COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

AGENDA TITLE:

Rural Areas Implementation

 

SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST:

Planning Commission recommendation for RA lot development, phasing, clustering, family division regulations, and process for receiving public input on proposed ordinances. Background information for Board discussion of topics raised at April 12, 2006 work session.

 

STAFF CONTACT(S):

Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Graham, Cilimberg, Benish, McDowell, Clark

 

LEGAL REVIEW:   Yes

 

 

AGENDA DATE:

May 10, 2006

 

ACTION:      X                         INFORMATION:   

 

CONSENT AGENDA:

  ACTION:                              INFORMATION:   

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:      Yes

 

 

REVIEWED BY:

 

 

 

BACKGROUND:

On April 18, 2006, the Board reviewed the Planning Commission’s recommendations regarding Rural Area lot development, phasing, clustering, family division regulations, and the process for receiving public input on proposed ordinances. Phasing, clustering, and family subdivisions were discussed, and the Board asked for more information on the following topics:

 

 

The Board did not have an opportunity to give staff feedback on the public-input process at the April 18 session.

 

STRATEGIC PLAN:

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

Goal 2.2:  Protect and/or preserve the County's natural resources.

 

DISCUSSION:

Phasing – Selection of Phasing Period

The number of development lots released per phasing period, and the length of that period, should be selected to have a significant impact on the rate of new lot creation. This is important whether or not phasing is paired with clustering as part of the Rural Area protection initiatives of the County.  Permitting the use of a large portion of a parcel’s total subdivision potential in each phasing period or setting the phasing period too short will not significantly slow the rate of new lot creation. Despite this limited effect, such regulations would still require additional staff time and resources for tracking and monitoring development rights.

 

In the County’s Rural Areas zoning district, parcels in existence on December 10, 1980 were assigned five development rights, in addition to the by-right creation of 21-acre or larger lots permitted by the Zoning Ordinance. In many cases, the development-right lots are a large portion of the total lots that can be divided from a parent parcel. This suggests that permitting the creation of four or five lots per phasing period will have little impact on the rate of new rural lot creation, as most of the development potential could be used immediately.

 

Short phasing periods are also ineffective. Given the essentially permanent alterations to the Rural Areas caused by the creation of residential lots, a short (e.g., five-year) phasing period is little different from no phasing at all. The rate of new lot creation would not be significantly affected (but the complexity of processing applications would be increased). Phasing periods of 10 years or more would have more of an impact on the rate of new lot creation.

 

See the attached graphic, “Examples of Subdivision Phasing,” (Attachment A) for illustrations of effects of different phasing rates.

 

Of course, unless other circumstances change, any phasing period will eventually lead to the same buildout. Also, there are over 10,000 undeveloped lots in the Rural Areas that could be built on without needing any subdivision approval. Phasing will do nothing to address use of this potential; it will only affect the rate of new lot creation as those parcels are divided in the future.

 

Given these concerns and experiences, whether or not phasing is paired with clustering, staff recommends phasing the creation of new rural lots at the rate of 2 lots per 10 years, inclusive of the total count of both development-right lots and 21-acre lots allowed under current provisions. Table A below shows the number of years it would take for parent parcels of various sizes to use their total development potential. The table also shows the number of lots that could be created if phasing and clustering were implemented separately or combined.  If phasing and clustering were implemented together, the table illustrates that one additional lot would be allowed.  The additional lot would allow the preservation parcel to be recorded with the first phase.   The parent parcel (the original parcel and holder of any future development rights) would be permitted to construct one dwelling during the first phase, for a potential for four dwellings during the first 10 years.  Even at this phasing rate, parcels of 100 acres or less would use their total development potential in no more than 30 years.

 

Combining Phasing and Clustering

Staff research and the Comprehensive Plan identify three aspects of residential development that impact the Rural Areas: overall density, pattern of development, and rate of development. The Board decided not to consider changes to the overall density of development in the Rural Areas. Therefore, the Comprehensive Plan focuses on reducing the impacts of permitted development by better controlling the form and rate of development. This is the basis for considering clustering and phasing together. Issues with combining phasing and clustering were also discussed in the staff reports for the September 14, 2005 (Attachment B) and April 12, 2006 (Attachment C) work sessions.

 

Clustering by itself controls the pattern of development (within a given property, without regard for larger-scale development patterns), but does nothing to reduce the speed at which the physical impacts of development accumulate. Phasing alone would slow the rate of change somewhat, but would still lead to a buildout condition with highly fragmented rural land and very little land conserved in parcels large enough for agriculture, forestry, or conservation to be effective. These tools need to be combined to have a significant impact on the pattern and timing of residential development in the Rural Areas.

 

Table A - Phasing and Clustering

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parent Parcel Acreage

Clustering*

Maximum Lots Possible

Total Lots after First Division - Includes Parent Parcel

Total Lots in Year 10

Total Lots in Year 20

Total Lots in Year 30

 

31 - 51.99

Yes

6

4

6

 

 

 

 

No

6

3

5

6

 

 

52 - 72.99

Yes

7

4

6

7

 

 

 

No

7

3

5

7

 

 

73 - 93.99

Yes

8

4

6

8

 

 

 

No

8

3

5

7

8

 

94 - 114.99

Yes

9

4

6

8

9

 

 

No

9

3

5

7

9

 

* Proposed form of clustering would require creation of preservation tract in first division

 

Phasing and Clustering – Comparison of Road Requirements and Costs

Attachments E through H show the roads needed for two subdivisions of the same property—one under current by-right development (Attachment E), and the other under phasing and clustering (Attachment F is the initial division; attachments G and H are the subsequent 10-year phases).

