October’s Forum Watch Editorial focused on Albemarle County’s review of Planned Urban Development Zoning regulations that had the potential for rezoned projects to lose the certainty of their zoning determination.
A few weeks ago, when an Albemarle County Planning Commission initiated resolution of intent to change ordinances covering PUDs came forward, the Free Enterprise Forum formally requested that prior to developing the ordinance the development community be consulted. The Planning Commission agreed and yesterday afternoon (9/30/08), the Planning Commission held a very productive work session regarding vesting and possible changes to the manner in which PUDs are administered.
Albemarle County Community Development’s staff report identified about 60 PUDs that had been approved over the years and might be impacted by the change, the vast majority of these properties, even those that had been built out, were represented at the meeting. Of these 60, staff anticipated the issues the PC was seeking to solve were evidenced in 2 or 3 (around 10%) of the projects.
In the end, the open working session with dialog between Commissioners and applicants (rather than 3 minutes speeches) fostered greater empathy for both sides of the table. Such understanding would not have been possible without the development community’s active participation in the process.
Near the end of the worksession, it seemed that the majority (perhaps all) of the Planning Commission agreed that everyone (applicants, staff, commission, public) is significantly invested in every rezoning and recognized that the high level of detail required by rezonings in the last few years would make many changes very difficult to achieve without other compromises.
Further, the staff explained that under state law even with the Zoning Text Amendment as drafted, the off site traffic concerns raised by a recent “old” PUD (as well as proffers) could not be addressed.
The Free Enterprise Forum anticipates, in the coming weeks, staff will return with a new ordinance that is more tightly defined to address those issues identified in older PUDs that have been problematic for the Planning Commission.
Both the Albemarle County Planning Commission and the large number of applicants that came forward in this discussion should be celebrated for their openness and candor. Such open dialog is a all too rare in local government. The resulting Zoning Text Amendment can only be helped by such positive dialog.