Greene PC Reviews Special Use Permit Process

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

With a new commissioner, William Sanders, on board the Greene County Planning Commission held a public hearing to review the ordinance for issuance of Special Use Permits (SUP) in their February  meeting. The process was last revised when Gerald Ford was in the White House (1975).

Last year, the Planning Commission held two meetings focused on the topic and the Board of Supervisors held a November public hearing  on the proposal (OR#15-002).  Many of the public comments at the Board Public hearing were concerned with the scope of the information required from applicants and others questioned if the ordinance was “business friendly” as written.  After the public hearing, the Board unanimously referred the issue back to the Planning Commission.

According to the staff report:

Additional research performed since the Board of Supervisors meeting has indicated that the wording for special use permit regulations vary greatly from one locality to another.  it is clear from the review of other localities regulations that all possible variations of the special use permit uses cannot be accommodated in an ordinance.  The General Assembly appears to agree because special use permit uses are considered by the governing body to have greater impacts on neighboring properties than those permitted by right.  Special Use Permits are “special” in that they may be approved in one area of a zoning district but not in another.  The impacts from noise, traffic, storage, pollution, etc. of a special use permit use located on 10 or 20 acres varies greatly from the same impact located on a quarter acre lot or within a neighborhood area.

Special use permits are reviewed using reasonable standards, some of which may be contained within local, state, or federal regulations.  However, there may also be other standards based on reasonable zoning principles that arise from impacts created by the type, location and nature of the proposed use.

Planning Administrator Bart Svoboda presented proposed revisions that staff worked on adding 16-2-6 and 16-2-7 and to have them in synch with Va. State code 15.2.28B.

The Planning Commission discussed several other portions of the regulations, in particular, did all the conditions for the SUP need to be listed and what takes precedent – the zoning ordinance or the SUP, if they are different? Saunders asked if Greene County code needs to specify what the state code states or just refer to the state code.

Commissioner Frank Morris asked who is to inspect and enforce the SUP’s that are approved.  Svoboda stated that the building official may inspect situations but that the enforcement would be the responsibility of the Zoning Administrator – himself.

The hearing then shifted to the Public Comment section and former Planning Commissioner Eva Young asked about 16-2-1 the noncompliance notification process. She stated that other localities allow up to one year to be notified and she would like to see the Planning Commission be more stringent in contacting applicants.

The hearing then shifted back to discussion among the commissioners. Commissioner John McCloskey asked about code 16-2-6 and if it were to be more restrictive than the SUP allowed. Svoboda stated that what would be in force would be the code that was in place at the time of the action and ordinances passed after would not be required to be followed. But if an addition or change was requested the applicant would be held to the current ordinance.

Discussion then shifted to 16-2-4 with Commissioner Frank Morris stating he felt this was confusing while Commissioner Vic Schaff liked it and thought it was more streamlined. The next issue addressed what the process of revising code and what role the Planning Director should play in developing proposed new codes. Svoboda stated that currently he and staff prepare a draft as a starting point for discussion. The thinking is that this takes the task off the “to do” list of the Planning Commission. Chairman Jay Willer agreed that the Planning Commission could make any changes they would like.

Willer also brought up in section 16-2-4 and other sections where it is stated that the ordinance is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the county – he proposed adding “to be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan”? Svoboda said that normally ordinances are changed to match the Comprehensive Plan.  McCloskey agreed that the statement should include the comment of the Comprehensive Plan.  Morris stated that he would prefer more time to review the changes however, McCloskey felt that changes should be made in a timely manner if possible and Schaff agreed.

Lastly, Willer addressed code 16-2-1 and suggested that items a, b, c, and d be listed first and then followed with what is currently leading the code – i.e. the Zoning Administrator may ask for additional information. Also, Willer suggested revising 16-2-3a to state that the SUP should not change the pattern of the area to include – shall not “adversely” change the pattern of the area.

A motion to recommend approval of the changes was made and seconded with a 4-1 vote in favor of the changes, with Morris voting against. The changes will be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for their review and possible action.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at


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