On the Ground Updates – December 2021

A series of short updates from around the PEC region – Albemarle & Charlottesville, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange & Rappahannock.

Albemarle & Charlottesville

Climate Adaptation Planning

PEC has joined with Resilient Virginia and Albemarle County on a climate vulnerability risk assessment to identify climate hazards and short- and long-term vulnerabilities within the county. Using climate modeling and advanced techniques, the assessment will help inform development of the county’s forthcoming Climate Adaptation Plan.

Waste Drop Off

The Albemarle County Planning Commission found that a proposed “Convenience Center”—a centralized household waste dropoff location—in Keene is consistent with the comprehensive plan. During the public hearing, PEC raised concerns about the site’s potential negative visual impacts on the scenic Southern Albemarle Rural Historic District and is now working with county staff on ways to mitigate those impacts.

Comprehensive Plans

Albemarle County officially launched the periodic revision of its comprehensive plan on Nov. 3. Significant public engagement on the important question of growth management is expected to take place in winter and spring of 2022.

Charlottesville City Council approved the city’s own comprehensive plan at its Nov. 15 meeting. Details about the most contentious issue—medium-density residential zoning—will be sorted out when the zoning code is revised in 2022.


Short-term residential rental ordinance amendments

The board of supervisors will hold a public hearing for proposed amendments to the county’s short-term residential rental (Airbnb, Vrbo, etc.) ordinance. The amendments aim to limit potential adverse impacts of rental activities on onsite sewage disposal systems and groundwater quality. Similar amendments are proposed for country inns and bed and breakfasts.

2022-2027 Capital Improvement Plan

The planning commission is currently reviewing the county’s draft capital improvement plan (CIP). Projects in the CIP include such community needs as broadband, fire and rescue, health and human services, parks and recreation, schools, and transportation. The commission will assess projects on several criteria, including conformance with the comprehensive plan; public convenience and accessibility; and need for extensions of public infrastructure beyond designated growth areas. PEC staff will be tracking the CIP review process.


Solar Ordinance

In late October, the planning commission voted 6-2 to send to the board of supervisors an amended utility-scale solar ordinance draft that would restrict such facilities to industrial-zoned land. PEC has expressed concern that this approach could open the door to the spot zoning of agricultural land to industrial. The board of supervisors, which will soon have two new members due to November’s election results, is not expected to vote on this issue until early 2022.

Comprehensive Plan

On Nov. 4, the county kicked off its comprehensive review plan process with a public webinar. Put on hold in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the process is expected to last through much of 2022. The county held a virtual policy engagement meeting to solicit public input on Nov. 18 and an in-person session on Dec. 2. The public is also encouraged to submit feedback via a survey available on the county’s website.


Rappahannock River Access

Three public boat launches/river access points were completed in 2021: at Riverside Preserve in Marshall, Rector Tract in Remington, and Rogers Ford in C.F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area. These efforts were led by members of the Upper Rappahannock Water Trail coalition, including John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District, Fauquier County Parks & Recreation, Friends of the Rappahannock, and PEC.

Headwater Streams Improvement

Thanks to grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Virginia Environmental Endowment, the Headwater Streams Initiative has been expanded to the Potomac watershed, which includes all of Fauquier County. Our first tree planting event took place at Sky Meadows State Park, where over 100 volunteers planted 750 trees over 3.5 acres along a headwater stream of Goose Creek, which supplies drinking water for residents in northern Fauquier and Loudoun counties. Partners in this tree planting include the Goose Creek Association, Friends of the Rappahannock, John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District, Sky Meadows State Park, We Plant Trees and many others!


Entry Run stream restoration

PEC is working with Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) to replace a culvert currently impeding native brook trout passage along Entry Run with a full span bridge that will allow the river to flow free. The project began in 2019, when PEC helped secure a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant to replace the culvert, which leads into land owned by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. We also helped secure funding from the Greene County Economic Development Authority for a public trailhead access component. FOR is leading this project, with partner support from Rapidan Trout Unlimited, Greene County, Virginia Tech, PEC, and a private donor. Project completion is expected this winter.

