At their meeting on September 11, 2007, the

Albemarle County Planning Commission

approved proposed changes to the County’s rural area zoning ordinances on issues pertaining to

rural area critical slopes


family sub-division rights

. These recommendations will now go to the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing on a date to be determined. The consideration of the ordinance changes, which are aimed to better protect Albemarle’s rural countryside, was initiated by a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors in May 2007.

Eric Strucko (left) and Marcia Joseph (right) listen to Jon Cannon (middle) evaluate the rural area ordinance proposals

Last month, over 150 people attended a public hearing on the matter

when it was before the Planning Commission. Tonight, a smaller audience of about 40 people observed the commission’s work, a dozen of which spoke when given an opportunity to provide the commission with additional feedback. The commission was also smaller with three members absent from the meeting: Bill Edgerton, Duane Zobrist, and Cal Morris.

The changes to the critical slopes ordinance were approved unanimously with only minor adjustments by the commission

. The County’s goal is to direct development away from critical slopes to more suitable terrain in order to conserve and protect critical slopes, watersheds, and flood plains. Development on critical slopes can lead to soil erosion and sedimentation of reservoirs used in the water supply system. Current zoning, for example, allows property owners to place driveways across critical slopes if they will lead to a suitable housing site. That exemption would be eliminated under the proposed ordinances except in certain cases covered by administrative waivers reviewed by staff, and in some cases by the Planning Commission.

Changes to the family sub-division ordinance saw the most wide ranging discussion by the public and the commission.

The Board of Supervisors originally directed the Planning Commission to consider taking advantage of a new state law that went into effect July 1, 2007 which enables a maximum fifteen year holding period on property sub-divided for a family member. The current Albemarle County zoning ordinance requires no waiting period before sub-dividing and only a two-year holding period after creating a lot for a family member.

At last month’s public hearing and at the work session tonight, the commission received feedback that a fifteen year holding period was excessive. By the end of the discussion,

Commissioner Jon Cannon brokered a compromise proposal that set a minimum holding period of five years

for which a “parent parcel” and any parcels created for family members would have to be held before they could be re-sold outside the family. In an effort to accommodate long time property owners in the County, longer holding periods of up to fifteen years would only apply to those who had owned their property for less than ten years.

The following examples illustrate the different holding periods in the ordinance proposal:

The fifteen year holding period allowed by state law may be applied both on the front-end and the back end of a transaction. However, this proposal does NOT include any front-end holding periods (i.e.
you can create the “child parcels” immediately after buying a “parent
property”). With Mr. Cannon’s proposed amendment to the staff recommendations, the commission unanimously approved the ordinance changes for family sub-divisions.

Brian Wheeler

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