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February 26 2014

Below are direct excerpts from Rockingham’s Board of Supervisors (BOS) most recent meeting. Of interest is the discussion of the timetable for releasing the zoning ordinances (ZO) and their concerns with the agritourism bills in the General Assembly.

Unfortunately the legislature passed and the governor signed the agritourism bills. Rockingham will now have to examine ways to work with the new rules while still preserving traditional agriculture.

Staff is working on edits to the ZO and will release them in April for public review. The BOS is expected to approve them at the April 23, 2014 meeting if there are no major concerns.

Zoning Ordinance rewrite

From minutes, BOS Meeting 2/26/14
Kim Sandum asked about the timetable for the completion of the rewrite of the zoning ordinance. Administrator Paxton reported staff is going to meet with the Board in April, and will have the ordinance completed by October. Between April and October, the subdivision ordinance will be reviewed and amended appropriately. In response to a question from Ms. Sandum, Administrator Paxton indicated a public hearing is not required at this point.

Administrator Paxton reported the revisions will affect prospective zonings and the revised ordinance will only affect applications after the ordinance goes into effect. In response to Chairman Cuevas’ question, Administrator Paxton noted there would be a window of ninety days to make appropriate revisions or additions.

State Agritourism bills

From minutes, BOS Meeting 2/26/14
Administrator Paxton reported on one matter not included in his staff report. He said the General Assembly has passed the farm bills discussed with the Board, and legislators have made them less objectionable by adding the same language to the farm bills as the farm/winery bill. A similar problem exists, however, with the farm bills as they have some rather vague language like “usual”, “customary” and “substantial impact” that are not defined in the State Code. Because of this, Administrator Paxton noted localities
will end up in court because one landowner will not see their agricultural and farming activities as having substantial impact and neighboring landowners will think otherwise. Another problem, he said, is although it leaves a door open to create a local ordinance, the local ordinance must define substantial impact, and it may be difficult for the County to determine if such impact exists until the activity is actually occurring. He noted calls could potentially come to the Zoning Division and a violation would need to be initiated. This system would not be proactive in working with the citizen prior to a violation.

He said concerns have been sent to the Governor about the implications of these bills and that it is not just about taking the authority away from the County, but rather, an interest in ensuring that activities permitted are agricultural in nature. He said people will argue that a commercial farm business that has operating hours every day is no different from large industrial agri-businesses such as the poultry and beef operations seen in the County. However, with the agri-businesses, people are not driving to the location every day, where commercial businesses on agricultural land could potentially have a lot of
traffic in and out of the business daily. Regardless whether Governor McAuliffe signs them into law or vetoes them, ordinances will have to be prepared quickly at the local level. He asked the Board if they would like him to send a letter expressing concerns locally with Senate Bill 51 and House Bill 268.

On motion by Supervisor Kyger, seconded by Supervisor Chandler and carried by a vote of 5 to 0, voting recorded as follows: BREEDEN – AYE; CHANDLER – AYE; CUEVAS – AYE; EBERLY – AYE; KYGER – AYE; the Board authorized Administrator Paxton to send a letter to Governor McAuliffe outlining the County’s concerns with Senate Bill 51 and House Bill 268.February 26, 2014 (5)

Supervisor Kyger stated the County cannot put people at risk for someone else’s financial gain, and businesses should be established the right way. He added it is not just about money but also the unforeseen consequences. He commented the Board does not automatically turn down requests; the process is thorough to ensure that all steps have been taken to guarantee safety.

Chairman Cuevas asked Administrator Paxton to consult with Mr. Miller and Supervisor Kyger before the letter is sent to the Governor.

Supervisor Breeden commented every member of the County delegation in the House and Senate voted in support of the farm bills. Being the largest agricultural county,he asked who is the State looking out for in approving these bills.


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