County Design Rules Hit Draft Form

SNOW HILL – The first component
of the recently renewed effort to complete the Worcester County Comprehensive
Plan hit the desks of the County
Commissioners this week
when staff released a draft of the commercial design guidelines.

“These design guidelines would
affect all commercial and industrial development in the county over 10,000
square feet,” said Development Review and Permitting Director Ed Tudor.

The 75-page draft design
guidelines would implement 10 objectives of the Comprehensive Plan, from
architectural development standards and landscaping standards to discouragement
of strip development and encouragement of compatible neighborhood designs.

“Parts of it are mandatory.
Parts of it are voluntary. We tried to include a lot of flexibility in how it
is applied,” said Tudor.

The commissioners plan to hold a
public hearing on the draft design standards in November.

Tudor urged the commissioners to
send the draft to the Worcester County Planning Commission to give that body
time to thoroughly go over the plan before the late fall public hearing.

The draft will be posted on the Worcester County website to allow the public to
look at the text.

“When you send it to the
Planning Commission, stress that it’s for review and comment, not that it’s for
them to rewrite,” said county attorney Sonny Bloxom, a former county

The Planning Commission should
be given a deadline of Oct. 7 for comments, said Commissioner Judy Boggs.

Commission President
Commissioner Virgil Shockley said he would impose that deadline by letter. The
design guidelines need to be fully approved by December, Shockley said later.

While the new Comprehensive Plan
was approved in March 2006, the plan has lingered for years in limbo without
implementation mechanisms. Without official design standards and the
comprehensive rezoning, the provisions of the Comprehensive Plan cannot be

The comprehensive rezoning, and
with it the commercial design guidelines, must be approved by early winter,
before the involved county budget process begins in March. Staff has been given
a late December deadline for the rezoning.

“We’ve got that window of
opportunity and that’s it. We’re going finish this thing,” Shockley said.