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This Week's Topic: Public Notices/Posting Amendment


The following is a summary of item #14 on the agenda for the September 19, 2023 meeting of the Chesterfield County Planning Commission. The entire text of the Zoning Ordinance Section19.1-42, Notices and Posting with the proposed amendments can be found starting on page 249 in the Planning Commission Agenda Packet.

“Ordinance to amend the Code of the County of Chesterfield, 1997, as amended,

by amending and reenacting the following sections of the zoning ordinance:


19.1-42, Notices and Posting

The amendment would change the public notice requirements for the following

actions: rezoning, conditional use, conditional use planned development,

appeal, variance, interpretation of a zoning district map, designation of a

historic district or site, comprehensive plan amendment, and ordinance

amendment. The changes consist of the following: removing the requirement to

include a descriptive summary in the public notice and newspaper

advertisement; removing the requirement to state the general usage and density

range of the proposal in the public notice and newspaper advertisement;

changing the required newspaper advertisement date; adding the requirement to

post the street address or tax map parcel for parcels subject to a rezoning.

The amendment would also change the individual notice requirements for all

zoning actions by changing the minimum number of days prior to a hearing that

said notice shall be postmarked.

All of the changes conform to notice requirements found in the Code of

Virginia.”


It could be argued that planning and land use decisions are the most important decisions the Board of Supervisors make. Unlike taxing and spending decisions, land use decisions are near impossible to correct or change once a decision has been made, and without major investment, the consequences last in perpetuity. Unplanned and haphazard development results in traffic delays, overcrowed schools, and loss of forest and green space. Expensive new arteries must be built--as merely adding lanes to roadways rarely decreases travel times. Schools are built where inexpensive land remains available rather than planning locations that are walkable or a reasonable bus ride away. Once forests are cleared and watersheds are impacted, they are near impossible to return to their native state. These decisions are so impactful the Supervisors appoint a Planning Commission with the sole responsibility of reviewing these cases in detail and advising the Board.

Given the importance of these decisions, why would there ever be a consideration of less public notice? Background information on these cases is near impossible to search on the County websites, and even a person experienced with navigating the county systems, can spend hours thoroughly researching the maps, staff reports and other information pertaining to a particular case. The proposed amendment would only require the county to provide 5 days of notice to the community rather than 15, which is not nearly enough time to complete any research of substance. A government that touts transparency and claims to desire input from the public it represents would never consider such a change. In addition to reducing the required notice, the removal of descriptive language from a notice makes it even more difficult for concerned citizens to ascertain whether a notice is of interest and would require a search of the county website to just determine the most basic details of a case, including the current parcel status and proposed status in the comprehensive plan. Any proposal to shorten the length of notice should be summarily dismissed and the county staff should focus their efforts on making the details of zoning cases readily accessible to the public. Maybe even take a page from the City of Richmond and provide links to planing and council minutes right in the GIS site. An alternative means to provide notice other than newspaper postings also needs to be developed as local papers will soon cease to exist. A well-run government and projects that enhance the standard of living do not fear scrutiny and in fact welcome it as part of building support in a community. As Supervisor, I will seek more citizen involvement in these important decisions not less--the future of Chesterfield depends on it. These changes, particularly the length of notice, should be dead on arrival!

God bless America, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Chesterfield County, and the good people of Matoaca.

-Chip








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