Urban Infrastructure and Subdivision Text Amendment Work Session: STA-01-08



Board direction regarding implementation of the Neighborhood Model



Tucker, Foley, Davis, Graham






December 8, 2004


ACTION:      X                           INFORMATION:   



  ACTION:                                 INFORMATION:   










At the Board of Supervisors strategic planning retreat in October 2003, the Board identified the County’s growth and urbanization as a critical issue and established a new strategic planning goal related to urbanization. At this year’s retreat, the Board continued its focus on growth and urbanization by providing direction to staff regarding the desire to pursue an “Urbanizing County” level of service for the County’s transportation and streetscape needs. For transportation needs, this level of service focuses on providing “essential link” transportation projects, minimizing the use of private streets, and continuing to rely on VDOT for street maintenance. For streetscape needs, it includes the County becoming more involved in the construction and maintenance of streetscape in development areas, as determined by master plans.  For streetscape outside master planned areas, construction would be considered through the CIP process, based on the availability of funds.  In both transportation and streetscape, the County would continue to expect development to provide a significant portion of the initial infrastructure. 


Simultaneous with the development of strategies for this urbanization goal, staff was in the process of developing and reviewing a draft Subdivision Text Amendment (STA) with the Planning Commission that incorporated recommendations from the Neighborhood Model Implementation Plan approved by the Board.  The STA is one of a number of tools that will be used to implement the County’s vision of the urban areas, reflected in the Neighborhood Model.  The STA was reviewed by the Planning Commission, recommended for approval and was presented to the Board several months ago.  After several work sessions regarding the originally proposed ordinance, that included input from the development community and staff regarding implementation issues, the Board requested DISC II to provide additional input on the ordinance.  DISC II’s recommendations were provided to the Board at the December 1st Board meeting.



Goal 2.1: Protect and/or preserve the County's rural Character

Goal 3.3: Develop and implement policies that address the County’s growth and urbanization while continuing to enhance the factors that contribute to the quality of life in the County.



The attached staff analysis compares DISC II ‘s position regarding the proposed ordinance with the Board’s recent direction regarding an ‘Urbanizing County’ level of service.  Staff agrees with most of the recommendations included in the proposed ordinance provided by DISC II, particularly those that establish new requirements (overlot grading, curbs and gutters) that will be necessary to achieve a higher level of density in the development areas.  While staff believes that DISC II’s recommendations are responsive to developing an ordinance to implement the Neighborhood Model, staff also believes these recommendations will require a level of service beyond that of an ‘Urbanizing County’.  In addition, DISC II’s  recommendations were not intended to address a number of the critical questions regarding fiscal and organizational impacts that will need to be answered prior to adoption of the ordinance.  Therefore, based on the “Urbanizing County” level of service, staff is not in agreement with some of DISC II’s recommendations.  Ultimately, the Board will need to provide direction on several major policy issues prior to staff being able to finalize an ordinance.  These issues are primarily related to responsibility for ongoing maintenance and replacement and will have significant implications regarding the size of the County’s public works operation or the expectations of property owners.  The most significant questions are:


  1. Does the Board support allowing private streets that are not designed to meet VDOT standards?  If so, who will be responsible for maintaining and replacing streets?


  1. Does the Board support street trees being required within six foot planting strips between curbs and sidewalks?  If so, who will be responsible for maintaining and replacing street trees?


  1. Does the Board support the requirement for sidewalks in all new subdivisions?  If so, who will be responsible for maintaining and replacing sidewalks in VDOT right of ways if VDOT roads are required?  Who will be responsible for maintaining and replacing sidewalks on private roads, if private streets are permitted?


  1. Regarding the above mentioned infrastructure, if property owners will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and replacement, does the Board support a stringent Property Owners’ agreement that requires the establishment of  escrow accounts and involves county monitoring of these accounts and of ongoing maintenance.


While answering these questions will not resolve all of the issues contained in the proposed ordinance, they will significantly effect how the ordinance is finalized.  Since the enclosed comments from the Blue Ridge Home Builders were not received until just prior to completing this executive summary, additional discussion on the ordinance beyond Wednesday’s work session may be necessary.  However, staff does not recommend further revision to the ordinance prior to the Board providing direction on the questions raised above.  Therefore, the first part of Wednesday’s work session will be set up to focus on these questions and better defining the level of service the Board wishes to pursue, rather than the details of the language proposed in the STA.



Based on the attached analysis and previous discussion, staff recommends the following for each part of the STA. 



Staff supports the DISC II recommendation to require street interconnections and allow for waivers when appropriate.  Staff also recommends that some form of financial assurance be required when a waiver only delays eventual construction to assure that the interconnection is paid for by the developers. 


Overlot grading

Staff supports the DISC II recommendations regarding overlot grading.


Private Streets

Staff believes that private streets should be discouraged in most development and, when approved, should always be constructed to VDOT standards to assure they are accepted into the State system for maintenance in the future should the property owners petition the County to assume responsibility for the streets.    


Urban Street Features

Staff supports DISC II’s recommendations for urban street design and sidewalks, noting that additional county funding for future sidewalk maintenance will likely be required.  Staff requests Board direction regarding the location of street trees.



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