Albemarle & Charlottesville
With its completion of the draft growth management policy, the County will move into the second phase of the comprehensive plan update in early 2023, focusing on policies for natural, cultural, and scenic resources, the Rural Areas and Development Areas, and other policies such as housing, economic development and transportation. During Phase 2 of the update, PEC will continue to advocate that the County direct future growth into the existing Development Areas and protect the largely intact Rural Areas.
Charlottesville’s new Comprehensive Plan calls for more density, with improved walkability, bicycle infrastructure, and transit — but lacks specific steps for achieving it. PEC teamed up with the Move2Health Equity Coalition and reached out to city residents to better understand how they get around town and how the plan can be improved. Read the detailed findings at pecva.org/mobilityreport.
On Oct. 20, PEC staff and other partners participated in the Buffer Summit held by the Upper and Middle James Riparian Consortium at Wildrock. The focus of the consortium is to grow partnerships to create healthy streamside ecosystems in the James River watershed.
The County’s new Environmental Stewardship Hub gives PEC and other organizations another tool to encourage local land conservation and stewardship actions that benefit climate, biodiversity, clean water and waste reduction. With resources for technical and financial assistance, the hub identifies ways residents can become better stewards at home, on their land and in their community.
On Oct. 26, PEC’s Clarke County Land Conservation Fund guidelines were updated to include support of environmental stewardship practices on public or private lands through revolving loans and/or financial reimbursements that are reasonably assured for repayment by working with the local Soil and Water Conservation District and/or Natural Resources Conservation Service. The approved revisions also authorize funds to be used in conservation outreach, education and grants.
This fall, we held two volunteer planting events as part of our Potomac Planting Program, which provides free technical assistance, project design, materials, and labor for the planting of native species along water resources in the Potomac watershed. At Long Branch Historic House and Farm in Boyce, volunteers planted 283 riparian trees and shrubs along Long Branch, a tributary to the Shenandoah River. And at Clermont Farm, volunteers planted nearly 300 native species along Dog Run. For more information about PEC’s tree planting programs, visit pecva.org/buffers.
On Nov. 16, PEC represented land trusts at a workshop hosted by the Clarke County Conservation Easement Authority. Attendees learned about donated and purchased easements, benefits of conservation, and appraisals, and heard other landowners’ stories.
In November, the Clarke County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing to gather input on proposed changes to boundary line adjustment rules within the County’s subdivision and zoning ordinances. Only Agricultural Open-space Conservation Lots would be affected. Such properties comprise approximately 72% of land in the County, mainly in unincorporated areas west of the Shenandoah River.
In September, the Culpeper Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of a rezoning application that would have allowed for the construction of a data center campus in historic Brandy Station. PEC provided comments to the Commission and spoke at the public hearing in opposition to this application. The application was later withdrawn.
The Board of Supervisors is in the process of reviewing a new draft of the County comprehensive plan, which helps guide growth and development decisions in the future. Several public hearings were held during earlier planning stages, and we anticipate at least one more, before the Board, in December or January.
North Carolina-based Maroon Solar has reapplied for a special use permit for a utility-scale solar installation covering more than 650 acres in the Stevensburg District. North Ridge, a Northern Virginia firm, has also proposed a 200-plus-acre solar installation adjacent to the previously approved 732-acre Greenwood solar facility, also in the Stevensburg District.
PEC co-hosted a second successful town hall, attended by more than 200 people and a number of key decision makers, on the impacts of the proposed Amazon data center in Warrenton. A second Planning Commission work session introduced new information about viewsheds, noise and energy infrastructure. The Commission heard the Special Use Permit application on Nov. 15, and in response to near unanimous community opposition, tabled any decision until it receives more information on the application, which it considered “incomplete.” The Town Attorney rebuked that decision, and at its Dec. 13 meeting, the Town Council will determine next steps for the application. The Planning Commission will hold another public hearing on it on Dec. 20.
Warrenton boundary line adjustment discussions continue. The Town Council talked about creating a joint town/county working group solely dedicated to the boundary line adjustment. The existing Town County Liaison Committee held an initial meeting on the boundary line adjustment on Nov. 30 and scheduled another for Feb. 22. Meanwhile, Warrenton is now considering adding two more parcels to the boundary line adjustment for a proposed shopping center on the north side of Lee Highway at Airlie Rd. (Rt. 605), an area PEC and the community at large have long advocated for limited development.
