With portions of the new zoning ordinance passing last Tuesday, what does this mean for Northampton County? If someone finds out, please tell us at the Mirror, because we are not ashamed to admit that we are totally confused by the whole thing. From talking to several folks in the community though, it is the threat of increased density and over development that is the main fear.
The increases in density, that is, being able to build By Right, notably around places such as Willis Wharf and Oyster, with some up to 4 units per acre, is a crucial concern (also, how is the county supposed to pay for services to these new developments?).
A good bit of the push back to the new zoning is that rather than By Right density increases, the county should instead be requiring a rezoning to higher density. That is, it removes the possibility of negotiating increased density and in return getting a few affordable housing units in return. The claim that increasing density will make affordable housing possible (this has been the Homebuilder’s Association argument), is an unsolvable logic puzzle, a Catch 22. The developer can offer a proffer, such as road improvements, building a playground or fire station–that is, he can offer to do things they believe will provide incentives to the county to
permit the increased density, yet this can only happen with a rezoning. The same policy that should be creating more affordable housing options for folks like our teachers, instead lets developers off the hook and relieves them of being required to provide said affordable housing.
Although the Planning Commission attempted to remove the requirement for ammonia scrubbers for intensive farming operations, the BoS did push back, and kept that requirement in, thus making high volume chicken farming less feasible for Northampton.
Still, the vote Tuesday left these lingering thoughts, as was expressed by this citizen in a comment to the Mirror:
1. The portions of the zoning ordinance that were passed are so diametrically opposed to our current comprehensive plan, which is the collective will of the citizenry, that it can be characterized as nothing less than a land use train wreck. The Code of Virginia demands that any zoning ordinance amendment or revision be consistent with the controlling comprehensive plan. This has been affirmed by the Virginia Supreme Court. Emphatically.
2. The portions of the zoning ordinance that were passed were done so with no benefit from studies, testimony, or probative evidence. The Code of Virginia demands that any zoning ordinance amendment or revision be based on “economic and other studies”, which Charles McSwain admitted on record were never done. The requirement to base zoning amendments or revisions on probative evidence has been affirmed by the Virginia Supreme Court. In spades.
3. The portions of the zoning ordinance that were passed were done so after a public notice was sent to landowners, such public notice being so convoluted and disjointed that even a Rhodes scholar would have trouble understanding how his or her land was to be effected by the proposed changes. Indeed, in the mail we received land use maps, and in the Eastern Shore News, in microscopic print, was a list of uses that would be allowed in each new or reconfigured land use designation.
And, it can also be summed by this anonymous comment posted to the Mirror:
After Tuesday’s memorable landmark BoS meeting one cannot help but wonder why are we so incapacitated ? And in this day and age. For upwards of two years if not longer it seems as if Northampton has had a cancer festering. Citizens persistently have tried to tackle it, painstakingly & tactfully. Is there a doctor in the house?!
Nearly four centuries ago: 363/4 years actually since future America’s first protest against taxation without representation in the spring of 1651/2, Northampton complained to James City of several years weightie taxes. We know better what happened in a similar vein over a century later.
Yesterday morning amid our ongoing lovely weather, throngs of bluebirds and myrtle warblers flocked around their rarely utilized birdbath to the west. Looking east out of their sight range we discovered a large feral cat dwarfing their regular dive as it sipped, perched grossly topside, arrogantly staring us down & refusing to depart when coercive noises were made.
Such a visual experience at once reminded us of our history and the frustration and reality of our meetings and lower shore dilemmas.