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October 28, 2008
Colonial Beach Planners hear about Comprehensive Plan
COLONIAL BEACH, Virginia (STPNS) -- On Thursday, October 23 a public meeting was held by the Colonial Beach Planning Commission.
Land Studio, the firm contracted with by the Planning Commission to assist in the rewrite of the Comprehensive Plan, was to share the information gathered in a recent community survey while simultaneously conducting the first in a series of public workshops designed to integrate the community with the planning process and the creation of a publicly supported Comprehensive Plan.
The Chair of the Planning Commission, David Coombes, opened the meeting and then immediately turned the floor over to the company's principals, Carol Rizzio and Bill Spivey.
Rizzio provided those in attendance with an overview of what a Comprehensive Plan actually is. Describing it as a ?vision for the future,? Rizzio elaborated further saying it is a way to ?accomplish coordinated results while balancing needs and resources.?
She also took the time to explain that the Plan is a guide and ?general in nature?; that it is policy, not law.
?Unlike a zoning ordinance that has the force of law?, she continued.
Rizzio cautioned the group against developing policies that they would then be uncomfortable enforcing. This day's meeting, she explained, was the first in a series of three and would focus on an inventory of what Colonial Beach had and an analysis of the information recently provided by the community survey.
The second meeting, Rizzio said, would be planned for sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas so as not to interfere with the holidays and would cover ?Future Land Use Map & Character.?
Workshop #3 is planned for February and will be the point in time when an ?Implementation Plan? is discussed. The final plan is due for delivery in late March/early April. Counting the two months for the survey that adds up to nine months ? just enough time to make certain that the new Comp Plan has all its fingers and toes.
The presentation began with a slide show depicting the history of Colonial Beach. Next the attributes of the Town's actual physical location were highlighted, those being the relatively short distances to the ?major metropolitan areas? of Richmond and Washington and the close proximity to ?mid size urban areas? such as St. Charles MD and Fredericksburg.
The benefit of being situated next to the ?Historic Corridor? of Route 3 which features such attractions as Washington's birthplace, Westmoreland State Park, Ingleside Winery, Stratford Hall and the Westmoreland Berry Farm were also discussed. It was also pointed out that Westmoreland County as a whole had lost population between the years of 1990 and 2000 with Colonial Beach alone losing 3% of their's. In fact, according to the statistical data presented, between 1990 and 2000 Colonial Beach lost almost 250 residents between the ages of 18 and 44 while increasing its population between the ages of 45 and 64.
The 2000 Census Data utilized by Land Studio depicted Colonial Beach as having a workforce dominated by people with high school diplomas. Those with some college, but no degree followed a close second and in third place were those students who finished somewhere between the 9th and 12th grade.
Somewhere around 5% of the Town's workforce holds either an Associates Degree or a Graduate Degree. The largest three areas of employment are education, public administration and construction.
The data provided by the 2000 Census and used by Land Studio shows Colonial Beach to be a leader in poverty. Per the Land Studio slides, the ?percentage of families living in poverty is higher than the County or State (23% vs 11.2% & 7%).?
Housing information was provided as well. As of the 2000 Census, Colonial Beach had 2026 housing units, ?the majority are single family detached structures?. This is about 83.3% of the houses. As of 2007 Rizzio believes the town to have close to 2,400 single family/townhome structures. The information included also depicted the majority of the houses valued at between $50,000 and $99,000.
The median rent was indicated to be $538 per month. The traffic patterns indicated for the Town also came as a surprise; the vehicles per day for Colonial Avenue was listed as 6,200 and those for Route 205 as 5,300.
Route 301 showed traffic as 20,000 vpd. None of the Colonial Beach figures included golf cart traffic as they are not heavy enough to trigger the counting mechanism employed by VDOT.
After the presentation and survey information was distributed to the those in attendance, they broke up into smaller groups and working with maps and markers, began to work on a vision for the Town. The groups indicated which parts of town they would like to preserve; not necessarily meaning ?green' but just as is, as well as where they would like to see economic development.
Rizzio had pointed out earlier in the presentation that there were many vacant commercial sites within the town.
The end result?
Most of those in attendance were in agreement with their plan for the future. Preserving the shoreline, improving Colonial Avenue, and preserving and improving the historic downtown were all highlighted. Development of tourism was indicated as an important aspect to the community.
Although there were about 30 members of the community present, in addition to Town Council members and Planning Commission members, there were very few businesses represented.
There was nobody from the Chamber of Commerce at all. In a later interview, Chamber President, Carey Geddes said that he had known nothing about the meeting. He said that Dr. Farhney, Chair of the Colonial Beach Foundation, had stopped in to inquire about his absence and had shared that he, too, would have missed the meeting had John Drew, Chair of Project Colonial Beach not forwarded an email.
Geddes said he would attend the next meeting. Several attendees at Thursday's meeting said they too would have missed the public forum had Drew not sent them an email.
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