Property Rights Top Concern for ‘Historic District’ Owners

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

Property rights in Stanardsville’s “historic district” appeared to be the main concern in the comprehensive plan, as the Greene County  Planning Commission discovered Wednesday night during a public hearing on a draft to update the town’s current plan.

At issue is the consideration of a Historic District Ordinance to protect and preserve structures designated within the town of Stanardsville’s historic district and what such regulations might mean to property owners.

Doris Snow, a Greene County native who, along with her husband Phillip, owns one of the homes designated as historic, said that she advocates the plan’s vision statement but is against establishing such an ordinance because it would restrict property rights and impose regulations that could be costly to owners.

“We don’t want to put undue restrictions on businesses coming into the county,” Snow said, adding that imposing strict regulations on structures deemed historical would discourage potential investors. She also was concerned about limiting what current homeowners can do to improve their homes. “My husband and I have spent a decade making renovations in our house, many of them ‘green’ improvements that would not have been allowed under this regulation.”

buggs peytonStanardsville Supervisor Buggs Peyton, who is also a town resident, agreed that the ordinance is “the most bothersome item” of the comprehensive plan and strongly objected to any regulations that would interfere with homeowners’ rights.

Another Stanardsville historic homeowner, Jackie Pamenter, had a different opinion, citing that the ordinance “doesn’t need to be restrictive, but people have a duty and a responsibility to keep up their [historic] buildings. The ordinance could be worded in such a way to not be so restrictive, but to simply state the need to protect buildings from careless neglect.”

One of the new business owners in town, Matt O’Varanese, who recently opened The Standard Eatery restaurant on Main Street, brought up other concerns such as speeding on the 25 mph road and evidence of criminal activity on the street, suggesting both be addressed to improve the town’s appeal. He also expressed concern about regulations and the need to ensure owners keep up their properties, but added, “The trick is in the balance.”

After listening to further public input, commissioners agreed that a balance needs to be found in imposing any restrictions on personal property rights. “The end goal is the revitalization of Stanardsville,” said Commissioner Anthony Herring.

imageCommissioners unanimously agreed that the public’s recommendations, including concerns about the town’s infrastructure and inaccurate population estimates that affect Stanardsville’s ability to apply for grants, be turned over to the working committee to be incorporated into the final plan.

The working committee, which includes Planning Director Bart Svoboda and several town residents, prepared the initial draft in conjunction with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. They will now meet to revise the draft before presenting it to the Stanardsville Town Council.

Sharp readers of the Free Enterprise Forum blog will remember the TJPDC was recently was awarded an almost $1 million dollar grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to coordinate comprehensive planning revisions for City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia.

Stanardsville Mayor Gary Lowe emphasized, “This is a draft. We’re in the process of getting more suggestions, getting more eyes to look at it. We will have at least one more public hearing and would like to receive input from all walks of life.”

In addition to the historic ordinance, the 31-page comprehensive plan addresses issues such as economic development, infrastructure, and community design and land use. It is available for viewing at http://www.tjpdc.org/pdf/Community/StanardsvilleComp_5-6Draft.pdf

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Pauline Hovey is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum.  To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Greene County, The Lafayette Inn

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One response

  1. […] At previous meetings, some property owners expressed concern that strict regulations would be imposed on them as a result of such an ordinance.  (Full Disclosure: Neil Williamson, President of the The Free Enterprise Forum spoke in opposition to the Historic District Ordinance at the June meeting.)   But, as council member Martha Leclere pointed out during the hearing, the comp plan does not mandate that such an ordinance be established, but rather only suggests it can be “considered,” which, she noted, is quite different. “We are simply trying to preserve the historic buildings,” Leclere said, adding that it was a “real shame” that one such building had been recently demolished. […]

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