Monticello's Garden

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors continues to review proposed updates to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

At its meeting earlier this week, the board discussed how to protect the views from one historic landmark, whether to document others historic sites before they disappear and how best to set goals for economic development.

In the Historic, Cultural and Scenic Preservation chapter, supervisors discussed whether to include special guidelines for review of development in the viewshed of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Staff said the Planning Commission had recommended against the process.

“When we do our staff reports, we will not be saying [the proposed development] is visible from the Monticello viewshed and the applicant has not done anything to address it,” said Elaine Echols, senior planner for the county. “The onus is on Monticello to make those statements to the Planning Commission.”

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek expressed concern about the change.

“The people at Monticello are not an elected body
that should have any say over what people can do
with their personal property rights.” Ken Boyd

“I really like what’s going on now,” said Mallek. “I’m very reluctant to water this down.”

Mallek emphasized that she has become acutely aware of the importance of protecting the view from Monticello when taking international visitors there over the years. She said they often say they feel as though they have gone back in time.

“That is the one thing that they comment on most … and it’s so important to them,” she said.

Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd pushed back, saying that the current plan gives special privileges to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

“The people at Monticello are not an elected body that should have any say over what people can do with their personal property rights,” Boyd said. “When we try to overregulate people by telling them what they have to do and making it part of our staff reports, it’s going too far.”

Despite Boyd’s opposition, supervisors agreed staff should continue reporting whether development applicants are working to protect the Monticello viewshed.

The Comprehensive Plan also will include a vistas map integrated in the county’s Geographical Information Services website to show parcels that may be visible from the top of Monticello.

It was the preservation of other historic homes that brought Steven Meeks to the meeting.

“If we can’t save the properties, we’d at least like to document them before they’re lost,” said Meeks, president of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.

In response to Meeks’ comments, the board decided to keep a recommendation in the plan that a historic preservation ordinance be adopted in the future.

For the first time, the Comprehensive Plan will devote an entire chapter to economic development. One of the objectives is to ensure that economic development efforts support the other goals of the plan.

“This objective makes a lot of sense,” said Supervisor Jane Dittmar. “I want to respect the fact that [getting to having a chapter on economic development and an Office of Economic Development] has been a long, thoughtful process.”

However, board members suggested that the wording of the objective made the chapter stand out as somehow different from the others.

“It appears that the way this is written, it’s really about land management and how economic vitality fits into that prism,” Boyd said.

Echols said staff would adjust the language to ensure that the objective reflects the importance of economic development in and of itself, but also the importance of it occurring primarily within the county’s development areas.

Supervisor Diantha McKeel said she would like to see something in the chapter about educating the community about economic development.

“Certainly, we have a wonderful community already, but [we need to educate people] why we need economic development,” she said.

The board will next review the Comprehensive Plan’s chapter on the Rural Area when it meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday.