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‘Ready for a New Era:’ New planning vision, zoning, Comprehensive Plan become law

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 17, Ranson City Council members unanimously approved proposals some two years in the making, enacting a new zoning code and Comprehensive Plan designed to guide growth and redevelopment for decades to come.

“There was never any doubt these measures would pass into law,” said Ranson Mayor A. David Hamill. “That’s because, from the beginning, we involved everybody – property owners, business people, developers and elected officials from both Ranson and Charles Town. We all had a hand in turning our ideas into plans and ordinances. By making them law, we’re signaling to our partners in the federal agencies that funded the planning and to those considering investment in our region that we’re ready for a new era.”

Ranson attracted $6 million in grants and loans from three federal agencies — the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) – and contracted with an international team of consultants. With the EPA money, the planning partners designed proposals for repurposing six brownfield sites into future locations for new businesses. HUD funding provided resources for a rezoning approach to guide smarter growth and redevelopment. And the DOT grant enabled the redesign of a key corridor into a connective boulevard and plans for the transformation of historic Charles Washington Hall in Charles Town into a commuter center, strengthening links between regional rail and regional residents. HUD BEDI funds will assist in the redevelopment of the former Kidde Foundry.

In a series of meetings with community members, staff and officials – including those in neighboring Charles Town – the separate planning efforts were interwoven into a comprehensive strategy. To the federally funded planning projects, the City of Ranson added a revamp of its Comprehensive Plan to bring it into compliance with the new plans and zoning code.

“The whole became greater than the sum of the parts,” said Mayor Hamill.

Each step in the process was documented on this website, unfolding through the posts preceding this one. So citizens, officials and future community investors had open access to follow the progress from beginning until final passage of the proposals on April 17.

Finalized versions of the adopted documents can be found here.

Posted in Implementationwith No Comments →

Initial Designs Emerge for Fairfax Blvd: Join us for the presentation

Emerging plans for Fairfax Boulevard will be presented to the Planning Commission on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, immediately following their scheduled 7:30pm meeting. Ranson residents are invited to attend as project team consultants detail Ranson’s first thoroughfare design in conformance with the newly adopted Comprehensive Plan and SmartCode.

These new designs, paid for with Sustainability Grant funding, cover Fairfax Boulevard from Washington Street to Fairfax Crossing. After comprehensive public involvement in September 2011, the design team — led by Hall Planning & Engineering, supported by William H. Gordon and Associates, Stromberg/Garrigan and Associates, PlaceMakers, LLC, Utility Professional Services, Inc. and others — has been transforming the collected ideas and aspirations into detailed plans for public review.

The emphasis includes Complete Street walkability, innovative storm water treatment, sustainable Street Trees and bicycle friendly design. In addition to moving vehicle traffic, pedestrian, bicycle and transit use will be strongly encouraged in the enhanced public places along this 1.6 mile corridor.

The images below set the stage for the presentation.

Project scope - George Street and Fairfax Boulevard. Click for larger view.

           

Residential section of Fairfax Boulevard with parallel parking, full sidewalks and street trees. Click for larger view.

           

Innovative stormwater system and underground utilities enable healthy trees and great livability. Click for larger view.

           

See you there!

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Planning Commission Approves Proposals: City Council to consider adoption April 3, 17

We’re in the home stretch of Ranson’s ambitious planning effort. With the Planning Commission’s March 26 approval of all the proposals stemming from the City’s eight-month collaborative planning effort, the next — and final — steps toward adoption are on April 3 and 17.

On April 3, Ranson’s City Council hears the legally required first reading of updates of the City’s Comprehensive Plan and a new zoning code designed to enable goals for growth and redevelopment in harmony with the City’s character and traditions. The proposals are scheduled to be voted upon at the April 17 City Council session. Both meetings are open to the public. For details of time and place, go here.

Citizens who attended the March 26 Planning Council meeting offered suggestions for clarifying elements in some of the proposals. And those suggestions were incorporated into the revised documents you’ll find here.

Some in attendance had taken part in meetings and work sessions that have taken place over the previous eight months. They spoke in support of the ideas reflected in the documents, pleased, as one citizen indicated, that the project team made every effort to encourage the look and feel of the most admired neighborhoods of Ranson in the shaping of rules for new development and redevelopment.

You can follow progress through those community meetings dating back to August of 2011 in the posts immediately preceding this one. And you can get a sense of the project’s overall goals by checking out the column to the immediate right.

