By. Neil Williamson, President
Growing up in the 1970s, the only ‘housekeeper’ I knew was Alice from the Brady Bunch. She was an important part of the family who helped out getting everything accomplished for a busy family with six children. She was well respected by the children, the community and her employers.
Please let me explain.
Under the auspices of literally “Housekeeping” Albemarle plans, by my count, nearly 30 code revisions. The legal ad for the June 20th Planning Commission Public Hearing (right) was dense, even by Albemarle standards.
While the Free Enterprise Forum applauds some of the changes proposed, we remain concerned that other items are clearly being pushed through for political expediency and are being “hidden in plain sight”.
Yesterday, I literally took out my magnifying glass to read the small print. Policy wonks may read the legal ads this closely but by putting thirty largely unrelated code revisions into Zoning Text Amendment, the opportunity for obfuscation is great.
In a municipal game of “Where’s Waldo” see if you can find the second amend statement in the ad above. If you were able to find it, you would find this innocuous legalese:
Amend Section 18-32.6 to clarify that specifications for recreational facilities comply with Sections 18-4.16-4.16.3;
Reading the text above, Alice (and pretty much everyone else) might think this is just “cleaning up” some legal stuff to make it comply with some other legal stuff.
But in reality, these twelve words eliminate special use permits for golf and swim clubs in the rural areas, effectively banning new golf courses in Albemarle County. [correction June 13 10:46 am this language is to clean up the ordinance, a separate SUP (and public engagement plan) will be submitted to eliminate golf courses in the rural area – per e-mail from Albemarle’s Bill Fritz- the Free Enterprise Forum regrets this error – nw] This is just one of the “housekeeping” items buried in the proposed Zoning Text Amendment Albemarle is not alone in burying changes in “housekeeping” activities. Charlottesville Deputy City Attorney Lisa Robertson took City Council’s charge of a “Legal Review” to mean anything her office wanted to change should be a part of the review.
Luckily, the Charlottesville Area Development Roundtable (CADRe) took a long look at the “Legal Review”. As CADRe stated in their May 23rd letter to the Planning Commission:
In the case where a revision represents a substantive change that we feel is inappropriate for the Legal Review and better served by potential Amendments following the update to the Comprehensive Plan, we have noted as Substantive Change. [emphasis added-nw]
Much more than just “Housekeeping” CADRe’s letter outlined 16 pages of Substantive Changes; including the elimination of non residential uses in residential districts:
Also, what about all the other non-residential uses that are currently permitted in residential districts per the residential matrix? Is there a proposed replacement matrix that maintains these uses?
Examples: Houses of worship, temporary outdoor churches, cemetery, Health clinic, private clubs, wireless facilities (antennas, attached facilities, etc.), day care facility, schools (elementary, high school, college) funeral home, library, municipal govt. offices, property management, parking garage/lot, indoor health/sports clubs, parks, utility facilities, utility lines, consumer service business.
If these uses are eliminated from the residential districts this too is a SIGNIFICANT SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE
Regardless of your position on the issues buried in these Zoning Text Amendments, it is difficult for us to understand how one would find these changes as “Housekeeping”. Instead, we see it as an attempt, albeit a legal attempt, to circumvent the normal process and implement significant changes without proper public engagement.
Alice would indeed be disappointed in this shaming of the word “Housekeeping”.
Neil Williamson, President
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.
Photo Credit: WJBQ.com