Irvington adopts new comprehensive plan, 5-1


IRVINGTON—The Irvington Town Council last week approved a new comprehensive plan.

After two public hearings and exhaustive public discussions, the plan was adopted by a 5-1 margin. Member Mike Merrill made the motion to approve with Wayne Nunnally casting the only opposition vote, based on his opposition to inclusion of a planned unit development (PUD) ordinance.

“I don’t want developers to create separate little neighborhoods rather than a whole town, so I will be voting against the comprehensive plan for that reason,” said Nunnally.

Passage was supported by Vice Mayor Kathleen Pollard, and members Fran Westbrook, Jerry Latell, Michael Bombay and Merrill. It included a last minute addition by Nunnally to plant an oak tree in the commons “…designated to Jackie Burrell,” the late town clerk who served Irvington for 20 years.

“A PUD is more to get tourists here,” said Bombay. “Those houses could be rented. It’s not a gated community, but has sidewalks where they could walk to town.” They are smaller houses on smaller lots, which make them attractive to tourism, he added.

“A PUD doesn’t separate the community from others,” said Gary Hooper. “What it provides is affordable housing because it’s mixed housing.” He noted the Ukrop family owned 50 acres at the Dog and Oyster Vineyard. “It’s zoned in two-acre parcels. Ukrop doesn’t want to build houses on 2-acre lots. That’s 25 houses on 50 acres.”

Nunnally argued that no one will want to walk to town from the vineyard.

“The plan does not address how we accomplish anything,” said Barry Robinson during the public hearing. “It doesn’t call for any strategies, or where the money comes from. It has excellent ideas, but no strategies.”

As an example, he said a call for community access to the water didn’t offer any ideas to accomplish that goal.

“We’re trying to get conceptual ideas on where to go,” said Merrill.

“The plan is a guideline,” explained Mayor Ralph Ransome. He noted the funding would come from the real estate tax.

“No one is going to come here unless there’s something to draw people here,” Robinson insisted. He suggested the town focus on tourism. “Retirees come here for health care. Jobs aren’t here to attract people. To increase the tax base, you have to have more people here. Can we focus on growing whatever it takes to draw people here rather than taxing the people that live here? If not, this town’s going to die.”

David Headley asked how the plan will encourage moderately priced housing.

“It’s extensively addressed in the R-2 (multiple residential zoning) and in a PUD ordinance,” answered Merrill. He said PUD neighborhoods would bring green space, parks and sidewalks.

Robinson suggested the town offer more family-oriented activities, “…which drives families, which drives renting houses.” He used Kiawah Island in South Carolina, as an example of a town that successfully caters to tourism with many family oriented events.

“What we need is an activity director,” Nunnally suggested.

“I think the plan pushes us in the right direction” in terms of attracting young families, business and retirees, said Latell.

After suggestions that the hospital and schools be improved, Bombay reminded the public that those facilities are outside of the town’s control.

After the public hearing, Westbrook reminded attendees, “This is just the first step in the process. We still have a long way to go.”

With adoption of the plan, the town will proceed with plans to develop the commons and a PUD ordinance.  Merrill received approval to get a price on writing a PUD ordinance from the consultants who worked on the comprehensive plan with planning commission members.

In other business, members noted Virginia Department of Transportation had jumped into the work of replacing state-owned sidewalks. Town and privately held sidewalks will be addressed with homeowners.

The mayor thanked VDOT, state troopers, the county and all first responders to the tornado that hit Irvington.