A series of short updates from around the PEC region – Albemarle & Charlottesville, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange & Rappahannock.
Albemarle & Charlottesville
The Ragged Mountain Natural Area in Albemarle County now has an additional 142 acres of parkland thanks to PEC’s leadership. We helped connect the City of Charlottesville with a federal grant to purchase the forested land from the Heyward family. This not only keeps the land from being developed, but also expands recreational opportunities in the area. Bike/Pedestrian Advocacy
As traffic congestion continues to worsen in Albemarle County and Charlottesville, PEC has continued to advocate for solutions that don’t involve building more roads. This year we helped shepherd the adoption of the Jefferson Area Bike and Pedestrian Plan, and have boosted efforts to improve the regional transit system. Greater Charlottesville can lead the way by showing how Virginians can get around without a car, and PEC knows how all the moving parts need to fit together.
The Clarke County Land Conservation Fund was established to protect at-risk properties in Clarke County by funding the purchase of conservation easements or properties or providing financial support to landowners who wish to donate a conservation easement. Since 2006, the Fund has contributed more than $400,000 towards the protection of 774 acres in Clarke County; 667 acres are conservation easements held by the Clarke County Conservation Easement Authority. This October, the Fund’s local advisory committee hosted a dinner that raised over $60,000 in one evening for land conservation and stewardship in the county.
Powhatan Water Quality Curriculum
In October, PEC hosted a stream monitoring training session for Powhatan School teachers. This training was part of a Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund license plate grant that will help them purchase stream monitoring equipment and incorporate stream monitoring into their curriculum.
Subsequent to the withdrawal of the Cricket Solar, LLC application in August, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the update of the county’s Utility-Scale Solar Facility Development Policy. The update includes, but is not limited to, setting a county-wide utility-scale solar target (2,400 acres or 240 megawatts), setting a single project size (300 acres of panels), and limiting mass grading (50 acres at a time). Since the first proposal for a utility-scale solar project came before the county, PEC has been working diligently to ensure appropriate consideration is given to solar siting and larger policy issues. By weighing in on this and other proposals, publishing an editorial in the Culpeper Star Exponent and submitting our Utility-Scale Solar Policy document, we have significantly improved the conversation and county policy.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an update to the 2005 proffer statement associated with the Clevenger’s Village Planned Unit Development (PUD) in the northeast portion of the county. The updated proffer includes $8.5 million to assist with public health, safety, and welfare. This proffer includes funds for the Little Fork Volunteer Fire Department, education, and transportation, in addition to two potential school sites, both located at Clevenger’s Village. The scope of Clevenger’s Village, located on approximately 1,400 acres, includes 774 residential units, 188,000 square feet of commercial space, and 210,000 square feet for a village employment center.
Sanctuary at Barrel Oak
On October 17, the Planning Commission evaluated an application for a restaurant, hotel, and event venue on a 50-acre residential property in rural zoning next to the Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane. Numerous non-profit organizations, including PEC, expressed significant concern about the proposal and around 40 letters of opposition were received. The Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend denial, referencing concerns about scale, noise, and inconsistency with the Rural Lands Plan for the county. The application could go before the Board of Supervisors as early as December 12.
Solar Proposal near Bealeton
sPower is proposing a 150 MW solar energy project between Morrisville and Bealeton. An open house was held on November 20, but no application has been filed as of yet with the county. This 1,100-acre project is proposed in an area adjacent to land in Fauquier County’s PDR program and the Southern Fauquier Agricultural and Forestal District. It would likely impact prime agricultural soils and be visible from Rt. 17.
Bus Tour of Southern Fauquier
This November, PEC’s Julian Scheer Fauquier Land Conservation Fund hosted a Southern Fauquier Bus Tour that visited many of the region’s historic, scenic, and working farmlands. The tour educated local funders and PEC board members about the longstanding success of conservation easements and the Purchase of Development Rights program in Fauquier County to protect natural resources and farmland alike. The tour included stops at Cool Lawn Farm, Messicks Farm Market, and many colonial and Civil War-era historic sites that define the landscape of Fauquier County.
