1020_dnr_Housing Summit_1

Andrew Friedman, of HousingForward Virginia, discusses potential approaches to how the city can effectively increase housing supply with relatively little effort and other approaches that require more effort during City Council’s two-day housing summit Wednesday.

Harrisonburg could be the first locality in Virginia to allow duplexes by right in all residential areas if City Council approves updates in a draft zoning and subdivision ordinance rewrite, according to Erica Sims of HousingForward Virginia.

She mentioned the possibility during City Council’s two-day housing summit held at the Lucy F. Simms Center on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“It doesn’t mean that no more single-family homes will be built. It just means that if you can build a single-family home, you can build a duplex” or a single-family attached home, Adam Fletcher, director of community development, said Wednesday.

A duplex is two homes in one structure on one lot while a single-family attached home is two attached homes on their own lots.

The revision is underway, and any proposed changes will have public hearings and must be approved by City Council.

The last time the city reviewed its zoning and subdivision ordinances was in 1996 and 1997. Kendig Keast Collaborative was contracted by the city to assist in the project that has already included public meetings and surveys.

Fletcher said he expects staff to present a final update to Planning Commission next year.

Several members of the local zoning and subdivision update committee said allowing duplexes by right would help increase density in the city — increasing housing stock and reducing demand for developments on farmland in the county.

“It would allow the flexibility I think would permit more kinds of housing on the land we do have,” said Deb Fitzgerald, a member of the committee and member of the Harrisonburg School Board.

She said more affordable housing brings in young families who may have school-aged children.

“I wonder, with the increase in density, what we would expect to see if this happened, what would happen to the demand for schools,” Fitzgerald said.

She said the city constantly monitors all its ordinances, and if the zoning change had a negative impact on the city, it would likely be changed.

“Nothing is etched in stone,” Fitzgerald said.

Charles Hendricks, Harrisonburg architect and another committee member, said allowing duplexes in all neighborhoods would help increase housing diversity throughout the city.

“I don’t think it’s right for every place, but we need more diversity and we need more density and it’s one way to do that,” Hendricks said.

He said there are parts of the city where such housing diversity already exists successfully.

“College Avenue is a good example. It’s got single-family detached, duplexes and houses that are apartments,” Hendricks said.

The larger issue for the zoning and subdivision revision will be addressing parcels, streets and areas into new zoning categories, according to Hendricks.

“That will make or break the success of the rewrite in my opinion,” Hendricks said.

Kathy Whitten, member of the city Planning Commission and another member of the committee, said she is “uncomfortable” the draft does not include a specific single-family zoning district.

She said she believes there are people in the community who would like to preserve such zoning in neighborhoods to allow only single-family construction.

Whitten also said public outreach is key to the rewrite process. The outreach should take an accessible form people can relate to, such as an explanation for how the update may affect the neighborhood they live in.

Brent Finnegan, Planning Commission chair who is also on the rewrite committee, said even if the city chooses to allow duplexes and single-family attached in single-family detached neighborhoods, there would not be an immediate change, and some neighborhoods wouldn’t change at all.

“I think a lot of these neighborhoods are going to look the exact same,” he said.

Hendricks agreed and said the land value in Harrisonburg would have to be so high that developers would buy up homes and redevelop them. He said it is cheaper for developers to turn to undeveloped land in the county, and land value in the city wouldn’t push the market to redevelop in such a way.

Finnegan said allowing duplexes and single-family attached homes is just one piece to the “all of the above” approach the city needs to take to create more affordable housing.

“If we’re not doing everything we can as a city, we’re not doing our jobs,” he said.

In the draft revision, residential zoning districts in the city would be whittled to three types: low density, which would allow single-family detached, single-family attached and duplexes for a maximum of seven to eight dwellings per acre and some permitted nonresidential uses; medium density, which would allow the types of homes in low density as well as tri- or quadplexes, town homes, as well as some permitted nonresidential uses; and high density, which would allow the types of homes from low density and medium density as well as apartments and some nonresidential uses.

More information about proposed changes to parking, building design standards, development review processes and more will be presented to the committee later this month.

Contact Ian Munro at 574-6278 or imunro@dnronline.com. Follow Ian on Twitter @iamIanMunro

(9) comments


Shame on the little people for wanting nice safe neighborhoods free from blight, crime, and societal decay - those are the privileges of wealthy liberal Marxists only! I'll believe this is the right thing to do when Joe Biden, Barack Obama, the Clintons, Chucky Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and other rich white people openly invite group homes and halfway houses to occupy the space on all sides of their residences and they tear down their border fences keeping their new neighbors out.

If you can't lead by example, you're NOT a leader at all.


Might I suggest the 1500 acre GW Bush ranch would be an idle place to house the 10s of thousands of Afghanis the Harris/Biden handlers are pouring into the US? Smaller enclaves could be established in places such as Martha’s Vineyard, Beverely Hills, Manhattan, etc.[whistling]


Excellent idea, Donald.


Excellent post Bishop. I agree with you completely.


Stripped of their gibberish the motive and the goal is simple – target neighborhoods that are ‘too’ White (this is an Obama-era program reinstituted by the Harris/Biden handlers) for racial and ethnic ‘diversity’ or a city looses federal funds, rezone those neighborhoods for multifamily dwellings (which are usually occupied as rentals) thus encouraging the transient impact of landlord-owned properties and the inevitable encroachment of Section 8 landlords looking for a government guaranteed check (which will expand because Virginia has recently passed a law forcing all landlords to accept housing vouchers so it is no longer a property owner’s choice whether to accept them or not), thus destabilizing the neighborhood by fracturing the trust and commonalities naturally occurring through freedom of association (usually based on culture).

It should be noted that the fracturing of a People by a ruling elite is always done as a way of making the masses more controllable for the benefit of said ruling elites.


Spot on Donald.


HousingForward Virginia rings a bell. Sounds like VirginiaOrganizing. Groups devised by left-wingers with slick ulterior motives, mainly paving a way for changing American culture with socialist ideas to redistribute wealth along with housing bribery. There isn’t anything these folks won’t do to “elevate” their followers and reel-in potential voters.


Right you are Newshound. These lefties are pure evil.



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