By. Neil Williamson, President
What does Albemarle want for the rural areas (95%+) of the county?
On this and other issues, Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors is putting the fun back into dysfunctional.
Earlier this month, the Supervisors enacted two Rural Area Resolutions of Intent that are as similar as a ten pound bag of gold and a ten pound bag of manure. Both weigh ten pounds but one is more valuable than the other because the supervisors like it better.
Please let me explain.
First up on April 5th, buried on their consent agenda as attachment “T”, the supervisors decided they don’t like golf, swim and tennis clubs in the rural areas:
WHEREAS, it is desired to implement the Rural Area Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan by removing “swim, golf, tennis, or similar athletic facilities” as a use permitted by special use permit in the Rural Areas zoning district because those uses are no longer consistent with the County’s policies and objectives for the Rural Area
During the Comprehensive Plan discussion (which reads such regulation should be considered) many of the folks opposed to such recreational activities in the rural area have suggested they generate too much traffic and take up too much land mass. Interestingly, this would effectively ban new golf courses in Albemarle County as we wrote in a piece earlier this month (A Tradition Like No Other–Albemarle Again Seeks to Ban Golf).
So imagine our surprise when the same Board of Supervisors later on the same day used climate change as the justification for changing their regulations regarding rural solar farms.
To be cost effective, these farms will take a large amount of acreage and require significant additional infrastructure.
The sunny view on solar is different than that of swim, golf and tennis clubs.
WHEREAS, the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan (hereinafter “the Plan”), Chapter Four, Natural Resources, Objective Eight states the County shall, “Recognize changes occurring to the earth’s climate to anticipate and mitigate impacts to the County.”; and
WHEREAS, the County, the City of Charlottesville, and the University of Virginia formed the Local Climate Action Planning Process Steering Committee (hereinafter “LCAPP Committee”) in 2010, which recommended that all three entities integrate the role of energy and carbon emissions in projects and planning and that the entities identify and promote actions that enable the community to reap the health, economic and environmental benefits that accompany sound energy-based decisions; and
WHEREAS, the Board accepted the LCAPP Committee’s recommendations on September 7, 2011; and
WHEREAS, the Plan, Chapter Twelve, Community Facilities, Objective Ten, Strategy 10(a) provides that the County will, “Continue to ensure the adequate provision of electricity, telephone, fiber optics, and natural gas services to support existing and anticipated development in the County through coordination with utility companies”; and
WHEREAS, permitting the siting, development, construction, operation, integration, and decommissioning of large-scale solar energy systems may assist the County’s efforts to achieve the aforementioned objectives in the Plan as well as the LCAPP Committee’s recommendations;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT for purposes of public necessity, convenience, general welfare, and good zoning practices, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors hereby adopts a resolution of intent to consider amending the Albemarle County Zoning Ordinance to achieve the purposes described herein;
So, despite the Comprehensive Plan’s discouragement of commercial activity in the rural areas, it is OK if they like your product or service provided. As property rights advocates, we believe both uses should be permitted in the rural areas.
We even agree that a special use permit is an appropriate route to make sure swim golf and tennis clubs as well as solar farms have adequate protections in place to remain harmonious with the surrounding rural areas.
We do not understand how the Board of Supervisors can call for a ban on rural area recreation the same day as they endorse the concept of a commercial field of glass that will require regular maintenance, transmission lines and have equal if not greater significant neighborhood impacts.
Perhaps there are some politics involved in such in-congruent decisions.
Neil Williamson, President
Photo Credits: Sigora Solar via Facebook