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Comprehensive plan hearing is set

March 18, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed draft to the Washington County Comprehensive Plan, which includes controversial density restrictions on some properties.

The plan lays the groundwork for the county's development over the next 20 years.

The draft was released May 15, 2001. Public meetings on it began that week and continued through mid-July. The county held 18 town hall meetings to get responses to more than 150 recommended changes to the plan

Through comments at those meetings, as well discussions by the Planning Commission, some changes have been proposed to the draft, Planning Director Robert Arch said. Those changes will be explained Tuesday.

At one or more future meetings, the Planning Commission will go over testimony from the public hearing and, at some point, vote to recommend the Washington County Board of Commissioners adopt the plan, Arch said. The commissioners will need to hold at least one public hearing prior to adoption of the plan.

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One part of the plan which sparked criticism at the town meetings was its zoning density restrictions.

The revised plan calls for changing the density requirements for preservation, environmental conservation and agricultural preservation zoning areas.

For example, property owners in preservation zoning districts would be limited to one home per 30 acres. The existing limit is one home per three acres.

That change was suggested by the state government, which has been pushing counties to take greater control over development, Arch said.

But Planning Commission staff members, responding to citizens upset about the change, have added to the draft an incentive program in which property owners can have a higher density of up to one unit per 10 acres if certain conditions are met.

The incentive program is a way to reward landowners who would agree to certain criteria such as having visual buffering along roads, Arch said.

When adopted, the document will be the first new comprehensive plan since 1981.

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