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Clarksville code panned by outside consultant

SoVaNow.com / February 01, 2017
Zoning ordinances in the Town of Clarksville that have remained on the books for 30 years-plus are “woefully out of date and statutorily inconsistent with the zoning principles and practices of Virginia,” according to Michael Chandler, a consultant hired by the town to review the town code.

Chandler offered his assessment at a joint meeting of the Clarksville Planning Commission and Town Council on Tuesday night, January 24.

The key finding from Chandler’s diagnostic study is that zoning ordinances, which for the most part are at least 33 years old, are poorly organized and difficult to interpret. As written, the code will not allow the town to implement key goals and objectives identified in the 2015 Clarksville Comprehensive Plan, the town’s vision for future development and growth. Many provisions do not conform with the existing Code of Virginia.

While lack of compliance with the Virginia Code does not negate actions taken by Town Council, Chandler explained, should these actions be challenged in court, a judge will most likely order the town to update its zoning code.

One problem area that Chandler cited pertains to manufactured housing. He pointed out that the current zoning ordinance allows manufactured housing to be situated in any residential district within the town limits. “This is contrary to the goals featured in Clarksville’s comprehensive plan,” he said, adding that current zoning ordinances are not focused on tourism development, maintaining the appearance or condition of property, avoiding vacant properties, or protecting the lakefront and the historic district.

“The misalignment or disconnect involving the town’s comprehensive plan and town’s existing ordinance is particularly glaring,” he concluded, in light of the “visions, goals and objectives featured in the 2015 Clarksville Comp Plan of which the following predominate:

» The pledge to sustain Clarksville’s small town character;

» The goal to maintain a vibrant and historic downtown;

» The pledge to better manage the town’s gateways;

» The desire to foster mixed use development;

» The recommendation that manufactured housing not be permitted to locate by right in all residential zones;

» The goal to capitalize on Clarksville’s connection with the lake and to expand tourism; and

» the clarion call to address the problems associated with vacant properties, abandoned structures, under-utilized lots and improperly zoned properties.

Chandler suggested the town add new zoning classifications and articles to the existing code, covering specific types of developments, such as: planned unit development, mixed use development, and overlay districts. He said these provisions are designed to address issues associated with the town’s gateways, the downtown historic district, the airport and land development practices abutting the lake.

He also said Clarksville should consider establishing a code enforcement program to assist with the administration and enforcement of the town’s zoning ordinances, land development regulations, site plan and subdivision matters, sign control, floodplain management and land management issues involving the lake that are not under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

It is up to Council to review the recommendations and decide the best course of action for addressing the deficiencies with the zoning code.

In other business Tuesday, Town Council voted to grant to the Clarksville Community Players organization a 40-year lease to the Clarksville Fine Arts Center. Players Board chairman Charlie Simmons said they need the long-term lease in order to move forward with fundraising to renovate the building. The Clarksville Community Players already have raised a couple of hundred thousand dollars locally, which has been used to repair the roof, restore the theater seating and construct an office and handicapped accessible restroom in the building, Simmons explained.

The Players are ready to embark a major capital campaign that includes the pursuit of grant money. The organizations that they’ll be seeking financial help from require the group to have a long-term interest in the building.

Town Manager Jeff Jones commended the Maintenance Department for their efforts clearing the streets after the recent snowfall.

Operations Manager Richard Elliott announced that recent testing of the town’s water supply shows it is back in compliance with water quality standards. He is looking into installing a flushing system that will eliminate any future problems.

In December, Elliott said that water sampled at the farthest point of the water line on Longbeach Boulevard. exceeded the maximum limits for THM — a disinfection by product that results when chlorine or other disinfectants, which are used to control microbial contaminants in drinking water, react with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter in water.

Upgrades to the town’s sewer system and plant are nearly complete, according to Elliott. He said the project is ready for its final inspection of the project by the town staff, engineers for the wastewater treatment plant and HUD’s rural development representative.

Police Chief Ricky Wilkinson said he is waiting on additional bid information for replacing the radios currently used by the officers while on patrol. Currently, due to a change made by the Sheriff’s Department last year, his men cannot communicate directly with road deputies, unless they call them via cell phone. Also, there are still areas within the town that are “dead zones” where there is no radio contact. An upgrade to the system with additional repeater could resolve that problem.

Jones said he and Dave McCormack of Waukeshaw Development are nearly finished processing the paperwork which will allow McCormack to begin renovations to the Planter’s Warehouse.

He shared the news that he has asked the town’s legal counsel to provide guidance on how best to proceed against derelict property owners. Several local homeowners and businesses already have received letters advising them they are not in compliance with the town’s ordinances. A few recipients took the letters to heart and addressed the issues, and some others made some initial progress towards cleaning up their properties but slacked off, and a few either ignored the letter or after taking steps to clean up the property, have backtracked in their efforts.

Jones said he was looking at additional enforcement measures, including sending the town in to make repairs or clean up and then billing the property owner or placing a lien on the real estate.

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