When Winchester governing bodies fail to work together, progress halts

Published 1:24 pm Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Missed opportunities.

Every individual has experienced and lamented them.

The city of Winchester is no different.

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Over the years, many opportunities have presented themselves, but some people have overlooked them or chosen not to take them.

There has been an opportunity to promulgate some reasonably innocuous design standards for new construction here, but governing bodies failed that opportunity. Now the community is facing further development which does not enhance our local milieu.

Local boards and commissions seem almost — at times — to be working against one another rather than in conjunction with one another.

On occasion, the Fiscal Court or City Commission do not support recommendations of the Planning Commission. Sometimes, the Planning Commission does not support efforts of Main Street Winchester.

It sometimes appears as if various groups working for the benefit of the citizens of the county have formed a metaphorical “circular firing squad.”

Within the last few years, the office of Planning and Community Development has foregone opportunities to upgrade its policies regarding regulations on parking and landscaping.

It’s understandable the office has many obligations and duties to attend to, but the process of updating these standards could easily be relegated to an ad hoc committee and placed on the books in a reasonable amount of time.

The office local has recently revised the sign ordinance, and that’s a good thing.

But the parking regulations are hopelessly outdated, often difficult to decipher. The office hasn’t accounted for the types of establishments for which parking requirements within the ‘retail store’ classification are established. For instance, the amount of time a patron of business is expected to spend in an establishment should be considered in formulating parking rules. People are likely to spend less time in Walgreen’s than at Walmart, so the number of required parking spaces should reflect reality. The parking regulations permit shorter parking stalls with overhangs, but many developers put in longer stalls, creating more paving than necessary. They should be urged to use the alternative method.

The lack of updated landscaping requirements allows planting that is inappropriate for its use, and the lack of an update requiring new businesses locating in vacant buildings to bring the property up to current standards has resulted in existing properties continuing to operate without providing current landscape mandates.

And the city is missing out on rationally and logically growing its boundaries by not actively seeking to incorporate new development that is adjacent to the present city boundaries.

It’s possible the city has failed to take advantage of incorporation by not requiring the proposed Twin Oaks development to accept annexation into the city. This development abuts the city limits along U.S. 627 and will undoubtedly receive city water and sewer services. It meets all the prerequisites for annexation.

However, once the first house is built and sold, incorporation will rely on 100 percent of the residents agreeing to that, a much more difficult scenario.

Winchester is growing. Good things are happening here as part of that growth.

More good things would result from fewer missed opportunities.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.