The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is considering amendments to the Zoning Ordinance that may affect your property.  We encourage you to read this document thoroughly so that you are aware of the proposed amendments and whether they may impact you.


Why did I receive this notice?

Our records indicate that you own property that contains slopes of 25% or greater (“critical slopes”) in the County’s Rural Areas zoning district.  The Board of Supervisors asked that all such property owners be sent a notice to let you know of the upcoming Board of Supervisor’s public hearing that will be held on October 10, 2007, at 6:00 PM in the Auditorium of the County Office Building at 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia.  If you cannot attend the meeting, you can send written comments to the Board of Supervisions, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22902 or via email at                                        


What is the current status of the proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance?

A notice was mailed to you in July about an upcoming August 7, 2007 public hearing to be held by the Planning Commission.  At that public hearing, the Commission considered proposed changes to four sections in the Zoning Ordinance pertaining to disturbing critical slopes and establishing driveways. The Commission also held a public hearing on amendments to the Subdivision Ordinance. Based on comments received from the public and the recommendations by the Commission, the text amendment was revised and considered again by the Commission on September 11, 2007 at a work session where additional public comment was received.  At the end of that work session, the Commission recommended approval of the text amendment, as revised, to the Board of Supervisors (see below). 


What is a critical slope?

The Zoning Ordinance defines a critical slope as an area of land that rises or falls at an

angle of 25% or greater. 


Why is it important to protect critical slopes?

Construction that disturbs critical slopes can have a damaging effect on the County’s

rural area resources, including.: (1) significant soil and rock erosion; (2) excessive

stormwater run-off; (3) sedimentation (filling in of streams and reservoirs); and (4) loss

of aesthetic resources.  


How does the County currently regulate development on critical slopes?

Existing zoning regulations prohibit structures and improvements, and related land disturbing activity, on critical slopes, with two exceptions: (1) for lots that existed when the critical slopes regulations were first adopted to allow the first single family dwelling to be established on the lot; and (2) for accessways, utilities, and other certain improvements that may cross over or be located on critical slopes if the owner shows that no reasonable alternative location or alignment exists.  A landowner may request a waiver from the Planning Commission to disturb critical slopes.


How would the proposed zoning text amendment regulate development on critical slopes? 

In all zoning districts, the proposed zoning text amendment would continue to prohibit development on critical slopes.  In the Rural Areas zoning district, the proposed regulations will eliminate the exception that allows accessways, such as driveways, to be located on critical slopes, and prohibit streets and driveways, and any related land disturbing activity from being located on critical slopes.  However, the county engineer would be authorized to grant waivers under six specific conditions.  The proposed amendment also would establish a procedure to appeal the decision of the county engineer, establish a procedure by which a landowner could challenge that critical slopes exist on the property, and define “land disturbing activity.”  Finally, the proposed amendment would allow the location of utilities and other specified improvements on critical slopes provided that the landowner showed that no reasonable alternative location or alignment existed. 


How does the County currently regulate driveways and lot access?

Driveways are currently subject to the critical slopes regulations described above. In addition, zoning regulations require that a lot have frontage on a public or private street, unless the lot was created without frontage before the regulations were adopted.


How would the proposed zoning text amendment regulate driveways and lot access?  

The proposed zoning text amendment would continue the lot frontage requirements.  In addition, in the Rural Areas zoning district, driveways would not be allowed to exceed a 16% grade, would be required to have a travelway at least 10 feet wide that extended to within 50 feet of each dwelling unit, and the landowner would be required to maintain a 10 foot wide and 14 foot high clear area for the length of the driveway to assure that public safety vehicles are able to access the dwelling on a lot. The county engineer would be authorized to waive the 16% maximum grade standard under certain circumstances.  Any lot existing when this regulation is adopted would be exempt from the driveway standards for the first single-family detached dwelling.





The proposed regulations will affect you if . . .

You are establishing (1) a street, driveway or related land disturbing activity on critical slopes, unless a waiver from the county engineer is obtained or (2) a driveway, in which case the driveway standards would apply, unless a waiver from the county engineer is obtained. 


The proposed regulations will NOT affect you if . . .

You are (1) establishing a street or driveway for the first single family dwelling on an existing lot; (2) constructing a road for agriculture or forestry purposes; or (3) maintaining an existing dwelling, septic field, street, driveway, yard or a septic replacement on a critical slope.


The Board of Supervisors will also consider amendments to the Subdivision Ordinance and Water Protection Ordinance on October 10, 2007.


Subdivision Ordinance (STA 2007-02): When a landowner desires to create a lot and convey it to a family member, he or she may subdivide the land under the conventional subdivision procedures or under the specific regulations established for “family subdivisions.”  The key differences between the two procedures are the information that must be shown on the subdivision plat, the time required to review and approve the subdivision plat, and the standards that apply for the subdivision’s street.  The proposed regulations would continue to allow a lot to be conveyed to a family member to be created under either procedure. 

Current:  Under the current family subdivision regulations, the owner of the parent parcel and of the lot(s) created by family subdivision may not convey either lot to a person who is not a member of the immediate family for 2 years after the subdivision plat is recorded.  Limited exceptions apply.

Proposed:  Under the proposed family subdivision regulations, the Board of Supervisors will consider two concepts for extending the retention period before a family subdivision lot may be conveyed to a person who is not a member of the immediate family.  Under the first alternative, the 2-year retention period would be extended to 15 years.  Under the other alternative recommended by the Planning Commission, the retention period would be 15 years, but a credit of up to 10 years would be given if the land was owned by a family member before the family subdivision.  Thus, under this alternative, the retention period after the family subdivision plat was recorded would be at least 5 years, depending on how long the family member owned it before the family subdivision.


Water Protection Ordinance (WPTA 2007-01): The proposed amendments would clarify that otherwise exempt land disturbing activities, such as the creation of farm roads, are subject to erosion and sediment control regulations if the disturbed area is subject to persistent soil erosion which results in the delivery of sediment onto neighboring property or into state waters; and would require 100 foot buffers for not only perennial streams (as currently required), but also intermittent streams in the Rural Areas zoning district.


How can I find out more information and see where the critical slopes are on my property?

A web site containing the ordinances and a link to the web page containing the County’s mapping of each property:  You can call the Community Development Department at 434/296-5832 or visit the County Office Building at 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia.


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