IW: no more private roads

Published 4:33 pm Tuesday, November 30, 2021

County amends Ches. Bay ordinance, tables zoning changes

Isle of Wight County will no longer allow the creation of private roads.

Per changes to the county’s subdivision ordinance Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors approved unanimously on Nov. 18, the term “private street” has been eliminated.

The changes also reduced the number of allowed subdivisions on family farms from four cuts to just one, unless an exception is approved by the Board of Supervisors upon recommendation from the county’s Planning Commission.

County officials say the ordinance’s prior wording, which had allowed owners of large farms to parcel out their land to up to four family members, had been problematic in that a private road serving five farms could potentially end up with 20 connecting houses.

The changes further eliminated the ordinance’s section on private road standards, since these will no longer be permitted.

According to the county’s community development director, Amy Ring, in cases where all of the original family members have moved away, the private roadways have fallen into disrepair due to no clear agreement as to who is to maintain the easement.

The issue has “multiplied and mushroomed over the years,” she said. It’s become particularly problematic for emergency vehicles should they need to respond to a call at the original home or one of the subdivisions.

“It has become a real public safety issue over the last three years … . When somebody calls 911 we can’t get down there to get to them,” Ring said.

The subdivision ordinance now requires that any new roadway serving three or more homes be public and comply with Virginia Department of Transportation standards for roads and bridges.

“You will still be able to subdivide up to one family member lot with no public road frontage served by a private easement,” Ring clarified via an email to The Smithfield Times the day after the meeting.

Another change, unrelated to the private roadway issue, involves reducing the number of paper subdivision plats an applicant needs to provide to the county from 10 to eight, plus one digital copy.

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The Board of Supervisors also approved changes to the county’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act ordinance, which Ring described as “mostly editorial,” such as “consistent use of acronyms.” The CBPA ordinance changes further adjust installation and bonding requirements for landscaping to be consistent with those specified in the county’s zoning ordinance.

The board had been scheduled to adopt proposed changes to its zoning ordinance as well, but voted to table the matter.

The proposed changes to all three ordinances are a result of an annual review by Isle of Wight’s planning and zoning staff, Ring said, and are intended to “help make the ordinances more easily understood, easier to administer and more flexible.”

The board held a public hearing on the ordinance changes, which drew no speakers, then discussed the matter among its members. Isle of Wight’s Planning Commission had previously recommended in favor of the proposed changes to all three ordinances by a vote of 6-0 in October.

The proposed zoning ordinance changes would add reptile breeding as an allowed conditional use in general commercial zoning and add peddlers and itinerant merchants as permitted in village center zoning.

The changes would further eliminate the requirement that reptiles be kept in glass cages, allowing for more modern enclosures Ring assured were “just as escape-proof,” and would eliminate the one-year time limit for temporary sawmills. Instead, the ordinance would reference “private sawmills,” and allow them to process timber cut from the parcel on which they are located, an adjacent parcel, or to process timber for personal use.

The ordinance changes would also permit Dumpsters as a temporary use for up to 60 days. A zoning permit would be needed to allow the Dumpsters to remain for up to six months.

“We have people calling saying how long can they keep the Dumpster in front of the house and we really don’t have anything that addresses it,” Ring said. “We realized people do need a Dumpster at times to be able to do renovations or major cleanups but there should be some sort of reasonable time limit attached to that.”

Another of the proposed changes involves adding a requirement that utility-scale solar farms be located outside the county’s development service districts and “partially or wholly” within a 2-mile radius of an existing substation or high-voltage power line.

Isle of Wight presently has three development service districts, which serve as geographic areas where the county hopes to attract developers with available or planned water and sewer infrastructure and road improvements. The Newport DSD spans along Benns Church, Brewers Neck and Carrollton boulevards. The Windsor DSD surrounds the northern, southern and eastern borders of the town of Windsor. The Camptown DSD spans Route 258 and Carrsville Highway near the county’s border with the city of Franklin.

The zoning ordinance changes would also reduce side yard setback requirements on lots zoned rural agricultural conservation or rural residential to 15 feet for both sides, reduce the minimum lot size for urban residential zoning from 12,000 square feet to 8,500, and allow parking lots with less than 20 spaces located in the Newport DSD or Highway Corridor Overlay District to be paved with gravel.

The changes further clarify that the county can require a Phase I cultural resources survey for rezoning requests if the development will impact high or moderately sensitive areas as shown on Isle of Wight’s archeological and architectural surveys.