Review of the Keswick Agricultural/Forestall District - Required 10-year review of the Keswick Agricultural/Forestall District. The district includes the properties described as Tax Map 63, parcels 24, 39, 39A, 39B, 40, 42A, 43; Tax Map 64, Parcels 5, 7, 7A, 8, 8A, 9, 10, 10A, 10B, 10C, 10D, 11, 12, 13, 13A, 14; Tax Map 65, parcel 13; Tax Map 79, parcels 46, 46A; Tax Map 80, parcels 1, 2, 2A, 3A, 3A1, 3G, 3H, 3I, 4, 61D,88, 114A, 115, 164, 169, 169A, 169C, 169C1, 174, 176, 176A, 182, 182A, 183, 183A, 190, 192, 194; Tax Map 81, parcels 1, 8A, 15A6, 15B, 63. The district comprises a total of 6584.831 acres and is located in the vicinity of Keswick, with portions of the district bordering the Southwest Mountains and Route 22 (Louisa Road).The area is designated as Rural Area in the Comprehensive Plan and is zoned RA Rural Areas. (Rebecca Ragsdale) DEFERRED FROM SEPTEMBER 21, 2004.
Ms. Ragsdale summarized the staff report. The Agricultural and Forestall Districts program is an important voluntary protection measure utilized in the County. It is enabled by the State Code. As part of the enabling legislation it is required that agricultural and forestall districts be reviewed. Keswick Agricultural/Forestall District is on the ten-year review cycle. The district is located along Route 22 in the Keswick area of the County. It was last reviewed in October, 1994. The district was created in September of 1986 and originally had approximately 5,200 acres. Since that time the district has increased in acreage to approximately 6,584 acres. During these review periods it is the property owner’s time to withdraw by right. Property owners can make a withdrawal request up until the time that the Board of Supervisors acts to renew the district. There have been three requests to withdraw from the district totally 120 acres. This includes tax map 63, parcel 24, which is at the end of Hammock’s Gap Lane. The Gentry family has requested to withdraw 2 parcels of 14 acres and 134 acres. According to land records, this represents approximately 63 acres in agricultural use and 68 acres in forestry use. Mr. Baker has requested to withdraw tax map 79, parcel 46A, which is a 43 acre parcel located south of Hammock’s Gap Lane near Springdale Lane off of Route 22. Given these withdrawals, the district would decrease in acreage to 6,391 acres. About 4,466 of the 6,584 total acres in the district are under easement. According to Albemarle County real estate records, 3,375 acres of the district are used for forestry and 2,639 acres are used for agricultural use, which is a land protection measure that compliments the Rural Area policy goal of promoting agricultural and forestall land uses. Also, the district helps preserve scenic resources such as the Scenic By-Way of Route 22. The Keswick District includes a large portion of the Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District. There are some historic properties such as East Belmont and Grace Church in the vicinity of the district. The Agricultural and Forestall Advisory Committee reviewed this District at their September meeting and recommended renewal of the District, with the requested withdrawals of TM 63, parcels 24, 43 and Tax Map 79, parcel 46A.
Mr. Thomas asked if there were any questions for Ms. Ragsdale.
Mr. Rieley stated that the Commission reviews these districts so sporadically that it was hard to get a sense of the general pattern. He stated that one district had a small decrease in acreage and the other district had a slight increase in acreage. He asked if staff saw a trend.
Ms. Ragsdale stated that she had not looked at that aspect. She suggested that Mr. Benish might be able to answer that question since she had only been working with these districts for a couple of months.
Mr. Benish stated that the current trend is slightly at a decline. There was a period that the County had a high peak of activity when there were public projects out in the Rural Areas that were not defined by location. That can spur some interest for the districts to be created. During the period in the 90’s when the By-Pass issues were being discussed there was a real spike of activity. It seems to run in cycles and is very individualistic to the needs of the property owners. He pointed out that it is pretty typical to see slight declines and slight increases, but he would guess that the County over time was in a slight decline.
Ms. Higgins stated that in the withdrawal letter for Mr. Watkins, it says that at the time they are exploring the possibility of placing it into a permanent conservation easement. She asked what would be inconsistent with having the property included in the agricultural/forestall district and then placing a permanent conservation easement on it. It makes it sound like he is withdrawing the property from this designation and he was considering doing something else.
