The general election of 2016 is over and Greene County overwhelmingly voted for both Donald J. Trump for President of the United States, and Tom Garrett for US House of Representatives to the 5th Congressional District of Virginia, by a margin of 2:1.  Both wins are stunning by the numbers alone, drawing voter turnout in Greene County to a record 73.9% of those registered.

A hallmark of the Trump campaign centered around strengthening the economic condition of our country through federal tax reform, repatriating off-shore capital, and eliminating job-killing regulations. Even before taking office, United Technologies, the parent company to Carrier, announced that they would after all keep more than 1,000 jobs it had previously planned to move to Mexico in Indiana. This is a huge sign of things to come.

As our country prepares to experience an economic boom, how will Greene County government prepare and what queues will the Board of Supervisors take on policy and regulations that impact economic growth for us here at home?
ResolutionResolution from the August 23rd Board of Supervisors Meeting
On August 23rd, 2016, the Greene County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a Resolution of Intent to Amend Zoning Ordinances.  One amendment of particular interest, on a list of five, is “research and draft an architectural design standard district and guidelines”.   (See published Minutes of the August 23, 2016 Board of Supervisors Meeting, page 4, under "Consent Agenda", item b., & the actual Resolution, found on page 7.  Download highlighted Resolution).

According to one Planning Commissioner, the November ‘16 Planning Commission meeting held scant discussion about forming an Architectural Review Board resulting from the fifth bulleted amendment contained in the August 23rd, 2016 resolution.

This specific amendment begs this question. Is the Greene County Board of Supervisors open to adding more subjective regulations by placing aesthetic zoning ordinances on businesses by forming an Architectural Review Board?  

When pressed for confirmation on this matter, Greene County Administrator John Barkley replied, “The item in the work program referenced is a result of a request from the County's EDA” (County Economic Development Authority).   County Administrator Barkley continued to elaborate that work to establish impacts and benefits from the study would begin in the Spring of 2017, and that “any new standard or legislative action taken in the future would entail a full public process."

In a nut-shell, this is the preliminary process necessary to form an Architectural Review Board. Arriving at this conclusion was not at hard; it was logical and only needed authenticating by a straight forward response to show where this amendment may lead, and Administrator Barkley provided that.  

So, where could this lead?  Proponents of aesthetic zoning reason it to achieve a certain look in a given area or to ensure that any new development adheres to specific design standards in order to protect the natural, scenic, and historic resources of the County outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. They also use such zoning to focus on the “beauty of the community” within its jurisdiction. Of course, such regulations based on looks alone can be subjective to tastes and what looks good.  But in whose eyes do such standards reach the level of beautiful?

The Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow zoning based on looks alone, but must also be for reasons of health, safety, morals and the general welfare of the community. However, the lines can be stretched and abused by power vested in such boards.

To the Liberty-minded person, it is not the proper role of local government to enact ordinances solely based upon the subjective tastes of appointed and unaccountable government bureaucrats.  We can look to both Albemarle County and to the City of Charlottesville for examples of how such regulations have driven up the costs of doing business and infringed on property rights.

Local businesses and developers need to keep an eye on how wide the impact of this plan may become by playing a role as stakeholders this spring at the public meetings. We need to take a page from the Trump playbook by ensuring that over-burdensome and costly regulations at the local are eliminated. 

Here is suggested reading which further explains the Constitutionality of Aesthetic Zoning and its history -

Bob Young
Ruckersville, VA