Land Use and Community Character Goal 6
Land use and development regulations will reflect best practices in current use and promote growth that is compatible with Shepherdstown’s character.
6.1 Adopt and Enforce Building Code Regulation
STRATEGY: Adopt the West Virginia State Building Code and partner with Jefferson County to provide administration and enforcement of the Code to ensure that construction activity is undertaken in compliance with relevant life/safety and energy efficiency standards.
JUSTIFICATION: While individual contractors engaged in construction projects in town are required to maintain compliance with the state building code, there is no local review or inspection of building plans or construction activity. Adopting the state building code locally will allow the town to enforce the code and maintain a more vigilant posture with respect to the quality of construction activities occurring in town. Given the limited resources of the community, contracting with Jefferson County to administer and enforce the code would be the most cost effective and efficient method of ensuring compliance.
6.2 Development Review Processes Assessment
STRATEGY: Review policies and procedures for development review to ensure that no unnecessary obstacles are present that may serve to discourage investment in the community, while also ensuring that an adequate level of technical review and public input is included in the decision-making process. Examples of policies to review include submittal and review schedules, development review and permitting fees, the level of detail required for preliminary or conceptual development plans, the number of hearings required for development approval and the types of approvals that may be granted administratively.
JUSTIFICATION: Lengthy or complicated development review processes can serve as a deterrent to investment. Ensuring that the town maintains an adequate level of technical review and public input, where warranted, in the development review process is critical to realizing positive outcomes, but process should not be more important the results. A collaborative approach in the initial steps of the development review process, in which the developer and the town work together to iron out any differences prior to formal review or hearings can help to achieve better results and ensure that a submitted development plan is acceptable and will not require significant revision. Delegating as much authority as possible to staff members to approve certain types of development plans (within reason) is also an effective method of streamlining the administration of a development ordinance in that it generally allows for a faster and more efficient process in contrast to review and approval processes that rely on a public board or commission.
6.3 Consider Adoption of Form Based Development Regulations
STRATEGY: Consider adopting a framework for development regulations that combines a “form-based” approach to the regulation of development, which emphasizes the physical characteristics of buildings and sites, with a traditional “use” based approach to ensure that the character and integrity of the community and its neighborhoods are preserved.
JUSTIFICATION: The aesthetic character and form of development was consistently identified as the most important factor in the future growth of the town. A form based code approach, such as that provided in the Transect Code, can provide an avenue through which the town can ensure that future growth is consistent with its character. A particular advantage of the Transect Code is that it regulates development in a contextual format, from rural to urban, and does not impose identical regulations throughout a community as some form based codes do. Given the current regulatory environment, it would probably be necessary to combine the transect code with a more traditional approach to regulating land uses and development in some established areas of town to help preserve the character of the town.