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Vote “YES” for new county zoning ordinance

By Staff | Oct 23, 2009

Early voting on the proposed new Jefferson County Zoning Ordinance has begun. I strongly encourage everyone to vote “YES” in order to adopt a new Zoning Ordinance that will greatly improve zoning and the quality of life in the County. If you live in a municipality in the County you cannot vote on this issue.

Why have zoning at all?

If all land owners, developers, and builders knew what standards the community expected from them and were willing to adhere to those standards in the development of real estate, there would be no need for ordinances. However, without expressed standards, experience has shown that land owners, developers, and builders are frequently motivated solely by profit and the community is left with an environment that is not conducive to the quality of life expected by its residents. Also, developers cannot be expected to read the collective mind of a community and to know what standards are expected of them without those standards being codified. Without standards, the end result is often highly dense developments with no “green space” and poorly constructed residences. Hence, the community asks its elected officials to formulate rules and regulations that set minimum standards expected of all land owners, real estate developers and builders. To protect the community, these minimum standards are promulgated in the form of Zoning Ordinances, Sub-Division Ordinances and Building Codes.

Why this ordinance?

The proposed Zoning Ordinance has been developed over almost four years and has taken into consideration the views of all interested groups including but not limited to developers, builders, farmers, environmentalists, affordable housing proponents, and historians. The general public has been heard from through 12 public hearings held by both the County Commission and the County Planning Commission. Many positive changes have resulted from these meetings and hearings in developing the proposed Zoning Ordinance. The proposed ordinance will eliminate the current ordinance which, basically allows high density real estate development almost anywhere in the County. One of the principal criticism’s of the current ordinance is that it is so poorly written and so lacking in specificity, that any development project is subject to the changing opinions and personnel of the County’s Planning Commission and Planning Department staff. There is no predictability for either developers or for the County’s residents.

The proposed Zoning Ordinance is dense and extensive in order to remove the uncertainties in the present ordinance and meet the requirements of the County’s Comprehensive Plan. The proposed Zoning Ordinance will allow growth to continue but will target high density development to areas that are near the 5 municipalities in the County and along the County’s main thoroughfares. The proposed ordinance will encourage “Clustered” development that will save open space in the County’s farming areas. The historic nature of any site will greatly affect the ability to develop and will save many of the county’s historical sites and buildings. Affordable housing will be mandated for residential developments. The proposed ordinance will help farmers to maintain their farms by producing revenue from more farm-related businesses than is currently allowed. The environment and topography of all sites will be an important component in its development potential.

No Zoning Ordinance is perfect, but Jefferson County needs to pass the proposed Zoning Ordinance to protect the quality of life in the County while allowing continued real estate development.

I encourage you to vote “YES” in order to adopt the proposed Zoning Ordinance.

Edward E. Dunleavy