A series of short updates from around the PEC region – Albemarle & Charlottesville, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange & Rappahannock.
Albemarle & Charlottesville
To better meet affordable housing needs within the development area, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors adopted an updated housing policy in July with intentions of later adding affordability periods, price range, and percentage of affordable housing per development. PEC supports long-term affordable housing options scaled for Albemarle and located near services/features that reduce economic burdens for residents (transit, jobs, etc.).
An applicant has requested a special use permit for 54 acres of Rural Area-zoned land along Rt. 29 within the Hardware Agricultural and Forestal District. Application approval would require either the application to be found compliant with district rules or the land withdrawn from the district three years early. PEC neither believes the application is compliant, nor supports early withdrawal from the district for non-agricultural or forestal purposes. We also have concerns about the event portion of the proposal, which would triple the existing 7,520 square feet of buildings in part for events up to 150 people.
New Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance Adopted
The board of supervisors recently voted to adopt new zoning and subdivision ordinances in an effort to modernize existing ordinances, provide a user-friendly format, and ensure compliance with the Code of Virginia. Residential density, lot size requirements, allowable development, and current zoning districts remain unchanged. The new ordinances are in effect and can be reviewed on the county website.
Septic Ordinance Revisions
County staff are drafting septic ordinance revisions based on changes to onsite system technology and other issues identified by the state health department. PEC is participating in workgroup discussions to advocate for groundwater protection and consideration for soils and geologic conditions.
After lengthy discussion, the planning commission is expected to finalize a draft utility-scale solar ordinance for board of supervisors consideration. PEC provided feedback throughout the development of this ordinance. We are pleased to see that the current draft regulates utility-scale solar via use permits rather than by creating a separate industrial zoning district.
Pre-construction meetings between the county and Lennar Homes began this summer for this mixed-use development for 774 residential units, 140,000 square feet of commercial space, and 700+ acres of open space. County-approved construction phases call for a six-year build-out, with no more than 150 building permits to be issued each year.
New Boat Launch on the Rappahannock River
After years of work and partner collaboration, a new Rappahannock River boat launch is now open in Remington. PEC has been pursuing river access in Remington for nearly 20 years, and secured a $20,000 grant from Virginia Environmental Endowment for construction materials for the new launch. We continue to work toward a community vision for nearby Rappahannock Station Battlefield Park. Read more: New boat launch on the Rappahannock River >>
In August, the county found a utility-scale solar application for a 3MW facility on 19.5 acres of a 48-acre farm off Meetze Rd. non-compliant with the county’s comprehensive plan, as 100% of the proposed panel location is prime agricultural soil, actively farmed, and would make continued farming on the parcel impractical. A larger project PEC is also watching would cover 1,000 acres of land that is mostly forested or used for agricultural purposes.
New Asphalt Plant Proposed in Midland
Allan Myers, one of the largest heavy civil contractor and materials suppliers in the Mid-Atlantic, has submitted an application for a new asphalt plant in Midland off of Midland Road. PEC follows this issue closely, with early concerns on truck traffic, adequacy of the Midland Road/Rt. 28 intersection, and air quality.
The issue of short-term tourist rentals in residential neighborhoods continues to be a source of heated debate in the county. They are allowed by-right in agricultural and conservation zoned areas, but require a use permit in residential areas. In July, the board of supervisors denied one such use permit request, while the planning commission recommended approval of another, both in Greene Mountain Lake.
PEC is monitoring a proposal for 234 “glamping” units and an activity center on 116 acres in the Mutton Hollow area, with concerns about transportation impacts and loss of rural character.
Short Term Residential Rentals
The county is drafting a zoning ordinance amendment, adding two categories of short-term (under 30 days) residential rentals as an allowed use. The accessory use category would allow limited whole-house rentals of an owner’s primary and tenant houses, while the commercial use category would allow whole-house rentals as the sole use of housing. PEC has expressed concerns this amendment could reduce the stock for standard rentals and affordable housing. The draft text is expected to go before the planning commission by the end of the year.
County Trail Plan
The board of supervisors recently adopted a master plan for an interconnected network of natural trails along stream valleys across the county. Intended for both recreation and habitat protection, the network will connect with paved trails to enhance pedestrian access to natural areas. PEC has served as a member of the linear parks and trails subcommittee of Loudoun’s parks, recreation and open space board throughout the process.
AT&T Tower on Short Hill
To allow time for public hearings, the board of supervisors recently deferred action on a permit application for a 125’ tower atop Short Hill Mountain. The public hearings will take place in mid-September. PEC staff are working with partner organizations to inform concerned residents and elected officials about how the tower violates the county’s ordinances for ridgeline protection. Read more: AT&T Tower Proposal Threatens Scenic Ridgeline and Violates County Code >>
The county is considering a rezoning request for a 92-acre parcel adjacent to Yoder’s Market to allow for the construction of a utility-scale solar facility. PEC’s concerns about this proposal include impacts to prime agricultural soils, changes sought by the developer to the county’s solar ordinance, and the potential precedent that would be set, opening the door for potential future conversion of agricultural zoning to industrial. An initial public hearing took place in early September.
Art in the Park
PEC’s Town to Trail working group developed and introduced the concept for an art camp within the park in Gordonsville to the town, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, and Arts Center in Orange, which collaborated to host it. Six teenage artists worked with a local art professional to create large dramatically colorful butterflies with masonite and paint and install them on existing park poles, which they also painted. The Town to Trail group helped the town secure funds to expand the park and worked to acquire two parcels of land that connect the park to Fireman’s Fairgrounds.
Mt. Airy LLC Rezoning Application Denied
In a contentious July decision, Rappahannock’s board of supervisors voted against rezoning the Mt. Airy LLC property from RR-5 (5 acre minimum lots) to R-2 (2 acres lots). PEC commented that the application was not aligned with Rappahannock’s comprehensive plan, which focuses future residential and commercial development in or around the major villages.
VDOT Fish Passage Pilot Projects Begin
PEC is working with VDOT, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and local landowners to restore fish passages and make local road-stream crossings safer and more flood resilient. Following construction of an improved culvert series at the Bolton Branch/Mill Hill Road (VA Rt. 631) crossing near Huntly, Bolton Branch now connects over two miles of stream to its headwaters in Shenandoah National Park, the last intact habitat for Virginia’s state fish, the Eastern brook trout. Read more: Fish Surveys with Virginia DWR >>
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.