The Bedford County Planning Commission met in a study session Monday night to discuss possibly putting a six-month moratorium on all subdivisions and planned unit development applications.
This is so they can discuss potential amendments to both the Zoning Resolution and Subdivision Regulations.
Zoning director Chris White explained several priorities the commission needs to discuss, such as flag lots and minimum space between houses.
The recent planned unit development on Longview Road in Unionville opened up a lot of questions from both commission members as well as citizens about zoning ordinances. “Now that we’ve exercised that muscle for the first time, it gives us a lot more insight,” said White.
There are no planned unit developments, or PUDs, in Bedford County, according to White.
White also talked about flag lots, which are irregularly shaped building lots with limited street or road frontage.
“The main issue we try to solve with flag lots is the overlapping of homes. What we wanted to do is create a set of rules that didn’t just completely disallow flag shaped lots,” said White.
While the rules don’t allow for overlapping lots, “it’s not working,” according to White. White suggested increasing the requirement for how far the house sits back from the road from 25 to 50 feet in addition to increasing road frontage to 50 feet. This will help create more visible separation between the homes.
“I think it’s all about separation between the buildings,” said White.
Having talked with road superintendent Mark Clanton, they are also looking at widening roads in the subdivisions out in the county to from 10 to 11 feet. “Even in our subdivisions, we’re getting a lot of deliveries, like Amazon and UPS. And we really just need more room,” White said.
This also led to a conversation about fire control. Pump trucks cannot attach to and pull water from fire hydrants in the county since they have PVC piping. Tanker trucks have been using water from the closest river or stream instead. White said they are considering requiring major subdivisions to put in a valve that will allow them to draw water from a detention pond.
White also addressed the difference between retention and detention ponds. The county’s zoning regulations do not allow for retention ponds, which retain water and become ponds. Detention ponds are open spaces which allow water from the storm system to drain into them. The amount of water is engineered to come out at a specific rate, according to White.
“The whole system is designed to catch that water and detain it...That engineered rate is, by law, less than or equal to what was leaving the site pre-development,” White said.
The commission also discussed the reliability of STEP systems as well as which party would be liable if a system failed. This typically depends on the contract between the provider and the developer.
“As far as who is responsible, it’s not in this book right now,” said planning commission chairman Kennon Threet. “Looks like the only thing we’re going to be able to do is a homeowner’s association.”
The county currently has several STEP systems at two of the schools and the Horsehoe Bend community on Highway 231 North while the State Fire Codes Academy has one being built, according to White.
“The developer builds it, then they put a bond up to make sure everything’s working and then they gift it to the utility company. They can leave it to the HOA,” said White.“But there’s a lot of study that needs to take place so we can actually clarify all these things.”
“The reason you have a lot of drainage issues out in the county, especially Longview Road, is because you have single-lot developments that turn into 20 lot developments...and they’re not required to have a drainage plan when they turn in a simple subdivision plan,” said White. He suggested every plan have a positive drain, even for simple subdivisions.
“That’s probably one of the most important things we need to look at,” he said.
The Planning Commission will have a specially called meeting on Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. to discuss the moratorium as well as a prioritized list of zoning resolution amendments and subdivision regulations suggested for discussion and amendment.
“The first step of this is public engagement...what we want to do first is to hear from the public and get their ideas. Hopefully then we can tie our ideas with them,” said White.