A series of short updates from around the PEC region – Albemarle & Charlottesville, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange & Rappahannock.
Albemarle & Charlottesville
The Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan review process has begun. The comp plan, which guides decisions on land use, transportation, public infrastructure, natural resource protection and more, is updated about every five years. The first phase of the process will examine growth management: whether, where, and how new development should take place in the city. PEC is monitoring the process and will keep you updated. In the meantime, we encourage you to learn more and can get directly involved by visiting engage.albemarle.org/ac44.
The City of Charlottesville is revising its zoning code as the final step in the city’s multi-stage Cville Plans Together land use policy update. The city formally adopted a new affordable housing strategy and a new comprehensive plan in 2021. The zoning code will define many of the legal parameters for those aspirational documents.
Albemarle and Charlottesville are working to create safer environments for walking and biking. Several of these projects — such as a pedestrian bridge over the Rivanna River between Pantops and Woolen Mills and multimodal improvements to Avon, Fifth and Hydraulic streets — span significant gaps between the two localities. Learn more at campo.tjpdc.org/smart-scale.
Clarke County has renewed its Agricultural and Forestal District (AFD) for another six years. This voluntary program helps the county maintain its largely rural character when participating property owners agree to certain land-use restrictions. The program also safeguards these lands from such threats as eminent domain for infrastructure and certain restrictive local ordinances. When the AFD comes up for renewal consideration, owners can choose to renew or discontinue participation in the program.
As part of our Headwaters Stream Initiative, Friends of the Rappahannock and PEC worked with the Ellis family to plant nearly 12 acres of native trees and shrubs for the benefit of water quality, flood resilience, and bird and wildlife habitat at their Clifton Farm, a conserved property located at the confluence of the Thorton and Hazel rivers.
Both the House and Senate budget bills include language to establish a Culpeper Battlefields State Park. If adopted, this would represent the culmination of a multi-year effort led by the American Battlefield Trust to establish a state park in Culpeper County inclusive of preserved properties at the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain battlefields. PEC has been an active and consistent supporter of this effort believing it will enhance opportunities for public recreational access and historical interpretation in Culpeper County.
In January the County Board of Supervisors tabled until April a proposal for a 485-acre solar energy facility in Bristersburg. Located in the Elk Run Rural Historic District and adjacent to the Bristersburg Historic District, the property is zoned for agricultural use, and PEC has several concerns regarding the location and impact of the project. Several other utility-scale solar proposals are also being discussed in southern Fauquier but have not submitted formal applications yet.
The Town of Warrenton has proposed expanding the town’s boundaries more than 60% by absorbing 1,750 acres of mostly undeveloped county land along Warrenton’s perimeter. PEC believes this expansion would trigger sprawl on the outskirts of Town, requiring expensive infrastructure expansion and new schools and drawing important resources away from needed improvements within Warrenton’s existing boundaries.
The Town of Remington has received a grant from the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment
to expand upon the Remington Walks plan, first completed by PEC in 2017. Working closely with town officials, PEC supported this grant application and continues to encourage implementation of traffic calming and pedestrian safety improvements along James Madison (Bus. 29/15) and Main streets.
On December 15, the Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend denial of a special use permit for a 144-unit glamping facility proposed in the Mutton Hollow area. This permit application attracted significant interest from the local community, with nearly 100 residents attending the public hearing and many providing comments against the proposal. PEC opposes this permit application, with concerns over its potential adverse impacts on the rural character of this part of the county. This application has yet to be docketed before the Board of Supervisors.
In 2022, the county expects to complete its Comprehensive Plan review and to move forward with a zoning audit. County staff will create a baseline zoning ordinance and refine the proposal through public hearings and workshops. PEC has actively engaged in the comprehensive plan review, suggesting improvements to language around land use, natural resources and the environment.
County staff recently discussed with the Zoning Ordinance Committee the feedback they received on the first draft of the Prime Agricultural Soils and Cluster Subdivision zoning amendment. PEC and others said the first draft needs major revisions to better protect prime soils and offered many suggestions. Staff will revise the text and provide another draft for review before going to the planning commission for public hearing.
Plans have been submitted to develop 31 single-family detached homes along Route 50 near Gilbert’s Corner, adjacent to PEC’s Roundabout Meadows and the historic Mt. Zion Church. PEC staff are concerned about the potential impacts of this “Tanager Subdivision” on existing historical resources and about how the development’s stormwater ponds and site layout could impact the Old Carolina Rd Trail. We are monitoring the application closely.
The county is proposing outdoor lighting for the Scott Jenkins Memorial Park ballfields in Hamilton. Outdoor lighting is currently prohibited at the park because of the nighttime light pollution impacts on the growth cycle of various plants at a nearby nursery. PEC asked the planning commission to consider alternative lighting and reduced hours of operation to minimize light pollution and dark sky impacts.
Loudoun County supervisors will use $200,000 of the county’s year-end budget surplus to cover the surprise costs of environmental work in floodplains, after inadvertently placing floodplain property owners under more costly regulations. This money will be allocated to the Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District for livestock fencing and riparian planting projects. Learn more at www.loudounsoilandwater.com.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is studying the socio-economic impacts of some of the projects it funded to improve road crossings for fish passage, including the Cedar Run crossing to Whiteoak Canyon trailhead in Shenandoah National Park near Syria. In 2019, PEC partnered with Trout Unlimited to replace a culvert near the trailhead with a bridge. National Park Service staff report the pandemic and other factors have driven a jump in visitor counts at Whiteoak Canyon from just over 3,000 visitors per year to well over 5,000 in 2020. The new bridge was installed just in time to accommodate the dramatic uptick in visitors, increase safety on the Cedar Run crossing, and improve aquatic habitat and fish passage.
PEC is assisting the Town of Gordonsville and the Rappahannock Regional Commission with a funding application to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation for updated Gordonsville park infrastructure. If awarded, the Town would be able to continue developing a four-acre park network connecting Verling Park and Fireman’s Fairgrounds with park-related infrastructure. The Town and PEC acquired four parcels over the past few years to more than double park space in the center of town.
At the 2,602-acre site of the proposed Wilderness Crossing residential development, where historic gold mine sites lay unreclaimed, KEG III Associates has offered a phased environmental evaluation strategy that would begin only after rezoning is approved. PEC has expressed concern that this approach sidesteps accountability related to public safety and environmental health.
The Town of Washington has requested a joint public hearing with the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors to discuss a boundary adjustment proposed for the mixed-use development project, Rush River Commons. The development, which has yet to break ground, is situated within both the Town of Washington’s corporate boundaries and the County. The proposed adjustment would bring approximately three acres into the town from the county.
The Town of Washington has begun the review process for its Comprehensive Plan, last updated in 2017. This document, which must be reviewed every five years, represents the community’s vision for the future and guides decisions on land use, development and town priorities. The town’s planning commission held the first public feedback session Jan. 31 and will continue to solicit public input.
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.