Commissioners continue draft comp plan review

As planning commissioners continue their review of the comprehensive plan, they looked at the housing portion of the plan during last week’s work session. As the group worked their way line by line through the section the issue of home occupations arose.

A home occupation can be anything from a small carpentry contractor to a home daycare or just someone telecommuting, working by computer and phone from home rather than taking up office space at their place of employment. The gas savings is an added value. One commissioner was not so sure home occupations were a good idea.

“What we’re doing is allowing businesses to crop up all over in residential neighborhoods,” said Russell Gulley, Clover Hill district planning commissioner.

Commission Chairman Wayne Bass disagreed. “There are many businesses in this county that operate from phones that we never know about,” he said. “Especially in these times, businesses will allow employees to work at home over the computer to save on office space.”

The commissioners, prompted by the draft plan, agreed that regulations should be adjusted with future changes in housing needs, but there was also a consensus that the regulatory system is structured to change as the market changes.

Planning staff commented that “we should be able to look out into the future see how housing trends will change,” referring to the Housing Policy Element of the draft.

All of the commissioners agreed to strike a portion of a subsection called “Housing and Employment Relationship,” which encourages “local financial institutions to participate in creative housing solutions that respond to a changing housing market.”

The commission also decided to delete a subsection of “Building Community” relative to small site development. Bermuda District Planning Commissioner Sam Hassen indicated he thought the section should be deleted because that section indicates “encouraging residential infill development on small sites by applying flexible regulatory standards, such as reduced area and amenity requirements.” Hassen said, “It conflicts with [the next section] ‘sense of place.’ ”

William Brown disagreed, “I think [small site development] gives us flexibility.” Brown was advocating allowing the commission to look at each case on its merits but not creating a policy for all such development.

The section that Hassen argued “small site development” replicated, and other commissioners agreed, was the “sense of place” section, which states “encourage housing that contributes to a unique sense of place within existing and newly developed communities.”  

The work session on the draft plan typically takes about four hours but the commission is somewhat behind schedule and recently included addition dates to discuss the merits of the draft plan before passing it on to the Board of Supervisors. The Board had indicated that the planning commission should complete their analysis of the draft before July 1.

The planning commission has scheduled work session dates that begin at 1 p.m. and end at 5 p.m. for May 10, May 23, June 6, June 23 and June 30.


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