Mark Your Calendar, They’ve Asked for Our Input So Let’s Give It To Them
By Steady and Nobull
The Purcellville Planning Commission has tentatively scheduled a series of public input sessions June 4, 11 and 18 at 7:00 p.m. at town hall for the proposed sweeping zoning changes. These major changes are similar to the changes that occurred in 2008 which gave us a six story project on 21st Street. By that we mean the town council at the time, based on developer input changed the height restrictions on 21st Street from 32 feet to 65 feet.
Will we, as a town, follow the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances developed in cooperation with the citizens, or will we liberalize our zoning regulations to the point that anything goes – a 55,000 square foot big box store next to a residential community, a high-density, multi-use, multi-story residential/commercial floating zone legal anywhere? Should 100 percent of the decisions be made by the developers?
In May of 2014, the voters in Purcellville spoke loud and clear, electing a new mayor and a citizen advocate and otherwise putting those in charge on notice.
- Over are the days when developers call the shots.
- Over are the days when a project such as Vineyard Square would be jammed through because of zoning use changes that citizens were not aware of.
- Over are the days when citizens are given a back seat to a town run by insiders, handing out special exceptions and other zoning changes like they were candy and treating the citizen-inspired Comprehensive Plan like it wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
While it is encouraging that citizens elected new leaders, the developer community has been just relentless. They want the Purcellville Planning Commission and Town Council to make an overwhelming amount of uses “by right” – this means that a developer can move forward on a project without public input.
- No need to apply for a special use permit. The developers say it costs too much money, they don’t want any negative feedback from the public hearings either.
- No proffers – no financial contributions from developers for the new roads and other infrastructure – kick that can down the road and let the taxpayers pony up.
- No more 10,000 square foot limitations on big box stores. Raise the limit to 55,000 or 75,000 or more. As developer Mark Nelis said, his clients want the size of big box stores increased, furthermore he wants limitations on restaurant sizes increased dramatically as well.
And, here’s the kicker. Developers want to be able to put what are known as PDH Districts (planned developed housing) anywhere. And, they want to change PDH developments to include commercial – creating mini-town centers of sorts, combining high-density residential with commercial – on parcels as small as five acres. Drop a PDH District in the middle of nowhere, next to a working farm, or an established neighborhood. The district is proposed to have no firm definition, and according to the community development department this will give the developer a chance to be “creative.”
Chairman of the Planning Commission Gil Paist has said that he wants citizen input on what many see as extreme ideas that don’t feel like small town Purcellville. This will change Purcellville forever. So, let’s give it to them. Let’s avoid Purcellville’s impending by-right anything goes disaster.
What You Can Do
Attend the public input meetings in June and if you can’t, e-mail the town council as a whole at purcellvilleTC@purcellvilleva.gov and ask that your comments go into the record. Chairman of the Planning Commission Gil Paist has said that the commission will change the proposed uses based on citizen input.