Showdown Tuesday on County Zoning Ordinance

Cape Charles Wave

May 12, 2014

Opponents of a plan that would drastically reduce Northampton County zoning restrictions are marshaling forces for a showdown with the Board of Supervisors tomorrow (Tuesday). A group called Citizens for Open Government on the Eastern Shore is urging County residents to attend the Supervisors meeting and speak against the proposed changes during public comment time.

The Supervisors meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 13, in the County Administration Building Board Room (2nd floor) in Eastville.

The Citizens Group is circulating a fact sheet on consequences of the proposed zoning ordinance, which it says would:

— Eliminate protection of the seaside marshes included in the Chesapeake Bay Protection Act;

— Eliminate Special Use Permits for a large number of land uses, bypassing public hearings and public notice to neighbors;

— Allow prisons, disposal of dredge spoils, large biomass refineries, and heavy manufacturing by right in industrial zones, including on land surrounding incorporated towns;

— Remove the Town Edge designation;

— Dramatically increase density in most zoning districts, including along waterways, apparently using the Virginia Beach waterfront condo model as a “vision”;

— Eliminate odor controls on poultry houses and reduce setbacks for manure storage;

— Eliminate affordable housing options such as single-wide mobile homes;

— Increase the number of waterfront homes allowed on the seaside;

— Allow Planned Unit Developments to be built wherever land is available; and

— Reduce setbacks for shorelines and wetlands. [Read more…]


‘By Right’ Development Means No Right to Say NO


May 12, 2014

Usually we don’t pay much attention to the fields by our homes, or down the road, or alongside our town, though most of Northampton County is filled with these pretty vistas.

Now consider this all too real scenario: Gone are the fields. Instead, you see a wastewater treatment plant, a dredge spoil disposal site, or perhaps a prison. This project will have a direct impact on your property values. Did you and your neighbors have any say in its building? How about input in how adverse affects could be lessened to protect your town?

The answer is a startling NO if the Northampton County proposed zoning passes. These, and a long list of land uses including heavy industrial and high impact development, will now be “By Right.” To be blunt, if the developers want to build it, they will have the right to do so.

Citizens, on the other hand, will have no rights, no say, no recourse to shape development that affects what for most of us is our biggest investment — our homes.

Certainly economic development is needed; few dispute that. However, taxpayers who carry most of the burden of funding the county have a right to weigh in on what their community will be like now and in the future.

The proposed zoning virtually eliminates Special Use Permits for a large number of land uses. Most reputable developers respect these permits, considered a smart planning tool by countless locales. Currently if you have concerns about a proposed project — be it migrant labor camp, airfield, or biomass refinery — you can attend a public hearing and provide feedback. The developer can offer proffers to mitigate harm to the community by limiting the size, hours of operation, enact noise and odor controls, increase buffers, etc.

With the proposed zoning, there is no public hearing or public input. It’s a done deal. Even if the BOS believes the project will do more harm than good, if it’s in the zoning their hands are legally tied. [Read more…]