The Partnership engaged a private consulting firm, Good Government Ventures, LLC, to perform a review and analysis of the New Kent County (NKC) Comprehensive Plan. The firm’s principal is experienced in the development and implementation of local government plans, policies and procedures in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The foundation of the analysis is a comparison of the Planning Documents, Policies and Procedures of NKC and those of a similar County (“Benchmark”) in the Commonwealth. The consulting firm believes the Benchmark County’s are concise, effective and provide a good model for NKC to help achieve its goals for development in the coming decades.
The purpose of the analysis was to educate members of the Partnership on the basics of land use planning, to provide us a perspective on the current status of our County’s land use documentation and to enable us to better assist NKC government as concerned citizens.
One of the key takeaways derived from this project is that New Kent is a desirable location and as such is likely to continue to attract development. In order to manage the anticipated future growth effectively, a well-developed set of planning documents, policies and procedures will be required. In the spirit of cooperation, we would like to share some of the insights we obtained from the project.
Below are some of the important points we learned from the report.
- All planning documentation should clearly flow from the County Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan should be a robust, standalone document that clearly defines goals for future development of the County.
- The goals in the Strategic Plan can be further articulated as Macro Targets (tax receipts ratios, land use ratios, financial ratios, etc.). Macro Targets included in the Strategic Plan would provide a basis on which to measure progress against the Plan. Such progress could then be included in periodic progress reports.
- Master Plans should be developed for all major budget categories such as Public Safety, Public Schools, Public Utilities, Parks and Recreation and Government Facilities. These plans together constitute the foundation for the Public Facilities Master Plan and should be incorporated by reference into the Comprehensive Plan.
- Long-term planning should be extended for 25 to 30 years, accounting for remaining useful life of major capital assets. Planning horizons extended to account for the remaining useful life of the county’s capital assets would enable more enlightened planning. Effective planning is based on quantifiable current service needs and projected requirements as planned development is realized.
- Level of Service analysis is essential to effective long-term planning.
- A capital impact model would enable the county to more accurately quantify the comprehensive financial impact of future development as it occurs.
- Zoning Ordinances provide the means to achieve the targets in the Comprehensive Plan and should clearly reflect them. NKC Zoning Ordinances would benefit greatly from a major revision, organized along the lines of Zoning Districts. In addition to removing conflicting language scattered among the current sections, this approach provides specificity and granularity of requirements for a given zoning district in one location. The result is a much more user-friendly Zoning Ordinance for citizens, developers and County government alike.
- A proffer policy would ensure the county complies with the provisions of the Code of Virginia when entertaining proffers offered by developers.
- The NKC government should proactively seek citizen input and involvement at every step of the process to review/rewrite the Comprehensive Plan, county Zoning Ordinances and other associated Plans, Policies and Procedures. Citizen engagement and participation throughout the development of the various planning documents, ordinances and procedures would prevent daylight from developing between the NKC local government and the citizens they serve.