By Sean Tubbs


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ever since Albemarle County created an

Architectural Review Board

(ARB) in 1990, many in the development community have expressed concern that the extra layer of scrutiny adds time to an already lengthy approval process for rezonings, site plans and special use permits.

Property owners along any of the county’s 21 specially designated ‘entrance corridors’ must apply to the ARB for a “certificate of appropriateness” before construction can begin. The county’s entrance corridors include all major routes into


as well as Virginia Route 6 (Irish Road), Route 151 (Critzer Road) and Airport Road. Interstate 64 is also considered an entrance corridor.

Now the county is poised to change the language that governs the ARB in order to lighten the body’s workload and to speed up the review process. A task force of citizens, developers and staff recommended in 2007 that Albemarle rewrite its code to make the ARB’s role more clear. After two years of revision, the

Planning Commission

endorsed those changes on Tuesday night.

This flow chart depicts the various ways an application to the ARB could travel through the system. Click for a larger view.

“A lot of the changes are just clarifying the process that already exists,” said County Planner Margaret M. Maliszewski. She said the existing language does not clearly spell out the steps in which projects should proceed through the ARB. The code will now also include a flow chart that outlines the many steps in which a project may proceed.

“I think this is a good first step,” said Paul Wright, chair of the ARB.

Neil Williamson of the

Free Enterprise Forum

said he appreciated some of the changes but added that he did not think they went far enough.

“I find this to be window dressing and not comprehensive reform,” Williamson said. He said the county code needs further clarification to determine the order in which projects should proceed through the county. Each applicant can choose when submit an application to the ARB. If a developer decides to go before the ARB first and receives a preliminary approval, but then has to make adjustments to the site plan in order to win approval from the Planning Commission, the project might end up in violation of the ARB’s design guidelines.

However, Wright said he did not want to take away a developer’s right to be flexible about how a project should proceed.

Williamson asked the Commission to defer consideration of the changes until new members are seated in January. However, outgoing Commissioner

Bill Edgerton

disagreed. “I don’t for the life of me see how bringing three new people into this process at this time is going to be of any benefit to the county,” Edgerton said. “We’ve put a lot of work into this.”

In other business, the Commission recommended approval of a special use permit to allow the

First Baptist Church in Covesville

to double in size. If ratified by the

Board of Supervisors

in February, the congregation will build a second building to house a fellowship hall and classrooms.

The Commission also recommended approval of a permit to a Stony Point woman who runs a kennel for special-needs dogs under her care. Blair Morgan has been operating her Hugs & Kisses Day Camp and Hotel since 1999, but a recent complaint pointed out she had been doing so in violation of the county’s zoning ordinance.

Interested in what we're working on next? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss a story.