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Final Meetings Announced

It’s the final stretch for Ranson’s new zoning options, the update of our Comprehensive Plan, and the brownfield redevelopment plans addressed during fall, 2011 public meetings.

The finish line draws closer by the day, as a newly-announced series of hearings allows for presentation of final drafts, comment, and consideration by city officials. The complete schedule can be found here. All interested residents are welcome to attend.

To get up to speed before the hearings, review the proposed Comprehensive Plan update, the new zoning code option, and the full report from the September workshops here. Or you can review them in person at City Hall during regular office hours.

To get us to this stage in the process, residents, property owners and business folks have collaborated with staff and elected officials of both Ranson and Charles Town. There have been workshops and seminars, show-and-tell design reviews and presentations by the consulting team. There was even an historic joint working session for the Ranson and Charles Town Councils. To follow the entire process, check out the posts preceding this one.

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Next Steps for New Plans? Public discussions, Jan. 30, 31 & Feb. 1

Almost there.

That’s how we’d describe the work in progress towards new Ranson zoning options, an update of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, the Fairfax Boulevard plan, and the brownfield redevelopment plans addressed during fall, 2011 public meetings.

Here’s what happens next:

This map reflects new zoning assignments for Old Town properties. Click to review a larger version, together with the current draft of the new ordinance.

On Monday, January 30 at 7 p.m. at Charles Town City Hall, 101 E. Washington Street, there will a public meeting to discuss proposals for the Charles Washington Hall Commuter Center.

On Tuesday, January 31 at 7 p.m. at Ranson City Hall, 312 South Mildred Street, there will be a joint public workshop/hearing before the Ranson City Council and the Ranson Planning Commission. We’ll be reviewing together the latest edits of consulting team proposals emerging from the September 10-14, 2012 public workshop. On the agenda for discussion on January 31:

  • The proposed amendment to the Ranson Zoning Ordinance;
  • An update to the Ranson Comprehensive Plan;
  • Fairfax Boulevard concept plans; and
  • Area-wide brownfields redevelopment plans.

On Wednesday, February 1 at 5 p.m., also at Ranson City Hall, residents in neighborhoods along and adjacent to Fairfax Boulevard are invited to meet with consultants to talk about how design and engineering proposals for the Boulevard are expected to affect their properties.

To get up to speed before the meetings, review the proposed Comprehensive Plan update, along with the new zoning code option, here. Or you can review them in person at City Hall during regular office hours.

To get us to this stage in the process, residents, property owners and business folks have collaborated with staff and elected officials of both Ranson and Charles Town. There have been workshops and seminars, show-and-tell design reviews and presentations by the consulting team. There was even an historic joint working session for the Ranson and Charles Town Councils. To follow the entire process, check out the posts preceding this one.

For an overview of project goals, check out the column to the right of this one. Read here and here about the engagement process that enabled community collaboration. And to bore down into the specifics of the new zoning approach, which will serve as a rezoning for Old Town properties but an optional tool elsewhere, check out this post, then watch this video:

The plans and proposals that Ranson leaders and citizens are shaping amount to a significant change in the ways the City will approach future development and redevelopment, regulating for complete communities — compact, pedestrian-oriented, mixed use neighborhoods — rather than pods of separate land uses. So it’s a good time to update the City’s 2004 Comprehensive Plan, which is required by West Virginia law and which lays the foundation for land use planning strategy. Go here to read all about the 2004 Comprehensive Plan and the background for using the current process to revise it. And go here to review the work-in-progress update that will be discussed at the January 31 meeting.

These meetings are opportunities for City officials and citizens to review, correct and clarify proposals under consideration. Final approval and adoption of plans will be scheduled once edits are complete.

We’re almost there.

Posted in Implementationwith No Comments →

Ranson and Charles Town’s Future? Sustainable, connected, in character

On Wednesday, September 14, Ranson and Charles Town citizens and leaders sloshed into Charles Town’s Old Opera House from a dusk downpour to celebrate the conclusion of an intensive week of planning with their consulting team.

“Unless you were on the third floor of city hall this week to watch these people work,” said Ranson Mayor A. David Hamill, “it would be hard to imagine how hard they went at it.”

Susan Henderson, of PlaceMakers, who led the land use and coding component of the three-component project team, turned the compliment back on the mayor, the staffs of the two cities and the citizens who showed up for so many discussions during the week. “We’ve been overwhelmed at the participation,” she said.

Henderson, Sean Garrigan and Rick Hall — leaders of groups working on former industrial sites and the transportation segment of the project — gave the Wednesday night crowd a peak at how Ranson and Charles Town might look after decades of growth guided by the ideas and plans tested and refined during the previous week.

