Town planners approve Comprehensive Plan updates

The Town Planning Commission approved a long delayed site plan for a vacant and previously overgrown lot near Gilmore’s Automotive and Yesterday’s Grill between Old Orange Road and South Main Street. According to town officials, one lot is for sale and the other would be built. Space allows parking for more than 30 cars. Photo by Wally Bunker
The Town Planning Commission approved a long delayed site plan for a vacant and previously overgrown lot near Gilmore’s Automotive and Yesterday’s Grill between Old Orange Road and South Main Street. According to town officials, one lot is for sale and the other would be built. Space allows parking for more than 30 cars.
Photo by Wally Bunker

The Town of Culpeper Planning Commission at a special meeting Mar. 3 approved updates to the town’s award-winning Comprehensive Plan and forwarded the document to the town council for its approval probably in April.

State law requires each locality to update its comprehensive plans every five years.

“The town updates the Comp Plan every two years,” said Town Planner Salem Bush.

This year’s endeavor is an update and not a wholesale overhaul, according to Bush.

For more than six months the town’s planning staff, GIS department and the planning commission tweaked the town’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan that was previously updated in 2013. Many of the Comp Plan’s updates are housekeeping measures to ensure that demographic information is up to date and that planning associated with the recently approved Culpeper 2020 vision plan are compatible.

“The 2020 plan pulls out real projects,” said Bush. “It’s like a cookbook.”

The new 2020 Plan also serves as a template for developing new projects that provide a positive impact on economic development and quality of life as well as a guide to public improvements, investment, infrastructure needs and applicable land-use regulations.

The Comp Plan serves as a general guide to land use plans and current demographics.

The major changes adopted by the planning commission covered demographics, transportation, land use and maps.

The maps need to reflect the three new roundabouts and the inner loop connector road from North Main Street to Virginia Avenue named Col. Jameson Boulevard. New maps were also created to show the Watershed Protection Overlay District as it relates to public safety and public health to ensure no deterioration of water quality in Lake Pelham, the town’s primary water source.

A new parks map was created to reflect the addition of the new and currently unnamed park – formerly the Waugh Property – along Madison Road.

The Greenways and Trails Master Plan also was updated, along with the Sidewalk Plan.

The Comp Plan estimates a growth rate for the town of two percent annually for the next 25 years. The plan also notes that the number of approved houses has dropped from 2,340 in 2013 to the current 1,755. The number of undeveloped land or agricultural land decreased from 270 acres to 208 under the current revisions.

“We updated existing land uses,” said Bush. One town goal remains unchanged – promotion of mixed-use development.

Site plan approved

In another matter, the planning commission approved a long delayed site plan on a vacant and previously overgrown lot near Gilmore’s Automotive and Yesterday’s Grill between Old Orange Road and South Main Street for two proposed offices on two tracts.

The site plan request for two commercial buildings, possibly for medical or general office use, raised concerns during the original December 2014 meeting. Since the time to act had elapsed, the applicant, James Elias, needed to address stormwater management issues and submit a new request.

The major changes increased the square footage of the proposed buildings from about 6,300 square feet to about 9,900 square feet. The newest plan cut one parking space, leaving 34 and creating a “rain garden” on site to handle stormwater runoff.

A rain garden allows runoff from impervious surfaces to soak into the ground and reduce pollution released into streams and rivers.

One lot would be built and the other is for sale, according to town officials.

Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at wallybunker@outlook.com

By the numbers

 Some of the statistical information in the comp plan shows how fast the town grew in a short period of time.

 About 42 percent of the town’s houses were built between 2000 and 2010, when 2,105 new home building permits were issued. There are about 6,700 homes and businesses in town.

 The town estimates that 51.6 percent of the town’s population commutes out of the county for employment, with the remainder working in the county.

 The town’s Public Works Department maintains 138 lane miles of streets and 70 miles of sidewalks.