Development Review Processes



Worksession to consider establishing a Board appointed committee to develop recommendations for changes to the legislative review process




Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Graham





January 11, 2006


ACTION:                                 INFORMATION:     X



  ACTION:                                INFORMATION:   











While discussing a Board policy on the submission of proffers at the December 7th Board meeting, Mr. Boyd raised the possibility of creating a committee or strike force charged with developing recommendations for improving development review processes and enhancing public participation in those processes. No decision was made and the Board agreed to hold a work session in order to receive additional information regarding current public involvement on the subject at the January 11th 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.

Goal:    4.1        Provide effective, responsive and courteous service to our customers




Staff discussed strategies for improving the development review processes at two worksessions in 2005.  Copies of the executive summaries for those worksessions are attached. (Attachments A & B)  From those worksessions, staff received direction from the Board on how to proceed with process improvements and is currently working on that direction. (Attachment C)  As the focus of the worksessions was on streamlining development review, there was little discussion on expanding formal public participation processes.  Staff believes expanding those processes would lengthen the time and increase the complexity of development reviews. It should be noted that the Board’s previous direction included steps regarding public participation, but focused primarily on ordinance amendments and Comprehensive Plan review rather than reviews associated with rezonings or special use permits.   Expanding the public participation process in Comprehensive Plan reviews might address some of the concerns Mr. Boyd referenced at the Dec 7th Board meeting.


With respect to opportunities for public participation in the development review process, staff believes the following points should be considered:


·         With respect to legislative processes, all Comprehensive Plan Amendments, Zoning Map Amendments (“ZMA” ), and Special Use Permits require public hearings with both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.  This is the formal opportunity for public involvement.  All surrounding properties are notified by mail and signs are placed in front of the property prior to the public hearings to announce the opportunity for public comments.  Additionally, the County sends an extra notice to surrounding properties as soon as an application is submitted to assure the public is aware of the pending application and to assure adequate opportunity for issues to be raised with staff.  In addition to the opportunity to speak at a public hearing, staff routinely collects comments from the public and includes this with its reports to the Planning Commission.  

·         With respect to ministerial reviews, all Site Plans and Subdivision Plats may be called before the Planning Commission, and the Planning Commission may provide the opportunity for public comment. All surrounding properties are notified by mail and a staff contact is made available for questions and comments.  Because Site

·         Plan and Subdivision Plat reviews are ministerial in nature, the Commission must approve an application if it satisfies the applicable ordinance requirements.  If it does not satisfy the ordinance requirements, it cannot be approved.  Discretion is limited to waivers or modifications as provided by the ordinance. This was discussed at an earlier worksession on process improvement strategies. 

·         Informally, staff provides considerable opportunity for public involvement beyond that required under County ordinances.  This includes meetings with concerned citizens as concerns are raised, providing additional information to the public, updating the public on the status of the application, and assuring comments received by staff are given to the Planning Commission with staff reports.   Using Rivanna Village as an example, staff has met with the community on numerous occasions and has provided regular updates as requested.  These efforts include 4 evening meetings designed to inform the public about County processes and plan specifics, numerous meetings with staff at the County Office Building, frequent email updates and phone calls, and researching of requested information.    


Finally, staff considers it important to note that a staff evaluation of an application is based only on existing County policy and other relevant criteria.  For example, staff will review a ZMA with respect to what the Comprehensive Plan recommends for the property and other land use principles to be properly considered for a rezoning.  Public comments that are expressions of fears, desires or opinion, but irrelevant to the policies of the Comprehensive Plan and other relevant criteria, are not included in staff analysis.  That can lead to criticism that staff is ignoring public comments.  Staff does not ignore the comments and will include them in its reports, but its reports must be based on current County policy as reflected in the Comprehensive Plan and other relevant criteria.       




This executive summary is provided for information and to help the Board in its discussion.  




Attachment A – June 1, 2005 Process Improvement Worksession

Attachment B – August 10, 2005 Process Improvement Worksession

Attachment C – Board direction from August 10, 2005 Worksession

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