County revisits building rules

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK — A strict set of development regulations in Shenandoah hinders economic growth for Shenandoah County, a supervisor says.

District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey questioned the county’s Old Valley Pike Overlay District. Typically, jurisdictions create overlays to add more regulations to govern development in specific zoning districts.

The Office of Community Development is studying the overlay district rules as they pertain to economic growth, Director Brandon Davis told the Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday. The Board of Zoning Appeals has asked the office to look into the district regulations.

“We’ve got several creative ideas out there about how to take care of it and I’m still trying to poke holes in each one of them before I bring you something because I don’t want to present something to you that’s going to be ineffective,” Davis said. “We’re not there yet.”

But Bailey said the district rules hurt the county.

“The Route 11 Overlay is ineffective for the businesses and cost-prohibitive,” Bailey said. “How many businesses walked away from that over the last five years?”

Davis said he doesn’t have statistical data to show how many potential businesses chose not to locate in the district. However, the county does not have many parcels along U.S. 11 zoned for commercial use affected by the district rules.

“Most of the commercial growth we see occurs in the town and there’s reason for that,” Davis said. “That’s where the utilities are, aside from Toms Brook, Maurertown, and that’s one of those areas where we’re thinking real hard where we could maybe focus on growth and maybe have a little more control as far as operating the sewer facility, having access to the interstate and others.”

Bailey referred to a recent presentation in which officials heard that the district rules — on top of already established regulations — hindered development. Members of the Board of Zoning Appeals have said the district isn’t working, Bailey said.

Over the years county officials have heard some potential developers say they didn’t want to build because of the district, Davis said.

“It’s easy to say after the fact that it was the government’s fault that I decided not to go with the business,” Davis said. “I’m not saying that was the case on any or all of these but that’s out there as well.”

The county adopted the overlay district in 2008 and the rules took effect that September. The lengthy set of regulations begins by stating that the indent of the district is to ensure U.S. 11 offers residents and tourists “a safe and beautiful route through rural countryside and historic towns, a scenic byway and an artery offering opportunities for tourism and economic development.”

The overlay district affects all segments of U.S. 11 in the unincorporated areas of the county, including all land within 540 feet of the paved area of the undivided portions of the highway and the pavement of the closest lanes of the divided stretches of the road.

The district rules set design standards in various sub-districts for agricultural buildings, homes and subdivisions. The district regulates buffers, access points along U.S. 11, lighting, landscaping, signs and common areas for trash receptacles. The district rules also set rules for similar aspects of commercial and institutional development.

District 5 Supervisor Marsha Shruntz also mentioned the Community Planning Project, devised in 2010, and whether or not the initiative and the county’s agricultural and conservation districts hurt the county’s chances of attracting more business.

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