You can download the complete presentation here (3.9mb .pdf). To get an overview of project goals and the roles of the three federal agencies that funded the effort — the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) — check out the column to the immediate right. And follow the progress of the workshop from the opening night till the closing evening at the Opera House in the posts preceding this one.

Henderson’s portion of the program focused on what she called the project’s “connective thread,” the SmartCode zoning that stitches together all three components with design rules for enabling compact, walkable, mixed-use environments. Watch the video below to get a feel for how the Ranson SmartCode can do that.

Garrigan, partner in Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates, explained how his group attached storm water management issues without sacrificing the goals of responsible land use and transportation planning. “There are ways to site buildings,” said Garrigan, “so that you can not only maximize the economic opportunities but also address important environmental concerns.”

Hall emphasized the same synergy. “We have a saying,” said Hall, “that goes this way: ‘LU1, TR2.’ That means land use planning first, transportation planning second. If you plan first for responsible land use, we can finds several different ways to satisfy transportation goals within that context. If you try to do it the other way around, trying to make land use fit an already designed transportation plan, it’s as if you’re fighting with both hands tied behind your back.”

Illustrations of key segments of the team’s combined work is below. As Henderson cautioned in her introduction, these are illustrative of an array of alternative designs among a great many options. One advantage of the SmartCode is that there can be a broad range of approaches if development and redevelopment adheres to a few simple rules about what’s appropriate in what “character zone.”

It’s also important to remember that the illustrations depict build-out over time, perhaps a long time, depending upon market influences. So while portions of the plans described on Wednesday night can get on track as soon as the cities choose, other aspects await opportunities beyond their control.

The "transect" of Ranson, a visual summary of how Ranson becomes more intense as it moves from countryside to downtown. The "character zones" of the proposed SmartCode zoning overhaul, designated T-Zones 1 through 5, are based on the varying character that occurs along this natural system. Click for larger view.

           

Development character typical of T5, the most intense zone under the new SmartCode. Click for larger view.

           

Development character typical of T4, the proposed SmartCode's designation for general urban neighborhoods. Click for larger view.

           

This T4 animated sequence reflects adaptive reuse and infill development within existing neighborhoods.

           

Development character typical of T3, the SmartCode's sub-urban designation. Predominantly single family in nature, but still very walkable. Click for larger view.

           

This T3 animated sequence reflects transportation improvements on an existing segment of Fairfax Blvd.

           

Existing conditions within the Ranson Old Town project area. Click for larger view.

           

A revised zoning map, based on the proposed SmartCode zoning overhaul. Darker areas reflect areas of greater intensity; lighter areas, lesser intensity. Click for larger view.

           

Old Town's five project sites built out under the regulation of the new zoning ordinance. Click for larger view.

           

Proposed site plan for George Street/Fairfax Blvd, north of the tracks, to complete redevelopment begun by the APUS building. Click for larger view.

           

The same proposal, built out, viewed from the air. Click for larger view.

           

Lancaster Circle at City Hall, with enhanced pedestrian access, parking, and redevelopment all around. Click for larger view.

           

The same proposal, built out, viewed from the air. Click for larger view.

           

Proposed site plan for Powhatan Place at North Mildred and East Beltline. Click for larger view.

           

The proposed mixed-use neighborhood center at Fairfax Blvd. and Beltline. Click for larger view.

           

The same proposal, built out, viewed from the air. Click for larger view.

           

Proposed site plan for completing the connection between Fairfax Blvd. and Fairfax Crossing, reflecting the oval spec'd out in the original plan of Ranson, circa. 1890. Click for larger view.

           

The same proposal, built out, viewed from the air. Click for larger view.

           

A proposed development scenario for the longstanding Clayhill Farms, a walkable, garden neighborhood based on the principles of agrarian urbanism. Click for larger view.

           

The same proposal, built out, viewed from the air. Click for larger view.

           

Posted in Workshop Weekwith 1 Comment →

Workshop Wraps Wednesday Night
at the Old Opera House, 7 p.m.

The weeklong Ranson Renewed/Charles Town Connected workshop concludes at 7pm Wednesday evening, September 14, at the Charles Town Opera House with a presentation by the teams working in collaboration with the community on plans and ideas to shape future growth for the region.

