News flash: Henrico County officials see the need to bring the county zoning code into the 21st century. Although the zoning code has been amended 240 times, it was adopted in 1960 and has never seen a systematic overhaul since.
The code, Randy Silber, deputy county manager for community development, tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is “over 55 years old. It’s antiquated. … There’s disconnect in the uses in the zoning ordinance and the economic development that is being put before us.”
Regulations governing sperm whale oil and poison manufacturing remain on the books, notes Silber. The code also refers to bone distilleries. “I don’t even know what that is,” he says.
The 1960 zoning code shaped the “suburban sprawl” model that propelled Henrico County growth in the 56 years since. But the model has run its course, having saddled the county with vast expanses of low-density land use patterns that are costly to maintain and are beset by intractable road congestion issues. Moreover, businesses are reversing a decades-long migration from the central city to the suburbs as Millennials and Empty Nesters seek walkable, mixed-use communities found in the urban core, along with easy access to the city’s museums, festivals and cultural events. To avoid the same kind of hollowing out that central cities experienced a half century ago, Henrico must create walkable, urban places as well.
While Henrico has permitted a few such places, growth continues to be dominated by old-fashioned sprawl. An outdated zoning code is, in effect, mandating the county’s premature obsolescence.
The fact that county professionals see the need for change is encouraging — although the examples cited in the Times-Dispatch article suggest that they may be in more of a mind to tinker with the code than to embrace an alternative paradigm for development and re-development. It’s also unclear whether the citizenry, which is terrified of any change that might affect their homes’ property values, sees the need for change. But at least it’s a start.There are currently no comments highlighted.