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Rockingham Rural Villages Need Better Zoning Guidelines

Rockingham’s smallest communities – Keezletown, Singers Glen, Port Republic and others – share common characteristics. Growing up around a community gathering place like a church, school, post office or Ruritan Hall, these small clusters of homes and businesses are remote, historic and closely connected to local agriculture. They provide business and services needed by farmers and homeowners nearby.

Our rural villages also share a lack of guidelines to preserve their special character. Local zoning can make sure the size and scale of needed new businesses, such as a general store or tractor repair shop, reflect the unique qualities of each place and avoids sprawling onto adjacent farms or battlefields.

That was the conclusion two years ago, when a Citizens Advisory Committee appointed by the Board of Supervisors recommended creation of a new Rural Village Zoning District in the updated zoning ordinance. The committee said the new district could ensure new businesses and buildings reflect the existing size, scale, development pattern and land uses in very small communities.

County planning staff provided the Planning Commission with an outline for a rural village district, but it was never completed. Instead, the Planning Commission unraveled the concept in the final zoning draft sent to the Board of Supervisors.

The Planning Commission substituted rules on signs, building setbacks and lot sizes in rural hamlets that mirror those for businesses in strip malls or at highway interchanges, like big box stores and service station plazas. There was no chance for the public to review or respond to the changes before Planning Commission approval.

CAP asked supervisors to restore the Citizens Advisory Committee’s original concept for a rural village district. We also supplied detailed recommendations to county planners on the purpose statement and zoning standards needed to maintain the integrity of rural hamlets.

INFORMATION

CAP provides timely and accurate information to foster good public policy in transportation, land use planning and land conservation.

ANALYSIS

CAP studies how local, regional and state plans will impact Rockingham County's rural heritage, traditional towns and villages, and the natural, historic and other resources essential to our high quality of life.

ENGAGEMENT

CAP helps Rockingham residents make their voices heard on matters that impact the County's rural character, urban spaces and natural and cultural resources.