Evaluation of the Need for an Historic Overlay Ordinance
Albemarle County Historic Preservation Committee
Priority Recommendation and Ordinance Evaluation Subcommittee
September 15, 2008
Priority Recommendation #12: Two years after the adoption of these recommendations, evaluate the County’s progress on these preservation priorities, and evaluate the need for an historic overlay ordinance.
In order to evaluate the need for an historic overlay ordinance, the Priority Recommendation and Ordinance Evaluation subcommittee (the subcommittee) proposed an agenda that would build upon the existing Historic Preservation Plan, focusing on collecting data to determine how the contexts of historic preservation in Albemarle County have changed since the adoption of the current Historic Preservation Plan in 2000. The subcommittee found that the contexts adversely impacting historic preservation, including increased population and development pressure, have not lessened but have magnified since the publication of the Albemarle County Historic Preservation Plan. Despite successes in the conservation of rural historic landscape, the largely voluntary nature of the historic preservation measures promoted and supported by Albemarle County have done very little to effectively protect and preserve other historic resources. Programs and policies where Albemarle County has been most successful in the protection of historic resources, such as the Acquisition of Conservation Easements and the Neighborhood Model development policy, were adopted as part of the County Code and have language that pertains specifically to historic resources. The subcommittee strongly recommends that Albemarle County pursue the adoption of an Historic Overlay Ordinance or some other type of local regulatory measure designed to more effectively protect all historic resources.
In 2006, the Albemarle County Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) organized and charged the subcommittee with evaluating and assessing the progress to date on the twelve priority historic preservation recommendations. Because of the importance of priority recommendation #12, the subcommittee decided to evaluate the need for an historic overlay ordinance as a separate process. On March 26, 2007 the HPC approved and accepted the Evaluation and Assessment of Priority Recommendations document produced by the subcommittee. Over the past year, the subcommittee has continued to conduct research to complete the evaluation of the task with which it is charged. This document specifically addresses priority recommendation #12 and therefore fulfills the commitment of the HPC in evaluating all of the preservation priorities established in 2001.
From the beginning, the subcommittee has read priority recommendation #12 in a very general way. An Historic Overlay Ordinance is a very specific type of regulatory measure that protects and enhances historic resources in addition to the normal zoning for any designated area. The subcommittee determined that it would be more productive and more in keeping with the spirit of priority recommendation #12 to evaluate the need for any regulatory historic preservation protective measures, broadly construed, as opposed to a specific regulatory historic preservation protective measure (e.g. an Historic Overlay Ordinance). In addition, the subcommittee assumed that its charge ended with evaluating the need for a regulatory historic preservation protective measure, and that it was not charged with determining what form any future historic preservation regulatory measure might take, how it should be implemented, or to submit a draft for consideration.
In order to facilitate research and discussion, the subcommittee adopted the HPC’s definition of historic resource as “architecture, engineering, archaeological, or cultural remains present in districts, sites, buildings or structures that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association.” The subcommittee also adopted a working definition of protect as related to historic resources. Subcommittee members agreed that to protect means to maintain the overall integrity of an historic resource.
The subcommittee decided that the existing Historic Preservation Plan (2000), as a component of the Comprehensive Plan, was still a relevant document in that it comprehensively summarized the then current level of local, state and federal protection for historic resources; that it emphasized the importance of local, state and federal preservation incentives; and that it effectively articulated the need for local regulatory measures to ensure protection of Albemarle County’s valuable historical resources.
To this end, the subcommittee agreed that the current task of evaluating the need for an historic overlay ordinance should build upon information and data contained in the existing Historic Preservation Plan. An agenda was proposed, focusing on determining how the contexts of historic preservation in Albemarle County have changed since the adoption of the current Historic Preservation Plan, and in assessing the past successes and failures under the existing voluntary historic preservation plan.
The subcommittee approached its charge by posing several research tasks:
Research Task #1: Define and summarize the current level of Albemarle County commitment to the preservation of historic resources.
