On the Ground Updates – September 2020

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

Albemarle & Charlottesville

Projects Along the City/County Boundary

A new pedestrian bridge at Woolen Mills has been all the buzz. A 2017 PEC presentation inspired the County’s Economic Development Authority and developer Brian Roy to close a key gap in the Rivanna Trail. Now, the County’s Broadway Blueprint is re-imagining the corridor that connects the Woolen Mills site—in Albemarle County—to Charlottesville’s Carlton neighborhood and the rest of the region.

In 2019, PEC helped the City of Charlottesville acquire 142 acres adjacent to the Ragged Mountain Natural Area with funds from the USDA Community Forestry Program. This summer, PEC worked with the Rivanna Trails Foundation and the city to secure an additional $65,000 from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation Preservation Trust Fund that will go toward acquiring an additional five acres in the same area.

Construction Dirt Regulation Changes

In August, the Albemarle County Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of changing the county’s regulations for the placement of fill materials from demolition and construction projects, after PEC and citizens raised concerns about truck traffic on rural roads, hours of operation, and environmental and public safety concerns. Currently, fill activities are permitted in all zoning districts, and allow for soil or inert materials. Proposed changes will be voted on in September.


Zoning Ordinance Update

The Zoning Ordinance has been on hold for a while pending legal review. Once that’s done, the draft will be ready for the public process and public hearings. The county is also preparing the preliminary steps for the Comprehensive Plan update, which is on a five-year review schedule.

Spotted Lanternfly

Though it first invaded Frederick County and Winchester in 2018, no cases of this invasive pest have been reported in Clarke—yet. The bug has various stages of life, morphing into a distinct pink/red adult moth with black wingtips and spots. It attacks crops, orchard plants and hardwoods, and is especially fond of the invasive ailanthus (tree of heaven) tree. To get more information on how to identify, prevent and kill the spotted lanternfly, or to report a sighting, call Virginia Cooperative Extension at 560-665-5699.


Utility-Scale Solar Applications and Policy Update

Greenwood Solar, a utility-scale solar application approved by the Board of Supervisors on Oct 2, 2018, is approaching its deadline (Oct 2, 2020) for site plan approval and construction commencement. The site plan approval, depicting the design for 100 megawatts of solar panels on 999 acres in Stevensburg, has been tabled for a decision and public hearing on Oct 14. Unless the Board of Supervisors intervenes or provides an extension, the Conditional Use Permit will expire on Oct 2. The county has also received a new utility-scale solar application from Maroon Solar, LLC, calling for 149 MW on 1,707 acres in Raccoon Ford.

The board held a work session on Aug. 11 to discuss the county’s ordinance and policy for utility-scale solar. The county’s current policy states an upper target of 2,400 acres (240 MW) total production, while limiting projects to no more than 300 acres of panels. In order to ensure that agricultural, natural, historic and scenic resources are included in siting criteria, PEC will continue to weigh in on any utility-scale proposal and the policy that guides county decision-making.


Warrenton Comprehensive Plan

Photo by Will Parson, Chesapeake Bay Program.

The Warrenton 2040 Comprehensive Plan draft was released June 15 and the Planning Commission held a public hearing on July 21. Only a handful of speakers spoke at the public hearing, but the town received over 50 letters from residents, overwhelmingly in opposition. Primary concerns expressed were about growth (how much? what type? and where?), water and sewer needs, and a western bypass that would connect Rt. 17 to Rt. 211 to Rt. 29 south of Walmart. PEC submitted written comments outlining our concerns; check pecva.org/fauquier for more info.

Utility Scale Solar in Rural Areas

The county is drafting a zoning ordinance to regulate utility-scale solar in rural areas of the county, as numerous landowners have been contacted by companies. This ordinance will help set standards for consideration of those applications. PEC will be following its development closely to ensure standards protect the County’s valuable agricultural, natural, historic and scenic resources.


White Run Reservoir Project

At its July 28 meeting, the Greene County Board of Supervisors voted to pull out of the Rapidan Service Authority (RSA), prompted by the RSA’s termination of a facility fee necessary to help pay for the proposed White Run Reservoir and water treatment plant. Greene County began its pursuit of that project in 2005 and has already purchased the property and completed the necessary planning and permitting. The RSA’s other members, Orange and Madison counties, failed to support Greene’s withdrawal, calling the future of the project into question. PEC will continue to monitor and update our members as the situation develops.


Banbury Cross Reserve

The Middleburg Planning Commission conditionally approved the Banbury Cross Reserve project at their special meeting in August, citing the three conditions noted in Loudoun County staff’s final report. Per Middleburg regulations, the applicant has 90 days to fulfill the conditions. Local news media have reported a lawsuit challenging the title to the property, which would have an as-yet unknown impact on the project.

Fueled Farm Brewery Withdrawn

PEC, along with several local residents, officially objected to the ABC license application for the proposed Middleburg brewery. Objectors cited concerns about the brewery’s impact on adjacent properties, including a possible school site and local park. Moved by community concerns, the applicant withdrew its license request and terminated the brewery plans.


Crescere Agri-Resort and Spa

On Aug. 5, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on a Special Use Permit application for Crescere Agri-Resort and Spa, a 749-acre event venue on land zoned agricultural in Rochelle, along the Rapidan River and Route 231. Despite hundreds of written and in-person comments in opposition, including PEC’s concerns related to the expansive list of approved uses, the Board of Supervisors approved the permit. PEC has stated publicly that the board’s decision to put off the in-person portion of public comment until after midnight during the final hearing showed a shocking disregard for both the public process and citizen concerns. It deprived many of those in attendance of their ability to weigh in. No resident should have to sit through what amounts to a 5-hour filibuster in order to provide a 3-minute public comment.


MAPAG Fireworks and RV Resort Special Use Permits

The Mid Atlantic Pyrotechnic Arts Guild (MAPAG) SUP was tabled during the Aug 5 Planning Commission public hearing and was recommended for denial (3-1) during the Sept 3 public hearing. Although this SUP has been reduced in scope since the first public hearing, PEC has requested denial due to event size, frequency and noise.

During their public hearing on Aug 19, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended denial
(5-0) for the Orange Country Resort, LLC SUP, which included between 150 and 250 RV lots on 82.87 acres of agriculturally-zoned land on Lake Anna off of Route 522 in Orange and Spotsylvania counties. There will be a public hearing for this SUP on Oct 13 at 7:00 p.m.

Due to recent issues with land use applications, the Planning Commission has requested a work session to discuss the Planning Commission’s general operating procedures, application requirements and timelines, and public comment procedures.


Improving Parks, Big and Small

The Great American Outdoors Act brings significant funding to Shenandoah National Park to improve facilities like trails, campgrounds and visitor centers. This critical legislation was approved by Congress on Aug 4 to address an estimated $12 billion backlog in public lands maintenance across the country, and provide permanent allocation for the Land and Water Fund. Shenandoah National Park estimates this renewed source of funding will cover at least $88,765,195 in needed repairs and maintenance.

Rappahannock County Park in Washington has completed a Master Plan that identifies existing infrastructure and plans phased improvements to trails, facilities and landscaping. This vision for the park emphasizes native plant landscaping, invasive species control, and new, ADA-accessible trails and facilities. This plan was made possible in part by funding with PEC’s Krebser Fund for Rappahannock County Conservation.

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.