Friday, February 1, 2008


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scroll down for map and meeting dates and times
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Henrico County is hosting public meetings this month, (May) to answer residents questions about Henrico County's 2026 Comprehensive Plan 'draft'. Once the final draft is approved by the Board of Supervisors, it will be the guide for decisions concerning development for the next eighteen years.


Do not leave without doing this, because
this is your chance to let Henrico officals know what you think.
You should tell them that strict conservation guidelines are needed to protect
our Open-Space, Watershed, Agricultural Land Use,
Wildlife Habitats, and Historic Sites and Structures..
(for starters..)

and that GreenSpace Planning, and additional Public Parks are among the
subjects overlooked in the current 2026 Plan 'draft'.

These meetings are apparently "open-house" format, so if you cannot arrive by 4:30 p.m., PLEASE STILL ATTEND. If you can;t go on the 22nd, visit another meeting instead.

The 2026 Plan 'draft' has been given little media coverage, and yet holds at its core, plans which if put to use in their current form, will leave Varina looking much like Short Pump, which also used to be rural-residential in nature. Now besieged by grid-lock, and vastly commercialized, Short Pump is obviously not the ideal pattern for the future development of Varina.

Yet, the 2026 Plan 'draft' sets guidelines for just that- THE URBANIZATION OF VARINA. All Henrico residents are encouraged to voice their concern about these plans, and to give input for more appropriate guidelines for our future.

The 2026 Plan "Land Use Plan" draft now available suggests URBAN DEVELOPMENT of UNDEFINED DENSITY in many parts of Varina. The result of these plans would be that many current residential areas in Varina would transition directly from rural residential to HIGH-DENSITY URBAN.

Everyone likes convenience, but did you buy your home to have a "big box store" like Target, or Lowes, a major grocery store, or multi-story office building ON YOUR BLOCK? New "Land Use Designations" in the 2026 Land Use Plan suggest that many current neighborhoods be ELIGIBLE for re-zoning to include commercial uses, thus your neighborhood could BECOME the "infrastructure" for future subdivisions.

Do you think that multi-million dollar 'conservation subdivisions' will will be centered around the latest convenience store or 'big box' store? That might be a little hard to market... no, instead Henrico County will instead include commercial uses within areas which are currently solely residential. This could impact your neighborhood. Just think, residents of future subdivisions could stop on the way home at the 7-11 now conveniently located on your residential street!

Several proposed land-use designation changes in the 2026 draft suggest just that. Look at the color on the 2026 Land Use Map and key, and find your neighborhood. See if your area falls under one of these new designations:

"SMX" (Suburban Mixed Use): "...a minimum of 10% of the area should be dedicated to non- residential uses and must contain both open space/recreation and office or service/commercial uses."

"TND" (Traditional Neighborhood Development): "...A minimum of 30% of the land area should be dedicated to non-residential uses and must include both recreational spaces, and office or service/commercial uses. Multi-story buildings with a vertical mix of uses would be encouraged in TNDs."

"UMU" (Urban Mixed-Use):"...Urban Mixed-Use Areas are characterized by mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented, activity centers which may contain a variety of uses, including business, office, multi-family residential, cultural, educational, open space, and other public and private uses, with a planned balance among the various uses."

The above descriptions are not complete, but only excerpts from a just a few of the new land use designations. The Comprehensive Plan FAQ does point out that the plan cannot change the zoning of your property. But in many areas it can and does SUGGEST rezoning your property. Sure, walkable, pedestrian friendly neighborhoods sound convenient- but imagine the incoming traffic... and where will those sidewalks come from? Off of your street frontage and out of your tax dollars, which are bound to rise as a result of the current draft of this plan.

We, as a group of concerned residents, are not against "smart growth". And sure, we could all be called "nimby" (not-in-my-back-yard)- because who in their right mind buys a home in Varina to have the latest grocery or convenience store, office park or medical center built on their block? Shouldn't 'smart growth' allow the new infrastructure needed to support future development to be planned within the newly developing areas?

Infrastructure certainly is necessary all the new residents Henrico expects to be built in Varina, but ugliness, intense traffic, and higher crime can be avoided by keeping public and commercial uses out of neighborhoods. New commercial ventures should be kept to new developments, instead of infiltrating current residential areas, which are already dense as it is.