Here’s what attendees will see:

  • A first rough draft of ideas and plans that connect key components of the project – the transformation of Fairfax Boulevard/George Street into a walkable, mixed-use “green corridor;
  • The revitalization of six former industrial sites; the rehabilitation of historic Charles Washington Hall into a combination civic building/regional commuter center; and
  • The knitting together of project goals with a regulatory approach that privileges walkability, energy efficiency, environmental responsibility and mixed use.

Starting with a tour of the two downtowns and outlying areas on Thursday of last week, it’s been a week of intensive collaboration between the cities, their staffs, residents, business owners and the consulting specialists.

The consulting team, divided into the three components that generally parallel the federal funding sources, have been working out of meeting space converted into a make-shift studio on the third floor of Ranson’s City Hall. It makes for cozy space for the 30-plus team members but for easier collaboration and cross-pollination among the various specialties. Click an image below to review scenes from the day.

For an overview of project goals, check out the overview in the column to the immediate right. To follow the path of public discussions, presentations and critiques, read the posts preceding this one. And to read background reports, notes from the week’s meetings and explanations of the three federal grants that have made the planning efforts possible, go to the Resources section in the toolbar above.

Dede Christopher's illustration-in-progress shows resulting character under the proposed T3 zoning designation.

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A New “Green Corridor” Merges, Symbolizes Project Goals

If there’s a signature project among those the workshop teams are tackling this week, it’s the North-South Fairfax Boulevard/George Street thoroughfare.

The goal: To create a true boulevard that enables walkable, neighborhood-appropriate mixed uses. It’s intended to be a “green” corridor because it’s designed to make the most of state-of-the-art storm water management systems and other environmentally friendly techniques.

In the video below, specialists from all three project teams – those working on components funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) – explain their roles.

To see how the new green corridor fits within the broader goals of the workshop, check out the overview column to the immediate right and the posts preceding this one.

The 1890 plan for what is now Ranson and Charles Town. Click for larger view.

The inspiration for the green corridor comes partly from history. The 1890 plat of the Charles Town/Ranson area depicts a connective spine integrating neighborhoods and what are now the commercial districts of the two towns. Though Ranson wasn’t incorporated until 1910, the original design for the boulevard seamlessly links the two towns.

Design of the boulevard is funded primarily through DOT. Read more about the overall transportation planning effort here. But because properties within the corridor area are former industrial sites prime for redevelopment, the EPA-funded focus on “brownfield” sites offers an opportunity to combine community and federal agency goals. Read more about the EPA-funded efforts here.

The same goes for the HUD-financed land use planning and zoning component. The goal is to assure that redevelopment follows rules that encourage walkable neighborhoods and appropriate commercial uses mixed in with a broad range of residential options. So the regulatory framework has to support that. And the “form-based” coding approach customized for Ranson/Charles Town by the project’s coding specialists will do just that.

Posted in Workshop Weekwith No Comments →

Open House Check-In:
How are we doing so far?

[UPDATED: 09-12-11, 9:55am] There were lots of reasons not to show up Sunday night at Ranson’s Independent Fire Hall to talk about planning and zoning.

It was the 10th anniversary of 9-11-2001, when many families chose to spend the day together. A gulley-washer of a rain storm blew through just before meeting time. And there were the distractions of Sunday sports on the tube. Yet some 60 folks dropped by for the Ranson Renewed/Charles Town Connected open house.

“I want to thank everyone who made this effort,” Ranson Mayor A. David Hamill told the crowd. “Give yourself a round of applause.”

Mayor Hamill and Susan Henderson of the PlaceMakers team address attendees at Sunday evening's community critique.

           

What the attendees got Sunday night, was a display of workshop progress displayed on table stations at the Fire Hall. Project team members manned the stations, explained the ideas and designs and invited comments and suggestions.

Call this a mid-term examination, with community members as evaluators of progress towards goals they set for key project components: Plans for transforming the Fairfax Avenue/George Street corridor into a vibrant, mixed-use boulevard; designs for redeveloping former industrial sites; and a rewrite of Ranson’s zoning and comprehensive plan.

See how those separate elements are integrated into one planning workshop in the overview column and videos to the immediate right. Follow the path to where we are in the process by reading the posts immediately preceding this one. And to hear directly from participants in the Sunday night open house, click on the video below.

The first step at each station Sunday night was a review of what team members understand to be key community concerns and an explanation of how the team hopes to address those concerns. To see what attendees saw, download the feedback reports on community interests in transportation, industrial site redevelopment, and land use planning and zoning here (375kb .pdf).

