Land Use and Community Character Goal 1
Shepherdstown will grow in a manner that is complementary to the historic physical and aesthetic patterns of the community, while avoiding development that is generic or does not reflect the community’s unique sense of place.
1.1 Illustrated Architectural and Site Development Standards
STRATEGY: Develop and adopt illustrated architectural and site development standards that are consistent with the Town’s desired vision for the aesthetic and physical characteristics of new development.
JUSTIFICATION: The use of an illustrated approach to regulating land development activities will provide the community with greater certainty about how new development will be integrated with the character of the town and give the town’s staff, elected and appointed officials charged with approving development proposals better guidance in their review of applications. This type of approach to regulation will also give developers and the design professionals assisting them a better understanding of the town’s expectations than can be provided in a text based format alone, particularly with regard to architectural design.
1.2 Community Based Design Standards
STRATEGY: Engage the community in the process of developing architectural and site development standards to ensure that there is consensus on the desired aesthetic character for new development.
JUSTIFICATION: Involving the community at-large in the development of new architectural and site development standards through a charrette (facilitated design workshop) type of approach will help to ensure that there is broad consensus and buy-in from the town’s residents. Involvement in the development of the design guidelines will also help to increase residents’ confidence in the quality of future development in town, thereby lessening the potential for opposition to growth.
1.3 Town - University Development Collaboration
STRATEGY: Continue to work collaboratively with Shepherd University on the development of the University campus with a goal of maximizing compatibility between the campus and the town.
JUSTIFICATION: A collaborative and cooperative approach to the development of the Shepherd University Campus, as well as areas immediately surrounding the campus, will help to achieve better outcomes for both the town and the university. Though not regulated by the town, a number of factors, including parking, the aesthetic appearance of buildings, utility infrastructure and transportation connections, impact the town’s ability to provide adequate public services and the affect the quality of life of its residents. Good two-way communication will help to ensure that the actions of each entity do not affect each other negatively, while also providing opportunities to identify and take advantage of the positive aspects that new development can bring.
1.4 Encourage Traditional Development Patterns
STRATEGY: Adopt regulations that require new residential subdivisions on properties that are in close proximity to the core of the town to be platted with a physical layout that is consistent with the Town’s established neighborhood patterns, including street layouts and widths, lot configurations and similar characteristics.
JUSTIFICATION: The character of Shepherdstown is heavily influenced by the traditional neighborhood development patterns that are associated with the original street and lot layout of the community that was established when the town was originally platted. Development practices that take a more “modern” approach to land subdivision for residential development often utilize curvilinear streets, cul-de-sacs and lot configurations that do not fit well with Shepherdstown. If developed in close proximity to the core of Shepherdstown, modern development patterns would erode the ability of the town to extend its grid street network and negatively impact the character of the community.
1.5 Extend the Grid Street Network
STRATEGY: Adopt regulations that require the extension of the grid street network as land is annexed into the Town and subdivided where such extensions are practical with respect to topography and existing development constraints.
JUSTIFICATION: Shepherdstown’s historic grid street network provides a strong and efficient transportation network that allows for multiple alternative routes. It also plays a major role in shaping the character of the community since it is the foundation for how the town and its neighborhoods developed. Extending the network, where possible, as growth occurs around the core of the town will help to strengthen the character of the community and ensure greater compatibility and connectivity with future development.
1.6 Incentivize Compatible Architectural Renovation
STRATEGY: Explore options to incentivize the exterior renovation of nonresidential properties that are not compatible with the historical architectural patterns found in Shepherdstown. Examples of potential programs could include grants, tax rebates, tax increment financing and similar financial incentives.
JUSTIFICATION: Buildings that are architecturally incompatible with the historic character of the community negatively impact the town’s unique sense of place. While it may be difficult in many instances to require or expect owners of incompatible buildings to renovate them to fit better with the town’s aesthetic, financial incentives can help to bridge the gap. Such incentives would not likely fulfill the entire financial need of a renovation, at least in the short term, but could help to bridge a financial gap for owners who are motivated to improve their properties.
1.7 Municipal Influence Area
STRATEGY: Work collaboratively with Jefferson County to establish an “Area of Influence” in the County’s defined growth areas where the County’s development ordinance would be subject to an overlay district that would implement development standards that closely mirror Shepherdstown’s standards.
JUSTIFICATION: Although the town has established a Growth Management Boundary, Jefferson County still retains zoning jurisdiction, and thus development approval authority, for land that is located outside of the town’s corporate limits. A significant portion of this area has been designated by the county for future growth, and has been zoned to accommodate suburban scale and density residential and commercial development. Without prior annexation, development in these areas will be subject only to county regulations, and are not likely to meet the expectations and standards of the town. By working with the county to establish a Municipal Influence Overlay District, which would require compliance with certain critical town standards, for instance architectural design, pedestrian infrastructure and street layouts, new growth in these areas could be made more compatible with the town, regardless of whether the property was annexed.
1.8 Revise Development Ordinances to Accomodate New Growth
STRATEGY: Review the Town’s development ordinances to ensure that proper standards are in place to accommodate new growth outside of the town’s traditional core area and revise as necessary.
JUSTIFICATION: The zoning districts and development standards contained in the town’s current development ordinances do a good job of addressing the needs and character of the area within the traditional core of the town, but do not include the broad range of districts and standards that would likely be necessary to accommodate the regulation of either new or existing development outside of the corporate limits if the town undertook annexation of the suburban or rural areas outside of town. Ensuring that a broader array of development regulations are in place now will better prepare the town to deal with growth in the future, and make the town a more attractive partner to developers that might not otherwise consider annexation. Expanding the scope of the town’s ordinances does not mean eliminating the standards that currently apply within the town, as these can easily be preserved while broadening the ordinances to address new growth or regulate existing suburban development.
1.9 Public - Private Planning Partnerships
STRATEGY: Work collaboratively with property owners in are as with high growth potential to develop small area plans to help guide the development of their property in a manner that is consistent with the town’s vision for growth.
JUSTIFICATION: Proactive planning in conjunction with private property owners will help both the town and developers establish a clear path to development approval for projects in areas that have high growth potential. Engaging in such public-private partnerships can help to establish expectations prior to the initiation of the development process, add a layer of certainty in the development process and allow the town to plan for the provision of public services for new development. If a fast-track approval process is also included as part of a pre-planning arrangement, this could also encourage the voluntary annexation of land into town.