Westlake zoning

Steve Sandy (left), director of planning and community development for Franklin County, discussed new zoning standards with Westlake property owner Ryan Waters.

About 50 people attended the Westlake/Hales Ford Advisory Committee’s public information meeting Aug. 29 to see how zoning might impact the lake community in the future.

The meeting at Trinity Ecumenical Parish in Moneta detailed new zoning standards for properties along Virginia 122 from Harmony School Road to Hales Ford Bridge and along Scruggs Road.

Jim Colby, a member of the Franklin County Planning Commission, said there was a need to update zoning that was put in place more than 15 years ago.

Colby emphasized that zoning was not a limitation for property owners, but a protection. “Zoning is intended to avoid disruptive land use patterns by preventing activities on one property from generating external effects that are detrimental to other properties,” he said.

The new zoning standards were discussed by the Westlake/Hales Ford Advisory Committee when the group first formed in 2014. They were given as recommendations when the Westlake/Hales Ford Village Plan was adopted by the Franklin County Board of Supervisors in 2016.

“I think you will see that these changes will improve zoning in the area while also providing more choices for property owners,” Colby said.

Steve Sandy, director of planning and community development for Franklin County, provided an explanation of the proposed zoning changes. He said the main goal of the zoning is to maintain the integrity of the community within the village district.

Rural properties currently zoned A-1 within the Westlake and Hales Ford village overlay will be designated as rural residential. The new designation includes limits to agricultural uses and allows only one home per lot. Second homes on the property are only allowed for family members with a special-use permit.

Several businesses along Virginia 122 in Westlake and Hales Ford will be rezoned corridor business. The new designation includes allowances for a variety of non-intensive office and commercial services, and requires a special-use permit for more intensive uses such as retail spaces larger than 10,000 square feet. The designation also requires landscaping and screening of materials and storage areas.

Sandy emphasized during the meeting that any use currently allowed on a property in the Westlake/Hales Ford Village areas would continue even if the new zoning is adopted. New or future property owners in the village area will only have to conform to the new zoning if they change how their property is currently used, he added.

Questions arose about how limited some of the uses would be in the areas that are changing from A-1 to rural residential.

Ryan Waters voiced concern that the zoning changes to rural residential could negatively impact properties. Waters owns land along Virginia 122 in the village area that is currently zoned A-1. He could build four homes per acre under existing regulations. However, he said, “With what is being proposed, it drastically reduced that number, and that is a concern.”

Bob Camicia, Gills Creek District representative, said the reason the number of homes was reduced came from when the village plan was adopted in 2016. He said county staff would be willing to work with property owners in the village area if there were particular concerns that zoning would negatively impact their property.

In addition to new zoning standards, signage, including temporary commercial signs announcing grand openings, special events or promotions, would change. Signs must be 10 feet from property lines and no larger than 32 square feet. They will be limited to posting no more than three weeks before an event or promotion and must be removed two days after the event.

Real estate and political signs also were addressed when the original village plan was adopted in 2016, Camicia said. There could be further regulation on those signs in the future, but Camicia said property owners already have the right to remove signs placed on their property without permission.

The Franklin County Planning Commission’s public hearing on the proposed zoning changes will be Sept. 10. The Franklin County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing before making a final vote on the changes at its meeting Oct. 15.