The current chapter on Natural Resources and Cultural Assets in the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan states a goal of “protect[ing] the County’s historic and cultural resources.” The Albemarle County Historic Preservation Plan, a component of the Comprehensive Plan adopted in September of 2000, states a goal of “protect[ing] the county’s natural, scenic, cultural, and historic resources in the Rural Areas and Development Areas.” Albemarle County has pursued these goals through a variety of both direct and indirect strategies.
The strategies that have directly influenced the protection of architectural, archaeological and cultural landscape resources, are:
· The HPC recommended hiring of a Historic Preservation Planner to assist in the development of a Historic Resource Database for the county.
· The HPC implemented a program to notify new owners of historic properties of the significance of their properties and provide instructions for obtaining additional information on how to preserve those properties.
· The HPC has developed educational programs that have identified significant historic resources and encouraged the stewardship of community resources. Past educational programs have included: public presentations and exhibits on country stores and Rosenwald schools; seminars for local real estate agents regarding tax incentives for owners of historic properties; and co-sponsoring with other preservation organizations local seminars on historic property issues.
· The HP planner also reviews applications for demolition. Structures 50 years or older or modern structures that are historically significant are photographed and documented at a basic level. The HP planner frequently asks the HPC for their help in gathering information on a property.
· Between 2000 and 2007, the ACE program has helped acquire easements on 26 properties amounting to 5,332 acres. Eight of the twenty-six easement applicants between 2000 - 2007 were awarded points for having historic resources (Ches Goodall, ACE Coordinator).
· Parcels accepted under the ACE program receiving points for historic resources include: the Allan B. Kindrick property in northern Albemarle County; the Gildea property in the Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District; the Davey property in the Southern Albemarle Rural Historic District; the Vielle property in western Albemarle County; and the Huckleberry Farm property in the Simmon’s Gap area.
· To date, Albemarle County has 12 historic districts and numerous individual properties listed on the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
The strategies that have indirectly influenced the protection of architectural, archaeological and cultural landscape resources, are:
· As of 1994, development of 19% of Albemarle County land was deferred as a result of the establishment of agricultural and forestal districts (ACHPP: 28). As of 2007, development of 29% of Albemarle County land was deferred as a result of the establishment of agricultural and forestal districts and conservation easements (PEC 2008).
Although several strategies established and adopted by Albemarle County have a direct and positive impact on the protection and preservation of cultural resources, in the end these programs all depend upon a property owner’s desire to protect historic resources. Educational and informational programs will always be an integral part of an historic preservation agenda and should continue to be expanded.
Albemarle County growth and development policies that have an indirect role in the protection of historic resources are an important part of a broad based historic preservation agenda. However, none of these policies were written with the specific goal of protecting historic resources within rural or growth designated areas. Furthermore, it is not clear how successful the encouragement of growth in designated areas has been in protecting historic resources.
Research Task #2: Examine the local contexts for protecting historic resources today as compared to when the existing Historic Preservation Plan was developed (2000)
In order to examine the local contexts for protecting historic resources in Albemarle County a brief review of the factors that threaten historic resources was compiled. They are:
Population Growth in Albemarle County
Perhaps the greatest threat to Albemarle County’s non-renewable historic resources including landscapes, buildings, structures and sites, is residential and non-residential development. Frequently, but not always, growth and its associated development has an adverse impact on historic resources. The population of Albemarle County continues to increase every year.
In 1990 the population of Albemarle County was 66,845. Ten years later the population was 84,186. In 2010 the population of Albemarle County is expected to be 97,200, reflecting an average annual growth rate of 1.5% per year. As Albemarle County has grown in population, residential and commercial development has attempted to keep pace. For several decades the pace and scale of development within Albemarle County has consistently increased.
In order to track development pressure in Albemarle County since 2000, the subcommittee chose to collect data on two easily accessible figures, demolition and building permits, believed to be relatively good indicators of growth in both rural and urban areas.
Graph 1: Population Growth, Real and Expected, Albemarle County, Virginia 1990-2010
Albemarle County staff provided data on the number of demolition permits issued between 1991 and 2007. Although some demolition permits are issued for reasons other than development, it was felt that this statistic was still an indicator of development pressure. Demolition permits only represent those permits obtained legally through Albemarle County. It should be noted that on occasion demolitions occur without permits and that permits are not required for demolition of farm buildings or structures.
