The Greene County Planning Commission unanimously approved zoning ordinance changes at its Nov. 20 meeting pertaining to performance guarantees for public and private infrastructure in new developments.

Changes were made to Article 19-5 of the Greene County Zoning Ordinance and section 4-2-3, section 6-4 and section 7 of the Greene County Subdivision Ordinance.

No one spoke at the public hearing.

Guarantees are sometimes called bonds or sureties as it’s an amount of money guaranteed to the county by the developer to assure the work will be done. If it’s not, the county will have the funds to do the work, according to Jim Frydl, planning director and zoning administrator.

“The language that we have now is very limited. And we’re recommending a lot of changes just to clarify what the responsibilities and the roles are,” Frydl said. “The main purpose was to make sure that whenever there’s a public-private construction project, that the citizens have reasonable expectation that the developer will complete it and/or the money required to complete it will be available if they cannot, or do not complete it. In the past, we’re all aware of some situations where roads for example, were supposed to be completed, but because of either inadequate guarantees at the time or releases of the guarantees under those standards at that time, left us without enough funds.”

Frydl said infrastructure work includes roads, sidewalks, landscaping, water, sewer and utilities.

“Anything that the site plan or the proffers” or subdivision plan contain, noted Planning Commission Chairman Jay Willer.

One change is an escalation clause within the required guarantees.

“It’s designed to make sure that the money increases with the construction cost index, so if the project takes 10 years before the infrastructure is complete and they default nine years into the project, current-day costs will be guaranteed,” Frydl said. “It’s an automatic annual renewal that coincides with the construction cost index.”

Changes were also included in how guarantees are released.

“The biggest change is in order to be considered completed and to receive a release of your guarantee, the improvements must have been approved and accepted by the state agency, local government department or agency or other authority responsible for maintenance and operations of such improvements,” Frydl said.

Roads must be accepted into the Virginia Department of Transportation’s secondary street system before money is returned to the developer.

Additionally, the county will now require that once a builder has reached 80% occupancy for the phase (or entire subdivision depending on how it was approved) the infrastructure must be accepted before additional building permits will be issued.

“It gives the developer time to receive some profit back on the investment, but does not let it go on too far to where they’ve completed everything so they have less incentive to complete the project,” Frydl said. “In the case of default, the county shall use the available performance guarantee funds to complete the improvements … but in no event shall the county be bound to supplement the performance guarantee funds with other county funds in order to complete the improvements.”

In the past, homeowners have come to the county to suggest it is responsible to pay to complete infrastructure projects because bonds were released to developers before work was completed.

“I’ve heard citizens of Greene County have come to the board and complained about subdivisions and roads not being accepted, but I don’t hear it all the time,” said Commissioner John McCloskey. “Is this pervasive in the county? I just don’t want the impression out there that this is a solution looking for a problem.”

Frydl said it’s not pervasive but has happened when developers have gone out of business or passed away during the construction and there weren’t enough funds left for the county to complete the projects.

The changes will now go to the Greene County Board of Supervisors for final approval.

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