By.Brent Wilson, Field Officer
While attempting to follow the direction of the Greene County Board of Supervisors to review the zoning code, the Planning Commission determined they needed additional information, public engagement and increased transparency before moving forward.
Last fall (August 23, 2016) the Greene County Board of Supervisors asked the Planning Commission to review several zoning ordinances in 2017. The memo states that they are to be “reviewed for purposes of correction, modification and elaboration”. At the May 17th meeting of the Planning Commission reviewed how Commercial Kennels, Animal Shelters and Animal Kennels are regulated.
County Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda outlined the proposed revisions such as reducing the number of dogs in a commercial kennel from a maximum of 10 down to a maximum of 5 and animal kennels would be limited to less than 5. This would not apply to personal pets. Staff did not provide a justification offered as to why the reduction was being sought.
The Planning Commission discussed the proposed revisions to the ordinances – Commissioner Frank Morris asked Svoboda if breeding puppies would be covered by this change as a business. Svoboda indicated that doing so as a hobby would not be included under the zoning ordinances being discussed. He also suggested that there may be a need for a public work session on the proposed changes. (it should be noted that only three of the five commissioners were in attendance – Chairman Jay Willer, Morris, and William Saunders – a quorum of three).
The session then moved to comments from the public of which there were seven speakers. Several speakers were concerned about restricting property rights by reducing number of dogs allowed. Several other speakers were concerned that this change might place restrictions on hunting dogs. Another speaker expressed concern that he only learned about the proposed ordinance revision the night before the Planning Commission meeting.
Willer explained that notices of the Planning Commission meetings are published in the Greene County Record and also appear on the county’s website. Saunders expressed his appreciation to the turnout on the issue.
Morris suggested that a public workshop to gather information before deciding on revisions to the zoning ordinances. He asked Svoboda how much a Special Use Permit cost and was told each permit cost $500.
Svoboda suggested that the revisions be indefinitely deferred until the Planning staff can further research on how other counties such as Rockingham County handle this issue. He estimated that it would take until the end of the summer to research and gather facts to be ready for a work session. The Planning Commission voted to unanimously to defer the ordinance revisions, to hold one or two public work sessions and then make decisions on how to change the proposed ordinance, if at all.
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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credit: doglib.com
Later today, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will consider an amendment to their code to include dog barking as a nuisance. The proposed ordinance defines excessive dog barking as lasting more than thirty minutes will no more than five minutes without barking. The penalties ratchet up for repeat offenders including Canine Confiscation. The Board last considered this matter in 1996 and decided against such an ordinance as civil penalties are already on the books.
The Board is also very interested in limiting the number of canines you can have in your home. This part of the change in the code is not yet ready for public hearing but I anticipate it will come forward in the next three months.
While I understand the Board has been lobbied by several communities where excessive dog barking is a problem, I contend this is another example of the urban metamorphosis in Albemarle. As the Comprehensive Plan dictates more dense development, more and more regulations are being contemplated to control more and more aspects of our lives. This is a philosophical shift from rugged individualism to “Government Knows Best”.
This phenomena is not exclusive to Albemarle County. Two years ago, the General Assembly was considering a smoking ban in all restaurants. While the Free Enterprise Forum does not have a position on this issue, I (a nonsmoker) believe every restaurant owner has the right to ban smoking in his or her establishment (as we are seeing now with O’Grady’s). I contend that nonsmoking restaurants have a higher likelihood of my patronage and if the majority of people are of the same opinion, business will improve with such an individualized ban. When I raised this policy issue with one of the Albemarle Supervisors, he indicated he agreed with my concept of freedom but not in this case as there was a larger public health issue at stake. Government will take care of you even if you won’t take care of yourself.
The very concept of a local government body mandating the number of dogs you own on your (up to 4.99 acre) parcel should be alarming but due to the shifting populations and changing demographics few folks are upset (or even aware) of this proposal.
To be clear no one should be subjected to dogs howling all night, but are additional police powers really the answer?
Should we abdicate all aspects of personal responsibility and create an Orwellian world where the Board of Supervisors is empowered to legislate good neighborship?
Or perhaps, I am the one howling at the moon.