Graph 2: Number of Demolition Permits Issued by Albemarle County, Virginia 1991-2008
A farm building or structure is any structure located on a property where farming operations take place and is used primarily for farm related operations. The use classification of a structure is determined at the time of construction and does not change if a structure is abandoned or falls into disuse.
Graph 2 shows that a total of 104 demolition permits were issued by Albemarle County in the nine years between 1991, when data started to be gathered, and 1999 the year prior to the issuance of the Albemarle County Historic Preservation Plan, an average of 11.55 demolition permits per year. In the subsequent eight years between 2000 and 2007, this number increased by 71 to a total of 175, or an average of just over 21.87 demolition permits per year, nearly double the rate of demolition (Albemarle County, Issued Demolition Permits, 1991-2007).
Albemarle County Development Activity Reports provide data on the number of building permits for new unit construction issued by Albemarle County. Building permits issued represent new construction in both rural and urban growth areas.
Graph 3: Number of Building Permits issued by Albemarle County, 1990-2007
Graph 3 documents that in the ten years between 1990 and 1999, an average of approximately 800 building permits per year were issued for new unit construction in both rural and growth areas. In the subsequent eight years between 2000 and 2007, an average of approximately 894 building permits per year were issued, an increase of over 10%.
Although fluctuations occurred from year to year in both demolition and building permits issued, the data documents a gradual but consistent increase in the quantity of both indicators over a two decade period. The data also documents that both indicators tracked have had significant increases in the period between 2000 – 2007, since the existing Historic Preservation Plan was adopted. As Albemarle County does not have a formal process in place to determine whether a structure is historic, it is not possible to determine how many historic structures were demolished with demolition permits over the past two decades.
Research Task #3: Describe and summarize new historic resource protection measures initiated by Albemarle County that are in place now but that were not in place when the existing Historic Preservation Plan was developed (2000).
Two new policies implemented by Albemarle County since 2000 were found to have had a direct and positive impact on the protection of historic resources. These are the Neighborhood Model code of development, and the Acquisition of Conservation Easement program.
1) Neighborhood Model (Albemarle County Code, Chapter 18, Zoning, Section 20A, Neighborhood Model, Codes of Development, 20A.5.g.8)
Goal – To provide a guide for development in Albemarle County’s designated Development Areas, stressing a mixed use and urban form of development. Appended to Comprehensive Plan in 2001.
Process - During the Neighborhood Model application process, property owners are required to submit a code of development. Under the heading “architectural and landscape standards,” the applicant must address “the preservation of historic structures, sites, and archaeological sites identified by the Department of Historic Resources.”
Assessment – The requirements of the Neighborhood Model code of development have already had a positive impact on both the documentation and protection of historic resources. The ordinance has provided Albemarle County with an effective tool to negotiate the preservation of significant historic resources. However the specific language of the code of development is too restrictive in that it limits preservation efforts to those sites previously identified by the Department of Historic Resources. A previously unknown or unidentified historic resource, or an historic resource that has not had a site form filed for it with the Department of Historic Resources, is not covered under this ordinance.
2) Acquisition Conservation Easement Program (Albemarle County Code, Appendix A-1, Acquisition of Conservation Easement Program, Sec. A-1-103-A-(1)).
Goal – Initiated in 2000, the Acquisition of Conservation Easement program is offered to property owners as a means of protecting and preserving the County’s open space and rural character, farm and forest land, water resources, wildlife, scenic resources, etc. One of the numerous definitions of a conservation easement include “imposing limitations or affirmative obligations for the purpose of …preserving the historical, architectural, or archaeological aspects” of a parcel or parcels.
Process - Parcels considered under the application process are given points towards overall eligibility. Parcels are granted points if they, (a) lie within a national or state rural historic district, or are subject to a permanent easement protecting a historic resource; (b) lie within the primary Monticello viewshed; or (c) contain artifacts or a site of archaeological or architectural significance as determined by a qualified archaeologist or architectural historian.
Assessment – The ACE program has been very successful in preserving rural historic landscapes. Although broadly written to include properties containing historic structures and/or archaeological sites, it is not clear how successful this program has been in attracting them. However, once a parcel containing historic resources that have received points is protected, it is protected forever.
