Albemarle County Planning Commission

November 10, 2009

 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a public hearing and meeting on Tuesday, November 10, 2009, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Lane Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

Members attending were Marcia Joseph, Calvin Morris, Don Franco, Linda Porterfield, and Eric Strucko, Chairman.  Absent were Bill Edgerton, Thomas Loach, Vice-Chair and Julia Monteith, AICP, non-voting representative for the University of Virginia. 

 

Other officials present were Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning; Mark Graham, Director of Community Development; Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development, Eryn Brennan, Senior Planner; Summer Frederick, Senior Planner, and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney. 

                                         

Call to Order and Establish Quorum:

 

Mr. Strucko called the regular meeting to order at 6:04 p.m. and established a quorum.

 

Public Hearing Items:

 

ZTA-2009-00017 Zoning Fees  (See Chart in Staff Report)

Amend and renumber Sec. 35.0 (to 35.1) , Fees; amend, renumber and rename Sec. 35.1 (to 35.2), Fee reduction, and add Sec. 35.3, Fee refunds, of Chapter 18, Zoning, of the Albemarle County Code.  This ordinance would amend and reorganize the Zoning Ordinanceís fee regulations and increase existing fees, impose new fees, and change but not necessarily increase other fees, for listed applications, permits, reviews, approvals, inspections and other services provided by the County in the administration of Chapter 18.  (Mark Graham)

 

Mr. Graham presented a PowerPoint presentation and summarized the staff report. (ZtA-2009-000017 Zoning Fees Chart/Legal Ad, Executive Summary and PowerPoint Presentation)

 

This is a public hearing for consideration of the zoning ordinance fee changes, ZTA-2009-00017.  He reviewed the background and fee objectives.

 

                     Fees should be comparable to other localities

 

                     Fees should attempt to recover a significant cost of services

 

                     Policy should be established for regular updating of fees

 

Staff recommends the fees as presented in Attachment B. 

 

Alternative Recommendation Ė Recommend the fees as presented in Attachment B, with the change of Home Occupations, Class B, included under Sections C.1 and C.2.

 

 

Mr. Strucko opened the public hearing and invited public comment.

 

Robert Walters read the following statement in the record:  ďMy name is Robert Walters and I am a resident of the County of Albemarle.  I am a member of the Boy Scouts of America and have volunteered for numerous other community organizations over the years.  I am here tonight to ask you to exempt 501(c) (3) non-profit organizations from Zoning, Sign, and other Community Development fees for temporary fund raising activities.  If you cannot exempt these community non-profit organizations, I ask that you do not increase the fees.  These organizations provide extensive services and programs for our community that simply cannot be provided or duplicated by the County or other governmental organizations.  One of the Scouting activities that I spend a lot of time with is the sale of Christmas Trees.  Profits from tree sales fund local unit programs as well as camp capital purchases.  We sell Christmas Trees in Louisa, Fluvanna, Charlottesville, and Albemarle.  Albemarle is the only locality that requires us to pay fees for Zoning Clearances and Sign Permits.  The Boy Scouts of America is a 501(c) (3) organization which was chartered by the Congress of the United States.  As such, it is exempt from income taxes.  Boy Scouts are exempted from property taxes under Code of Virginia section 58.1-3614.  Organizations with a 501(c) (3) designation are exempted from BPOL taxes under Code of Virginia Article 37.  I ask that you recommend exempting 501(c) (3) organizations from Zoning, Sign, and other Community Development fees for temporary fund raising activities.  Thank you for listening to me and considering my request.Ē

 

Valerie Long, representative for many persons in the community, spoke against the proposed fees due to the adverse impacts.  In discussion of these fees to members of the community she felt they were in a state of shock particularly in the times when the real estate community is in distress.  She asked if the county wants projects developed by right rather than through rezoning.  This could result in not getting the type of design or infrastructure that the county wants.  The members of the Task Force several years ago spoke about changes to a number of waivers coming to the Commission.   Those changes could save a tremendous amount of staff time since there are a lot of them that could be handled by staff and could be appealed.   She asked that they go back and look at ways to streamline to reduce costs in other ways.  She did not dispute that some of the fees are due to be updated.  The county has high standards and the list of review criteria continues to increase, which is a community decision.  The community benefits and should share in the cost.  It is not appropriate for applicants to share 100 percent of the burden when the community benefits so greatly.  The county has been supportive of home occupations in most cases.  She has heard about many wonderful services to be provided at small scale.   She would hate for those people not to go through the process because they canít afford fee.  She would hate to discourage those types of uses because most are not controversial.  She asked that they not set the rules based on exceptions.  She would be happy to speak more on these issues. 