Then, project leaders provided a show-and-tell of ideas and illustrations under development. Conversations with community members gave the project team an additional level of feedback. And many of those questions, ideas and suggestions (175kb .pdf) will be incorporated into the status report the team gives to a joint meeting of the Ranson and Charles Town City Councils on Tuesday night and then into the wrap-up presentation on Wednesday night at the Old Opera House. Times and locations can be found here.

Posted in Workshop Weekwith No Comments →

Historic Charles Washington Hall: Civic centerpiece for Charles Town and Ranson?

Two principal goals of the Ranson Renewed/Charles Town Connected project intersect on the historic corner of Washington and George Streets in Charles Town. That’s the site of Charles Washington Hall.

Looking down on Washington Street from the currently closed off upper floor of Charles Washington Hall.

           

The building that now occupies that space dates back to 1874, after fires destroyed previous structures. And two of the workshop’s three teams are collaborating on plans for a rehabilitation effort that will accomplish two things at once:

Return the Hall to its status as a major gathering space for civic meetings and entertainment for the citizens of Ranson and Charles Town; and provide a central location for connecting local commuters to regional transit.

“You can arrive by foot or bike from the nearby historic neighborhoods or be dropped off by car,” says Rick Hall, of Hall Planning & Engineering, who is leading the project transportation team. “You can get a cup of coffee and a Danish, then get on a bus or van that takes you to the rail stop. From this commuter center, you can be connected to the entire Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern rail corridor.”

Ranson and Charles Town are already preferred relocation destinations for Washington DC regional workers looking for small town options to high-priced living in more intensely developed areas. Many drive cars from the two towns to Harper’s Ferry to catch the commuter train. Improving the transit connection, while revitalizing an historic downtown building for uses during extended hours, could be a winning strategy for everyone.

On Saturday afternoon, September 10, the other project team associated with the Charles Washington Hall effort — Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates — led a tour of the Hall building. Though currently in a state of disrepair, the structure yielded hints of a rich history, especially with narrative help from preservation architect Terry Necciai and team leader Sean Garrigan. Click on the video for a glimpse of the possibilities.

You can sense how the Charles Washington Hall project fits within the broader goals of the Ranson/Charles Town project by reading the overview to the immediate right and following the progress of the workshop in the posts preceding this one.

By Wednesday evening, when the project team presents its rough drafts of plans for the combined effort, ideas for returning Charles Washington Hall to its formal civic role will be more fully fleshed out. Check here for time and location for the wrap-up session.

Posted in Workshop Weekwith No Comments →

  • Headline

    SPU Logo

    Ranson and Charles Town's next 100 years begin now.

    From September 8 through the 14th, we're charting the course for our next century. And everyone's invited.

    In an unprecedented week-long mega-workshop, city officials, residents, business community and a team of international consultants will be considering ideas and actions to help guide Ranson, Charles Town, and Jefferson County towards a future rich in opportunity for our families and businesses.



    The Ranson-Charles Town community has been selected by HUD, DOT and EPA to serve as a national model for how small rural cities on the fringe of a major metropolitan area can foster sustainable economic development, transit, and community livability through targeted and strategic planning and infrastructure investments.



    To facilitate this transformative change, planning funds are being used for the following linked and interdependent project components:

    + Develop a new zoning overlay district for downtown, as well as undeveloped, outlying areas of the Cities;

    + Redesign the Fairfax Boulevard-George Street Corridor into a "complete street" with green infrastructure, to promote a better transportation route for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit;

    + Design a new regional Charles Washington Commuter Center in downtown Charles Town that will facilitate access to regional rail and bus transit systems for Ranson, Charles Town and Jefferson County; and

    + Create a master plan for downtown Ranson that spurs job growth and economic development in former dilapidated manufacturing sites.

    It all starts with an opening presentation on September 8.

    “We couldn’t be happier about the way this process is shaping up,” says Ranson Mayor A. David Hamill. “It is our goal to continue evolving Ranson into a vibrant community where residents can live, work, and recreate within cohesive neighborhoods. Exciting things are beginning to happen, and I expect the next 12 to 18 months to be even more exciting as the real work begins to plan our future.”

    Come, and lend your voice. There'll be all kinds of ways to participate, even for events you can't attend in person. So don't miss it.





  • FILES AVAILABLE
    Review adopted files of our Comp Plan update and new zoning option here. FEDERAL GRANTS
    Moving forward, whenever appropriate, you'll see our news posts identify the respective source(s) of project funding with one or more of these icons:

    This video explains the grants, along with the process overall.
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