STAFF:                                              Francis H. MacCall, Amelia G. McCulley                             

PLANNING COMMISSION:         October 6, 2009

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:        December 2, 2009


ZTA 2009-00015: Nonconforming lots – definition and regulations regarding combinations and boundary line adjustments that involve nonconforming lots


ORIGIN:  Planning Commission Resolution of Intent (Attachment B) 


PROPOSAL:  Amend the Albemarle County Zoning Ordinance sections 2.1.4 - Reduction of lots or areas below minimum prohibited, 3.1 - Definition of nonconforming lot, and 6.4 - Nonconforming lot regulations. 


PUBLIC PURPOSE TO BE SERVED:  The proposed change would:


  1. Allow for the nonconforming lot section of the ordinance to be more easily understood by staff and the public.
  2. Allow the public to adjust the boundary line(s) of their property without the need for variance granted by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).  This has become a recurring variance; therefore, we are directed by Virginia Code to review our regulations. 
  3. In many cases, a nonconforming lot combination or boundary line adjustment better serves a public purpose.  Examples of this public purpose include a) combining two lots that are below the minimum lot size to create one larger lot; b) adjusting boundary lines to 1) allow the septic system serving the house to be located on the same lot; 2) allow the house or other structure which does not meet structure setbacks to be setback further from the property lines and 3) allow acreage shifts between lots such that property can be placed into conservation easements or land use.


BACKGROUND: Zoning Ordinance Section 6.4 allows for boundary line adjustments (BLA) between conforming and nonconforming lots.  Currently there are two ways the Zoning Ordinance allows the property lines of nonconforming lots to be adjusted.  First, there needs to be at least one lot that is a conforming lot and the “…adjustment does not make the conforming lot nonconforming or the nonconforming lot more nonconforming.”  Second, if both of the lots are nonconforming, the adjustment must either make all lots conforming or must be determined by the zoning administrator to “more substantially conform to the requirements of section 4.0 (general regulations) of this chapter and the area and bulk regulations applicable to the district in which the lot is located, and comply with all other applicable requirements of the Albemarle County Code.”  This high standard for adjustments to nonconforming lots has precipitated variance requests.  When variances are repeatedly requested for the same reason, the locality must then look at the regulations that are being varied and determine if those regulations need to be amended.  In addition, the current high standard does not adequately serve the public interest (see #3 in public purpose to be served by the ordinance amendment).  Staff has reviewed our current nonconforming lot regulations and has determined that the sections proposed are the appropriate sections for amendment.


Further background is provided in the staff report presented to the Planning Commission in work session on August 11, 2009 (Attachment C). The Commission discussed the boundary line adjustments of nonconforming lots and adopted the Resolution of Intent (Attachment B).  The standard established for review of the BLA or combination is that no lot may become less conforming to the regulations.  In addition, the Commission specifically determined that there should be no net increase in the number of lots as a result of the BLA or combination. Staff is of the opinion that the proposed text addresses these issues.




STAFF COMMENT: The draft ordinance amends Zoning Ordinance Sections 2.1.4, 3.1 and 6.4.  This amendment will establish consistent requirements for combination and boundary line adjustment involving one or more nonconforming lots.


The proposed ordinance establishes regulations for four different scenarios that can arise when nonconforming lots are altered:  1) subdivisions that include nonconforming lots, 2) combination of nonconforming lots, 3) boundary line adjustments between conforming and nonconforming lots and 4) boundary adjustments between two or more nonconforming lots. 


1.      A lot is proposed to be divided into new lots.  One or more nonconforming lots may be included in the subdivision provided that the resulting lots fully comply with the applicable regulations.  The nonconformities would no longer exist thus the purpose and intent of the ordinance is met.


2.      Two or more nonconforming lots or a nonconforming lot and a conforming lot are combined into one.  This essentially eliminates a nonconforming lot and makes the resulting lot more conforming than the individual lot(s). 


3.      A conforming lot and a nonconforming lot lines are adjusted (BLA).  This is permitted as long as the nonconforming lot does not become more nonconforming. 


4.      The property lines of two or more nonconforming lots are adjusted (BLA).  This is permitted as long as neither lot becomes more nonconforming. 


The proposed amendments include the following:


1.      Section 2.1.4 establishes a description that will be consistent with the new ordinance language.

2.      The definition of the term “nonconforming lot” in Section 3.1 is revised to be consistent with administrative practice which recognizes that a lot without a building site is a nonconforming lot.


ADMINISTRATION/ REVIEW PROCESS: This amendment will better enable staff and the public to have a clearer understanding of what is allowed.  This should eliminate time currently spent (by staff and the public) in meetings discussing the requirements and in variance applications.


HOUSING AFFORDABILITY:  No impacts have been identified.


IMPLICATIONS TO STAFFING/STAFFING COSTS:  See response in “administration/review process.”  This will reduce staff time currently spent on these reviews.  



Staff recommends adoption of the draft ordinance found in Attachment A. 



ATTACHMENT A:    Draft Albemarle County Zoning Ordinance Sections 2.1.4, 3.1, and 6.4

ATTACHMENT B:    Resolution of Intent

ATTACHMENT C:    Staff report PC work session August 11, 2009

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