Because interest and vigor for historic, cultural, environmental and agricultural pursuits exist, and because tth Varina lands in which these pursuits find their basis are under increasing developmental pressure- citizens, the Planning Commission, and Board of Supervisors need to devise strategies to protect and enhance Henrico County's remaining resources in Varina:

Implement Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) and Transfer of Developmental Rights programs, which will offer Varina landowners a way to protect their farmed and forested lands. (It has been more than five years since our Board of Supervisors met with local Sierra Club members who turned in petitions including more than 600 signatures asking for such programs to be implemented. These were signed by Henrico residents gravely concerned about the pressure on and loss of farmland IN VARINA. Why have residents not seen the results of these requests and meetings since?)

Pursue all avenues of local, state, federal funding to purchase conservation easements or design incentives to preserve the agricultural potential on farms.

Encouraging residents to
grow, eat and buy locally grown foods supports community farmers, creates jobs and preserves farmland. It also cuts down on fuel consumption and pollution that are a result of interstate trucking of produce. There has been a national "eat local" movement for some time, emphasizing the benefits of consuming food grown close by. Henrico needs to catch up by promoting the development of a sustainable community food system.

Varina's local nursery owners need to be supported via planning as the valuable asset they are to our local economy.

Varina has the largest amount of open space and undisturbed natural areas, many of which harbor plant and animal species that do not exist elsewhere. Immediate planning is needed to preserve remaining forests, and currently existing natural wildlife habitats.

The comprehensive plan should preserve and support Varina as the nationally known birdwatching destination that it is. Without proper buffering, our bird population will decline annually.

The 2026 "Major Thoroughfare Plan" draft includes many additional proposed roads, some of which lead 'nowhere', separating currently farmed tracts, which would make it difficult for farmers to negotiate heavy machinery across farmed land.

The draft chapters contain no planning for green infrastructure, or additional park lands. As a result, Varina could very quickly lose what is left of its rural character. Varina's population is going to grow, and the increasing density is going to put pressure on park space. Creating new park lands could be a "win win" for the environment if economically developed to incorporate ideas that support agricultural and history based tourism.

Distinct historic preservation ordinances need to be created to protect Henrico County's severely dwindling historic sites and structures.

Serious preservation planning attention needs to be given what can still be saved of Varina's 'Elko Tract'- an internationally known botanical resource.

Henrico needs to join the national 'Cool Cities,'Cool Counties' initiative, and sign the Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration, a major new initiative to combat global warming.

As the magisterial district with the greatest James River frontage, it is imperative that plans be put into place to protect our already severely damaged watershed.

Ordinances requiring the use of pervious concrete instead of asphalt are necessary to aid in preventing further run-off from polluting the creeks, streams, river and bay. (It has been scientifically shown that bald-eagles will not nest within a certain distance of impervious surfaces. Let's not 'build them out' of our district!)

Strong tree canopy ordinances need to be written so that our grandchildren and those who come after them will still have clean air to breath. A public tree planting program needs to be created to aid in this result.

Residents in Varina can still see the stars at night. To make sure this continues, strict lighting ordinances need to be created, requiring down-turned outdoor lighting only.

And most important of all, SERIOUS planning and ACTIVE WORK are OBVIOUSLY needed in our Varina School System. How can the future residents predicted in the 2026 demand and capacity analysis studies of the 2026 Plan (draft) even consider moving here with schools the way they are? Managing existing schools needs to be a prime focus.

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It is important that residents attend the Comprehensive Planning meeting in May. Tell your neighbors and other Varina residents, so they can get involved too.
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Look in the column to the right, under the heading entitled 'PLEASE REVIEW THE HENRICO COMPREHENSIVE PLANNING LINKS BELOW, THE FUTURE OF VARINA DEPENDS ON IT'. There are links to the Land-Use and Major-Thoroughfare plans. The plan currently in use (called the 2010 Plan), as well as links to to the 2026 Plan (draft). Compare the two and look at your neighborhood, and see how you will be affected.

Ask yourself, do you want to live in a high-density district, in a pro-development county? Because this is what the 2026 Plan suggests and endorses. No matter how "general" or "loose" a set of guidelines Henrico repeatedly describes the Comprehensive Plan as, once passed, the plan in its current form would provide an open door for the URBANIZATION of Varina.

Take a drive through Short Pump and ask yourself, is this what you want Varina to look like? Do you feel that the decisions the county is making represent your hopes for Varina's future?

And finally, ask yourself: 'do you want Varina
to become an URBAN ENVIRONMENT?'

Henrico County Varina District 2026 Plan Comprehensive Planning Comp Plan Rural Farm Farming Forest Watershed History Brookland Fairfield Three Chopt Tuckahoe Supervisors Board Meetings Land-Use Major Thoroughfare 23075 23150 23231 23223

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