Planning for the future in Waynesboro

Story by Chris Graham

The development business is slow right now – not surprisingly, considering that the economy is in the midst of a slowdown locally and nationally.

But that doesn’t mean that Waynesboro city planner Jim Shaw is any less busy these days.

“In general, when the development business is slow, a lot of people in the development sector focus their energies on doing feasibility work so that they can pick up when the economy comes around,” said Shaw, stacks of paperwork surrounding his desk as we talked about what will be in store for the planning office in the River City in the coming fiscal year.

More of the same is the answer that I would give to the question along those lines that I posed to Shaw, whom I’ve known for going on a dozen years now, dating back to his first stint as city planner in Waynesboro in the late 1990s, when the pace of activity in the planning office was far less chaotic.

The retail and commercial sectors in Waynesboro have been hopping the past five years, exposing some fundamental flaws in the city zoning ordinance that the planning department will try to address in the coming months.

The top item on the agenda for the department is a zoning-ordinance rewrite that will be in the works for the next 12-18 months, Shaw said.

The city zoning ordinance has been in place since 1964, and as it has been amended numerous times over the years, “it has come to lack consistency and continuity over time,” Shaw said.

The process will be a public process involving the various stakeholder groups, from members of the development community to people with professional backgrounds in engineering and community planning to private citizens with more general interests, with plans for a series of public workshops and community meetings designed to facilitate public input into the review process, Shaw said.

That input will be important in ensuring that the new zoning ordinance that results is representative of what Waynesboro wants and what Waynesboro needs.

“It is incumbent upon the city staff that this process is an open process so that we can hear from as many different sources and points of view as we can as we work through this,” Shaw said.

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