Mr. Thomas asked if that property was in the Kinloch District Agricultural/Forestall District.
Ms. Joseph stated that property was in the Kinloch District. She stated that the reason that people do that is because when it is in an agricultural/forestall district you can only make 21-acre parcels. When it is not in an agricultural/forestall district you can make smaller parcels and there was a potential to get more money and more tax incentive or tax credits for the permanent conservation easement.
Ms. Higgins stated that it was a little bit confusing, but it ends up not being developed more intensely if it is done either way.
Mr. Rieley stated that the conservation easement was a lot more permanent and a lot more restrictive.
Mr. Edgerton stated that there was a substantial tax benefit for doing a permanent conservation easement.
Ms. Higgins stated that it would be more of an incentive than the threat of a road project.
Mr. Benish pointed out that the property could apply and come back into the district the next time around, which was no uncommon.
Mr. Edgerton stated that he had a question for Mr. Kamptner. In the third paragraph, second sentence on page 1 it says, “The District may have no effect on adjacent development by-right . . .” He asked if Mr. Kamptner could provide the legal definition and why it should not be shall instead of may.
Mr. Kamptner stated that is outside of the quotation marks. Therefore, that is not reiterating the State Code section.
Mr. Edgerton asked what the word may means in that context.
Mr. Kamptner stated that in this context it could be read to mean two different things. One, it could be mandatory in nature; it may have not effect or may could mean yes or no.
Ms. Higgins stated that it means not shall.
Mr. Benish stated that he believed that there is little that they can do in a by right development proposal based on its adjacency to agricultural/forestall districts. In special use permits, staff will look at the adjacency of the use and its impacts to the agricultural/forestall district. Staff typically does that for cell towers, which is an example. In those legislative reviews if there are impacts to those proposals that would impact the character of the agricultural/forestall district that he thought that under those legislative acts that they have the latitude to consider that. The may is probably their terminology to short handedly explain what in quick terms what this district means. It has some strengths, but they were limited by essentially ministerial acts how they can apply it.
Mr. Kamptner stated that it was really not a factor and not available for use for site plans and subdivision plats for parcels outside of district. The example that Mr. Benish gave was about the special use permit and the criteria that the Commission looks at in determining whether it was a substantial detriment to the adjacent property and whether it changes the character of the district. That district means the neighborhood and the surrounding area. Therefore, in that sense it does have an effect.
Mr. Edgerton stated that the State Code stipulation, if he was reading it correctly, says that land use planning decisions, administrative decisions and procedures affecting parcels of land adjacent to any district shall take into account such existence of such district. The interpretation of that is only occurring for special use permit. He asked if that was decided on the local level.
Mr. Kamptner stated that it was decided on the local level, but it was also consistent with State law. If the County wants to consider agricultural/forestall district lands in subdivision and site plan reviews, they need to adopt regulations, for example, that require additional buffering and different setback regulations when the agricultural/forestall district boundary is the border of that parcel. He stated that he did not think that the current development staff can decide to deny the site plan because it was going to allow some type of development next to an agricultural/forestall parcel absent a specific regulation that the site plan is contrary to.
Ms. Joseph stated
that on page 4 staff it quotes, “Relation to Other Comprehensive Plan Policies.”
She asked if this was wording from the adopted Comp Plan or the proposed Comp Plan.
Ms. Ragsdale stated that this was the language in the agricultural and forestall district sections of the existing Comprehensive Plan.
Mr. Thomas asked if there were any more questions for staff. There being none, he opened the public hearing. Since the applicant had previously spoken, he asked if there was any further public comment. There being no one, he closed the public hearing to bring the matter back to the Commission for discussion and possible action.
Mr. Rieley made a motion to recommend approval for the review of the Keswick Agricultural/Forestal District.
Mr. Morris seconded the motion.
The motion carried by a vote of (7:0).
Mr. Thomas stated that the motion carried for the Review of Keswick Agricultural/Forestal District, which would be heard by the Board on November 3, 2004.
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