Letter – Use state code’s text on proffers
Published 7:41 pm Monday, February 20, 2023
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
At its Feb. 14 meeting, the Planning Commission discussed a change to Smithfield’s zoning ordinance regarding the elimination of public hearings when a developer wishes to change an already submitted proffer.
The current town ordinance requires a developer who makes a change to accepted proffers to go back through the zoning process, from the beginning. That essentially forces a rezoning hearing on the whole project simply due to a change in some proffer(s). That’s overkill.
So the town staff wanted to change that ordinance to this one: “However, where an amendment to such proffered conditions is requested, and where such amendment does not affect conditions of use or density, a local governing body may waive the requirement for a public hearing and new rezoning application.” That means if the money offer changed but did not affect density or use, we the public may never hear about it.
That was supported vigorously by Town Attorney Bill Riddick, who repeatedly said the change would bring Smithfield into compliance with Virginia law. It would, for Virginia code contains the very same language. Well, almost the same. There’s more in the state law about public hearings and proffers that neither the attorney nor the planning commissioners were aware of, or if they were aware of it, simply neglected to mention. And if the Planning Commission is going to recommend to the Town Council that Smithfield adopt some of the Virginia zoning statute regarding proffers, it needs to recommend adopting all of it.
Here is the part the commissioners did not hear: “Localities may accept amended proffers once a public hearing has begun only if the amended proffers do not materially affect the overall proposal.” It continues, “If the proposed amendment would materially affect the proposal, either because the amendment would remove or reduce proffered restrictions or commitments, or impose additional restrictions or commitments, the amended rezoning application must be properly re-advertised under Virginia Code 15.2-2204 and 15.2-2285, and an additional public hearing must be held.” If the amendment is not material another public hearing is not required, per Virginia Code 15.2-2285(C) .
The way the state wrote the law is better than the way Smithfield wrote the local ordinance, so let’s adopt the state language and be in total compliance, without room for arguments.