STAFF PERSON:  Joan McDowell, Principal Planner, Rural Areas                                        


BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:    Work Session September 3, 2008


ZTA  2006-01 Country Stores


ORIGIN:   The Rural Areas section of the Comprehensive Plan introduced Crossroads Communities as a means to provide services for local rural residents and as a way to protect historic resources.  Country stores were identified as potential primary uses within these Crossroads Communities.  Both Crossroads Communities and Rural Areas Alternative Uses were included in the implementation measures approved by the Board in 2005. However, concerns that many of the country stores were struggling to survive and that the remaining historic stores were threatened by demolition and neglect or had already been razed.  In response to these concerns, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to modify the Rural Areas implementation priority order by directing staff to propose ways to improve and preserve Albemarle’s country stores not only as historic and cultural resources, but as the cornerstones of rural crossroads communities.


PROPOSAL:  Amend the zoning ordinance to provide appropriate standards and regulations with the flexibility that takes into consideration their existing conditions (many of which prevented reopening closed stores because they could not meet current zoning regulations), maintains rural character, and encourages a revival of country stores that are essential to the rural culture, economy, and historic legacy of Albemarle County. 


ZTA-2006-001 Country Stores – Amend Sections 3.1, Definitions, 6.4, Nonconforming lots, 10.2.1, By right, 10.2.2, By special use permit, and 10.4, area and bulk regulations, and add Section 5.1.45, Country store and non-country store uses in historic country store buildings, of Chapter 18, Zoning, of the Albemarle County Code.  This ordinance would amend Section 3.1 by defining certain terms related to country stores; Section 6.4 by adding regulations pertaining to country stores on nonconforming lots; Section 10.2.1, by adding Country stores, Class A, as a by right use in the Rural Areas zoning district; Section 10.2.2, by adding Country stores, Class B (replacing “Country stores”), non-country store uses in historic country store buildings, and the sale of gasoline and other fuels in conjunction with a country store, Class A or B, as uses allowed by special use permit; and Section 10.4, by adding an introductory statement.  This ordinance also would add Section 5.1.45 to establish supplementary regulations for country stores, Classes A and B, and non-country store uses in historic country store buildings. 



PUBLIC PURPOSE TO BE SERVED:  The preservation of country stores implements the Comprehensive Plan by helping to protect and enhance the rural quality of life,  protects historic resources, addresses the needs of existing rural residents without fostering growth and further suburbanization, and additionally provides a market for local agricultural and hand crafted products. 



In preparation for the country stores text amendment, staff met with citizens and store owners to discuss the issues related to country stores.  Many of their suggestions were incorporated into a draft proposal presented to the Planning Commission. Since that time, the Commission held work sessions to provide guidance during the development of the country stores ordinance.  On July 22, 2008, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the ordinance, with one modification.  The Commission recommended removal a requirement for the Architectural Review Board to consider the Secretary of the Interior Standards for rehabilitation or alteration of historic country stores located on the Entrance Corridors.  The Commission also recommended that a provision be included in the ordinance to bring existing stores into conformance.   This provision was previously included in the draft ordinance (Section 5.1.45.d). 




To provide an opportunity for a discussion of the proposed text amendment for country stores prior to a public hearing.



The following discussion provides brief summaries of the major elements of the proposed ordinance amendment:


1.      Categories of Country Stores

Country stores have been separated into two categories:

Class A - historic - 50 years old and older; this class would be a  by-right use in the RA district.

Class B - non-historic - less than 50 years old; this class would require special use permit in the RA district.


2.      Size

A maximum 4,000 square feet gross floor area would be permitted for country store use and any secondary use (residence, office).  Existing country store buildings with greater square footage cannot exceed their existing size.


3.      Mixed Uses

The country store building may have a residence and/or office within the building, as long as the country store use remains the primary use (51%) of the building.  Office uses not associated with home occupations are currently not permitted within the Rural Areas zoning district. 


4.      Food Service

Food service would be permitted with the country store, with seating allowed both inside and outside.  In order to ensure that the country store did not become a restaurant, the seating areas would be limited to 20% (each, inside and outside) of the square footage of the country store use.  Food preparation areas would not restricted by size.


5.      Parking, setbacks, lot sizes

Since many of the current regulations pertaining to site development would not permit the rehabilitation and reopening of existing country stores, the ordinance provides the flexibility needed, with special allowances for historic country stores.  New country stores (Class B) would be required to comply with regulations in place at the time of construction.


6.      Entrances

Approval of sight distance by the Virginia Department of Transportation for new uses will be required.


7.      Gasoline

The proposed ordinance would allow some limited gasoline sales with a special use permit.


8.      Nonconventional sewage disposal

Since some of the country stores are located on small lots, accommodations to allow non-conventional sewage disposal systems would be permitted for the country store use using a three-tiered approval system.  Accessory uses (residence, office) would be allowed to use the system, only if the system was required by the country store use.  If the country store use ceases to exist, the accessory uses would be allowed to continue for up to two years.


Administration / Review Process: 

Class A country stores would be considered a by-right use in the Rural Areas zoning district. 



The draft proposal (Attachment C) does include residential use within a country store buildings as an accessory use, although impacts on housing affordability will not be significant due to the total number of remaining country stores.  However, combining residential use within country store buildings would provide the opportunity for owners to simultaneously live in and operate a country store, provide on-site living accommodations for a caretaker / employee, or provide supplemental income to the store owner through the rental of residential space.



Review of country stores would consist of the following processes:


Class A – Existing uses would be allowed to continue to operate.  New uses would require an administrative approval process that includes review by Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Department of Transportation.  A site plan application would be required for new uses that would necessitate additional parking or a change in the entrance.  Exterior alterations of buildings located on Entrance Corridors would require Architectural Review Board approval. 


Class B –Existing uses in country stores would be allowed to continue to operate. New country stores would be required to obtain a special use permit.  Exterior alterations of buildings located on Entrance Corridors would require Architectural Review Board approval.


Implications to Staffing / Staffing Costs:

This ordinance amendment would encourage the reuse of country store buildings. Of the total 83 country stores that have been located and surveyed by staff, 49 country store buildings are located on Entrance Corridors. Since the intent of this ordinance is to support and promote country stores in the Rural Areas, it can anticipated that additional applications, both administrative reviews and special use permits, would result from this effort.  Although additional reviews will impact staff work loads in the Community Development Department for review of special use permit and site plan applications, the greatest impact would be for the review of the architecture, site design and signs on Entrance Corridors for both Class A and Class B country stores.   As the Planning Commission removed a requirement for Secretary of Interior standards to apply to country stores on Entrance Corridors, the anticipated staff time for the Architectural Review Board (ARB) will be reduced.   Review times for an ARB application vary from 2 hours to 20 hours, including time to prepare for a pre-application meeting and verifying Class A or Class B status.


At this time, the Design Planning staff is functioning in excess of full capacity with mandated reviews; therefore, any additional activity generated by this amendment would increase already over burdened work levels.  Although a decline for some of the other applications is currently being experienced due to the economic downturn, the Design Planning staff has been experiencing heavier work levels and with fewer staff with which to distribute new initiatives, due to the frozen Historic Preservation planner position.


The review of country stores would be subject to the appropriate fees.  No new fees would result from this proposal.




Staff recommends the Board of Supervisors provide staff  any necessary modifications of the draft ordinance found in Attachment B and schedule a public hearing at the earliest possible date.




Attachment A:  Resolution of Intent

Attachment B:   Draft Ordinance No.  08-18 ( ) Amendment, dated 8/25/08


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