Albemarle County Planning Commission

February 15, 2005

 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and a public hearing on Tuesday, February 15, 2005 at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Room 241, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Members attending were William Rieley, Rodney Thomas, Marcia Joseph, Vice-Chair, Jo Higgins, Pete Craddock and Bill Edgerton, Chairman.  Absent was David J. Neuman, FAIA, Architect for University of Virginia and Calvin Morris. 

 

Other officials present were Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning & Community Development; David Benish, Chief of Planning & Community Development; Stephen Waller, Senior Planner; Amelia McCulley, Division Director of Zoning and Current Development; Louise Wyatt, Zoning Enforcement Manager and Greg Kamptner, Assistant County Attorney.

 

Call to Order and Establish Quorum:

 

Mr. Edgerton called the regular meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. and established a quorum.

 

            Public Hearings:

 

ZTA 2004-0010 - Civil penalties: Amend Section 37.2, Civil penalty, of Chapter 18, Zoning, of the Albemarle County Code, to increase the civil penalty for each violation subsequent to the first violation arising under the same operative set of facts from one hundred fifty dollars ($150) to two hundred fifty dollars ($250), and to increase the total civil penalties resulting from a series of such violations from three thousand dollars ($3,000) to five thousand dollars ($5,000).  (Louise Wyatt)

 

Louise Wyatt stated that she had been the Manager of Zoning Enforcement for the past four months. The request before the Commission was a request to amend Zoning Ordinance Section 37.2 to increase the civil penalties for zoning violations as allowed by Virginia Code Section15.2-2209. 

 

Background:  Use of civil penalties for certain zoning violations has been an effective enforcement tool as both a deterrent and as a consequence for noncompliance in numerous zoning cases.  The Zoning Ordinance currently imposes civil penalties of $50 and $100 for the first violation (depending on the nature of the violation) and $150 for each subsequent violation, and imposes a cap of $3,000 total civil penalties for each violation.  Over the past three years the County has had an average of about 339 zoning enforcement cases. Many of these cases have been part of the use of civil penalties before the violation is abated.  Currently the County is pursuing civil penalties in about 28 percent of our unresolved violation cases.  Additionally, several long term cases have approached the current ceiling limit before staff was able to abate the violation.  Consistent with current State law the proposed ordinance would increase the civil penalties for each subsequent violation from $150 to $250 and increase the civil penalties cap from $3,000 to $5,000.  Raising both the civil penalties for subsequent violations and the cap will help the County in adjusting these violations. 

 

In terms of implications to staffing and staff costs, the proposed amendment has the potential to reduce staff workload if it results in more timely abatement of zoning violations. It would allow the County to actually come closer to covering actual staff cost for enforcement.  For these reasons, staff recommends the adoption of the draft ordinance found in Attachment B of the staff report. 

 

Mr. Edgerton asked if there were any questions for staff.

 

Mr. Thomas asked regarding the penalties if with the maximum amount going to $5,000 if the time frame would be the same or if the increments would just be larger and they would get there just as fast.  He asked if it would slow down the time frame of getting to the maximum.

 

Mr. Kamptner stated that given that $3,000 is 60 percent of $5,000 and 150 is 60 percent of 250 that they should get there at about the same time. All of the civil penalty cases they have had so far have not reached the threshold.  They have five or six cases that are at the threshold, but most of the cases are not even close, and staff is moving on those cases to seek an injunction from the Court.

 

Mr. Edgerton asked if there were any other questions for staff.  There being none, he opened the public hearing and invited public comment. There being none, he closed the public to bring the matter back before the Commission for discussion and a possible action.

 

Mr. Rieley asked when the last time that these penalties were increased.

 

Mr. Kamptner stated that the County has never increased these penalties because the current ones were the original amounts.  The $150 cap and the $3,000 cap were the original limits, which were consistent with State law when the County decided to move to civil penalty enforcement.

 

Ms. McCulley stated that civil penalties were adopted by the County in February, 2002.

 

Mr. Thomas asked if the County had any type of penalties prior to 2002.

 

Ms. McCulley stated that the County did not have a civil process.

 

Mr. Kamptner stated that civil penalties were adopted in 2000.  Before that time they did most of their enforcement in the General District Court where they could get criminal fines.  Those fines were sometimes as little as $25, but sometimes more.  For the volume of cases that they were handling and going back for repeat offenders, they think that this process for the majority of the violations is a good way to resolve cases in a minimum amount of time.

 

Mr. Thomas stated that he would hope that it would help abate the majority of the violations. The Commission has reviewed a few special use permits where they have had to get the applicants back in compliance before approving the request. There have been a few people who did not improve themselves very much and he hoped that civil penalties would push the violators to do what they have to do to come into compliance.

 

Ms. McCulley stated that civil penalties have been much more successful than the prior criminal process.  It is a much more efficient process.  The individual is allowed to and can be made to testify themselves since they are not protected as they are in a criminal process.  The whole evidence in terms of beyond a reasonable doubt for criminal versus a preponderance of evidence is in our favor.  This process is just very efficient and the County saves a whole lot of time doing it this way.

 

Ms. Joseph asked what happens to the money that is collected.   She asked if the money goes into the general fund.

 

Ms. McCulley stated that the money collected does go into the general fund.

 

Mr. Kamptner stated that unlike the criminal fines, which are paid directly to the court, the civil penalties are paid through the Finance Department.

 

Mr. Thomas moved for approval of ZTA-2004-0010, Civil Penalties.

 

Mr. Rieley seconded the motion.

 

The motion carried by a vote of (6:0).  (Morris Absent)

 

Mr. Edgerton stated that ZTA-2004-0010 was approved and would be heard by the Board of Supervisors on March 16.

 

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