Water to be part of subdivision considerations

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Tasked with revising the county's subdivision ordinance proposal, Carroll's planning commission members may tap more into water availability issues.

The planning commission and the Carroll supervisors held a joint public hearing on a subdivision ordinance proposal in August, during which 16 people spoke.

That proposal would stop development of recreational subdivisions, require a 100 percent reserve area for septic systems, add a provision for developers to put in water systems for subdivisions with 15 or more single-family residences and add regulation of family subdivisions.

These provisions provoked objections, and in response, the supervisors voted to have the planning commission revisit the proposal with those concerns in mind.

The first thing that Assistant County Administrator Ronald Newman did at last Thursday's planning commission meeting was hand out copies of the transcript from the public hearing, so the members would be able to revisit the citizens' comments.

Then, he asked the members how they wanted to approach the revisions.

Member Margaret Leggett felt the planning commission might want to tackle three or four concerns at a time.

They could also seek the advice of officials with expertise on each topic, such as Virginia Department of Transportation's Bob Beasley on anything dealing with roads, she said.

Member Rex Hill said he would also like to hear from Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Roma on public safety issues.

Namon Strickland felt he knew what Roma would say, that he wants roads to be built to state standards.

Allen Caudell, who spoke in favor of revising the ordinance proposal at the August public hearing, suggested that the planning commission compile a list of the concerns and come up with solutions for each one.

That would allow the county officials to work through the issues and find answers. He expected that the process would go more smoothly when the revisions reached the supervisors.

They could accept what they felt would work, and any remaining concerns wouldn't cause the supervisors to shoot down the planning commission's entire draft.

"There's a process to go through that will get something done," he said.

Caudell, who has proposed subdivisions to the planning commission in the past but doesn't having anything pending now, volunteered to help the county officials however he could.

Chairman Larry Chambers proposed that the members make a list of the concerns and bring them back in October to start reviewing the subdivision ordinance.

Strickland hoped his fellow members would think about the water issues in relation to the subdivision ordinance.

"Everywhere you go people are running out of water," he noted.

Newman, who's also the executive director of the Public Service Authority, recapped the fact that the regional water project — which Carroll has partnered on with Wythe County and Wytheville — will supply water to Interstate 77's Exit 19.

This move is expected to spur development at the now-vacant interstate interchange.

Additionally, there are plans to connect Exit 19 to Virginia 100 as well as all existing water systems with the exceptions of Tower Road and Cana, he said.

Residents of Happy Hollow Road will soon proceed with a Self Help project to get a good water supply there, Newman said. And county officials are studying the possibilities of installing a public water system in Fancy Gap.

It took a lot of doing to find enough water at Exit 1 in order to convince Love's Truck Stop to locate there, he said. Calls are coming in from people in Cana with water needs.

"It's constant, people calling us," Newman said.

And if they have water in some cases, like Iron Ridge, it's not good quality water, he said.

People used to avoid properties in Carroll that didn't have streams running through them. Now people are building houses and drilling dry holes when they finally turn their attentions to the well.

Water's a necessary component of development, the county officials agreed.

Strickland recalled what the developer of Hillcrest subdivision told him after building a recreational subdivision with both paved roads and a water system that he gave to the PSA to operate — that the developer had made plenty of money even with the additional items he installed.

On the other hand, Strickland has a good friend who built a nice home in a subdivision on the mountainside and had to drill four wells to get enough water.

It's been that homeowner's experience that every time another home goes in below them, and another well is drilled to serve that house, then Strickland's friend's well goes dry.

Member Shelby Puckett thought she heard a lot of people at the public hearing expressing road concerns.

Newman said emergency services access to some of the developments remains a concern. He recalled a picture of a Chevy Suburban SUV on one road that was a pretty tight squeeze and asked members to imagine getting a fire truck on that same road.

Caudell said he had an interest in the road discussion, particularly those in recreational subdivisions.

It's easier to work with utility companies to put in service next to 30-foot-wide roads, he explained. Because of state requirements for 50-foot minimum rights of way, utility companies place their improvements in the 30-foot right of way confident that the roads will never be accepted into the system for state maintenance.

Wider roads increase the costs and the headaches of installing those utilities, he indicated.

One person that the planning commission will not get help from on the subdivision ordinance revisions is Terry Nester.

Newman told the members that Nester had resigned as of last Tuesday as the inspector for erosion and sediment control and as the subdivision agent, who assists the planning commission with development proposals.

The supervisors have transferred responsibility of inspections to the building official, Jim Whitten, who has certification in erosion and sediment issues.

Newman will serve as the subdivision agent, with Whitten as the assistant.

"We'll advertise for the erosion and sediment position. I'm not sure how quickly we will do it."

There are two schools of thought — either hire a replacement now or wait until later because building has been slowing down and it's not a pressing matter.