Planning Commission defers RC Ordinance change for 60 days; public work session planned

In its July 15 meeting, following a public hearing, the Planning Commission deferred the proposed Rural Conservation (RC) Ordinance revision for 60 days. Commissioners will hold a public work session focusing on an updated draft from the Planning staff. Date, time and place to be announced.

The general goal of the Rural Conservation District, created some 20 years ago, was to provide assurances that open space would be preserved and maintained and allow some residential clusters in the rural area. The purpose of this zoning was to keep large tracts of land open for agricultural and other non-residential agricultural uses.

What is gained by changing the ordinance? Further division of the preserved open space by allowing a second preservation lot. Comparison of the existing and proposed ordinances follows:

Existing RC Ordinance

The RC District allows a cluster of homes in a residential portion with some common open space and a preservation lot that allows one dwelling and agriculture, among permitted uses. The ordinance mandates that 70% of the net developable acreage must be preserved. Permanent open space easements are placed on the common open space and the preservation lot.

Proposed RC Ordinance

The modified ordinance would allow a residential cluster with open space, and up to two preservation lots. One preservation lot of not fewer than 10 acres may have a dwelling and the other preservation lot, termed a conservation lot, would be restricted to agricultural, non-residential uses as listed in the ordinance. The 70% conservation mandate stands. Easements would be placed on the common open space, the preservation lot and the conservation lot.

Why change the ordinance now? There are compelling reasons to wait:

  • The County has just launched a freighted timeline for the 2022 Comp Plan Review and Update. Every chapter of the current Comp Plan will be scrutinized. Lots of moving parts. Don’t piecemeal revisions of ordinances prior to this process.
  • Per the County, rural planning policy is due for a big overhaul to define the role and definition of rural and to expand and articulate rural and agricultural policies. Huge lifts. Why not wait and consider these and other RC changes as part of a coordinated rural strategy?
  • The County now holds two easements per RC parcel, or approximately 50 easements. The new ordinance could add a third easement on each. When the County is admittedly understaffed and underperforming the annual inspections, does it need more easements to manage? Is the integrity of the conservation easements already compromised?

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