Rural Areas Resource Protection




Rural Areas Resource Protection Issues Summary




Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Graham, Cilimberg, Benish; Ms. McDowell






May 2, 2007


ACTION:   X                        INFORMATION:   



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Following the Mountain Overlay District (MOD) Committee’s presentation of their proposal, the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission held two public input meetings and three work sessions to discuss issues related to those recommendations (See Attachments A & B).  As a result of the public input received, the Board requested that staff present an alternative proposal that would apply some provisions of the MOD Committee’s proposal to the entire Rural Areas.  That alternative proposal was discussed with the Board at December 13th and January 10th work sessions (Attachments C & D). At the conclusion of the January 10th work session, the Board directed staff to prepare a summary of the Board’s preference with respect to a proposal.  This work session is to verify the Board’s position, allowing ordinance amendments in support of that position to move forward.     



Goal 2.  Protect the County’s Natural Resources

Goal 4.  Effectively Manage the County’s Growth and Development.



This discussion will present a summary of staff’s understanding of each element with respect to the proposal.   The term “Rural Areas Resource Protection” was suggested to replace Mountain Overlay District, recognizing the proposal now encompasses the entire Rural Areas. The Board also directed staff to add the extension of ownership requirements of family divisions, as an issue to include in the review. Therefore, the discussion has been expanded to include all of the Rural Areas land use designation and Family Divisions.


1Critical Slopes – The Board agreed to reduce the impact on natural resources from Rural Areas development by removing the exemption for access ways (roads and driveways) across critical slopes.  Waivers, as described below, would be available to prevent property owners from being denied reasonable use of their property.  This provision would be implemented by amending §4.2. of the Zoning Ordinance to remove the access ways exemption from critical slope requirements.  Staff believes the administrative burden of this provision can be minimal for the County and applicants by providing digital maps depicting critical slopes in the Rural Areas.  This mapping has already been prepared and made available to the public using the GIS Web.  


2. Stream Buffers – The Board agreed to reduce the impact on natural resources from Rural Areas development by providing uniform stream buffer standards throughout the entire Rural Areas and expanded buffers in the MOD.  This would be accomplished by having stream buffers that extend 100’ on each side of all streams within the Rural Areas and 200’ on each side of all streams in the MOD. Rural Areas property within the Water Supply Areas already have all stream protected by 100’ buffers.  Thus, this change would simply apply the same standard to all Rural Areas property outside of the MOD and provide an expanded stream buffer in the MOD. The Board expressed interest in hearing from Stream Watch or others on the potential benefit of this buffer standard or even greater buffers. John Murphy, Director of Stream Watch, and Ridge Schuyler, Director of The Nature Conservancy Piedmont Program and a contributor to the Rivanna River Commission, have expressed support of the proposed buffer regulations (Attachments E and F). This provision would be implemented by amending §17-301, §17-302, and §17-317 of the Water Protection Ordinance.  Staff believes this change would reduce the administrative burden by applying the same standard to all Rural Areas property. 


3.   Safe and Convenient Access – To assure public safety, the Board agreed that safe and convenient access, as currently required by the Zoning Ordinance, would include assuring fire and rescue vehicles could safely access the residence. As a requirement for safe and convenient access already exists in the Zoning Ordinance, this simply requires an affirmation by the Board that this access requirement should include emergency vehicles and staff can rely on Fire/Rescue to define what they believe is needed with their vehicles.   


4.   Erosion and Sediment Control – To assure the three provisions described above were enforced, the Board agreed that Erosion and Sediment Control plans, rather than Agreements in Lieu of a Plan, would be required for all new single family houses in the Rural Areas.  This plan would allow staff to verify that critical slopes and stream buffers are not being disturbed, as well as assuring the driveway is properly designed.  Staff believes this provision could require applicants to spend upwards of an additional $1,000 per new house for preparation of plans and an increased permit fee. This change would require an additional Erosion Control Inspector/Reviewer to manage the increased workload.   


5.   Waivers and/or Modifications - The ability to waive or modify the above requirements would be necessary for circumstances where no alternatives are available for a reasonable use of the property.  To simplify the administration of this process, the Board agreed that waivers or modifications could be granted through a staff administered process, with appeals to the Planning Commission.  This process was part of the original MOD Committee’s recommendation.  


6. Family Divisions – While outside of the original MOD recommendation, the Board asked that this be brought back for review.   The length of ownership (both before and after family division) was an issue discussed with the RA clustering and phasing initiatives, as family divisions would have been exempted from those regulations. Staff believes the Board consensus supported ownership for 5 years before and after the family division.  The Commonwealth of Virginia has enabled localities to require family ownership of parcels 15 years before and after the division.


7.  MOD recommendations not being pursued -   The Board agreed not to further consider the recommendations related to height of buildings related to the ridgeline and clustering with Rural Preservation Development. 


8.  MOD recommendations pursued outside of ordinance changes - Through its Strategic Plan, the Board has an objective of adding at least 30,000 acres in conservation easements or qualified parkland and agreed to increase the budget for the Acquisition of Conservation Easements program.



Staff does not anticipate this proposal would impact property assessments, but some Rural Areas property may become more difficult to subdivide. Staff has determined the primary fiscal impact of this proposal would be associated with the required Erosion and Sediment Control plan and the need for an additional Erosion and Sediment Control Inspector / Plan Reviewer to support this change.  That position would have a first year expense of approximately $78,000 and subsequent year expenses of approximately $58,000.  That cost could be offset by additional fees.  By switching from Agreements in Lieu of a Plan to Erosion and Sediment Control Plans, the current fees would increase by approximately $29,000 (assuming an average of 290 new houses per year in the Rural Areas). The Erosion Control Permit fee for a single family house would need to be raised from the current $130 to $205 for the new position to be fully supported by fees.  It should be noted that the currently used Agreements in Lieu of a Plan requires a fee of only $30 while staff estimates the administrative cost of this permit is several times higher than the fee.   Thus, this fee change could eliminate some General Tax support for administration of the Erosion and Sediment Control Program.  



Staff recommends that the Board of Supervisors review the discussion summary and, if no changes to the direction are required, adopt the attached Resolutions of Intent for the Zoning and Subdivision text amendments that will allow staff to bring forward the ordinance amendments. The amendments to the Water Protection Ordinance do not require a Resolution of Intent.



A          Mountain Overlay District Chronology

B          Mountain Overlay District Committee proposal

C          Executive Summary, December 13, 2006

D          Executive Summary, January 10, 2007

E          Letter, Stream Watch, John Murphy, dated March 28, 2007

F          Memorandum, Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District, Alyson Sappington, August 10, 2000

G1        Resolution of Intent-Critical Slopes

G2        Resolution of Intent-Safe and Convenient Access

G3        Resolution of Intent-Family Subdivisions

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