Culpeper County

Culpeper County is considering a new zoning ordinance that would encourage sprawl, lower property values, and dramatically change the scenic character of our rural areas. The Planning Commission will hold a second public hearing on December 14th, 2011 to review the proposed change -- known as ''cluster zoning." Please take a moment to read about this issue and contact the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors with your comments.

Clusters near you.
See the full map to view some of 
the parcels surrounding Culpeper
that could be rapidly developed 
under this ordinance.

What is Cluster Zoning?
Cluster zoning was developed as a tool for local governments to concentrate development in rural areas on small lots, and preserve the remainder for conservation, agricultural use, or open space. Yet, like any tool, cluster zoning can be misused -- resulting in unintended consequences.

Our Concerns with the Draft Ordinance
Currently, large parcels of rural land in Culpeper are allowed limited subdivisions every five years, a practice that prevents rapid development. This proposed ordinance, however, would accelerate the development of these parcels -- allowing development that would normally occur over a span of many years to be implemented immediately. This concerns us for many reasons, including:

  1. The rapid subdivision of land could cause land values to decrease even further. There is already an oversupply of buildable, previously subdivided lots-- both within the Town of Culpeper and the County. According to its Comprehensive Plan, the Town of Culpeper alone has a 15-20 year supply of buildable land within its boundaries. Previous analysis, conducted by PEC, estimates there are already at least 7,000 buildable lots in the County.
  2. The ordinance does not preserve open space permanently. While the ordinance requires that 65-70% of a lot be set aside as an "open space lot," it does not require that this land be enrolled in any program that would permanently protect it as open space or farmland-- as is the practice in counties that have adopted similar ordinances. Without any sort of protection, the "open space lot" could be subdivided in the future with a mere change in policy, or through rezoning.
  3. The subdivisions would cost existing taxpayers. As by-right subdivisions, the County would not be able to negotiate any proffers to help offset the costs of providing services. The costly new infrastructure for these far-flung devolopments could include new schools, school bus routes, emergency services, water, sewer, and more.
  4. Some of the largest, most scenic, and most productive parcels of land would be the most vulnerable to development. We have evaluated a number of parcels that are 100 acres or greater, and found that they could, on average, immediately be subdivided into 21 lots each (with an average lot size of 1.25 to 1.5 acres). On lots between 50 and 99 acres, the average subdivision would be approximately 10 lots.

Learn More and Weigh In
To learn more, visit the County's website to read the text of the draft ordinance.

We are recommending that the County reject the proposed cluster zoning ordinance, or revise it to include language that would prevent sprawl and protect our scenic and agricultural lands in a manner that is consistent with the County's Comprehensive Plan.

Please email Brian Higgins (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), PEC's Culpeper Field Officer, with any questions.


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