Rural System, Inc.
 Sustained rural lands; sustained profits

Notes for County- or Region-Level Comprehensive Plans

The following are Rural System notes on elements of Comprehensive Plans. The Rural System, Inc. provides at lease some secondary assistance to achieving many of the goals found in Comprehensive Plans throughout the region. (Staff of Rural System prefer using Objectives throughout and show how the types of objectives can be related to Goals and Principles often used within the Commonwealth.)

Economic Development

Goal – Enhance the county’s tax base by maintaining and encouraging a diverse and vibrant local economy in Designated development areas and compatible with the county’s size and rural character. A diverse conglomerate is proposed

Goal – Increase the county’s tax base by supporting the rehabilitation of substandard county residences and buildings and by seeking to have new residential development support the additional county costs associated with the development.

Goal – Support and encourage tourism as a viable means to diversity the local economy.See ranging and The Tours Group.

Goal – Recognize the importance of the county’s agricultural economy as an integral part of Nelson’s economic heritage and as an important part of the current economy.

See Pastures and Rangelands
See The Goose Flocks
See Stables
SeeThe Vineyards


Goal – Promote a safe, efficient, and diverse transportation system to serve both local and regional traffic.

Goal – Enhance the internal and external flow of traffic within Designated development areas.


Goal – Support the educational needs of all County citizens as a means of preparing for the future and for preparing a quality workforce. See System Central

Public and Human Services Goal –Provide equitable public services – fire protection, rescue services, crime protection and prevention – to all county residents based on cost effectiveness and equitable levels of service to all residents. See Safety and Security

Goal – Support the development of adequate infrastructure in Designated development areas and in other areas of the county where lack of water and sewage disposal creates a potential health risk or a depreciation of property values.

Goal – Encourage access to a full range of quality health care facilities and programs for all county residents.

Goal – Support and strengthen resources to address the human service needs of county residents, with an emphasis on those with special needs.

Natural, and Scenic, and Historic Resources

Goal – Recognize that the natural environment is an important facet of our quality of life and efforts should be made to support and enhance that environment.

Goal – Protect the county’s scenic resources as essential to the county’s rural character, economic strength and quality of life. See Viewscapes

Goal – Preserve and protect the historic character and features of Nelson County.


Goal – Promote a diversity of recreational opportunities for county citizens and for those who visit the county as tourists. See ranging and the many recreationally oriented enterprises.

Development Areas

Goal – Channel new development into Designated development areas thereby retaining the county’s rural character.

Goal - Ensure that new development does not exceed the county’s ability to provide the needed services and infrastructure.

Goal – Encourage and support the development of safe, sanitary and affordable housing for county residents of all incomes.

Rural Conservation

Goal – Maintain the rural character

Goal - Protect productive agricultural and forestal land. See The Forest Group and Pastures and Rangeland Group

Land Use Plan

The Land Use Plan is the description and rationale for desired new growth in the county. The Plan is based on two fundamental principles:

Steep Slopes Computer use of elevation, slope, aspect, geology, soils and many other factors in a system such as The Trevey provide site-specific prescriptions for improved land use.

As county residents know, the County has a high number of steep slopes, defined as slopes greater than 25%. For development purposes, steep slopes present a building challenge and possible environmental consequences. Clearing, grading, building, cropping, and overgrazing of steep slopes can result in extensive erosion and landslides or sloughing of soil and rock, excessive stormwater runoff, increased siltation and sedimentation, and degrading of the aesthetic value. In the event of a septic system failure, the septic effluent has a greater travel distance.

General standards for steep slopes can mitigate these possible hazards. These include not allowing septic systems on slopes of 20 percent or greater; having roads should follow the natural topography to minimize grading, cutting, and filling with slopes less than 15%; maintaining natural drainage channels in their natural state and/or stabilize natural channels to protect them from the impact of development activity;selecting carefully and designing public utility corridors to fit the topography; adapting development to the topography and natural setting. Excessive grading, cutting, and filling should be discouraged. As land slope increases, the rate of stormwater runoff also increases. Fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals may be ineffective and can increase probabilities of surface and groundwater pollution.

Soil Potential for Agricultural Use

Over the years, County farmers, orchards and vineyards have made use of the foothill areas. Low lying flatlands and floodplains make for some of the best soils for agriculture.

There are little prime agricultural soils and they are found primarily in floodplains. Good and moderate soils are more plentiful, and include what little amount of flat and rolling terrain exists in the county.

