Albemarle County Planning Commission

April 21, 2009


The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a public hearing, work session and meeting on Tuesday, April 21, 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, Don Franco, Linda Porterfield, Bill Edgerton, Thomas Loach and Eric Strucko, Chairman.  Cal Morris and Julia Monteith, AICP, non-voting representative for the University of Virginia, were absent. 


Other officials present were Steward Wright, Permit Planner; Sherri Proctor, Permit Planner; Ron Higgins, Chief of Zoning; Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning; Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development; Scott Clark, Senior Planner; John Shepherd, Manager of Zoning Administration;  Mark Graham, Director of Community Development and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney. 


Call to Order and Establish Quorum:


Mr. Strucko called the regular meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. and established a quorum.


ZTA-2009-00006 Accessory Structures in required yards – Resolution of Intent

The work session was for review of a resolution of intent for the zoning text amendment for the restoration of front setback for accessory structures and establishment of minimum separation between accessory and primary structures. (John Shepherd)


Mr. Shepherd presented a PowerPoint presentation and summarized the staff report.  He introduced Steward Wright, Permits Planner, and noted that he had helped with the presentation and the work that went behind it.  This proposed zoning text amendment is for restoration of a front setback for accessory structures and establishment of minimum separation between accessory and primary structures.


The background is that in 1983 the Zoning Ordinance was amended to increase accessory structure setbacks from 5’ to 6’ and to prohibit the location of accessory structures in front yards adjacent to streets and access easements in the rural areas and residential districts.  That has been from 1983 up until 2002 the standard development pattern for accessory structures on lots. 


In 2002 Section was amended again to primarily add the provisions to allow accessory structures to be located 3’ from alleys and provide the criteria for allowing that to happen.  In the course of doing that amendment prohibit of the location of accessory structures adjacent to streets was in staff’s opinion inadvertently dropped.  This proposed amendment seeks to correct that by doing the following things:

1.       It restored the prohibition of the location of accessory structures including detached garages in required front yards.

2.       It addresses side and rear setbacks for accessory structures and setbacks for these structures adjacent to alleys.

3.       It preserves and makes clearer a requirement that easement holders approve encroachments into their easements.

4.       It includes certain things that could go into a required yard.  Retaining walls would be added to that list. 

5.       It has been drafted to require accessory structures located closer than 1’ to a primary structure to meet the primary setback.


Currently an attached structure can be located within 6’ of a property line.  But just a portion of a building that is attached to the primary structure must meet the primary setbacks.  If someone is just adding a garage to a house the setback would be 15’ from the side.  If it was detached it could be 6’ from the side property line.  A literal meaning of those words and the way staff has been interpreting that allows a ½” separation between two structures to qualify for that closer location to a property line.  The proposal is to truly separate structures before they are eligible for this closer location.  Staff’s opinion is that a foot was a good compromise between clearly separating the buildings but also providing as much flexibility to a property owner as possible in locating a house and a storage building on a relatively small lot.  That is not just rearranging or restoring old provisions.  That is a new concept that staff is bringing forth. 


Staff reviewed several questions for the Commission to address and the list of accessory structures permitted in required yards.  This list included fences, freestanding mailboxes, newspaper boxes, signs, shelters for school children traveling to and from school and telephone booths that currently are allowed right up to the property line.  Staff suggests adding to that list retaining walls, which is something staff has done by administrative practice for years.  He agreed with the suggestion that ATM machines be added to this list since they are very similar to telephone booths.  Staff agrees that signs be removed from this list or that they specifically reference Section .15 sign regulations, which allows signs to be located 5’ from the right-of-way.  There is no reason to talk about signs twice.  Staff suggests that dumpsters not be added to this list because they are regulated in other ways.  Dumpsters are not structure and are surrounded by fences, which are allowed to be close to the property line, but are controlled by Building Code regulations.   


Mr. Strucko invited questions for staff.


Ms. Porterfield suggested that since a lot of ATM machines are drive ups that it should be handled from inside the property and not from outside the property if they are on the property line. 


Mr. Shepherd noted that typically ATM machines are attached to a building or under a canopy. 


Ms. Porterfield asked that if ATM machines are allowed that there should be a caveat that access to the ATM machine has to be from the property and not from outside the property.  If the ATM machine is put on the property line and there is a sidewalk on the other side or on a street then they could access the machine from the other side of the property line.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that any comments would be helpful to staff during the development of the ordinance. 


