If you live in Botetourt County, what developmental changes would you like to see? More commercial growth? Fewer houses? Moderately priced housing? Publicly owned water and sewer services in your subdivision?
An online survey is available for citizens who wish to have their voices heard as Botetourt County updates its comprehensive plan. A comprehensive plan, required by state law to be reviewed every five years, is the county’s vision for the future. The policy guides the planning department and the Board of Supervisors when rezoning requests arise.
Citizen input is a vital part of the process. The county held two public forums on Saturday, October 24; about 80 people attended the meetings at Lord Botetourt and James River high schools.
“We’re looking at the year 2030,” County Zoning Administrator and Chief Planner, Chuck Supan said. At that time, Botetourt County’s population will have increased by almost 7,000 people to a population of 38,437, according to some estimates. Much of that population is in southern Botetourt County, long a “bedroom” community for those that live there but work in Roanoke.
Botetourt County has hired a consulting firm to examine census, traffic, and other data to make projections into the future so that services will be available as the population climbs.
“Right now is the time for folks to be speaking up,” Supan said. “We’re really looking for what people’s thoughts are on where the county is right now.”
Supan and a supervisor-appointed steering committee want to know what the citizens like, what they don’t like and what they want changed.
Comments at Saturday’s forum indicated that citizens are worried about water and sewer needs, according to Blue Ridge District Planning Commission member, Jim Laughlin. He also serves on the steering committee.
They also want recreational centers, such as parks and ball fields for the children. “Those were things that popped up a lot,” Laughlin said.
He thinks the county needs to provide infrastructure and promote smaller housing. “The days of the big $750,000 housing developments are over,” he said, referring to some of Botetourt’s better-known and expensive subdivisions. “Unless they get some water and sewage in here, they’re going to have a mess.”
The county experienced a housing boom in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, but that has slowed considerably. Housing permits have dropped from more than 225 annually to less than 75 this year.
Infrastructure needs have been an issue for the county for some time. The supervisors struggled with a sewer issue prior to approving Orchard Marketplace last year. The Daleville Town Center development, where a new Food Lion is located, almost failed because of sewer concerns. Any new major development project could face a similar problem if needs are not addressed, Laughlin said.
Most of the comments came from the Lord Botetourt meeting. Only a few people attended the James River forum. “I don’t think that the people in this district have felt the pressure that the other districts have felt and they’re being a little less proactive,” Buchanan District Planning Commission member Steve Kidd said. “In the southern end they’ve felt it and I think they want to help plan how that area is developed.”
Much of the county’s growth has centered in Cloverdale, Blue Ridge and Daleville. It has gradually crept along US 220 towards Fincastle and is moving along the Cloverdale Road corridor from Exit 150 to US 460 at Bonsack. Kidd expects those areas to receive scrutiny from the comprehensive plan steering committee.
Slower economic growth will play a role in the plan’s development, Kidd said. He believes the higher cost of gasoline will force development to occur around existing areas of service, such as the county’s three towns or Daleville.
“People have to keep an open mind. We do need development and that new influence to help old businesses continue. If we try to shut the door, so to speak, then we would become what I would call stagnant,” Kidd said.
The comprehensive plan includes a vision statement, methods for managing anticipated growth and transportation needs, goals and policies related to economic development, housing, infrastructure and natural resources, and a plan for environmental quality and agricultural lands.
Citizens are asked to fill out a survey online at http://www.botetourt.org/government/planning_cp_update.php, or print the survey and return it to the planning office in Fincastle.
A second public forum, which will outline concerns voiced at Saturday’s session and include any new information, will be held at the same locations on Saturday, December 5.By Anita Firebaugh firstname.lastname@example.org