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September 18, 2017

Marshall remains divided about zoning changes

Photos/Lawrence Emerson
Marshall real estate investor Tom McMillan likes the proposal “it would keep local control over what happens” in the village, says Jim Downey, his attorney.
As a property owner, I do not want an appointed, non-elected group of people interpreting the guidelines and code to make decisions about what I can and cannot do with my building.
— Doris Elam
Public Hearing
• Topic: Proposed “Marshall Code,” a major overhaul of the village’s zoning.

• When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14.

• Agency: Fauquier County Board of Supervisors.

• Where: Warren Green Building, 10 Hotel St., Warrenton.

• Speakers: 21.

• Length: About 60 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. In July, Fauquier’s planning commission unanimously recommended approval of the code.

• Next: Staff will make various changes to the document, which the supervisors Oct. 12 will consider adopting.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
After years of study and public debate, the proposed Marshall code still needs work.

Following an hour-long public hearing Thursday night, Fauquier’s board of supervisors postponed action on the 31-page document until Oct. 12, when it probably will decide the matter.

Replacing most of the village’s existing downtown zoning, the “form-based” code would allow a wider range of uses and more of them by-right. It calls for creating three contiguous districts — “Town,” “Gateway” and “Residential” — and a corresponding historic and corridor district along Main Street and Winchester Road.

The code seeks to implement the comprehensive plan’s traditional town vision for the Northern Fauquier village.

Twenty-one people spoke at the hearing. Twelve seemed to back the measure — several with qualifications — and eight opposed it.

Marshall Business and Residents Association President Mary Wilkerson said the organization’s board voted on various components of the code. The results indicated the board remains divided on the matter.

Ursula Baxley, who lives near Marshall and several years ago served on a committee to plan the village’s future, wholeheartedly supports the proposed code.

“I truly believe this is the best direction for my village of Marshall,” Mrs. Baxley said.

Many speakers focused on a proposed five-citizen review board and the historic district.

Supervisor Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall District) recommended changes to scrap the review board and shrink the district.

The citizen board would review and act on applications affecting property within the historic district.

Mrs. McDaniel proposed that the county zoning administrator — instead of a review board — decide on such applications.

Decisions by a review board or the zoning administrator could be appealed to Fauquier’s board of supervisors.

Warrenton lawyer Merle Fallon represents several landowners that would be affected the proposed code.

While Mr. Fallon prefers eliminating the review board, he question whether the zoning administrator legally would be authorized act on applications.

State law “talks about a board, and the board may approve renovations, construction and so forth,” he told the supervisors. “I don’t know if a zoning administrator constitutes a board.”

Of the proposed change to reduce the size of the historic district, Mr. Fallon said: “We certainly favor that.”

Roy Barnett serves as a group president with Northern Virginia-based Van Metre Homes, the owner and developer of two projects at the village’s western end — Cunningham Farm and Carter’s Crossing — totaling 351 lots.

Mr. Barnett, who has suggested numerous changes to the proposed code, also objected to establishing a review board.

“It does add another regulatory compliance that you must go through in a project.”

That kind of regulation represents “one of the biggest detriments to being able to add affordable housing in this country and especially in this region,” he said.

While Doris Elam, who owns property on Main Street, concedes the proposed code has merit, she dislikes the review board concept.

“As a property owner, I do not want an appointed, non-elected group of people interpreting the guidelines and code to make decisions about what I can and cannot do with my building,” she said.

Ms. Elam also expressed concerns that such board decisions could adversely affect property values.

But Tom McMillan, who owns property on Main Street and has a contract to buy eight acres behind McDonald’s that he wants to develop, has a different view of the proposed review board.

Warrenton lawyer James Downey, who represents Mr. McMillan, said his client likes the idea because “it would keep local control over what happens” in the village.

“He’s not opposed, in principle, to the historic district,” Mr. Downey said.

Mr. McMillan would like to develop the land behind McDonald’s into a “modest mixed-use” project, which would be allowed by the proposed code but not existing zoning, Mr. Downey said.

Realtor Chris Cloud and others suggested the board adopt the proposals and revisit them in several years to determine their effectiveness.

“If it’s proved to be unduly repressive, then it can be changed or shelved,” Mr. Cloud said.

Mrs. McDaniel thanked citizens and county staff for their work on the proposed code.

By county staff’s count, there have been 11 community meetings, six planning commission work sessions and three planning commission public hearings devoted to the code.

An advisory panel to the supervisors, the commission in July unanimously recommended approval of the document.

Calling Marshall citizens “passionate about their place,” Mrs. McDaniel said: “They are committed to growing the town in a way that reflects its history, that reflects the things that make Marshall Marshall.”

The proposed code “will allow this to happen in an organic way,” she added. “This code has been customized to do that.”

Marshall Code BOS Agenda 9 14 2017 by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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