 

From staff research on recent cost estimates from road bonds, it appears that for many rural subdivisions, the road cost is approximately $70 per foot. Using this estimate, Table B shows the road length and road cost associated with these two forms of subdivision: (For simplicity, current costs are used; changes to road costs during later phases of development are unpredictable.) This table also shows that the clustered subdivision shown in this example would have 33 percent of the road length of the current by-right form.

Table B; Road Length and Costs

 

Subdivision

Total Road Length (feet)

Road Cost

Road Cost Total at Buildout

Current by-right division

1650

$115,500

$115,500

Phasing/Clustering (1st division)

155

$10,850

-

Phasing/Clustering (2nd division)

375 (220 new)

$15,400

-

Phasing/Clustering (3rd division)

545 (170 new)

$11,900

$38,150

 

It should be noted that the location of the cluster, which is typically based on the best area to preserve on the original parcel being subdivided, will impact the actual road cost.  As can be noted in Attachments F through H, this phased, clustered subdivision example assumes the cluster is adjacent to the existing state road and the preservation tract is behind the cluster.  If the cluster were located more internally a longer road would be necessary which would increase the road cost total and would mean less differential in cost when compared to the current by-right example.  Generally, the more the houses are clustered near the existing road, the more cost savings are associated with clustering.   

 

Central Water and Septic Systems

The Rural Areas section of the Comprehensive Plan recommends no changes to the current regulations regarding central water and septic systems, which “may be considered on a case-by-case basis.” The Land Use Plan (Attachment I) states that the County should “[d]iscourage the utilization of central water and/or sewer systems or the extension of public water and sewer into the Rural Area except in the cases where public health and safety are at issue.”

 

The current proposal regarding clustering assumes that such systems will not be used, and sets a maximum lot size (2 acres) that should allow individual wells and septic fields on each lot, with the possibility of increasing to 3 acres in cases where it can be demonstrated that only the extra area will permit safe systems to be established.

 

Past staff input on these systems has pointed out that central systems would allow smaller development lots in clustered subdivisions, and thus would put more land in the preservation tracts. However, the Board was uncomfortable with encouraging such systems because of the history of failed central water systems. Staff suggested that a county-wide authority would be needed to oversee the systems and ensure proper maintenance, but this approach was not recommended by the Commission or Board.

 

 

Family Divisions - Increased Holding Periods

At the April 12, 2006 work session, Board members requested clarification on the reason for recommending to add a 5-year holding period before family divisions would be permitted, and an increase of the existing 2-year holding period after division to 5 years.

 

Although abuse of the family-division provisions is rare compared to the overall rate of development, staff felt that since family divisions would be exempt from the phasing requirement, there would be a greatly increased incentive to use these divisions to circumvent development regulations. The recommendation for increased holding periods is intended to anticipate and avoid this situation.

 

Although the 5-year holding periods are a significant increase over the current standards, they are significantly shorter than those permitted by the Code of Virginia. That Code was recently amended by § 15.2-2244.1, effective July 1, 2006, which

 

[a]llows a locality to include in its subdivision ordinance provisions permitting a single division of a lot or parcel for the purpose of sale or gift to a member of the immediate family of the property owner, if (i) the property has been owned for at least 15 consecutive years by the current owner or member of the immediate family and (ii) the property owner agrees to place a restrictive covenant on the subdivided property that would prohibit the transfer of the property to a nonmember of the immediate family for a period of 15 years.

 

Hardships

At the April 12 work session, the Board did not have an opportunity to discuss hardship issues. Possible topics for discussion include listing types of hardships that would qualify, and objective criteria for deciding on individual requests. In order to react to legitimate hardships without leading to frequent circumvention of ordinance standards or inconsistent enforcement, these criteria would need to be very clear and not subject to variable interpretations.

 

Implementation Schedule

The staff report for the April 12 work session included a proposed implementation schedule, but this schedule was not discussed at that work session. Board discussion of this proposed schedule would provide valuable guidance for staff. However, please note that the original schedule assumed only one work session at this stage (in April); some adjustment will be necessary.

 

BUDGET IMPACT:

See the report for the April 12 work session (Attachment C) for a discussion of budget implications.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

The Planning Commission has recommended that the Board accept the framework for ordinance development (Attachment D) and the public input process as described in the April 12 staff report (Attachment C).  Staff is prepared to implement the outlined process, if the Board finds this ordinance framework acceptable.  In order to proceed with the Zoning Text Amendment process, the Board will need to adopt a resolution of intent to amend the County Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances.  A proposed resolution will be provided at the work session.

 

ATTACHMENTS:

  1. Examples of Subdivision Phasing
  2. Executive Summary for September 14, 2005 Work Session
  3. Executive Summary for April 12, 2006 Work Session
  4. Planning Commission Recommendations for Phasing, Clustering, Family Divisions Framework Plan
  5. Road for Current By-right Subdivision
  6. Road for Phased/Clustered Subdivision (First Division)
  7. Road for Phased/Clustered Subdivision (Second Division)
  8. Road for Phased/Clustered Subdivision (Third Division)
  9. Land Use Plan Statement on Central Water & Sewer Systems

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