Maintaining the agricultural (and forestal) land base helps sustain the scenic quality and rural character of the county, which both residents and tourists appreciate. Maintaining agricultural land also promotes the existing agriculture business and retains these lands for future farming.

Protection measures for agricultural lands and forests include:

Rural Small Town Development Model

The Rural Small Town Development Model is the highest density development allowed in the county, except for large-scale uses such as regional-scale commercial and industrial. Water and sewer service is required. The rural small town model includes interconnected streets for good internal mobility and allows for growth by using parallel collector roads added to the town. However, additional growth is allowed only within the defined boundaries of the town or expanded based on increased water and sewer service. The types of uses allowed include single family and multifamily residential, retail, offices, civic or public uses, parks/recreation, and limited, small-scale industrial. Most buildings are two stories but may be three stories. Preferred examples of commercial uses are shoe and clothing stores, dry cleaner, dentist and doctor’s offices, antique and craft stores. A public gathering spot, such as a park or playing fields is a vital part of a vibrant small town. The town includes sidewalks or pedestrian paths, safe bicycling, and transit options such as JAUNT service and park and ride lots. On-street parking, off street parking, and parking lots are included within the town. As the countywide land use map shows, rural small towns must be located near major highways or other means of good transportation.

Future growth, or infill development, is desired in small towns of the region, but must follow the design model and be in keeping with the developing character of the land. Specialized historic regions may be Designated if they can be supported.

Rural Village Development Model

Rural villages are central to the County’s heritage. The earliest settlement patterns revolved around small villages, which were often important centers of commerce and employment. The Rural Village Development Model is designed to recapture and build upon the vitality of these rural villages through a mixture of uses including residences, civic or public uses such as parks, recycling centers, park and ride lots, small-scale commercial to support the daily needs of the nearby residents, institutions, primarily churches, and may include limited industrial uses in close proximity, especially if the industry is supportive to the county’s agricultural economy. Generally water and sewer service is needed, but wells and mass drainfields may serve this purpose. Residences make up the majority of buildings in the rural village and are predominately, if not exclusively, single family. Modest multifamily dwellings in the range of two to four units allow for more affordable housing and buildings should reflect the scale of existing structures. Along the circumference of the rural village, single-family residences are appropriate. The range of commercial uses includes, for example, convenience stores and small grocery stores, garden centers, video rentals, automobile parts and supplies, restaurants, drugstores, banks, and hardware stores.

Rural villages promote "neighborliness" and a sense of community by making residences, commercial, and civic uses close to one another, but at a rural scale. Walking and bicycling within the village are promoted, even though the automobile remains the dominant form of transportation between the village and other parts of the county. Rural transit services such as JAUNT may appropriately serve rural villages, and park and ride lots for residents are encouraged. Some villages may experience growth pressures,while others may see a decline in population.

Neighborhood Mixed Use Development Model

The Neighborhood Mixed Use Development Model allows for a variety of uses focused around a central gathering place. As with all the models for the development areas, the Neighborhood Mixed Use model emphasizes a walkable community with many amenities available. Located off a primary road (and not bisected by a primary road), the Neighborhood Mixed Use model creates a system of internal roads that alleviate the pressures on the primary road and keep new development focused within a quarter mile diameter. This enhances the internal walkability of this model by allowing visitors to park their cars and walk to the services within. Parking lots should be placed in select areas where the impact of the lot on the neighborhood is minimized. Dark sky lighting and unobtrusive signage is appropriate for all new development. Water and sewer service is needed to manage the density proposed in the Neighborhood Mixed Use model.

Appropriate Neighborhood Mixed Use land uses include both single family and multifamily residential, a variety of commercial establishments, professional offices, civic and public uses, and parks or recreation facilities. Some of the preferred uses include a grocery store, restaurants, cultural and entertainment opportunities, a drugstore, doctor and dentist offices, and churches. For public use, a library, farmers market and space for recreation. Over time, a neighborhood mixed use community may expand to offer a wider variety of retail and civic uses. Multifamily dwellings, commercial and office buildings should be compatible with and reflect the scale of existing structures.

Limited Mixed Use Development Model

The Limited Mixed Use Development Model advocates a low impact development area, comprised of primarily single-family residences and limited commercial applications. The impact to existing roadways should be minimal and any commercial development must conform to the rural nature of the county by limiting signs, lighting, and design to be as unobtrusive as possible and sensitive to environmental constraints.

