Adaptive Reuse Ordinance

Update: An alternative amendment has been drafted that alleviates our concerns about this undermining rural zoning in Fauquier. The changes are carefully crafted to support innovative small businesses who reuse historic structures, differentiate between the use of reception and restaurant, and addresses what happens if the structure is destroyed.
The Board will be voting on this amendment at their March 14th public hearing starting at 6:30pm in the Warren Green Building. Please ask the Board of Supervisors to adopt the alternative language that would ensure that the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance continues to be used for its intended purpose of preserving historic structures by incentivizing their reuse.  
The change under consideration is to the ‘Article 5 – Category 7 Adaptive Reuse Ordinance.’ The proposal would add several uses and loosen eligibility requirement to any buildings that are 50 years or older. 
Currently, the adaptive reuse ordinance allows, by special exception, buildings existing prior to 1940 to be used for retail shops, art and craft galleries, offices, restaurants, inns or boarding houses, and multi-family uses. The adaptive reuse special exception is applicable in the conservation district, agricultural district, and rural residential district where these uses are not currently allowed. The goal seems to be to incentivize the reuse of historic buildings by allowing uses that are not generally allowed in those districts.
The Piedmont Environmental Council encourages the long term preservation of historic structures through this ordinance but is concerned about erosion of the rural zoning categories, abuse of the ordinance, and unintended consequences if used to simply encourage economic development in rural areas. 
Although the staff report indicates that the purpose of the ordinance is to preserve historic structures and encourage their reuse –only age of the building determines eligibility.  Using a 50 year eligibility standard, makes all housing and dependency structures built before 1963 eligible to apply for an adaptive reuse. Meaning any building 50 years or older could be used to open a commercial business or allow an additional residence in an area where it is otherwise not permitted. 
We are asking the Board to address three concerns prior to adopting any change to the ordinance:
  1. The eligibility requirement should require the building be not only 50 years old or older, but also be deemed historically or culturally significant by the county staff. There are countless cookie cutter homes, garages, and barns from the 1950's and 60's that become eligible otherwise. This change would give clear guidance to future proposals, the community, staff, and future Board of Supervisors that the intent is to incentivize adaptive reuse of historic buildings.
  2. There is no clear extinguishing of the use. If a facility is destroyed can the owner rebuild? If so, what are the guidelines for rebuilding? This needs to be clearly outlined in the ordinance and this amendment session would be a good opportunity to address it.
  3. The addition of "receptions", without definition, creates ambiguity for future applicants and the staff in interpreting the meaning. Receptions are not defined in the county code, raising concern about what exactly this addition would allow. Including it potentially adds an element of ambiguity that could be exploited for purposes that were not initially intended by the drafters such as avoidance of  event regulations through the Winery Ordinance or large scale banquet hall facilities. 

    PEC feels that the reception use should be removed because it is not consistent the comprehensive plan and puts additional pressure on rural infrastructure and provides little support to agricultural operations. However, if included it should be clearly defined in the ordinance or definition section of the zoning. This would help applicants trying to understand what they may do with the land, staff trying to consistently interpret the language, and assure the community about what exactly is allowed under an adaptive reuse.