 

Peter Wurtzer said that on one hand he did not want to raise fees so that they are discouraging business. In these times the county needs to encourage revenue.  A significant amount of money will have to be bearded by the tax rate.  They need to start thinking about what are they really getting for it and are they really that much better off.   He asked that the county not to go crazy on application fees and not to underwrite it at the taxpayersí expense.

 

Neil Williamson, with Free Enterprise Forum, suggested that they examine the concerns expressed before moving forward with increased costs.  He suggested that they look at stream lining or eliminating some areas to cut costs.  He felt that the costs are borne by the applicant and the increased costs should be suspended for 12 months.  The review is a community benefit and the community should be part of that investment.  He suggested that they look at how other localities are doing this since Charlottesville has cut their fees in half.  It is an economic development decision. 

 

Jay Willard, of Blue Ridge Building Association, noted that there is a legitimate question of what measures have been created by the county to create this cost and are there ways to lower cost, eliminate or stream line it.  The Association had a meeting tonight on their budget cuts.  He urged the county to do that since he felt it was incumbent on the county to find areas and ways to lower these costs.

 

Scott Collins, local engineer working in private world, suggested that they need to look at any increase in fees in conjunction with the process.  They have talked about streamlining many other times.  Other localities have round robin reviews and the applicant 45 minutes later can walk away with approval.  By red lining and not having to go back and redo plans on minor things it can cut costs.  It saves money by cutting down on the amount of copies.  He suggested that they look at other aspects of submittals such as going to digital submissions.  He asked that they look at the criteria since the ordinance gets out of date and nobody looks at the other aspects of the ordinance when considering the increase in the fees.

 

There being no further public comment, Mr. Strucko closed the public hearing to bring the matter before the Planning Commission for discussion and action.

 

Ms. Porterfield asked when the last time the fees were increased. 

 

Mr. Graham replied in 2002.  The last time a comprehensive review of fees was 1991

 

Ms. Joseph asked about the 106 items that are expected on a rezoning.  She noted that those items have never been codified. 

 

Mr. Graham replied that it started as direction from the Planning Commission as far as guidance from the Planning Commission on what staff is suppose to look for.  The list started growing.  He thought that the list started in the 90ís and the list has increased with things getting added to what staff should be looking at for rezoning or special use permits. It is not codified and is simply guidance that has been provided to staff.

 

Motion: Mr. Morris moved and Ms. Joseph seconded to recommend adoption of the fees as presented in Attachment B.

 

Mr. Kamptner noted that with the motion and second it opened it up for discussion.

 

Mr. Strucko invited further discussion.

 

Ms. Porterfield said that she had been a proponent of 100 percent. If it is a service it is 100 percent of what it costs to do the service.  She thought that we as the County, including the Commission and staff, need to see where they can start cutting some corners.  Everybody has had to do this in their own lives.  She thought that they could find things that could be done more efficiently.  That way they could certainly do them for a lot less money.  She would be the first one to think that they should go along with that.  She had a real problem, if the numbers are correct, under the budget impact and if any average year it is costing under the scenario if they were doing it in real dollars this year a million six hundred dollars of which by adopting this resolution the county will be picking up a million 78 thousand dollars of that, which is well over a half.  She agreed that the county gets some benefit out of what they do, but she was not sure that the average taxpayer should be having to fund the majority of these services that are asked for by various individuals, businesses, whatever.  She could probably support something in addition to this plan B, but at 30 to 35 percent and these are numbers that have not truly been looked at since 1991 even if they went back and did cost of living increases and things like that they would be above what is being asked for at this point in that plan.  They have to find ways that the taxpayers are not going to have to keep picking these things up.  The last thing she read in the paper about the Board of Supervisors needing to find cuts of over 5 million dollars and they are just going to give them another thing that they are going to have to find money to pay for.  She liked the idea of maybe having the fee for the first time it goes through and then the second, third, and fourth times for anything are a separate fee.  It would not be built into everybodyís fee.  If she had a home occupation class B and could get it taken care of at staffís $2,000 level the first time through she did not have to come back and was done.  If she had to come back for whatever reasons then there is the next fee she would pay.  That might be something to look at for a lot of these fees.  Based on that she did not think they were finished with looking at the fees.  Either they need to make these fees higher so that at least the county is not picking up more than 50 percent and hopefully it will be less than that if they go to efficiencies.  Or they should go ahead and go back and look at Hanover if that is a good comparison and look at having a tiered fee for the unusual items that take more than one review or take a review that is more extensive.  The number at this level with everything being equal is huge.

