Albemarle’s ARB wants to be VDOT?

By. Neil Williamson, President

In their March 19th meeting, the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board (ARB) was considering a lighting application from the Shops at Stonefield [US 29 at Hydraulic]. 

In the discussion, one member of the ARB suggested part of the photometric plan presented included lighting so bright it could distract drivers and impact automobile safety in the intersection. The applicant countered that the plan had been fully vetted and met or exceeded all of Albemarle’s existing lighting ordinances.  In this instance the ARB seems to be acting like a black hole, opining on  anything and everything in the application regardless of limitations on its authority.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has a very specific mission:

    Our mission is to plan, deliver, operate and maintain a transportation system that is safe, enables easy movement of people and goods, enhances the economy and improves our quality of life.

To be clear, the Free Enterprise Forum has no position on this, or any other specific application but it seems clear that this ARB member is well outside of the ARB bounds set by the state code:

Section  15.2-2306  of  the  Code  of  Virginia  authorizes  localities  to  regulate  the  design  of development along streets, roads, and highways providing significant routes of tourist access to the County and to designated historic landmarks, structures or districts and to contiguous cities
and towns to insure that such development is compatible with the architecture of the historically significant landmarks, buildings, and structures to which these routes lead.   These “entrance corridors” have been designated by the locality.  The review of development proposals within such corridors is to be undertaken by the locally designated Architectural Review Board.

While the Free Enterprise Forum believes that Albemarle has expanded the concept of Entrance Corridors beyond the state intent (There are 21 Albemarle roads designated as “Entrance Corridors”) our larger concern in this post is the unabated mission creep that seems to be crop up annually.  Back in February 2011 in our “Anti Business Mission Creep” post we documented several instances where the ARB was “difficult” with new businesses.

It’s not that Albemarle County’s materials do not clearly state the scope of influence.  The ARB’s own glossy brochure describes their function in this manner:

The Architectural Review Board (ARB) is responsible  for  regulating  the  design  of development in the County’s Entrance Corridors.     The  purpose  of  the  ARB’s review  is  to  ensure  that  development  in these corridors reflects the traditional architecture  of  the  area and  that development within the corridors is orderly, attractive,  and  enhances  the  community’s quality of life.

The linguist in me sees the language “enhances the quality of life” as problematic.  It could be argued that everything from the building materials used to the products sold might impact the community’s quality of life.  But the reality is the ARB has a limited scope of work.

It is interesting to note not fifteen minutes prior to the Stonefield application, this same board member was quoting chapter and verse out of the ARB’s Design GuidelinesThe fact that these design guidelines say NOTHING about ARB purview on vehicular safety was not adequately discussed.

It seems clear to this regular ARB meeting attendee that quoting the guidelines only when it suits your opinion is somewhere between disingenuous and hypocritical. 

Considering Albemarle County’s stated desire to be business friendly, one might think the Board of Supervisors appointees on the ARB would stick to their knitting and allow Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) do their state mandated job and worry about traffic impacts.  Unless on any particular application such a division of labor doesn’t suit their ideological interventionist philosophy.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website


2 responses

  1. […] advise on transportation funding]  to be engaged in this discussion as it represents much of the mission creep we have written about recently.  If we get past that philosophical issue, we not only question the validity of the data and but […]

  2. […] month, we wrote a post about the Albemarle Architectural Review Board seeking to answer questions better suited to the […]

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