Editorial: How dense?
Mathews County officials will hold a public hearing this month on the "Village Mixed Use" district rules proposed for addition to the zoning ordinance.
As envisioned, this would be a very small district overlay that could be applied to Mathews Court House, allowing residential and business uses to mingle.
Inspired earlier this year by Walter Alford, a developer who has since withdrawn his plans, the VMU, if it ever came to pass, would probably place townhouses and apartments alongside village shops. People could walk to shops, and shops would have an instant base for commerce, as in a city neighborhood.
Mr. Alford said he envisioned 19 housing units an acre (far too many for a small town); the VMU proposal would limit the density to eight per acre.
It is currently six, and a bit of history lies behind that number.
Mathews County adopted its zoning ordinance in early 1987 after years of deliberation. The original density set for multi-family dwellings within the Mathews Court House Sanitary District was four per acre.
Just a few months after adoption, a developer came to the county proposing to build Cricket Hill Apartments. He could not proceed, he said, unless the brand-new ordinance would allow six units an acre.
There was some citizen opposition, and the matter was deferred for a while, but the builders eventually got what they wanted and for the last 24 years, the density limit has stood at six per acre. No one has been standing in line to ask for more.
And so we ask today: with no immediate demand in sight, is it better to increase the density limit now in order to ward off a possible future request for even more? Eight is enough, the county appears to feel … and we hope the officials will keep this bit of history in mind as they deliberate on the proposed new zoning district.