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May 18, 2017

“Marshall Code” public hearing draws a crowd

Photos/Don Del Rosso
County planning commission members Adrienne Garneau, John Meadows and Matthew Smith listen to testimony Wednesday night in Marshall.
Marshall property owner Paul Lawrence supports the proposed ordinance.
I believe that this is in the long-term interest of the community to take charge — to a degree — of its destiny and have a small-town fabric which we want to keep.
— Dr. Norris Royston
Public Hearing
• Topic: Proposed “Marshall Code,” a major overhaul of the village’s zoning.

• When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 17.

• Agency: Fauquier County Planning Commission.

• Where: Marshall Community Center, 4133 Rectortown Road.

• Turnout: About 80.

• Speakers: 31.

• Length: About 66 minutes.

• Details: Proposed 31-page code would create new zoning regulations to more effectively implement county’s long-range vision of Marshall as a diverse, thriving village.

• Next: Planning commission will continue the public hearing continue its June 15 meeting at the Warren Green Building in Warrenton.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Even some its most ardent supporters admitted the proposed “Marshall Code” needs more work.

Fauquier’s planning commission Thursday night conducted a 66-minute public hearing on changes to the county zoning ordinance intended to provide greater development flexibility and preserve the historic “fabric” of the Northern Fauquier village’s downtown.

Thirty-one people spoke during the hearing in the Marshall Community Center auditorium.

The proposed “form-based code” would replace most of downtown’s existing zoning. Allowing a range of by-right uses, it calls for three contiguous districts — “Town,” “Gateway” and “Town Residential” — and a corresponding historic district and corridor along Main Street and Winchester Road.

Generally, it would put more emphasis on design and allow a greater range of building uses.

It also would create a five-member review board that would determine if construction applications in the historic district comply with the code.

“Overall,” Delaplane farmer Matt Davenport said he remains “very supportive of the effort.”

But, Mr. Davenport believes that language to determine whether projects comply with code regulations should be clarified.

Along those lines, another speaker suggested the proposed document include “objective” standards.

Realtor Carter Wiley backs the plan but suggested land zoned “commercial highway” should be excluded from the proposed historic district and corridor.

“I believe that this is in the long-term interest of the community to take charge — to a degree — of its destiny and have a small-town fabric which we want to keep,” said Norris Royston, a Marshall physician and resident.

Harry Atherton represented Marshall District as a county supervisor and planning commissioner for 27 years until stepping down in December 2007.

Mr. Atherton, who lives near Orlean, believes that village residents and landowners have long wanted the kind of local control the proposed code promises.

During his tenure of the board and commission, “the one consistent takeaway is that the people of Marshall want to have more to say about their own fate,” he said. “I think this proposal goes a long way in achieving that.”

While “I’m sure it could stand some refinement,” Mr. Atherton added, “I think this is a great start.”

But, some landowners and others raised a range of objections and concerns.

Several speakers want their property excluded from the proposed districts because they believe the code would limit or possibly prohibit commercial development of their land.

But, before the hearing, county Zoning Administrator Kim Johnson told the audience the proposed code “allows more commercial uses in the business areas. It allows almost all of those (uses) by right.”

Others voiced concern about the potential effects on real estate taxes and values.

Some called for scrapping the historic district and proposed Marshall Review Board.

Linda Suter of Delaplane told the commission she had gathered signatures of 25 people who oppose the code’s adoption. The signers’ key objections relate to the proposed review board, subjective regulations and “unintended consequences,” Ms. Suter said.

One speaker complained the code would dictate the paint color property owners could use on their window shutters and doors.

Not so, Mrs. Johnson told the audience before the hearing.

“Throw away everything you know about historic districts and really look at these regulations,” Mrs. Johnson said. “They don’t regulate things like windows and roofs and steeples, paint colors, minor exterior features, signs.”

The planning staff will be happy to meet with anyone to discuss the proposal, she added.

“It isn’t about trying to convince you that it’s good or bad,” Mrs. Johnson said. “It’s about trying to make sure that everybody has the facts right about what it actually does, so you can then comment whether you think that it’s good or not.

The public hearing remains open and will continue at the planning commission’s June 15 meeting at the Warren Green Building in Warrenton.
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