GUEST EDITORIAL: Withdraw the Proposed Rezoning
By DONNA BOZZA
Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore
November 10, 2014
Some 140 citizens gathered last Thursday at the Northampton Community Forum in Eastville to hear an explanation of the proposed countywide rezoning and some of the changes versus our current zoning. Volunteering their time and expertise, the panel included several trained, experienced Virginia State certified citizen Planning Commissioners, a scientist and Director at the University of Virginia’s Coastal Research Center, and a real estate broker of 40 years.
As co-sponsor of the event with Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper, Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore was encouraged by the large attendance. Clearly there is a thirst for additional information about the proposed zoning. The lack of knowledge, confusion, and alarm residents expressed concerning the new zoning proposed is another indication that the county has not done an adequate job explaining the changes proposed.
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As CBES has stated, Northampton County has provided no meaningful presentations on the details of the proposed zoning. Justifications for proposed changes were often not stated or are unsupported. A recent economic development study commissioned by the county cited several impediments to economic development. The zoning now in place was not considered one of them.
County officials have stated at public meetings that no studies have been done concerning the impacts of the proposed rezoning on such things as property values and the county’s successful economic engines: Agriculture, aquaculture, and tourism. No diverse public input was requested; county staff wrote the rezoning document without that input.
In addition, the backbone of county zoning is its Comprehensive Plan. The Comp Plan reflects the community’s needs and desires, while the Zoning Ordinance is the tool that implements the Plan. As part of this deeply flawed process, the county skipped revising the Comp Plan in favor of fast-tracking the zoning. This has resulted in a proposed zoning ordinance that is both inconsistent and incompatible with the county’s existing Comprehensive Plan.
All the above have been a grave departure from established county procedure in regard to rezoning. This should be unacceptable to our local elected officials who uphold the fundamentals of our democracy — government for and by the people.
Much more is at risk than the cost of re-advertising a proposed zoning revision. Tourism, agriculture, and aquaculture all face new risks under this new zoning proposal. There is a real possibility we may derail the county’s current job providers, jeopardize our home values and the tax base, and suffer a real loss of public trust.
It is not too late for the county to get back on track. CBES, representing its nearly 1,000 members, urges the Northampton Board of Supervisors to withdraw the proposed rezoning. Let’s all go back to the table as a community and review the county zoning using the reasonable and inclusive process, which has worked for us in the past.
CLICK for CBES website.