State law (Code of Virginia, Title 15.2, Article 3) requires the local Planning Commission in every municipality in the Commonwealth to adopt a Community Development (Comprehensive) Plan. The Commission is charged with making “…careful surveys and studies of the existing conditions and trends of growth, and of the probable future requirements of its territory and inhabitants. The comprehensive plan shall be made with the purpose of guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, adjusted and harmonious development of the territory which will, in accordance with present and probable future needs and resources, best promote the health, safety, morals, order, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of the inhabitants.”
The Comprehensive Plan for Northumberland County is currently undergoing its mandated five-year review. The 132-page plan and a 29 page Appendix on the economy and demographics of the county are available for in-house use at the Northumberland Library. Chapter 1 analyzes the physical and environmental conditions as they pertain to issues such as septage, potable water, shorelines and access to state waters. Chapter 2 is a table summarizing issues, goals and strategies. Chapter 3 summarizes the Land Use Plan and Chapter 4 identifies public facilities and services, including highways, recreational areas, public buildings, schools and water supply and sewage disposal facilities. Chapter 5 summarizes the Water Quality Protection Plan.
The Comprehensive Plan establishes policy that guides public and private activities as they relate to land use and resource utilization (Land Use Plan). It is the basis for land development regulations and decisions regarding rezoning and conditional use permits. Transportation needs are addressed (Highway Plan), as are initiatives that protect environmental (Water Quality Protection Plan) and historical resources, and public facilities (Community Facilities Plan). The plan ultimately dictates how the county’s financial resources are distributed to various programs and agencies. Most importantly, the plan provides a vision for what the county should look like several decades hence as a guide to future development.
What do you think the county should look like in twenty years? What kinds of goals would you like to see for the future? What needs to be changed in the way the county has developed in the last twenty years? What parts of the existing Comprehensive Plan should be strengthened? What should be added? Should anything be discarded? Now is the time to educate yourself, discuss your concerns with friends and acquaintances and make your opinions known. The Planning Commission meets the third Thursday of each month in the old Court House building in Heathsville. The agenda is publicized in local newspapers and the public is always invited to attend. Call the County Administrator’s office (580-7666) if you have questions.
It is important to recognize that the Comprehensive Plan is not law. It is a public document of fundamental importance in establishing guidelines for subsequent actions. It is a guide for decision-making and for legislative actions, but not a regulation in and of itself. It is the essence of long-term “Stewardship” for all citizens.
NAPS will devote its 2003 annual meeting to the Comprehensive Plan. Mr. Alfred C. Fisher, Jr., Chairman of the Planning Commission and recipient of the NAPS Distinguished Citizen award in 1996 will discuss the current plan and the revision process. The meeting will be held in the St. Stevens Episcopal Church meeting hall beginning on Feb. 15 at 09:30 with coffee and cookies, and Mr Fisher will speak and field questions beginning at 10:00. Please come and help the county achieve one of NAPS’ goals of “growth with order and beauty”. Citizens of other counties are also urged to attend so we can learn from your previous revisions, and so that you will be better prepared to assist in future revisions for your county.