Public hearing to discuss P-OI district

Published 12:07 pm Saturday, January 14, 2017


The Southampton Planning Commission agreed on Thursday night to schedule a public hearing in February on a proposed Planned Office and Industrial Zoning District.

Beth Lewis, secretary, pointed out that P-OI is a draft ordinance that the panel has looked over several times in the past two years.

As explained in the agenda packet, the district’s intention is to “provide for industrial and manufacturing uses, as well as office, limited institutional and commercial uses that serve such manufacturing and/or industrial uses, in an office park-like setting that complements the surrounding land uses in the community.”

“You could encourage complete development instead of piecemeal,” Lewis said.

In the P-OI district, the following are among the 31 listed permitted:

Retail and service establishments, contractor officer and storage yard, custom manufacturing, conference center, cosmetics and toiletries, perfumes, soaps, drugs and pharmaceutical products (compounding only) and radio or television towers are a few of the 31 listed uses.

Dr. Alan Edwards asked if they needed to be in a comprehensive plan, but Lewis said no, that the commissioners would adopt it first.

“Thisis the tool box that puts the conditional permit to effect,” she added.

Michael G. Drake, chairman, asked about time limits, which Lewis said would be covered by a phasing plan.

Doug Chesson asked for regional examples of this district, to which she noted the oldest part of Williamsburg; Edwards mentioned Harrisonburg in Rockingham County as another.

“If we face the reality of it, the only way to save farm land is by putting all these things in these concentrated places,” he added, to which Drake agreed.

Following other questions, the panel decided to move the matter to a public hearing.

The second piece of unfinished business was the Utility Scale Solar Energy Project Ordinance for Southampton County. This ordinance would “provide for the siting, development and decommissioning of utility scale solar energy projects in Southampton County subject to reasonable conditions that promote and protect the public health, safety and welfare of the community while promoting development of renewable energy resources.”

Edwards asked who has the authority here? That is, can the panel said, “No, you can’t … .” to any one who wants to create solar energy projects?

Richard Railey, attorney for the county government, said there’s no experience in Virginia for this sort of thing.

“It’s a learning experience,” he added.

Lewis said she told Community Energy, one of the companies interested in developing solar farms here, “I would prefer Southampton County to be the good example rather than the cautionary tale.”

Jack Randall, vice chairman, acknowledged that he feels “uneducated” about the whole issue. I can’t make an education decision. I’m with Mr. [Michael] Mann, we want to manage it, But there has to be somebody, such as Virginia Tech folks, who can make a presentation.”

Lewis reminded him that people from the university were here at the public hearing this past year.

“I didn’t get a whole lot from them,” he replied. “I just think we need more practical information than philosophical.”

The panel voted to table the matter.