3) Special Use Permit (Albemarle County Code, Chapter 18, Zoning, Section 31 Administration, Enforcement and Interpretation 31.2.4) 
Goal – Allows the Board of Supervisors to permit special uses within current zoning that “will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property, that the character of the district will not be changed thereby, and that such use will be in harmony with the purpose and intent of [the] ordinance” (Code 22.214.171.124)
Process – An applicant’s Special Use Permit request is reviewed by staff and forwarded to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for action. The Board of Supervisors may, at their discretion, impose conditions of approval on the application. The Albemarle County Code broadly defines such conditions as “relating to the use for which such permit is granted as [the BOS] may deem necessary in the public interest” (Code 126.96.36.199). Depending on staffing and workload, staff attempts to identify historic resources on subject properties, identify potential negative impacts on the resources from the proposed use, and recommend conditions of approval to reduce or mitigate impacts. The Board of Supervisors may choose to impose those conditions or not, after considering all other pertinent factors.
Assessment – The preservation of historic resources has been considered and attached to Special Use Permit applications in the past by the Board of Supervisors as a condition of approval. While Special Use Permit conditions can be an effective means of preserving the County’s historic resources, there is no guarantee that all historic resources will always be considered. In addition, staff review generally only takes into consideration those historic resources that are already known by the County or have been identified by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Historic resources that have not been previously identified can be missed in the review process.
Research Task #4: Examine specific examples in which the current level of Albemarle County advocated historic preservation measures have succeeded in protecting historic resources. Assess why these examples succeeded.
South Fork Soccer Park Property – Agreement between Albemarle County and SOCA organization to conduct phased archaeological investigations on floodplain property proposed to be developed as soccer fields. The property is the sacred site of Monasukapanough. Monasukapanough was one of only five Monacan towns identified by Captain John Smith on his famous 1612 map of colonial Virginia. This site, marked by the icon of a "kings howse," is long known to have been one of the largest villages in Monacan Indian nation territory, and one of the few contemporary with the Jamestown settlement. The University of Virginia fieldschool excavated the site for several seasons.
Historic Free State / Belvedere – Agreement between Albemarle County and a local developer to conduct phased archaeological investigations at the site of a former free African American community dating to the late eighteenth century. Phase I identification, Phase II evaluation, and Phase III data recovery work was conducted between 2005 and 2007. Two historic cemeteries, the Bowles family cemetery containing over 50 individuals, and the Brown-Carr family cemetery containing over 30 individuals were defined and preserved. Two nineteenth century sites were located, defined and excavated. A permanent interpretive exhibit on the history of Free State and its inhabitants will be incorporated into the planned community center when built.
Biscuit Run – Agreement between Albemarle County and a local developer to conduct phased archaeological investigations on a large parcel in the southern part of the county. The developer has agreed to avoid areas of archaeological potential through dedicated open space and retention of architectural ruins and an extant cemetery as a part of the development plan.
Aloha Restaurant – Kia Dealership – Preservation and reuse of a portion of the ca. 1955-1956 Stanislaw Makielski designed Aloha Restaurant. In the proposed renovation and expansion, the applicant voluntarily offered to preserve and rehabilitate the dome portion of the structure.
Historic preservation efforts at two of the four properties, Belvedere and Biscuit Run, were negotiated as part of a Neighborhood Model rezoning application. Historic preservation strategies were enabled in both of these cases by the presence of written requirements in the Albemarle County Code. Through the proffer process, the County and the applicant negotiated the development of a cultural resource management plan. At the South Fork Soccer Park, the proffer process also enhanced the ability of Albemarle County to require archaeological research at this regionally important site. The partial preservation and reuse of the Aloha restaurant / Kia dealership property was an example of an individually initiated decision to support preservation.
Research Task #5: Examine specific examples in which the current level of Albemarle County advocated historic preservation measures have failed to protect historic resources. Assess why these examples failed.
