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Tate: Carroll gutted subdivision ordinance

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A citizen who followed the county's work on the law says supervisors went too easy on developers.

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HILLSVILLE  — The majority of the Carroll County Board of Supervisors caved to pressure from developers when they approved a subdivision ordinance with relaxed restrictions in June, a citizen said at the county board’s July meeting.

Janet Tate, who criticized the supervisors during citizens’ time at the July 13 meeting, closely followed the county’s process of updating the ordinance for several years.

She attended planning commission meetings, studied subdivision ordinances for other localities, gathered information and statistics about development in Carroll, spoke at public hearings and more.

Though the planning commission had offered more stringent regulations in the proposed ordinance meant to control residential growth, a majority of Carroll supervisors dialed back requirements for minimum lot sizes and road widths in Class B subdivisions and minimum sizes for lots to be served by well and septic systems in Class A subdivisions.

Tate excepted Supervisor Tom Littrell from her criticisms, because he tried to hold out for the tougher protective clauses, though in the end he voted for the amended proposal.

Developers and others who make a living that depends on residential growth objected to the earlier subdivision ordinance proposals, calling them potential economic disasters that would have cost Carroll jobs and future tax revenue by slowing growth.

Tate, who ran for the Laurel Fork supervisor seat in the last election, called the subdivision ordinance one of the most important documents for protecting Carroll County citizens.

The state of Virginia has recognized the burdens that development places on a community by requiring all counties to have a subdivision ordinance, she said. While developed land needs fire, rescue, police services and more, open land requires few services and costs taxpayers less money.

(Tate attempted to show the cost of poor planning at a previous public hearing by noting that, while 11 percent of all developments in Carroll are recreational subdivisions, those same subdivisions generate less than 5 percent of all real estate tax revenue for the county.)

“Land is not a commodity  — it cannot be replaced,” Tate told the supervisors.

The supervisors took it upon themselves to water down the ordinance that the planning commission proposed, Tate said.

 Several of these same planning commission members have taken classes about development and its ramifications.

“In my view, the majority of the board of supervisors have gutted the subdivision ordinance that the planning commission members had worked so diligently to prepare.”

Residential development does not pay for itself, she said. But smart and responsible development can: provide construction and maintenance jobs; provide housing for all, not just for second- and summer-home owners; generate revenue for local businesses; bring in state income tax revenue; and provide tax money to Carroll County.

“Wildcat development” has been typical for Carroll in the past, and Tate finds that has created problems with shared wells, failed wells and septic systems placed on land with no reserve areas to dig replacements, insufficient lot sizes, dry well, narrow, steep and unsafe roads, disagreements over private roads, inadequate access for emergency vehicles and many private roads that can receive no public services such as trash pickup, snow removal or mail delivery.

Tate said she’s for responsible development that enhances the county and creates much needed housing.

“Carroll County’s subdivision ordinances have catered to the second home market  — because of the undue and unfair influence of special interest groups   — and this one is not much different in that regard,” she said.

The margin of profits for second homes is so large, and Carroll’s few requirements means developing in the county costs less and is more profitable for the developers, she said. That’s not “an incentive for construction of affordable housing for local working folks.”

“Other counties do a better job protecting their county’s taxpaying citizens,” Tate concluded.

The supervisors did not respond to Tate’s statements.