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Three commissioners air concerns about comprehensive plan

May 01, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Three members of the Washington County Board of Commissioners said Tuesday they are concerned about the fairness of certain recommended density reductions contained in the proposed draft of the Washington County Comprehensive Plan.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioners William J. Wivell and Paul L. Swartz also questioned whether the public understands that the proposed density changes would limit how many houses a property owner could have on land in preservation, environmental conservation and agricultural preservation zoning districts.

The density issue was the focus of many of the comments at 18 town hall meetings held after the plan proposal was released May 15, 2001, Planning Director Robert Arch said at Tuesday's commission meeting.

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The plan, which recommends more than 150 changes, lays the groundwork for the county's development over the next 20 years.

The density changes were suggested by the state, which has been encouraging counties to take greater control over development, Arch said.

Swartz said he thinks the restrictions will hurt the land values of affected property owners.

Snook said he was concerned the restrictions would limit property owners' future development plans.

The Washington County Planning Commission on April 1 unanimously voted to recommend the commissioners adopt the proposed plan.

Planners summarized the plan at Tuesday's commission meeting.

The commissioners are scheduled to discuss the plan again in two weeks, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

The commissioners must hold at least one public hearing before voting on the plan. The hearing will be held in June or July, Arch said.

The draft proposes the following density requirement changes:

n Property owners in preservation zoning districts would be limited to one home per 30 acres. The existing limit is one home per three acres. There are 67,635 acres in the districts.

n Property owners in environmental conservation zoning districts would be limited to one home per 20 acres. The current limit is one home per two acres. There are 90,945 acres in the district.

n Property owners in agricultural preservation zoning districts would be limited to one home per 10 acres. The current limit is one home per acre. There are 84,981 acres in the district.

The Planning Commission later added to the draft an incentive program that would reward landowners who agree to certain criteria, such as having visual buffers along roads and using historic easements.

Under the incentive program, property owners in preservation districts could have up to one unit per 10 acres, environmental conservation district property owners could have up to one unit per eight acres and agricultural preservation district property owners could have up to one unit per five acres.

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