Wilton Farm – J. Triplett Haxall purchased a 270-acre farm in 1892 and built his residence there. Wilton is reported to have been modeled after a home in Green Spring Valley near Baltimore, and was described variously by architectural historians as a frame Queen Anne / Classical Revival / Craftsman / and Colonial style structure. The building was enclosed by a wraparound screened in porch. Haxall also built a number of adjacent outbuildings including servant’s and tenant’s houses, a barn, and smoke house and developed formal gardens and flower beds. Wilton Farm was significant to Albemarle County because it was one of the few remaining intact ‘gentleman’s farms’ dating to the immediate postbellum period located within the ring of development that encircles Charlottesville. As a coherent whole, Wilton Farm possessed an elegant assemblage of residences, outbuildings, farm roads, fences, gardens, fields and wood lots which together combined to give it historical integrity. The property was potentially eligible for listing in the National Register but was razed and developed as a residential complex in 2004.
Oakleigh – Originally built by Mr. William Nuttycombe in 1897, Oakleigh farm was an 8.8 acre parcel, two acres of which were developed as a residential and utilitarian complex containing a main residence and sundry farm buildings. The farm complex included a dairy, well house, fallout shelter, chicken coop, auxiliary building, tenant residence, feed storage/outhouse, and barn. Although potentially eligible for listing, the property was razed for future residential / commercial development in 2006. Prior to razing, detailed photographs and drawings of the structure were produced by a University of Virginia architectural history class and are accessible through the Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record website.
Advance Mills General Store – Built ca. 1948 the ‘Advance Mills Supply,’ a front-gabled concrete block store, stood on the stone rubble foundation of an earlier retail store. The Advance Mills General Store was part of the larger Historic District of the same name and was listed as a contributing structure within that district. The Advance Mills General Store was razed in 2007.
Sutherland Barn –One of the few remaining rural historic landscapes in Albemarle County dating to the early nineteenth century whose central core, both domestic and agricultural, is still relatively intact. The property contains the remains of perhaps the most unique and significant barn in the central Virginia region. The Sutherland barn was a substantial three bay brick and wood truss storage facility with fieldstone foundation and wooden floor built in the English or European style. Two 12 x 12 inch posts and a 12 x 13 inch center beam supported 24 cross beams. All of the lumber in the structure was hand hewn and the major joints held together by mortise and tenon. All four sides of the barn are constructed of brick, the East, West and North sides possessing a three course American bond, and the South side possessing a Flemish bond. The south façade also possessed a dark blue gray glazed finish on the brick headers. Perhaps the most interesting architectural features of the barn were its splayed, or loop hole windows built into the structure in several rows on each side. The loop hole windows drew air and light into the barn and provided necessary ventilation. Barns with loop hole windows are quite rare in Virginia and the United States. It is not known exactly when the barn was built. Architectural evidence, particularly the loop hole windows and the interior framing of mows, suggests that the barn did not house livestock but was used primarily for the storage of crops, most likely wheat, corn, oats, etc. and therefore may date to the turn of the nineteenth century when many regional farmers took up the production of wheat and other mixed grains. Sutherland family tradition records that the barn was constructed ca. 1810. Albemarle County deeds and land tax records do not appear to provide any additional evidence. Fortunately, detailed drawings of the structure were produced by Kristie Struble in the early 1980s and are accessible through the Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record website. The building also appears in K. Edward Lay’s book, The Architecture of Jefferson Country: Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
Two of the above properties, Wilton and Oakleigh farms, were located within Albemarle County’s designated growth areas. As such, they were subject to development pressures associated with these areas through Albemarle County growth management policy. The Sutherland Barn property, located in an Albemarle County designated rural area, has suffered through neglect for nearly a century. Recently, a new property owner has initiated a conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation protecting the larger Sutherland rural historic landscape. What remains of the barn is in need of stabilization.
Task #6: Assess the Advantages and Disadvantages of a local regulatory measure designed to protect historic resources.
The current level of Albemarle County sponsored preservation efforts is a broad based educational program that relies largely on the voluntary actions of individuals to effectively protect historic properties. While there have been limited successes where individuals and businesses have voluntarily chosen to preserve structures and sites for their historical value, or to take advantage of tax-based incentives, historic properties continue to be lost because of neglect, development pressure or lack of financial resources.
