The Zombie Comp Plan — Return of the “Voluntary” Viewshed Requirements

By. Neil Williamson, President

D_nightofzombiesposterIn classic horror films, zombies are among the best villains as it is so hard to kill the “Walking Dead”.

Just like a zombie the Monticello Viewshed requirements are back and property rights are again under attack in Albemarle County.

But it’s OK because the requirements are voluntary.

Please let me explain

Last Spring, we led the charge opposing the voluntary requirements The Thomas Jefferson Foundation asked to have added to the comprehensive plan.  At that time the language they asked to have inserted was as follows:

Bright pastels and whites on exterior faces of buildings and roofs can be distracting when viewing the natural landscape from Monticello. Muted colors for roofs and walls that blend with the natural landscape (ie. mid-spectrum browns and greys, sandy tones) can be substituted for bright pastels and whites on building faces and roofs.

To minimize impact, avoid large roof expanses, especially those of one color—mottled coloring that combines light and dark elements for roofs is preferred.

Surfaces that are prone to glare and reflection increase visibility and should be avoided whenever possible.

For example, expansive windows facing Monticello should be avoided.

Flood lights, up- lights and exposed bulbs are more apparent in the night sky than shielded fixtures. Lighting for buildings and parking areas can use shielded fixtures at lower heights to reduce impacts. Whenever possible lighting should not be placed higher than the tree line.

Lighting on the tops of cellular towers should be avoided when possible.

Lighting for buildings and parking areas should use fixtures that reduce/eliminate glare.

Employ techniques that break up massing.

Development that breaks the mature tree line is more apparent than development that is lower than the mature tree line. Special consideration should be given to development which is higher than the mature tree line to camouflage impacts.

Parking can always be broken up with interspersed plantings of trees and other landscaping.

When there is no conflict with Entrance Corridor or Neighborhood Model guidelines, the preferred location for parking is on the far side of buildings as viewed from Monticello.

Landscaping to screen buildings and parking should employ trees which will generate a mature canopy of trees.

Monticello welcomes the opportunity to assist homeowners and developers who are contemplating construction in the MPA. Please contact Monticello with any questions about these guidelines.

Projects that require discretionary land use permits should consider offering a proffer that addresses protection of the views from Monticello. Albemarle County could consider conditions that protect the views from Monticello when special use permits are issued.

After months of discussions, the Planning Commission recommended these “voluntary” requirements be dropped from the plan AND that the Foundation receive notification when an application for rezoning within their overlay area is requested.  Such notification would allow the Foundation the opportunity to contact the property owner and discuss how they might work together to minimize the visual impacts of the project.  Therefore the government is NOT involved in the negotiations between property owners

As K. Burnell Evans reported in her Daily Progress article:

“The Planning Commission said, ‘It’s not our job to protect Monticello for Monticello,’” said Elaine Echols, principal planner at the county’s Department of Community Development.”

In last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Ann Mallek (White Hall) reopened the Monticello Viewshed discussion under the rural areas comprehensive plan work session.  After providing a revisionist history of the issue, she indicated she wanted any and all staff reports for projects in the Monticello Vista overlay to have a check box for staff to indicate Monticello’s feelings about the cooperation.  This would only be “one variable among many to consider in the application” and the requirements are “voluntary”.


Monticello credit NBC 29This is a direct attack on the property rights of land owners in the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) delineated vista map.  The change in language and policy provides the Foundation a proxy VETO on projects proposed within the overlay.

As one of the handful of public in the room, I was perplexed by the revisionist history that was presented and more surprised that the board (in lockstep) voted 5-1 in favor of keeping staff engaged between two private property owners.  As the issue was considered settled at the Planning Commission, I am not convinced those voting in favor of the proposal knew the hours of work by many that had developed an elegant compromise that protected property rights.

Monticello’s own website outlines Jefferson’s view on property rights:

1771. Jefferson took steps to acquire the mountain he would call High Mountain and Montalto. In exchange for legal services for Edward Carter (docking the entail of the Carter lands), Jefferson was to receive “as much of his nearest mountain as can be seen from mine, and 100 yds. beyond the lines of sight agreed before Capt. Burton.”

Clearly Jefferson understood that the only way to protect “view shed” was to buy it.

In 2004, we cheered when the Foundation purchased a neighboring 334 acre “Browns Mountain” parcel now known as Montalto.  This purchase is the proper way to control view shed – you want it — buy it.

When President Thomas Jefferson looked west to the expansion of the United States, he initiated the Louisiana Purchase.  I firmly believe Jefferson would advocate for the protection of property rights over the view shed protections currently proposed.

Most zombie movies end once the hero is able to rally the community and push back the undead.  Will Albemarle’s citizenry recognize that there are no “voluntary” restrictions on property rights?

Will Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors endorse the more refined answer developed by the Planning Commission?

Only time will tell.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville.

Photo Credit:, NBC29


2 responses

  1. “Monticello welcomes the opportunity to assist homeowners and developers who are contemplating construction in the MPA.”

    OMG, freaking night-dawn-and any other parts of the day living dead there. Yeah, I’m sure the dearly departed who keep repeating “brains, brains, brains” would definitely welcome opportunities to assist in any manner. Any manner to help themselves aside from home owners and developers. Send in the stakeholders, their brains are equally if not more edible than property owners.

  2. […] #5  The Zombie Comp Plan — Return of the “Voluntary” Viewshed Requirements […]

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