Ruckersville and Reservoir
Greene County’s long-term plans call for future residential growth to be built along U.S. 29 in order to preserve the county’s rural quality. This December, the county begins an extensive audit of the zoning ordinance for Ruckersville in an attempt to create a more walkable area. This work will include the planning and implementation of a parallel street network to limit the impact on the highway. PEC has actively monitored these developments and will be weighing in as needed, including on the possibility of a reservoir. If oversized, the capacity of the reservoir could fuel undesirable levels of growth. We encourage the public to weigh in with county supervisors as options are considered.
Rural Uses Review
PEC is partnering with various groups and individuals to create a set of recommendations for the Zoning Ordinance. These recommendations could, if implemented, help achieve the vision laid out in Loudoun’s revised Comprehensive Plan by improving the long-term viability of farming and increasing land stewardship in the Rural Policy Area. Stay tuned for next steps and how you can get involved in the solution!
PEC is working with a small group of homeowners association leaders to explore the benefits of a coalition that would provide an HOA perspective on county policies, practices and decisions. Given that well over 60% of Loudoun residents live in HOAs, this could provide additional resident-based input during the Zoning Ordinance revisions.
Goose Creek Watershed Easement Analysis
Thanks to funding from the Virginia Environmental Endowment, PEC recently completed an analysis of all 540+ conservation easements within the Goose Creek watershed. PEC identified properties that would benefit from updated easement terms and/or agricultural cost-share programs that enhance land and water resource protections. PEC is working with partners to reach out to landowners to discuss these opportunities.
Over the past decade, Madison County has struggled over how to properly manage the outdated Criglersville Elementary School. The Board of Supervisors was asked to review and vote upon the Criglersville School Demolition Contract Award & Permit Fee Waiver during the October 29th public hearing. Instead of voting to undergo the demolition process that would cost the county approximately $250,000, the Board of Supervisors decided to wait and consider other potential routes — mainly those that would not pose direct fiscal impacts to the county, including the sale of the property.
Madison resident Rosanna Gilbert worked with PEC staff to conserve her 43-acre farm on Mitchell’s Mountain near Etlan. The conservation easement protects scenic views of Mitchell’s Mountain from Whippoorwill Road, along with forests on its steep slopes. Her conserved farm adds to the growing number of protected properties in Hidden Valley in northwestern Madison County.
Dollar General Barboursville
The Planning Commission unanimously denied the Dollar General Barboursville application for a rezoning and special use permit in the Barboursville Village Overlay District (BVOD), during the October 17 public hearing. The Planning Commissioners’ determination was heavily based on the proposed building’s size (9,000 square feet), transportation impacts to Routes 20 and 33, and public outcry opposing the application. PEC submitted written comments and spoke at the public hearing, citing inconsistency with the Comprehensive Plan and BVOD, transportation impacts, lack of public connectivity, and the need for more aesthetic design and landscaping as a means for denial. Given the negative reaction of the public and the county, the applicant has withdrawn its application.
Gordonsville Parks Grow
As part of its Town to Trail initiative, PEC acquired a small tract of land in Gordonville near Firemen’s Fairgrounds. The property, located on Allen Street, was identified as a key parcel for acquisition in “Gordonsville Visions,” a conceptual plan for parks and trails developed by the community in collaboration with the University of Virginia School of Architecture. This is the second parcel that PEC’s Town to Trail initiative has helped the community acquire over the past 18 months. The first parcel enabled the town to expand Verling Park to an entire block. The second parcel helps connect Verling Park and Firemen’s Fairgrounds, two well-used open spaces in Town.
USFWS Stream Surveys at VDOT Pilot Projects
PEC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and VDOT are teaming up to remove barriers to fish passage, especially for the beloved Eastern brook trout, in Rappahannock County. PEC has identified two pilot projects that best improve fish habitat, water quality and flood resiliency at public road-stream crossings on Mill Hill Rd. (Rt. 631) and Sycamore Ridge Rd. (Rt. 653). This fall, USFWS completed stream surveys that are being used for 30% Conceptual Designs. PEC and VDOT plan to begin construction in 2020 for these two pilot projects, with more news to come soon.
Headwater Stream Initiative
PEC, Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR), VA Department of Forestry, and Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) have worked to provide free technical service, native trees and planting materials to help landowners establish forested riparian buffers in the RappahannockRapidan River watershed. This fall, PEC helped FOR add 1.2 new acres of riparian buffer to the Hazel River watershed, planting native species of river birch, witch hazel, persimmon, red oak, and plenty of sycamore to improve wildlife habitat and water quality at Smith Hill Farm.