AGENDA TITLE:  ZTA 04-09 Public Hearing to Amend the Definition of "Transmission Lines, Gas or Oil"




SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUESTAmend Section 3.0 Definitions of the Zoning Ordinance for "Transmission Lines, Gas or Oil"








Amelia McCulley, Greg Kamptner


Planning Commission:  January 11, 2005

Board of Supervisors:  February 2, 2005



ACTION:  Yes                            INFORMATION:




     ACTION:                               INFORMATION:









The Charlottesville Gas Division is currently proposing a 6" gas main trunk line from the General Electric Fanuc Plant in Albemarle County along Route 29, extending to also provide service to Greene County.  The Zoning Administrator has again determined that this gas line is a transmission line, requiring a special permit for approval.  The City of Charlottesville has again filed an appeal of the Zoning Administrator's determination.  The appeal is pending and is scheduled for a February 8th public hearing with the Board of Zoning Appeals.



Staff recommends that revision to this definition will allow a more comprehensive review (as is required for a special permit) for the impact caused by significant gas and oil transmission lines.  This special use permit review would include the impact on the Rural Areas and protected resources caused by proposed lines.  The special permit review could also consider the impact, including service to our development areas, from extensions to establish new systems in other jurisdictions.



Lines for the distribution of local oil or gas service to customers are permitted by right.  The main gas or oil trunk lines which serve the distribution lines and supply the system are transmission lines and require a special permit for approval.  Electrical power substations, transmission lines and related towers also require a special use permit for approval.  Water and sewer lines, interceptors and larger facilities are allowed by-right; however, they are subject to review for compliance with the Comprehensive Plan.


The currently proposed 6" gas main trunk line will extend only about 1 1/2 miles along Route 29 in Albemarle County before it reaches Greene County.  Once there, it will extend another approximately 4 1/2 miles before the currently proposed termination at the S.L. Williamson Asphalt Plant.  In Greene County, 4" gas mains will extend from the 6" trunk line at Routes 607 and 33.  Smaller (2") lines serve numerous individual subdivisions.  The City has explained that this expansion of service can be provided with an increased supply within the existing lines.


This revised definition is not intended to require further approvals for the distribution lines.  This revised definition is intended to address the impact of the main trunk lines which cross the Rural Areas to provide service to the smaller distribution lines.  The fact that individual customers would be permitted to tap into a transmission line is not determinative as to whether the line is a distribution or a transmission line.  The fact that a new line does not directly connect to a gas supply at a station or substation, is also not determinative as to the classification of the line.  The proposed ordinance definition parallels federal regulations for transmission, distribution, service and main natural gas lines as found within 49 CFR § 192.3.


The City of Charlottesville Office of the City Attorney has submitted a letter of objection to this ZTA (Attachment C).  They ask "as a matter of fundamental fairness, that consideration of the City's plans by the Zoning Administrator, and if necessary by the BZA, be allowed to continue under the provisions of the Albemarle Zoning Ordinance as currently in effect."  They further state that revising the zoning ordinance definition that will require a special permit for more lines is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and will result in difficulties for interpretation.


One of the points also made in the letter from the City relates to the fact that this definition would cause some existing lines to become nonconforming to the requirement of a special use permit.  Staff has not studied this issue extensively and can offer preliminary comment.  Those nonconforming transmission lines may remain and their use may continue consistent with Virginia Code and Albemarle County Zoning Ordinance provisions.  Maintenance of the lines is permitted; however, enlargement or extension of these transmission lines would be subject to a special permit.


With regards to compliance with the Comprehensive Plan, staff recommends that the requirement of a special permit for a broader definition of "transmission line" will better serve our Comprehensive Plan goals.  To illustrate the point, staff provides some relevant excerpts from the Comprehensive Plan:


General Principles for Other Utilities:

Ř       The County's growth management goals are to be supported through the appropriate provision of transportation, public utilities, and public facilities and services to designated Development Areas.  The provision of fire, rescue, and police protection, roads, utilities, school bus service, and other governmental activities and functions to a large, dispersed rural population is viewed as inefficient and contrary to the overall public interest in guiding new development to the designated Development Areas.

Ř       Emphasis is placed on providing a level of public service delivery that will support development in, and direct development to, designated Development Areas.  To accomplish this, service and facilities will be provided at a much higher level in Development Areas than in the Rural Areas.  Those persons living in the Rural Areas should not anticipate levels of public service delivery equal to services provided in the Development Areas.


Staff will address the three (3) criteria which the Board has previously asked staff to discuss with zoning text amendments.


Administration / Review Process:  Broadening this definition will Increase the number of lines which will require special permits as opposed to being permitted by-right.  This will increase the administration and review process for oil and gas lines.  Because it is not a frequent proposal, it is not expected to have much impact on staff.


Housing Affordability:  The proposed amendment would not affect housing affordability.


Implications to Staffing / Staffing Costs:  This amendment alone is not expected to generate much impact on staff workload.     



Staff hereby recommends adoption of the draft ordinance found in Attachment B.



A          Executive Summary and Resolution of Intent

B          Draft Ordinance

C          Letter of Objection from the Office of the City Attorney

D          Proposed Distribution System Map

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