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Update for Clarksville’s zoning ordinance discussed / December 05, 2018
The Clarksville planning commission and town council got a first look at the town’s proposed zoning ordinance at a special called meeting on Monday.

Michael Chandler, who has been working with the town’s zoning ordinance rewrite committee — known as ZORC, and comprised of members of the planning commission and council as well as Town Manager Jeff Jones — said Clarksville’s existing ordinance is woefully out of date, having not been modified since 1988.

After reviewing the existing code, it was determined that a comprehensive rewrite was in order, and the members of ZORC set an objective to devise a zoning ordinance that is readable, adds procedural protocols for enforcement and is connected to the town’s comprehensive plan.

The draft ordinance, with 16 articles, addresses everything from the purpose of a zoning code, to designation of zoning districts, to use and design standards and landscaping provisions, as well as enforcement and penalties for those deemed out of compliance. Much of the authority for enforcing the code is vested in the zoning administrator, a position currently held by Jones.

Chandler asked council and the planning commission to thoroughly read the draft materials and make any suggested changes or raise any questions in the next seven days. This would enable ZORC to address any issues and revise the draft before sending a second draft to the town’s legal council for review and input.

Once the provisions are signed off by the lawyers, Chandler said the town would seek public input before taking a vote to adopt the new zoning standards.

The proposed ordinance keeps the existing designated residential and non-residential zoning districts but adds a new business corridor district within the non-residential districts and a new Clarksville Gateway Entrance district. Council member Bruce Woerner suggested the town consider including the marina area within the definition of Gateway Entrance, or else add it as a third new district, a marina district. However, Chandler said it would be better to develop the language and protocols for that at a later time after related issues are addressed in the town’s comprehensive plan.

The business corridor district would run along the eastern side of the lake on Route 15 North and along the U.S. 58 Bypass on the southern end of town. According to the proposed language, “the uses within this district shall have an attractive appearance consistent with superior building design and building orientation.”

There would also have to be ample parking and reasonable landscaping and buffering for projects developed within this district. Chandler said he saw this zoning change as a major economic development tool for the town.

The central business district, which is primarily along Virginia Avenue, is the “retail, shopping, dining and entertainment hub of Clarksville.” The goal for this district is to generate pedestrian activity with a mix of buildings and storefronts, façade enhancements and streetscape plans that are harmonious with the vision defined in the town’s existing comprehensive plan.

Design considerations for the central business district would include: shielding and screening mechanical equipment from public view, orienting building facades and entrances toward Virginia Avenue, new construction that relates to the dominant portions of buildings in the immediate area, and use of construction materials typical of those prevalent in the commercial business district. Building materials deemed inappropriate would include reflective glass and metal wall panels.

Council member Carolyn Hite asked if this provision would preclude construction of buildings like those recently erected on Seventh and Fifth Streets by two local businesses. She did not receive an answer but was told by Planning Commission chairman Steve Herman that the design considerations are for buildings along Virginia Avenue.

Other considerations would include exterior paint colors and outdoor lighting.

Certain properties would be rezoned under the new ordinance, if approved. They include the residences on Virginia Avenue across from the Food Lion grocery store. These would go from residential to B-1 Neighborhood Business District to align with adjacent properties.

Jones said this rezoning would not impact the use by current owners if they made no modifications to the home.

Other rezoning would include the property near Perfect Point, off Forest Hill, which would go from an R-2 residential designation to an R-1 residential designation. Lot sizes in an R-1 district must be at least 15,000 square feet, whereas those in an R-2 district must be at least 10,000 square feet.

Manufactured homes, single or sectional (doublewide) would become a “nonconforming use” under the proposed zoning and would not be permitted within the town limits. Existing manufactured homes could remain and be replaced with approval from council, but only if they become uninhabitable due to fire, flood or natural disaster. Manufactured homes that become uninhabitable due to neglect could not be replaced.

Chandler, responding to concerns raised in anticipation of objections from impacted property owners, said no zoning changes could take place without a public hearing and without first notifying the landowner and adjacent neighbors.

One major change to the zoning ordinance is the inclusion of a new section for planned unit developments (PUD). The intent of this sections is to encourage the development of parcels of land of at least 5 contiguous acres for residential or mixed use in a planned and coordinated manner. Chandler said these districts are applied throughout Virginia.

He said Richmond’s Fan District was a typical example of a PUD. One area where Chandler said he could see Clarksville approving a PUD would be in those business corridor (B-3) areas along Highway 15 North and the U.S. 58 bypass.

Dick Burnett asked if a PUD could be allowed in an area set aside for technology and industry such as the former Burlington Industries plant site. He was told it could and that the land surrounding the proposed site of the new Amazon corporate offices in Northern Virginia is being considered for mixed used development, though it sits in an area zoned for technology and industry.

Chandler reminded the members of the two bodies that zoning is not immutable and can be changed at any time to suit the needs and vision of the community.

Other proposed changes include a ban on parking recreational vehicles in any front yard or driveway of any lot located in a residential area for more than 30 consecutive days, a ban on storing more than two inoperable vehicles on any open lot except those being repaired in conjunction with an automobile service and repair business, and a ban on parking or storage of a disabled vehicle outside of an enclosed building for more than two weeks.

There are also 19 types of signs that are prohibited within the town, including off-premises signs, inflatable signs, posters and handbills affixed to structures, trees, rocks or utility poles, signs painted on a mobile vehicle or trailer not used in the normal conduct of business.

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