Albemarle & Charlottesville
PEC’s work on Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan update includes the completion of our comprehensive plan policy platform to be shared with communities and organizations. We’ve presented this policy platform to the Cville100 Climate Alliance and more recently at the Resilient Virginia conference in Charlottesville. Our ongoing comprehensive plan work to protect the rural areas of the County includes recently engaging with the Esmont, Crossroads, and Batesville communities.
The Fifeville Community Trail, supported by PEC in a variety of ways, is nearing completion with the addition of solar-powered lights and historical signage. Nestled in an urban forest, this trail makes it possible for neighborhood residents to travel safely to Cherry Avenue, Tonsler Park and into the heart of Charlottesville without the company of fast-moving traffic. Learn more at pecva.org/fifeville.
The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization is beginning work on its Long-Range Transportation Plan, which will lay out funding priorities for the next several decades, with major implications for residents’ quality of life and future land conservation in both locali-ties. Over the next few months, residents will be invited to weigh in on which projects are selected and how they are prioritized. More information at campo.tjpdc.org/process-documents/lrtp/
Working with the Clarke County Conservation Easement Authority (CEA), PEC’s Clarke County Land Conservation Fund donated just over $7,000 to fill a financing gap and complete a purchased conservation easement, which was recorded in June. This no-division easement is held by the CEA and permanently protects 2,640 linear feet along the Opequon Creek.
In June, the Board of Supervisors approved a site development plan and special use permit for Carter Hall to be converted to a country inn, with 17 required conditions that were recommended by county planning officials in response to public concerns over the redevelopment proposal. The owners determined the conditions made the project unfeasible and decided instead to auction off the estate, and bidding took place from September 1-15.
Anticipating a Special Use Permit application for a fourth utility-scale solar project, the Board of Supervisors directed the Planning Commission to craft a Zoning Ordinance Amendment prohibiting any future installations in the county. As an alternative, PEC is recommending a strong ordinance that supports private solar for farmers and residents and allows limited utility-scale solar in a way that protects agricultural lands and quality of life.
North Ridge Solar withdrew its proposal for a 250+-acre utility-scale solar project in Stevensburg after the Culpeper Board of Supervisors determined it was not in compliance with the 2023 Comprehensive Plan. Our primary concern with this proposal was its adjacency to the approved, but as-yet unbuilt 1,000-acre Greenwood Solar project.
Despite the Planning Commission’s tied vote on the Copper Ridge data center campus, the rezoning application moved to the Town Council for a public hearing and probable vote on Sept. 12. PEC opposes this project for the effects an industrial data center complex will have on nearby Culpeper National Cemetery and Mountain Brook Estates neighborhood, and the cumulative impact of this and other data center approvals on energy and transmission demand.
In July, Headwaters Site Development LLC filed an application to rezone 60+ acres in Catlett from Light Industrial to Business Park for a proposed data center development and withdrew its proposed zoning text amendment that would have allowed data centers in Business Park Zoning to use overhead transmission lines. How the fully built-out facility’s energy demands will be met are unclear. PEC will continue to weigh in on this application and larger energy infrastructure needs.
Open Roads Renewables withdrew its appeal of the Planning Commission’s denial of the Alameda Solar project in Midland. The company plans to submit a new application that proposes a site redesign, reduction of the total acreage, and removal of solar panels from sensitive areas such as the Fauquier airport runway and near the Blackwelltown District.
At an August public hearing, the Board of Supervisors denied an appeal by Torch Clean Energy, upholding the Planning Commission’s finding that the company’s Sowego solar proposal in Bristersburg was not compliant with the County’s Comprehensive Plan. If the company wants to pursue this project, it must file another Comprehensive Plan Consistency Review application with the County.
Greene County has completed its Comprehensive Plan Update and continues to update its zoning ordinance.
The Board of Supervisors deferred a vote on an amended Special Use Permit application for the Sojourner glamping project while it waits for the results of a lawsuit challenging their approval of the original proposal for 144 tent units on 84.94 acres. The amended application would add an abutting 70-acre parcel to the proposed development without adding more tent units or accessory uses.
At the July Board of Supervisors meeting, a “Purchase of Development Rights” (PDR) program was designated as a top priority, and County staff has been directed to complete plans for an active program by Spring 2024. A PDR funding proposal will go before the County’s Finance, Government Operations & Economic Development Committee on September 12. PEC will submit a letter in support of the PDR program.
The Board of Supervisors held its first public hearing on the latest draft of the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite on July 26 and forwarded the draft to its Transportation and Land Use subcommittee, which will discuss it and address issues raised by staff and the public, beginning in September. The Board of Supervisors will hold another public hearing before adopting the ordinance, which is expected by the end of 2023.
The Planning Commission held a second public hearing for the draft Prime Soils and Cluster Subdivision Zoning Amendment in July and forwarded the amendment to a work session. PEC, in partnership with other rural stakeholders, will continue to give input during this process. We anticipate a final public hearing after the Planning Commission reviews a consultant report on the impacts of the draft and makes additional edits.
In July, Madison County denied the application for the utility-scale solar facility long proposed for 90+ acres of farmland behind Yoder’s Country Market. In addition to lingering unanswered questions about decommissioning and future ownership of the facility, county supervisors cited concerns voiced by PEC about converting productive farmland to an industrial use.
PEC is playing an active role in Madison County’s Comprehensive Plan review process and will advocate for meaningful public input opportunities this fall.
PEC is lending our land use and planning expertise to aid American Battlefield Trust and the other plaintiffs in their lawsuit against Orange County for violations of state law and local ordinance in approving Wilderness Crossing. While a hearing date has not yet been set, the County recently rescinded the improperly-enacted building height zoning amendment, acknowledging its error on at least one of the plaintiffs’ complaints.
PEC is studying several proposals making their way through Orange County’s planning review process, including mud bogging events on an agricultural property near a residential subdivision and two commercial solar facilities near the Town of Orange.
PEC staff continue to support the Rappahannock County Park with restoration of the Rush River riparian area’s native forest canopy and trail system. Invasive species management activities will begin in priority areas this fall.
PEC is actively following the Planning Commission and county staff update and restructure of the County’s Zoning Ordinance, largely to improve its clarity and alignment with the Virginia State Code. Planning Commission work sessions will begin in the fall, with a final draft anticipated by the end of 2023.
The Sperryville Community Alliance has completed the second phase of invasive species management along the Sperryville Trail Network and Thornton River, guided by the Invasive Species Management Plan funded by PEC’s Krebser Fund for Rappahannock County Conservation. Efforts to restore the trail’s native tree canopy will be supported by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Get Outdoors Program and a joint PEC-Friends of the Rappahannock tree planting this fall.
This article appeared in the 2023 fall edition of 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.