Building rules help Warren County plan
By Alex Bridges
As Shenandoah County revisits its highway building rules, Warren County sees benefits from its U.S. 340-522 corridor regulations.
Warren County created its highway corridor overlay district and the corresponding development requirements in 1998, Planning Director Taryn Logan said Wednesday. The district rules apply to the U.S. 340-522 North Corridor, from Fairground Road to Interstate 66, and on Va. 55 East (John Marshall Highway) from the Front Royal town limits to Fauquier County.
“It helped us plan for that corridor and development in the corridor,” Logan said. “Out of that overlay district ordinance came our transportation plan for the corridor because the main goal of the ordinance is to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety by providing shared entrances, inter-parcel connection between the businesses, access on secondary streets.”
The overlay district spans 1,000 feet on either side of the corridor and the rules apply to many aspects of development — parking, building construction, service areas, setbacks and height limits.
The district rules let the county limit certain automobile-oriented, fast-service turnover uses and related signs that generate significant amounts of traffic. The county created the district “to provide suitable and sufficient road systems” and “to protect existing and future highways from unsafe use and enhance the aesthetics” of the corridors.
Warren County’s Comprehensive Plan since the 1970s identified the U.S. 340-522 Corridor as an area for commercial development. In the mid 1990s the county began work on a plan for building in the corridor because industrial development had occurred, Logan recalled.
“The thought was that commercial development was gonna occur there,” Logan said. “The majority of our commercial development has occurred since  … I definitely don’t think [the rules] hindered our economic development in the corridor.”
In addition to the various industrial and commercial users, the corridor also includes the Riverton Commons and Crooked Run West shopping centers.
Around the same time that Warren County implemented the overlay district rules, it reached an agreement with Front Royal that called for the town to supply water and sewer service to the corridor. Offering utilities in the corridor was seen as a major tool to attract commercial development to that area of the county.
Shenandoah County established its highway overlay district in 2008. But Shenandoah County planning officials, at the request of the Board of Zoning Appeals, recently began looking into the Old Valley Pike Overlay District and whether or not the rules hinder commercial growth along U.S. 11. Shenandoah County’s overlay district rules.
Like Shenandoah County, overlay district rules in Warren County serve in addition to underlying zoning regulations. But some Shenandoah County leaders claim the overlay district rules add an unnecessary layer of regulations that
Warren County is in a different situation than Shenandoah County. The U.S. 340-522 Corridor is a four-lane highway divided by a median, with development on either side. Old Valley Pike is largely a two-lane, divided highway that runs through Shenandoah County and its six towns. Shenandoah County’s overlay district rules govern sections of the highway not in town limits.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org