By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
“If you accuse someone of moving the goalposts, you mean that they have changed the rules in a situation or an activity, in order to gain an advantage for themselves and to make things difficult for other people.” – Collins Dictionary
Last night, the Greene County Board of Supervisors personified this definition.
First, a little background on the proposed ordinance.
On March 12th the Greene County Supervisors seemed ready to approve an ordinance changing the definitions in R-2 Residential zoning, allowing increased density (townhouses) and increasing the amount of open space required. The net result would be the ability to build townhouses by right on R-2 zoned land. The Planning Commission cited the agreement with the Comprehensive Plan in their recommendation to approve the ordinance. At the last minute, the county attorney pointed out a technicality that caused the Board’s final action to be delayed until April 9th agenda.
So, one might assume the April 9th approval would be merely a formality; not quite.
Planning Director Jim Frydl summarized the ordinance change and the meeting then was then opened to comments from the applicant which stressed that the increased density would make the units more affordable.
In the public hearing, one citizen addressed the supervisors and she was against the ordinance change and asked to leave the process requiring a Special Use Permit (SUP) in place so that each case could be reviewed individually.
The meeting then shifted to a discussion of the Supervisors and this is where the meeting turned 180 degrees from the March 12th meeting. Several of the supervisors expressed concern about increasing the density from 6 units per acre to 10 units per acre and several others had concern about the reduced setback requirements. Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardsville) asked Frydl how many Greene County parcels currently zoned R-2 are not developed – the answer was three.
In addition, several of the supervisors didn’t feel that they wanted to change the code but would rather keep the SUP process and review each parcel.
The reality is the SUP process would require all applicants (except the three parcels currently zoned R-2) to do a Texas Two-Step — first gain a rezoning and then an SUP for townhomes.
Martin pointed out that this was different than the Planning Commission had recommended. This led to a discussion of what, if any, changes the Board was comfortable with. The Board reached consensus that the issue was too complicated to decide at this time.
Martin started to ask for a motion to deny the request when Brent Hall, the petitioner for the ordinance change, asked to address the supervisors. He explained that the increase in density allows a lower price point and still to be a profitable project for the developer. He further stated that a lot of details get addressed at the site plan of the project.
At that point the applicant further asked the supervisors if the project could be deferred to address the issues that have been brought up by the supervisors. The Board unanimously agreed to defer the zoning ordinance change application to a date to be determined later by the applicant.
What is ironic is that Greenstone Development has been working with Greene County staff to develop the language for the amendment to the code related to townhouses. While there were no changes to the ordinance between the March 12th meeting and the April 9th meeting, the tenor of the Supervisors seemed completely different. By moving the goalposts and deferring the ordinance change, the Board has delayed increasing density, despite the Comprehensive Plan’s explicit calls for such a change.
Hopefully the applicant and Greene County can reach an agreement that is beneficial to both parties to provide another affordable housing product type in Greene.
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 http://www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credit: www.worldmag.com