After a half-year of debate and a bit of resident concern, an idea to extend utility service to more properties outside the town limits is just a few steps away from becoming an official town policy.
The town’s Planning Commission last week finalized a recommendation for an amendment to the town’s 2017-2037 Comprehensive Plan that, if approved by the Town Council, would plan for the extension of town water and sewer service to three properties outside the corporate limits—including two where residential development has been proposed. The Town Council will begin its review of the issue at its Sept. 5 meeting, and will schedule a public hearing for a later date before it votes on the amendment.
The commission’s recommendation proposes the town consider extending utility service to a 20-acre property along Airmont Road, the 7-acre Weona Villa Motel property along East Loudoun Street and a 12-acre property across from the abandoned motel.
The recommended amendment proposes those utility extensions so the properties can support development of community recreation centers or public services; workforce, senior or universal design housing that would provide support services for seniors, the infirmed or disabled; and nursing homes, residential care or assisted living centers.
Under the proposal, the town would consider extending utility service to the properties for those uses as long as they align with the goals, objectives and strategies of the comprehensive plan; don’t impact the integrity or authenticity of the town’s historic character; aren’t townhomes; and are built after making reasonable efforts to mitigate impacts on surrounding properties. The town would also need to determine that it has sufficient water and sewer capacity for any proposed use.
If approved by the Town Council later this year, the comprehensive plan amendment would prompt the town and county to discuss a corporate boundary line adjustment and expansion of the Joint Land Management Area to allow the town to serve the properties with water and sewer.It would give Tree of Life Ministries and developer John Clark a shimmer of hope in their efforts to build on two of the properties.
On Feb. 7,Tree of Life Ministries Executive Director Paul Smith proposed to build a 32 micro-cottage community for low-income residents, like seniors, on the Weona Villa property.
Smith said this week that his nonprofit appreciates the Planning Commission’s and Town Council’s efforts in working to amend the comprehensive plan.
“Adjusting comprehensive plan language to enable consideration of additional parcels for water and sewer accessibility will help in our efforts to provide affordable housing for seniors and disabled adults,” he said.
On March 7, Clark proposed to build 20 energy-efficient homes at 1,000 to 2,800 square feet in size that would benefit seniors and first-time homebuyers on 20 acres of land across three parcels along Airmont Road.
The Planning Commission did not consider the details of either of those tentative projects while drafting its recommended amendment.
Planning Commission Chairman Manny Mirabal said the panel took into account and was “very respectful” of the concerns many residents had regarding the effects of potential development in the coming years, noting that many residents were upset by the county’s construction of the Round Hill Group Residence at the end of the Arrowwood Place cul-de-sac that Oak Hill Properties proffered in 1990.
“I thought we were very responsive to the community’s concerns,” he said. “We are cognizant of the issues which have been raised about the possible future development.”
Although the process to finalize the comprehensive plan amendment, which is now on its fifth version, has taken nearly double the amount of time that the Town Council directed it to take on March 28—originally slated for a public hearing and recommendation by June 20—Town Planner Lauren Runyan said the process was actually “very smooth.”
Runyan said the commission took longer than it intended on the amendment because several commissioners missed meetings for family summer vacations, because Reed Mayer resigned in July and because commissioners wanted to ensure that the language in the amendment explicitly described the intent. “They had to be very careful in choosing their words,” Runyan said.
She said the commission drafted the amendment in only three meetings and that commissioners during the final few meetings were focused merely on precise phrasing.
Runyan said she would send the comprehensive plan amendment to council members and post it to the town website about a week prior to the Sept. 5 Town Council meeting.