In a dramatic 5-1-1 vote, the Purcellville Planning Commission has put the ball squarely in the Purcellville Town Council’s court, recommending dozens of sweeping zoning changes fought for tooth and nail by developers. The vote shifts the focus of the debate from the Planning Commission to Town Council meetings and public hearings scheduled to start in October.
Planning Commissioner Nedim Ogelman was the sole dissenter in the Planning Commission’s dramatic volley, voting no on the proposed changes. Planning Commissioners Chip Paciulli, Theresa Stein, Edward Van Istendal, Doug McCollum and Gil Paist, voted yes, with planning commissioner Chris Bledsoe absent for the vote.
At the Planning Commission public hearing Mayor Kwasi Fraser said, “A vast majority of the proposed changes will increase the value of a few property owners by granting by right use…while other citizens will lose out on the ability to obtain value added conditions for development that might compliment the lifestyles and environment they cherish in Purcellville … the majority of the residents with whom I have spoken … are recommending that we suspend making these drastic changes to the zoning uses … all energy should be on the Comprehensive Plan review; you have the attention of the citizens so let’s do it.”
A few of the changes proposed by the Planning Commission include:
- Allowing completely new uses in select districts.
- Eliminating Special Use Permits for many uses.
- Increasing limits on restaurant size.
- Adding big box retail up to 10,000 square feet to the C-4 and C-1 Districts to name a few.
Noted dissenting commissioner Nedim Ogelman, “We said we would not change the purposes of the districts to avoid claims we are engaging in rezoning, yet the draft ordinance amendment before us … is essentially rezoning … We are tasked with advising the Town Council on planning issues. My advice to the Town Council is to listen to what citizens have been telling us in our information sessions, through correspondence, in our public hearing, and in the town survey … that we table the draft zoning use changes until after we have a Comprehensive Plan Review.”
Many citizens spoke at the Planning Commission public hearing including Ed Need who highlighted the negative effects of rezoning.
Developer interests, however, presented a very different point of view. Attorney Mark Nelis, representing Jiffy Lube and others continued to press for a reduction in the number of zoning districts and a reduction in the number of special use permits required for various uses; the goal? – to save his clients time and money.
At the Town Council work session in late September, Councilmember Ben Packard made a motion to put the proposed zoning changes on the Oct. 13 town council meeting agenda.
Mayor Kwasi Fraser and Councilmember Karen Jimmerson objected, with the mayor noting that over the last three months he had sent numerous questions about the Planning Commission’s long list of zoning changes to Commissioner Gil Paist, but, had received no answers.
Said Mayor Fraser “ … we have a Planning Commission that refuses to answer fundamental questions about the economic, social, and environmental impacts of their recommended zoning use changes … There seems to be this continuous push to erect buildings without careful thought about supporting infrastructure and the impact to the surrounding environment … experts in the field of town planning warn [that] it is poor practice and could result in legal trouble for a community to adopt a zoning ordinance first and then write up a town plan.”
Planning Commissioner Nedim Ogelman, town council member Karen Jimmerson, Mayor Fraser and others are also expected to continue to push for a thorough Comprehensive Plan review before any major zoning changes are put in place.