A local regulatory measure enforcing the protection of historic properties will provide Albemarle County with an effective way of protecting and preserving its diverse historic resources. A local regulatory measure also places the burden of protecting an historic property, in whatever form that protection takes, on either the property owner or the developer. Depending upon the contexts of the property and the specific nature of the historic resource, protection can take the form of avoidance, comprehensive documentation, rehabilitation, or adaptive reuse.
The data collected for this document has shown that the contexts adversely impacting historic preservation, including increased population and development pressure, have not lessened but have magnified since the publication of the Albemarle County Historic Preservation Plan (2000). In addition, the data collected for this document supports and reinforces the conclusions reached in the Historic Preservation Plan - that the only effective way to protect historic resources is through a local regulatory measure.
Although the preservation of rural historic landscapes has been a success through County initiated programs such as Acquisition of Conservation Easement, and through independent land conservation organizations, a review of several case studies shows that the largely voluntary nature of the historic preservation measures supported by Albemarle County have done very little to effectively protect and preserve other historic resources. Those Albemarle County sponsored measures that have provided the most successful protection of historic resources, such as the Acquisition of Conservation Easements and Neighborhood Model development programs, were adopted as part of the County Code and have language that pertains specifically to historic resources.
Under the Neighborhood Model of development, much of the ability of Albemarle County to enable effective protection of historic resources relies upon the proffer process. The Code of Virginia authorizes certain municipalities (any locality with a decennial population growth of greater than 5%) to accept voluntary cash and non-cash proffers as part of a rezoning application process for residential and mixed-use developments. In the proffer process, cash and non-cash proffers are either voluntarily submitted or required through negotiation by Albemarle County staff, Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors. Cash and non-cash proffers may be used to support schools, libraries, and parks among many other items, and in Albemarle County, to protect and preserve historic resources.
In the 2008 General Assembly session, a bill (Senate Bill 768) was submitted proposing to replace the current proffer system with impact fees. While that bill was deferred, possibly to be revised and reintroduced in 2009, its proposal to eliminate voluntary proffers would have ended the County’s ability to negotiate for historic preservation resource protection. Lacking a local preservation ordinance, the bill would have removed a key tool available to the County to effectively protect historic resources within designated growth areas.
As stated in its ACE program literature, Albemarle County believes that both natural and cultural resources have a public value as well as a private value. Although Albemarle County has pledged a goal of protecting historic resources in both rural and growth areas, it has not yet followed through on a truly effective means to accomplish this. This subcommittee strongly recommends that Albemarle County pursue the adoption of an Historic Overlay Ordinance or some other type of local regulatory measure designed to more effectively protect historic resources. The Historic Overlay Ordinance or local regulatory measure must be combined with existing Albemarle County strategies and must be perceived as only one part of a broad, multi-faceted and comprehensive program with the goal of protecting and preserving Albemarle County’s historic resources.
Acquisition of Conservation Easement Program, Appendix A.1. Albemarle County Code.
Building Permit Records, 1990-2007. Department of Community Development.
Demolition Permit Records, 1991-2007. Department of Community Development.
Historic Preservation Plan, Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan. Prepared by the Albemarle County Historic Preservation Committee, 2000.
Natural Resources and Cultural Assets, Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan, adopted March 1999.
Neighborhood Model, Chapter 18 Zoning, Section 20-A, NMD. Albemarle County Code.
Open Space and Critical Resources Plan, Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan, adopted July 1992.
Personal Wireless Service Facilities Policy. Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan, adopted December 2000.
Albemarle County Historic Preservation Committee.
Evaluation and Assessment of Priority Recommendations. Prepared by the Albemarle County Historic Preservation Committee, March 2007.
 It should be understood that while the physical protection of historic resources is the ideal goal of preservation, it is not always the final outcome. In cases where the physical protection of historic resources is not possible, comprehensive research on or detailed recordation of a property conducted by a qualified professional can be considered a successful outcome.
 As of the fall of 2008, the HP Planner position is currently an unfilled vacancy.
 This has resulted in some historic agricultural structures being demolished without documentation.
 Albemarle County has always had and used discretionary powers during rezoning and special use permits applications.
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