Subdivision ordinance changes proposed

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Two citizens shared their property rights issues about Carroll County’s subdivision ordinance at the May 13 meeting, as the board of supervisors considered adopting several changes.
Planning Commission members have proposed several modifications to the regulations meant to control growth, explained Ronald Newman, Carroll’s planning official.
The additions to the subdivision ordinance included:

• adding language to define commercial lots, flag lots, flag pole and industrial lot.
The current ordinance does not define a commercial lot, an industrial lot, a flag lot or a flag pole, Newman said.
“There’s been some issues that there’s been some attempts for commercial or retail type of businesses and they couldn’t meet VDOT’s commercial entrance requirement,” he explained. “Our ordinance does not address that. It only addressed residential."
This new language would define industrial and commercial lots and would state that, if a lot can meet VDOT requirements for commercial and industrial entrances, then it will meet the county’s standards, Newman said.
The issue with the “flag lot” and “flag pole” leading to it was originally brought up by a surveyor. The concern was that the ordinance didn’t have a minimum width for access.
Commission members decided that the right of way should be 20 feet wide, the same as for a family subdivision.

adding language to define “served by state maintained road,” as well as making additions for commercial and industrial lot entrances and bridges.
Commission members adopted a policy that a lot is served by a state maintained road if the lot joins it and a driveway can be built to connect to it.
The commission also changed the wording of the language that has to be included on a plat for private roads not built to VDOT standards, Newman said.
What to do about privately built bridges also became an issue for the planning commission. Newman indicated that the key point here is heavy equipment being able to get across.
“The commission has a concern of equipment getting across the bridges — whether it be construction equipment or, specifically, emergency equipment, especially fire trucks,” Newman said.
The commission members proposed that private bridges should be designed by engineers and inspected once every five years, he added. Copies of the designs and inspection reports should be provided to the commission.
Supervisor Josh Hendrick noted there was a tendency to steer away from putting a weight limit on those bridges.
“My only concern is  c you could engineer a 10,000-pound bridge as easy as you can a 40,000-pound bridge or an 80,000-pound bridge,” Hendrick said.
People want to make the bridge strong enough to get their car or their pick-up truck across.
“But when the house catches on fire and the tanker pulls out across that dude, splash,” the supervisor said.
Commission members did not want to get into the business of designing bridges, Newman said. But if supervisors want to include a minimum weight limit, that’s fine.
The goal isn’t to make the subdivision ordinance restrictive on landowners, said Supervisors’ Chairman David Hutchins. “But it was to provide for the safe travel and passage for fire and rescue vehicles.”
Supervisors wanted the planning commission to review this issue again, after they held the public hearing on the proposed ordinance.

• defining “served by public water and sewer.”
Commission members propose that hooking on to public water and sewer lines will be required where new structures are built. Newman said that existing homes will not be required to hook up.

• adding exemptions on conservation easements and agricultural and forestal districts.
Some landowners have expressed a desire to put a conservation easement on their property or go into an agricultural or forestal district, but that’s at odds with the growth development tier set out in the comprehensive plan, Newman said.
The proposal contains a provision in which the first 100 feet off the road would be separated out and the back part of the property would be eligible for a conservation easement or entry into the ag or forestal districts.
This would require a survey of the property.
Newman said this would protect public funds that have been invested in that area to drive development.
During the public hearing, property owner Gordon Devries said he was happy to hear that the supervisors were considering changing the subdivision ordinance.
Imposing a 40-foot right of way made it so that he couldn’t sell 20 acres of his 25, because he didn’t have a wide enough access, Devries said. This also affected his neighbors.
“It’s a hardship for a lot of people and that’s just one little piece of property," Devries said. “I’m sure it’s going to affect a lot of people in the county. I’m sure it’s going to stifle a lot of development — you’re talking plumbers, construction people. there’s a lot of that goes into that.”
Speaker Phillip McCraw, whose name is similar to that of the Fancy Gap supervisor, said the subdivision ordinance has taken away peoples’ rights.
He noted that Fancy Gap, where people grow apples and peaches and raise cows, received a growth tier designation.
“I don’t know if the board realized it the time they passed it or not,” he said. “They took the rights in the form of agriculture protected... [You] can't do an ag-forestal district in a growth tier. Can’t do a conservation easement, which I’m not interested in, but other people in the county are unfairly targeted.”
Supervisors took no action on the proposal.