PEC recently engaged with community members and provided comments to the County on two large-scale glamping resort projects proposed by the same developer. The initial project was denied given the site location on the east slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The developer then proposed a new location near the Town of Stanardsville, and that project was approved. PEC also weighed in on the proposed expansion of the Lydia Mountain Lodge resort, which the County denied.
Following the glamping proposals, we are working with Preserve Rural Greene, an organization concerned with overly intensive development within the rural areas of the County. We will continue to support Preserve Rural Greene as it continues to advocate for the protection of natural resources, working farms and forests, and the scenic and historic countryside of Greene.
On Nov. 14, the Planning Commission took public comment on the Prime Soils Zoning Amendment and voted to move the amendment to a future work session, expected in January, for discussion. PEC is working with community and other organizations in support of the ordinance modifications.
As of this printing, the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite is expected to go to the Planning Commission on Jan. 24, 2023 for part two of revisions.
At its Sept. 14 public hearing, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted 7-2 to finalize the purchase and sale agreement for the Aldie Assemblage with PEC for $600,000. The negotiated agreement will be brought to a future BOS business meeting for final action. We anticipate the contract will be finalized by early 2023.
The long-awaited restoration of the historic John G. Lewis Memorial Bridge, which carries Featherbed Lane (Route 673) over Catoctin Creek, is expected to be completed in early 2023. The bridge was originally built in 1889 on the Leesburg & Alexandria Turnpike (currently Route 7) over Goose Creek to replace an earlier bridge destroyed by flooding. In 1932, the bridge was dismantled and moved to its current location.
A proposed Loudoun Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program for fiscal year 2025 is slated for discussion at the Dec. 13 meeting of the Finance, Government, Operations & Economic Development Committee. PEC currently partners with various PDR programs in other counties and strongly supports the development of a Loudoun program.
At its Nov. 2 meeting, the Board of Supervisors unanimously denied a Maryland developer’s special use permit application for a large glamping facility on agriculturally zoned property. The proposed “Robinson River Retreat,” which PEC opposed, would have included up to 70 units, employee housing, and a lodge/restaurant building on an undeveloped 58 acres along the Robinson River. After hearing from a sizable group of nearby residents opposed to the project, County supervisors ultimately found that the proposed rural resort did not conform to the zoning ordinance.
The proposed 2,602-acre Wilderness Crossing mixed-use development where at least five historic gold mines lie unreclaimed (unclosed and not cleaned up of mercury and other toxins) continues to move forward. The developer submitted changes to its rezoning application in September and again in November. The earliest possible date for a Planning Commission work session is Jan. 5, and a public hearing would come sometime after that. PEC continues to work with historic preservation groups, watershed advocates, and concerned citizens, urging the County to postpone any decision on the project until the developer cleans up the property with state agency involvement. More than 150 residents attended our October community town hall about the project’s potential impacts on Rt. 3 traffic, the Wilderness Battlefield, the County’s water supply and taxpayers.
On Nov. 9, volunteers planted over 200 native trees along a tributary of Kilby Creek near Sperryville. This event was part of the Headwater Stream Initiative, a PEC joint program with Friends of the Rappahannock that provides free technical assistance, project design, materials, and labor for the planting of native trees and shrubs along bodies of water in the headwaters of the Rappahannock River watershed. For more information about PEC’s tree planting programs, please visit pecva.org/buffers.
With support from PEC staff, the Sperryville Community Alliance and Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection held an Invasive Species and Trash Clean-Up Day at the Sperryville Trail Network on Nov. The Sperryville Trail Network is a publicly accessible trail that connects various areas of the Village of Sperryville. PEC’s Krebser Fund provided funding for the trail’s new master plan and invasive species management plan. Also with PEC support, the Sperryville Community Alliance received a Community and Urban Forestry Grant from the Department of Forestry to fund the management of invasive species along the Thornton River.
In December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted an educational workshop on fish-friendly and flood resilient stream crossings, geared toward practitioners, planners, and conservation professionals. PEC staff were among the presenters, sharing our experience with aquatic organism passage improvement projects. To learn more about similar workshops in your area, reach out to Laura O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.