Mr. Edgerton applauded staff for picking up the loophole that allows something to be ½” away and be considered an accessory structure. He did not think that a foot is enough.  He felt that they need at least 5’.


Ms. Joseph noted that she was thinking the size of a manhole or 3’ or at least 5’.


Mr. Loach asked what the Fire Code is that would have to be adhered to.


Mr. Edgerton said that he thought it was 5’ plus 5’ or 10’.


Ms. Porterfield asked if it was 3’ to make the building fire resistant.


Mr. Shepherd pointed out that the Fire Code says that there is no required separation between a dwelling and an accessory structure provided they are both on the same parcel.  There is a fire separation.


Mr. Edgerton asked in any zoning district on two separate lots how close can two buildings be located.


Mr. Franco replied that there are planned developments with 3’ side setbacks.  There are zero lots lines too, but they would take that out of the play.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that 6’ was actually what they ended up with when they did the zero lot line.  Mr. Edgerton asked if all Commissioners were happy with 6’.


Ms. Joseph agreed with 5’ or 6’.


Mr. Loach noted that they needed enough space with their air pack to be able to put the fire out since it was so close.


Mr. Wright pointed out that staff came up with the 1’ because they had to look at the person that has the smallest lot in the county so they would be able to fit something as simple as a 100 square foot shed that they purchase from Lowe’s on their property.  The people with the smallest lot would be those with mobile home lots, which is why staff came up with 1’.  It still could be sticky for them to meet that requirement.


Ms. Porterfield asked if garages are considered accessory structures, and Mr. Wright replied yes.


Ms. Porterfield asked if there is a way to split this so they could give someone the shed but not a garage.


Mr. Shepherd replied no because that would be very difficult to administer.  They should have one standard for accessory buildings.  He was hearing a consensus from the Commission for more than 1’ but no more than 6’, but somewhere in a range.


Mr. Strucko agreed with 6’.


Mr. Franco said that 3’ was probably the minimum that he would use so it could be maintained.  It would be tight but one could get in there.


Mr. Wright asked that they think about a mobile home lot where the side setback is already 6’.  So to add a 3’ separation they are asking an applicant to build a 3’ deep shed. 


Mr. Franco asked if steps or landings into the mobile homes considered accessory or part of the structure.


Mr. Kamptner replied that they are exempt from the yard requirements.


Ms. Joseph suggested that the Commission pass the resolution of intent.


Mr. Edgerton pointed out that there were a couple of questions not in the staff report that were raised by staff.


Ms. Joseph noted that she had called staff and asked those questions.


The Commission reviewed and responded to the following questions, as follows.


•          Is the 1’ separation appropriate?


It was the consensus of the Planning Commission that the appropriate separation is more than 1’ but no more than 6’.  Mr. Franco preferred a minimum of 3’ so that the structure could be maintained.


•          Should signs be eliminated from proposed 4.11.2 (c)?


It was the consensus of the Planning Commission that the signs should be eliminated from proposed 4.11.2(c).



•          Should ATMs be added to proposed 4.11.2 (c)?


It was the consensus of the Planning Commission that the ATMs should be added to the list.  If located on the property line, the Commission agreed with Ms. Porterfield’s recommendation that the ATM be accessed from within the property.


•          Should dumpsters be added to proposed 4.11.2 (c)?


It was the consensus of the Planning Commission that the dumpsters should not be added to the list.



Motion:  Mr. Edgerton moved and Mr. Franco seconded for approval of the attached resolution of intent for ZTA-2009-00006 Accessory Structures in required yards.   


                                                           RESOLUTION OF INTENT


WHEREAS, setback and yard regulations in the Zoning Ordinance establish the minimum distances from lot lines and street lines to structures; and


WHEREAS, it is desired to amend the setback and yard regulations pertaining to accessory structures in Zoning Ordinance §§ 4.11.2,, and and to add regulations pertaining to the location of structures within easements. 


 NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT for purposes of public necessity, convenience, general welfare and good zoning practices, the Albemarle County Planning Commission hereby adopts a resolution of intent to amend Zoning Ordinance §§ 4.11.2,,, and and any other regulations of the Zoning Ordinance deemed appropriate to achieve the purposes described herein, and to add regulations as described above; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Planning Commission shall hold a public hearing on the zoning text amendment proposed by this resolution of intent, and make its recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, at the earliest possible date.


* * * * *


The motion was approved by a vote of 6:0.


Mr. Strucko noted that the resolution of intent passes. 


Go to next set of minutes 

Return to exec summary