By William J. Des Rochers
Fluvanna Field Officer
At its September 24th public meeting, Fluvanna’s Planning Commission got some bad economic news and wrestled with two thorny issues: how to deal with assisted living facilities and a bid to allow places of worship in industrial areas.
Building Slump Continues
Commissioners were informed that the building slump continues in Fluvanna. Just two building permits were issued in August, a 94 percent drop over August, 2007, when 16 were granted. For the year, new home permits are down forty percent from last year.
The value of the new homes, excluding the land, also has declined. Through the first eight months in 2007, the average new home was constructed for about $236,000. Through August of this year, that figure has declined by $28,000 (-12 percent) to $208,000.
Assisted Living Definition
The Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) requested a zoning amendment that would redefine what constitutes an assisted living facility. JABA’s representative, Mr. Chris Murray, urged approval of a definition that would update the current zoning definition to current industry and professional standards.
The present definition of an assisted living facility states that it would provide residences for the elderly that provided rooms, personal care, and supervision of self-administration of medications. Ancillary services such as transportation, recreation and financial services also can be provided.
The new definition would be more encompassing. It includes:
- A definition for residents as being aged 55 or over, or disabled;
- The principle that the facility is intended to be a home-like environment that would optimizes physical and psychological independence – this would allow for kitchen facilities in individual rooms;
- Enumerated services that might be offered, similar to what currently is provided.
Inserted into the definition is a sentence that states any facility would only count as one dwelling unit for the purpose of density. This would, for example, allow a thirty unit facility on a five acre site that otherwise would permit only two single family dwellings.
This particular sentence prompted a thoughtful discussion as to whether an assisted living facility should be treated as a commercial facility or as a residential one. If considered a commercial facility, then, according to county attorney Frederick W. Payne, a density of one unit is appropriate. If commissioners treated the facility as residential, then the density should be based upon the number of dwelling units in the facility.
According to Mr. Payne, one long-term solution would be to permit apartment buildings by special use permit with the appropriate density. Facilities also would be restricted to three stories in height.
The Planning Commission voted 5-1 (Babbitt, Fork Union dissenting) to recommend approval of the revised definition. Mr. Babbitt said that proposal was a density issue, and that the solution – to treat the facility as one dwelling unit — seemed “peculiar and contrived”.
Churches Okay in Industrial Areas
Commissioners unanimously approved an application to amend the Zoning Ordinance to allow churches as a special use in the I-1 (Industrial, Limited). The proposal now will go to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision.
At the Technical Review meeting, several objections were raised to the request. The Virginia Department of Transportation’s representative noted that a church is not used just on Sundays and traffic could conflict with adjacent industrial uses. Other concerns included water, safety, and noise issues. The planners decided that the special use permit application process could appropriately address those issues.
Currently, places of worship are only allowed “by right” in one zoning district: the B-1 (Business, General). In five other districts including the largest: A-1 (Agricultural- General) they are permitted by Special Use Permit.
Commissioners without dissent approved a site plan submission by Southern Development to construct 38 villas at Sycamore Square (Rivanna District). The villas would be constructed on 3.5 acres and three commercial lots on 2.8 acres.
The development is located in the Lake Monticello Community Planning area, which calls for mixed-use development.