 

Mr. Franco said that the challenge when a rezoning is brought forward is that an applicant can be asked for things that are not required by the ordinance.  But in order to move forward the applicant has to answer the question of a specific Commissioner.  The same idea just generated that someone should be paying for that really that Commissioner should be paying for service above and beyond what is required.  But it does not work that way.  Instead it rolls into the staff and into these calculations.  He asked how many of those 106 items that are not codified represent the time and effort that they are spending to react to changes that an individual Commissioner or Board member has presented.  That is in those numbers.

 

Ms. Porterfield suggested that maybe those should be some of the efficiencies that they should not expect somebody to have to do those kinds of things

 

Mr. Franco noted that it has been real to reign in the Commissions in the past when an applicant comes back and says they are not required to give that information at this point since it is a site plan detail.  It is hard to reign in the Commissioner and tell them they canít have that information.

 

Ms. Porterfield noted that if it was that important then maybe that is something the county pays for.  She did not know.  She had been listening to Mr. Franco during the past year and understands that he was talking about trying to come up with efficiencies that are good for everybody. That sounds like that would help to bring fees down and it would get items through much quicker.  She understood that it takes a long time to get through this countyís processes sometimes.  Philosophically with the numbers right now she was having real trouble saying she could go along with a 30 to 35 fee on a fee that has not been looked at for this long and see what could happen to the county.  She did not know where that money was going to come from other than from the taxpayer and that means that the property taxes are going to go up.

 

Mr. Morris asked to move the question.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if there were any more comments.  The motion on the table is to adopt Attachment B which is roughly a 30 to 35 percent increase in the fees that have not been changed for 7 years.  That will capture some of the cost of living changes that have occurred over that period.

 

Mr. Joseph asked where the Home Occupation Class B was located.

 

Mr. Kamptner noted that it was under other special use permits.

 

Mr. Graham said that on page 12 of Attachment B under C4 and C5 it falls in the all other special use permits.  One question outstanding was whether the Commission wanted to put the Home Occupation Class B in the minor classification.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that under C4 the fee would be $2,000.

 

Mr. Graham noted that C4 was for the submission and the resubmission and the above and beyond that each additional resubmission had a fee of $1,000.

 

Mr. Strucko noted that the application and resubmission was $2,000.

 

Mr. Franco asked if it was possible to amend the resubmittal fee.  He asked what happens if the county through the first two reviews does not pick up something.  Again they were dealing with scenarios that exist.  For example, if they canít approve the site plan without resubmitting for this final change but they did not pick it up in the first two submittals, which was part of the quality of the review, is the applicant going to have to resubmit.  He asked if there is the ability here to amend it for those kinds of situation.

 

Mr. Graham said that staff has talked about that in talking about what technically is a resubmission.  It would not be a resubmission if staff is asking for information that was not included in the initial review.

 

Mr. Franco asked if it would not be a resubmission if the applicants are doing something that is not required that neighbors ask for and they are working with the adjacent neighbor or the Commission or somebody else.  He asked if there are exceptions to this resubmittal, which would start to make him feel better about it.

 

Mr. Graham noted that the Planning Commission can make whatever recommendation it wants in that regard. From the staff perspective he would like to say if it is something that was not asked for with the original submission it does not count as a resubmission.  If they make the original submission and staff made a comment on it asking that the comment be addressed and it goes back for a third, fourth or fifth submission because the comment is still not address that is what they would consider a resubmission. 

 

Ms. Joseph asked Mr. Morris to consider amending the motion to reduce that to other special permit application and first resubmission to $1,000 on page 12 under C4.

 

Mr. Kamptner asked if the desire was to reduce the fee to C4 to move the Home Occupation Class B to C1.

 

Mr. Graham noted that staff has an alternative recommendation that did what they were talking about.  It recommended the fees as presented in Attachment B, with the change of Home Occupation Class B, included under Section C.1 and C.2. 

 

Mr. Morris amended the motion as stated by Mr. Graham.

 

Ms. Joseph amended the second to the motion.

 

Mr. Franco asked if they have concern about the resubmittal aspects that they were just discussing.

 

Ms. Joseph replied that she did but felt comfortable in what Mr. Graham has said that it would be an internal decision by staff that it is something that they missed and therefore wonít require that resubmittal fee.  That is what she heard.  It is like a retaining wall over a drainage pipe.