Anticipated Public Hearings

PEC, the Greene County Farm Bureau, and concerned citizens have expressed opposition to a proposed zoning text amendment that would allow for the permitting of “rural enterprise centers” in agriculturally-zoned areas via special-use permits. The planning commission in November voted to recommend that the county not proceed with this proposed amendment. The board of supervisors is expected to take up this issue in December. Separately in 2022, the planning commission is expected to hold a public hearing on a proposed 144-site glamping center to be located in the Mutton Hollow area.


Route 15 North tour and community planning efforts

PEC has been working with community members and partner organizations to offer tours of the Lucketts area for county decision-makers. The first was held Oct. 29; others are being planned. The goal of this effort is to ensure a full understanding of the community and local impacts that should be considered with the Route 15 North, Phase II Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPAM). The CPAM was addressed in a Nov. 30 public hearing by the planning commission and will be addressed by the board of supervisors in early 2022.

Rural sidewalk and trails prioritization meetings

PEC staff and other community-based organizations are participating in several rounds of meetings with county staff to identify missing sidewalk and shared-use path segments along major roadways in rural Loudoun. This stakeholder group will develop a list of priorities for bicycle and pedestrian connections and facilities and draft a report for the board of supervisors to review and potentially adopt. The meetings started in September and will continue through June 2022.

Telecommunications tower proposal

Preliminary plans have been filed for a 155-foot tower at Mickie Gordon Park along Route 50 near Middleburg. PEC staff are working with local residents and partner organizations to assess the potential viewshed impacts of the tower on nearby rural landscapes.


Solar Proposal

In the coming months, the board of supervisors is expected to reconsider a request to rezone an approximately 92-acre parcel next to Yoder’s County Market to industrial in order to accommodate a proposed industrial-scale solar facility. The planning commission had previously recommended approval of the request and the board delayed its decision at the request of the applicant. In public comment, PEC has expressed concerns about potential impacts to prime agricultural soils and the adverse implications of rezoning agricultural land to industrial to accommodate such facilities.

Crescere Lawsuit

In November, Madison County District Court Judge David Franzen released his decision in the lawsuit brought by William and Christina Rother against Madison County and the owner of the Crescere agri-resort, Crystallis LLC. Judge Franzen upheld the special use permit granted by the board of supervisors in August 2020, ruling that the approval process was not improper and did not violate either the zoning ordinance or Virginia Code. PEC had opposed the use permit request for Crescere when it was considered last year.


Siegen Forest Conservation

PEC helped the Germanna Foundation successfully apply for a $647,370 Virginia Land Conservation Foundation grant to permanently conserve Siegen Forest, 170 acres bordering the Rappahannock River and Route 3. In its long history, the property has served as territory for Siouan Indians, German settlement in the 1700s, and Civil War battlegrounds; it still holds various 19th-century archeological artifacts today. The property contains seven miles of walking trails that are accessible year-round, and it borders the Rapidan River for 1.4 miles. Germanna will work toward allowing public access to the river. Germanna Foundation is working in partnership with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to complete the easement, along with American Battlefield Trust and PEC.


Rush River Commons

In September, the Town Council of Washington approved the town’s first mixed-used development proposal, Rush River Commons, owned by town resident Chuck Akre, on the former Black Kettle motel property on the southern edge of the town. Ground-breaking is expected in early 2022. The development is planned to house local nonprofits, including the Rappahannock Food Pantry, as well as affordable housing to serve existing county residents.

New Field Representative

We are pleased to announce the addition of Laura O’Brien to PEC’s staff as our Rappahannock County Field Representative. Laura graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in environmental studies. She has worked at a variety of environmental nonprofits, including Trout Unlimited and the Cornell Lab Ornithology’s Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative. Laura grew up in northern Massachusetts with a love for the outdoors and appreciation for community-based conservation efforts. We’ll share more about Laura in an upcoming issue.

This article appeared in The Piedmont Environmental Council’s member newsletter, The Piedmont View. If you’d like to become a PEC member or renew your membership, please visit pecva.org/join.