FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL
On September 30th at 4:00 pm, the Albemarle County Planning Commission has scheduled a “worksession” where the development community will present their perspective on the changes to Planned Development review of site plans and subdivisions. I fully anticipate the PC will get an earful about this overreaching concept.
Usually, I would steer clear of such a wonkish topic this early in the process but Albemarle County’s Planning Commission knee jerk over reaction is inappropriate and may be on questionable legal grounds.
Today as an applicant works their way through the byzantine planned development rezoning process, Albemarle County requires a significant level of detail. These details include open space requirements, stream buffers, common areas, grading, utility locations etc. Based on our cursory review of other localities, requiring such a high level of detail is unusual at the rezoning stage.
Choices and decisions regarding the project must be made as these plans are moving forward. Often there is little room for change once all the regulatory issues and proffered items are included in the plan.
In drawing up the plans, designers work under the current development ordinances and ensure that all demands of these ordinances have been met or exceeded. Albemarle County’s Planning Commission does not believe this is good enough. They are seeking to have all planned development projects site plans and subdivisions reviewed under zoning regulations in effect at the time of submittal, unless the applicant can prove to staff that they have been in “diligent pursuit of the approval”.
The Free Enterprise Forum believes this violates a key conceptual element of zoning philosophy – that the zoning goes with the land. Effectively it creates an expiration date on the application plan unless the applicant can prove otherwise.
In evaluating any change in zoning the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors must review the proposed project in the context of the community and the location of the proposal, regardless of whether it is built next year or in ten years.
If after the rezoning approval the government then conditions the approval to the “diligent pursuit” of the project, questions whether the governing body should have granted approval in the first place. In addition by placing this burden of proof on the applicant, it will likely foster an unhealthy relationship between the regulatory staff and the applicant.
Clearly if it is in Albemarle County’s best interest to see highly detailed (and expensive) plans at the point of rezoning, it should drop this ill conceived concept of rezoning expiration dates.