Review of Road Extension Regulations in the Subdivision Ordinance



Analysis of changes to Subdivision Ordinance §§ 14-409 and 14-428, pertaining to extending subdivision streets to the property line, proposed by The Free Enterprise Forum



Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Graham, McCulley





March 1, 2006


ACTION:                                 INFORMATION:   



  ACTION:                               INFORMATION:     X










One of the cornerstone principles for development in the Development Areas is interconnectivity – an interconnected network of streets within new developments and connections with existing developments.  The Comprehensive Plan states that this “network is essential to support the pedestrian environment, mixed use developments, and compact, livable neighborhoods envisioned for the Development Areas.”  A benefit of interconnectivity is that, over time, a network of multiple travel routes are established, thereby reducing pressures to widen existing streets.  The principle of interconnectivity is implemented in Albemarle County Code § 14-409, which is part of the Subdivision Ordinance adopted by the Board of Supervisors on April 20, 2005. (Attachment A)  Section 14-409 requires subdividers to extend subdivision streets to the property line, terminating within the subdivision with a temporary turnaround.  These streets are connected to abutting lands when those abutting lands are subdivided.  The requirement to construct street extensions may be waived by the County’s subdivision agent in prescribed circumstances. 


The state enabling authority for Albemarle County Code § 14-409 is Virginia Code § 15.2-2241(4), which requires that local subdivision ordinances provide for “the extent to which and the manner in which streets shall be graded, graveled or otherwise improved . . .”      



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 3.4: Develop and implement policies, including financial, that address the County’s growing transportation needs.



On January 11, 2006, Neil Williamson, representing The Free Enterprise Forum, submitted a proposal to amend Albemarle County Code §§ 14-409 and 14-428. (Attachment B)  The proposed amendment would require subdividers to merely dedicate the land for the extension, rather than construct and dedicate the extension.  The amendment also would provide that, where an extension has previously been dedicated, the subdivider of the abutting lands would have to construct the street extension within the previously approved subdivision.  This issue was considered at length in the drafting of the 2005 Subdivision Ordinance.  The amendment proposed by the Free Enterprise Forum is not enabled by state law because it would require a subdivider to construct off-site street improvements within an abutting, previously approved subdivision.  Virginia Code § 15.2-2241(4) does not enable such a regulation.  At most, the County is enabled only to provide for the voluntary funding of off-site street improvements. (Virginia Code § 15.2-2242(4)) 


Before the Board of Supervisors adopted the 2005 Subdivision Ordinance, some in the community characterized Albemarle County Code § 14-409’s street extension requirements as unfair to subdividers because the extended streets would provide an economic benefit to the abutting landowners when those lands were later subdivided.  Staff views this issue quite differently.  The public’s interest in diffusing vehicular and pedestrian traffic through an interconnected transportation network, as reflected in the Comprehensive Plan and the Strategic Plan, should be paramount.  A network of interconnected streets promotes the public safety and general welfare and allows residents of these subdivisions to safely and conveniently travel to adjoining subdivisions and other destinations.  In addition, characterizing a street extension as an unfair economic benefit to an abutting landowner fails to recognize that, over time, those subdividers who may be “burdened” by Albemarle County Code § 14-409 in one case will benefit from it in another case.  Finally, the Zoning Ordinance has required that developers of commercial projects provide interconnectivity since 1980.  Albemarle County Code § 18- authorizes the Planning Commission and the site plan agent to require commercial developments to provide travel lanes or driveways to serve adjoining properties.  


As stated above, Albemarle County Code § 14-409’s requirement to construct street extensions may be waived by the County’s subdivision agent in prescribed circumstances.  In deciding whether to grant a waiver, the agent must consider a number of factors to determine whether an extension is practical, including whether the need for the extension outweighs the impacts on environmental resources such as streams, stream buffers, steep slopes, and floodplain; whether alternative connections to the abutting lands from a different location would provide a better connection; and whether the street would be extended into the Rural Areas.  Another factor the agent must consider is whether the subdivider would contribute to the cost to complete the extension to the abutting property line when the adjoining lands were developed, and how.  The agent’s decision to grant the waiver must be based on two findings grounded in the public interest: (1) requiring the extension would not forward the purposes of the Subdivision Ordinance or otherwise serve the public interest; and (2) granting the waiver would not be detrimental to the public health, safety or welfare, to the orderly development of the area, to sound engineering practices, and to the land adjacent thereto.



There is no budget impact.



This executive summary is for information only.  Staff recommends that no action be taken to amend Albemarle County Code §§ 14-409 and 14-428.



A – Existing Albemarle County Code § 14-409.

B – The Free Enterprise Forum’s proposed revisions to Albemarle County Code §§ 14-409 and 14-428.

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