Application for development within the Limited Mixed Use Development Model should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis using, but not limited to, the following criteria:

The use of lighting, if any, that conforms to dark sky provisions and other methods for limiting the impact

The proposed impact on existing environmental constraints, such as floodplains, wetlands, and steep slopes Use of The Trevey and related GIS can allow detailed information for citizens about such slopes and related land uses.

A building design that conforms to the existing development pattern and to the rural and design features of the County.

Mixed Commercial Development Model

Located off a primary road, highway or major interchange, the Mixed Commercial Development Model allows for the highest level of commercial development proposed in the Comprehensive Plan. Focused around a major anchor store, this model includes a diversity of other commercial uses that may stand alone or be concentrated in a shopping center complex. The Mixed Commercial Development Model requires limited access from the primary road and includes internal access and connectivity of the different uses. This scale of commercial activity requires ample parking, but should be attractively designed with landscaping, design standards and may include green spaces for athletic events and countywide recreation. Dark sky lighting and unobtrusive signage is appropriate for all new development. Single-family residences are not appropriate, but multifamily units are. The Mixed Commercial Development Model is intended to offer regional shopping and countywide services to include recreation, a library, or a government center. Mixed Commercial areas are key locations for rural transit stops and park and ride lots.

Light Industrial Development Model

In more intensive industrial uses, it is not desirable for residential or civic uses to be directly next to industry. However, residences, stores, parks, churches, or schools can benefit industry by offering housing and services to the employees. It is helpful to have affordable housing and amenities close to places of employment. Therefore, the Light Industrial Development Model includes a diversity of uses, but separates more intensive industrial uses even though they are close to homes and services. As with the Mixed Commercial Development Model, industrial development should include dark sky lighting and unobtrusive signage. This Model supports a village scale development – an activity center - to be included in the Light Industrial model. The activity center is buffered from the industrial sites yet are connected by roads and sidewalks or paths. Both the industries and the activity center typically require water and sewer service. For small-scale industrial applications, commercial and residential uses may be mixed with industry.

The activity center offers uses in support of industry. Single family and multifamily residences provide a diversity of affordable housing types. Commercial uses include convenience stores, restaurants, a neighborhood scale grocery store, drugstores, banks, and hardware stores. The commercial establishments serve not only the employees of the industries, but the truck drivers who are needed to support the industries and the families who reside in the activity center. Appropriate civic uses include parks, churches, recreation fields, and, over time, a school or branch library.

Land Use Plan for Rural Conservation Areas

The majority of the County is rural and the unique character and particular identity of the County is due in large measure to this rural character. While "rural character" is fundamentally difficult to define, it is important to describe the desirable features of rural areas so their key attributes are protected. The following attributes begin to describe rural character:

Viewscapes has means for quantifying the rural character, scenic beauty, and the rates of change.

Even though "rural character" may be hard to define, the land use standards for protecting this rural character are more easily described and follow from the rural attributes listed above. Any development that occurs in rural areas should adhere to the following principles:

To distinguish between residential development appropriate around Designated development areas and rural residential better suited to rural areas, two models are described below:

Rural Residential District – would allow low-density residential and compatible non-residential uses in rural areas near Designated development areas where agriculture is not the predominant use. Clustering of residents further protects rural areas.

Rural and Farming District – would promote agricultural uses and compatible open space uses but discourage large scale residential development and commercial development that would conflict with agricultural uses. The Rural and Farming District would permit small scale industrial and service uses that complement agriculture. Division of property should discourage the depletion of prime farmland. Clustering of any new development in areas of the site without prime or productive soils will further help preserve these areas for future agricultural uses.

Future Land Use Plan

The Future Land Use Plan follows from the six development models described above. The Future Land Use Map identifies the approximate locations appropriate for each of the development models. In summary, the following development models are recommended for the following areas:

The areas above cited as currently lacking adequate infrastructure must be developed only as adequate infrastructure becomes available. Development in these areas may be piecemeal as infrastructure is developed, but should follow the principles of the appropriate development model. Some areas doe not now have water and sewer within the proposed growth area, but changes may be planned making them a primary site.

The Future Land Use Map also identifies areas appropriate for low density Rural Residential. These sites are adjacent to identified development areas and adjacent to existing institutional (typically schools) or small-scale industrial uses. These areas are not expected to be served by water or sewer and therefore must be developed at a density consistent with groundwater availability and the lot sizes needed to accommodate septic systems.

Finally, the Future Land Use Map describes the bulk of the county as Rural Conservation, a Designation adhering to the Land Use Plan Rural Conservation areas.

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