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Urbanna zoning ordinance tabled

by Tom Chillemi

The Urbanna Planning Commission’s revision of the town zoning ordinance has been put on hold—indefinitely.

On September 24, the commission voted unanimously to table the town zoning code “as a whole, indefinitely.”

The commission has the option of working on sections of the zoning ordinance and proposing changes. Any change to the ordinance must be approved by town council.

After working on the proposed zoning ordinance for several years, the commission’s draft ordinance was criticized by at least three property owners at the August 27 public hearing on the proposed document.

At a subsequent work session, the commission discussed the proposed code. “We realized maybe we were trying to bite off too much in one chunk,” said commission chairman Phil Friday. “So we thought maybe the best idea was to table it as a whole and go back a piece at a time, as the subjects come up, and do the revisions that way.”

One problem, the critics noted, was that the proposed ordinance did not reference the section of the code that the new language replaced. There also were concerns about specific issues, such as the omission of the Intensely Developed Area (IDA) for the waterfront. Another concern was how Special Use Permits (SUPs) are granted, which could lead to spot zoning.

Friday had said the proposed zoning ordinance is simpler. It has just two zones—business and residential. With 101 pages, the draft ordinance is half the size of the current ordinance.

Another issue involves the proposed zoning ordinance format. Usually when an ordinance change is proposed, the section to be deleted is denoted with a “red line,” and the new language is written below the old section. The planners didn’t use this approach. “We red lined the whole thing [ordinance],” Friday told the audience at the August public hearing.

Critics insisted that the changes should be highlighted.

At the hearing, the commission indicated the changed sections could be “red lined.” However, the commission changed its stance and tabled the entire draft ordinance last week.

The Urbanna Planning Commission meets the fourth Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. in the town hall. The next meeting is on October 22. It will be a regular meeting “unless something comes up,” said Friday, who added there will be no work sessions for the time being.

posted 09.30.2009

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