Clarke planning group wants its buildings green

Posted: December 5, 2012

The Winchester Star

BERRYVILLE — The one little word may not make it past Clarke County’s supervisors when the updated Comprehensive Plan comes before them, but Planning Commission members Tuesday agreed to “require” that future county buildings meet the energy-saving standards of LEED certification.

LEED — the rating system designed by the U.S. Green Building Council to measure the energy efficiency of the design and construction of buildings — stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The Planning Commission wants energy efficiency to be enshrined in the Comprehensive Plan. Its commissioners continued working on their chapter-by-chapter review of that plan Tuesday after a short work session to prepare for Friday’s regular meeting.

County Planning Director Brandon Stidham said he does not expect a discussion at that meeting of a request by Mahlon A. Jones to change the zoning at 3355 Lord Fairfax Highway (U.S. 340), the 340 Cigarette Outlet, from Agriculture to Highway Commercial. Jones wants to build a larger convenience store with gasoline sales.

Stidham said a study of the solidity of limestone geology at the site has not been conducted, and that the next hearing on the conditional zoning request may have to be moved to February.

The commissioners will set a public hearing Friday on a request from the county’s Historic Preservation Commission to limit the lifespan of the Certificates of Appropriateness it issues to alter buildings in historic districts.

Currently, Stidham said, they are open-ended.

The suggested ordinance amendment would apply the same five-year time span to these as the county government does to site plans. Certificate holders could seek extensions based on the same site plan criteria.

Moving on to the Comprehensive Plan, the commission studied Chapter Two, giving its longest discussion to ways to promote energy efficiency in future construction.

Adding the word “require,” rather than “recommend” to LEED standards should send a message, they agreed.

It may not force anybody to do anything, said Commissioner Richard Thuss, who noted that the supervisors will still be faced with a state-mandated bid process that usually gives the construction project to the lowest bidder.

That bidding process doesn’t give any weight to the amount of money that might be saved in energy costs, member Anne Caldwell noted. But the fact that the word is included in the Comprehensive Plan means people “will have to think about it,” said member Jon Turkel.

Stidham pointed out that the Comprehensive Plan is “a guideline.”

Tom McFillen predicted that the word might not survive the scrutiny of the county’s supervisors.

However, said William “Chip” Steinmetz, “Don’t let today’s reality color tomorrow’s possibility.”

Attending the meeting in the Joint Government Center were Vice-Chairman Anne Caldwell and members William “Chip” Steinmetz, Robina Rich Bouffault, Thomas McFillen, Jon Turkel and Richard Thuss. Absent were Chairman George Ohrstrom II, Clay Brumback and Scott Kreider.

— Contact Val Van Meter at