Development Areas Initiative Steering Committee II

September 21, 2004-- ROOM 246

Albemarle County Office Building

12:00 – 1:30 p.m.



MEMBERS PRESENT:   Marilynn Gale, Katie Hobbs, Tom Loach, Steve Runkle, and Steve Von Storch.


STAFF:  Elaine Echols and Wayne Cilimberg


1.                  Call to Order – Steve Runkle called to order at 12:15 p.m.


2.                  Approval of Minutes from September 14, 2004 Meeting – Several items were discussed and modified with the expectation that the minutes would be corrected and brought to the next meeting. 


3.                  Discussion on Planting Strips and Street Trees – The Committee continued to discuss whether a “menu of options” or a “standard” should be established for the location of sidewalks and street trees in the subdivision ordinance.  Marilynn Gale said that she believed that the County should not have a requirement for a single standard if VDOT allowed for options.  Several other members said that they believed that if a menu of options is provided, many developers would choose the cheapest solution, which would not be the desired cross-section. 


The discussion continued and the group decided that they would recommend the standard be a 6-foot planting strip at the back of the curb with a 5-foot sidewalk.  Other possible options could be considered by the Commission if a waiver is requested, the Committee said.  Ms. Gale noted that she did not agree with the rest of the group on this recommendation, but acknowledged she was in the minority. 


Mr. Runkle said that he was satisfied with the waiver requirement but wondered if there would be an overwhelming number of requests for waivers at the Planning Commission.  Mr. Runkle said that, contrary to what many believe, there are a number of developers who want to provide sidewalks and street trees.  He said that there will be issues that come up where the requirement cannot be met because of pre-existing conditions.  He noted that, at a minimum, there will need to be provisions for transition areas between rural and urban sections.  Ms. Echols noted that the ordinance will need to address how transitions will be made.


Mr. Runkle asked if there could be an accelerated process for waivers at the Planning Commission.  Katie Hobbs noted that if the waiver process were perfunctory, it might not result in the desired cross-section.   Ms. Echols said staff would discuss among themselves the ways in which the waivers could be processed through the Planning Commission without resulting in major delays.  She said she would bring back these recommendations back to DISC II. 


Ms. Gale asked if a different term might be available for “the exception” because the term “waiver” often has a negative connotation.  Staff suggested that two different terms might be used – a “waiver” for relief from the requirement and a “modification” for use of a different standard.


Next, the Committee asked how site plans for multi-family residential or non-residential uses would be treated.  Several members called to the group’s attention the DISC recommendation for wider sidewalks in commercial areas and DISC’s comments that street trees in commercial areas were not always necessary.  Ms. Echols said that staff envisioned the sidewalk and street trees to be reviewed during the site plan process, not during the subdivision process.  She said that staff would have to include such language in the subdivision text amendment. 


Steve Runkle asked how the zoning ordinance would handle the location of street trees and sidewalks.  Ms. Echols said that right now, the zoning ordinance requires street trees outside of the r.o.w. and that during the zoning text amendment process this issue would be discussed.  The proposed changes to the subdivision text would not alter existing zoning requirements but would require a 6-foot planting strip in single-family detached and attached subdivisions.  Mr. Cilimberg also noted that the tree requirement must go into the zoning ordinance, not the subdivision ordinance.


4.         Changes to Setbacks – Ms. Echols brought this issue to the group in response to comments made at the previous meeting.  She said that members were worried about the right-of-way expanding because of the sidewalk and street tree requirements.  This situation would produce a greater distance between the streets and the building setback.  She suggested that DISC II consider recommending a concurrent zoning text amendment for front setbacks that could be adopted along with the subdivision text amendment.  DISC II generally agreed.


Ms. Echols told the Committee that, in the residential districts, the front setback requirement is 25 feet and that staff recommended a reduction to 10 feet.  Mr. Runkle asked why it couldn’t be reduced further, such as to 5 feet, in the R-4 or R-6 through R-15 districts.  The Committee agreed that staff should look into recommending a lesser setback than 10 feet in these districts and bring back the proposal to DISC II when the subdivision language is ready for review.


4.         Set Next Meeting Date – Staff requested that the Chair set the date for the next DISC II meeting when the subdivision language is ready for review.  Members agreed.


5.         Adjournment – The meeting adjourned at 1:45 p.m.                 

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