Zoning Presentation and Q&A Slated for December 7

The Elkins Planning Commission will present information about and hear public input on the latest draft of its proposed zoning code at a public forum with a question-and-answer period. The event is scheduled for December 7 at 6:00 p.m. at the Phil Gainer Community Center.

Zoning laws in Elkins have not been significantly updated since the 1950s. Starting in 2016, the Elkins Planning Commission, with the assistance of the WVU Land Use Law Clinic, has been working to update the city’s zoning laws. This work is now drawing to a close, and the commission will present its proposed new zoning code to city council for adoption in the coming months.

Zoning laws regulate how land may be used inside a jurisdiction. More specifically, these laws typically divide a jurisdiction into zones with different rules about what types of buildings, businesses, and residences are permitted there. The goals of zoning include protecting the character of existing neighborhoods, preserving and improving quality of life, and encouraging new investment.

The purpose of the December 7 forum is to familiarize the public with proposed changes to the city’s zoning laws before the beginning of the formal approval process. The program includes a presentation about the main components of the proposed new law and an open forum during which members of the public may ask questions and engage in back-and-forth conversation with commission members and city staff. The proposed zoning code, along with other background materials, may be downloaded from the city’s website: www.cityofelkinswv.com/zoning-update.

Some of the proposed changes in the planning commission’s draft ordinance include regulation of style, size, and placement of signs; frameworks to encourage high-quality reuse of properties such as disused churches and schools; regulations for new types of businesses that did not exist when the city’s current zoning laws were adopted; and requirements for landscaping and buffers between new commercial areas and residences.

The new zoning code would “grandfather” almost all existing uses, meaning that no current businesses or residences would be required to make changes, even if a property is sold. The exception is that, under the new code and as required by state law, if a “non-conforming” use is “abandoned” for one year, it cannot return to the non-conforming use.

The proposed laws do not impose design or historical-preservation requirements anywhere in the city.

The December 7 forum is the latest in a long series of opportunities for public input during this multiyear process. Since 2015, the commission has held about 40 public meetings (only 9 on Zoom, during the pandemic); two open houses for the purpose of collecting public input and concerns (January 2018 and September 2018); and an online survey (September 2016).

After the December 7 forum, the commission will review public input and make any needed changes to its proposed zoning code. After these final changes have been made, the commission will then formally present the proposed zoning code to council. After this formal presentation, there will be two more opportunities for public input at separate daytime and evening hearings held by council. Then, council will vote twice, at two separate meetings, on whether to approve or reject the new zoning code.

Again, the proposed zoning code, along with other background materials, may be downloaded from the city’s website: www.cityofelkinswv.com/zoning-update.

To stay up to date on this process, please follow the following channels:

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Read this on our blog: www.cityofelkinswv.com/city-blog.

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