoning regulations. Council had at a previous meeting asked Town Attorney Nathan Miller to weigh in on any legal issues he may see with the regulations and to recommend any changes before it comes back for adoption.

Town Manager Judson Rex said he expects council to consider the new regulations at its July 15 meeting. The town already held the required public hearing earlier this spring.

Council asked Miller to finish his review of the proposed ordinance by the end of this week. Miller completed his review of the first three chapters and has looked at portions of the other sections, Rex said. Once Miller provides his comments to the town, staff will incorporate the input into the document. Council will then get a look at the final draft for its consideration.

Miller raised questions as to whether or not the town could defend the ordinance if the document only referred to the state code or cited pertinent segments rather than incorporate entire sections of Virginia's regulations. As Rex explained, local governments can only do what the state explicitly allows under statute.

"We wanted to make sure everything was cohesive with the state code and that there were proper references and that the two sort of matched up," Rex said.

Staff members propose that the new regulations take effect immediately after adoption. At the work session Monday night, town staff suggested that the town also set up an informal grace period that may last through the end of the year, Rex said.

"Our emphasis is going to be on education and outreach in terms of helping people to get familiar with the UDO and the regulations that are in there," Rex said. "We feel like it's good we're getting it adopted and getting in place but along with that we want to make sure that we're getting word out to folks on how this is going to impact them and what changes they might be looking at."

Town officials want to allow for some flexibility when it comes to enforcement of the new rules, Rex said. Properties in compliance with the current regulations will be grandfathered in under the new ordinance, Rex said. Property owners seeking to make changes to the use of their building or land would need to follow the new guidelines.

"For the most part the regulations within the UDO are in alignment with what our existing code is," Rex said, adding that this should limit the instances where properties are grandfathered in.

The town enlisted the aid of Planning Works Inc. to help Strasburg officials draft the document. The effort that began late last summer and early fall involved many stakeholders including residents, business and property owners along. Economic Development and Planning Manager Kimberly Murray reached out to the community, talked to stakeholders and gathered input.

"So there was considerable outreach last fall," Rex said.

Information about the Unified Development Ordinance can be found on the town's website at http://www.strasburgva.com/Facility-Info/Departments/Planning-Economic-Development/Current-Projects.aspx.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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