Creating ways to help re-vitalize existing communities in Staunton as integral and thriving neighborhood districts: Acknowledging the town within a town
Built within the ridge and valley topography typical of the Shenandoah Valley, the City of Staunton has evolved – like most communities - in response to history and context – and has been shaped by land form, availability of natural resources, economic demands, and social dynamics.
The geographic growth of the City is expressed in cycles of annexation, beginning in the 1700’s, continuing on through the 1800’s, into 1905, 1935, 1948, 1956, with the most recent, large expansion to the City limits occurring in 1986.
These annexations included the absorption of previously independent communities including Plunkettville to the west of central Staunton and the post-Civil War historic African American community of Uniontown to the east in 1948.
Heavily influencing Staunton’s evolution was the establishment of a new zoning ordinance in the 1960’s, resulting in broadening codification of land use districts. Staunton’s new land use policies, like many zoning ordinances and land use districts of that time period, were designed and configured primarily to support the car oriented development of subdivisions and strip malls - whether or not the existing conditions reflected that type of community patterning.
The results of applying zoning districts designed and configured for the car oriented development of subdivisions and strip malls were often ill-fitting, broad brush zoning districts, lacking sensitivity to local conditions, historic patterning, and persisting land uses.
Through adjustments in its Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinances, Staunton is continuing to create ways to utilize the potential of annexed communities – the town within a town - as thriving, revitalized neighborhood districts. The re-vitalization of these communities addresses several fundamental goals outlined for many years in Staunton’s Comprehensive Plan. They are: allowing for redevelopment where infrastructure already exist, enabling and encouraging more compact, mixed use neighborhoods, and helping conserve the architectural character of older areas of the City that are important to the City’s overall character. We are focusing on understanding what are neighborhoods were like historically, evaluating what is still there, and making choices about how what remains can be clarified and strengthened. With a few changes in zoning districts and City ordinances, we hope to allow the patterning and character of our annexed communities supply the leading influence in shaping the neighborhoods of the future. Acknowledgement and of these neighborhood districts will be important to support long term, healthy community growth. Our work to date has focused on two areas:
A. City Wide Off-Street Parking Exemptions for Existing Commercial Buildings, an ordinance change adopted by City Council in 2009, to encourage the re-use of older commercial buildings:
Exceptions to off-street parking requirements for commercial buildings City wide apply to:
Any lot or parcel with commercial buildings and zoned B-1, B-2, B-3, or P-1, with new or continuing business uses, where any of the following conditions already exist exclusive of adjacent unaccepted alleyways and/or streets:
- Slopes greater than 15 percent;
- Front yard(s) less than 25 feet, all side yards less than 15 feet and a rear yard less than 40 feet; or
- Front yard less than 25 feet, side yard(s) less than 40 feet and a rear yard less than 40 feet.
B. Re-Zone Pre-Existing, Legally Non-Conforming Residential Properties from Business and Industrial Uses to Residential Use: currently under consideration.
Staunton, through adjustments in its Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinances, is continuing to support our existing communities as integral and thriving neighborhood districts. The potential is compelling for the continuing re-vitalization of these older communities, allowing for redevelopment where infrastructure already exist, enabling and encouraging more compact, mixed use designs, and helping to conserve the architectural character of older neighborhoods important to the overall character of the City.