Charlottesville Planning Commission Considers Zoning Ordinance Amendments

By. Amelie Bailey, 2011 Field Officer Intern

The Charlottesville City Planning Commission met on Tuesday night (6/14) for their monthly meeting to deliver reports as well as to evaluate proposed amendments to the City Zoning Ordinance, and to examine a waiver request to the Critical Slopes Ordinance.

In the initial reports, Chairman Jason Pearson, who will be leaving the commission at the end of the month, announced the creation of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission Corporation. This non-profit corporation is designed to strengthen the work of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) by making it easier for the organization to accept private funds on behalf of the region and localities. The purpose of the corporation is to allow localities to identify unfunded projects within their comprehensive plans and to allow private funds to be connected to the projects.

Staff proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Charlottesville with the intention of clarifying the validity periods of Certificates of Appropriateness. The proposed amendments synchronize the validity of Certificates of Appropriateness with valid site plans to avoid unnecessary reapplications.

A Certificate of Appropriateness is currently valid for one year unless an applicant obtains either a building permit, or an administrative extension of one year. The proposed text amendment maintains the requirement that preliminary site plans be approved within the year that the Certificate of Appropriateness is valid. However the amendment ensures that if a preliminary site plan is approved within the initial, one year time frame, the applicant does not have to go back to design review after the expiration of the Certificate of Appropriateness. In other words, the Certificate of Appropriateness will remain valid as long as a site plan is valid (five years), under the proposed changes. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the amendments to City Council after adjusting the initial validity of a Certificate of Appropriateness from one year to eighteen months. These amendments will proceed to review by City Council.

In another unanimous vote, the Planning Commission followed the staff recommendation to recommend approval of a waiver to the Critical Slopes Ordinance for a proposed Wertland Street Apartment Building. “Finding 3” (as basis for waiver) of the current Critical Slopes Ordinance reads that a waiver may be granted if “due to unusual size, topography, shape, location or other unusual physical conditions of a property one (1) or more of these critical slopes provisions would effectively prohibit or unreasonably restrict the use of such property or would result in significant degradation of the site, or adjacent properties”. The commission reasoned that restricting the use of this particular critical slope would unreasonably restrict plans to increase density in the area, which is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

The Commission added conditions to their approval for waiver, requiring the applicant to incorporate Low Impact Development Strategies and Stormwater Best Management Practices, as well as a design solution to reduce the visual impacts of the retaining wall to adjacent properties.

Amelie Bailey is the 2011 Field Officer Intern 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

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