 

Mr. Kamptner said asked regarding the previous discussion regarding the zoning clearance for the temporary fund raising activities if there was a desire to recommend a lower fee for that.

 

Mr. Strucko asked what the current fee is for that.

 

Mr. Kamptner replied that if it required a zoning clearance the current fee is $35.

 

Mr. Graham noted that fee has been changed to $50.

 

Mr. Kamptner said that there is a class for zoning clearance for a Home Occupation Class A which is $25.  He thought that Community Development would need to look at what an appropriate fee would be in relation to these other fees. 

 

Mr. Strucko noted that they were talking about waiving it entirely.

 

Mr. Kamptner noted that it would be a recommended fee of zero from the Commission.

 

Mr. Strucko noted that Mr. Morris would have to amend his motion a second time to cover that issue.

 

Mr. Kamptner noted that staff could do that to carve out and recognize the temporary fund raising activities.

 

Mr. Morris amended the motion that temporary fund raising events have a fee of $0.  This would include the selling of Christmas trees by a 501C organization.

 

Ms. Joseph amended the second to the motion.

 

Mr. Franco noted that Ms. Joseph had talked about a moratorium on the fee increases.  He asked if she was not worried about that anymore.

 

Ms. Joseph said that she was worried about that, but did not think she got the votes.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if she wanted to pursue that consideration to delay implementation of these fees.  He asked what date the fees would be implemented.

 

Mr. Graham said that staff would tell the Board that the earliest they would recommend making the effective date would be February 1, assuming they made a decision in December.  That would give staff time to change forms and notify all of the public about the changes.

 

Ms. Joseph recommended that the effective date of the fees be at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, 2010.

 

Mr. Graham noted that the recommended effective date would be July 1, 2010 and would tie into the new fiscal year.

 

Mr. Morris moved to amend the motion that the recommended effective date would be July 1, 2010 to tie into the new fiscal year.

 

Ms. Joseph amended the second to the motion.

 

Ms. Porterfield noted what they were saying was that they were going to vote on something now that is not going to help out this yearís budget at all.  They are going to go ahead and move that one forward for another 8 months.  She asked why not have staff go back and try to do something better with all of this and find some efficiency and come up with something better.

 

Ms. Joseph said that the Board has looked at this and passed a resolution based on Attachment B.  She did not think that they need to ask them to waste any more time because this is exactly what they are talking about is staff time. 

 

Ms. Porterfield noted that they were tying this to not go into effect until July, 2010.

 

Ms. Joseph said she was considering the fact that everybody was in trouble now economically including the builders and developers.  One of the things they rely on in this community is the fact that the builders put people to work.  They get money churning through this community when they have our builders working and when people are out there buying nails and using the nails to build houses and creating the commercial activity.  If they donít have that going on they are in trouble.  They have a very low unemployment rate right now but it is rising.  She felt that it important for them to show the community that they support them.

 

Ms. Porterfield felt that supporting them was fine, but they needed to remind the taxpayers that they would be picking up the difference.

 

Mr. Strucko reiterated the motion.  The motion is for the adoption of the fee structure outlined in Attachment B which represents about a 30 to 35 percent increase from the fees that have not been changed since 2001/2002.  That motion includes some special provisions:

 

Mr. Kamptner noted that the class would simply be temporary fund raising activities.  They run into problems when they start basing fees on who the applicant is rather than on the service that is provided.  It actually ends up being a broader exemption.

 

Mr. Strucko agreed with Mr. Kamptnerís wording.  The final condition would be the recommended implementation date of these fee changes to occur July 1, 2010 which is the beginning of next fiscal year.

 

Motion:  Mr. Morris moved and Ms. Joseph seconded to recommend the fees as presented in Attachment B, with the change of Home Occupation, Class B, to be included under Section C.1 and C.2 and the following special provisions:

 

1.             Temporary fund raising events have a fee of $0.

2.             The recommended implementation date of the fee changes to occur on July 1, 2010 which is the beginning of next fiscal year.

 (SEE STAFF REPORT ATTACHMENT B)

The motion passed by a vote of 4:1.  (Ms. Porterfield voted nay.)

 

Mr. Strucko noted that ZTA-2009-00017 Zoning Fees would go to the Board of Supervisors on December 2, 2009 with a recommendation for approval.

 

The Planning Commission took a five minute break at 7:37 p.m.

 

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