By Sean Tubbs
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
has agreed to consider whether a 96-home development in the county’s rural area should be connected to the region’s sewer system. The decision came despite warnings from staff that doing so is against the county’s growth management policy.
“It’s easy to characterize this as a growth management decision, but it’s really not,” said Frank Stoner, the site’s developer. “Rightly or wrongly, the decision got made to approve this project with one-acre lots in 1977.”
That was three years prior to the board’s decision to channel growth into designated areas in the county, mostly clustered around the city of Charlottesville. In 1980, the county’s rural areas were downzoned to limit residential density and generally establish minimum lot sizes of 21 acres.
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The property Stoner is developing is located on the western side of
Old Lynchburg Road
just outside the county’s growth area. The
Albemarle County Service Authority
was previously authorized to provide public water to the property. A prior developer asked the Board to hold a public hearing on the matter in 2006, but they declined to do so.
“The policy is only to allow changes to the jurisdictional area in cases where the property is adjacent to existing [sewer] lines, and public health and safety are in danger,” said county planner David Benish.
“Providing service in the rural areas consumes treatment capacity which is intended for and should be reserved for the development areas.”
At a meeting Wednesday, Supervisor
Dennis S. Rooker
initially opposed allowing the development to connect to the urban sewer system.
“One of the primary tools we have used to manage growth in the community is to limit the availability of sewer to the growth areas,” said Rooker.
said, however, that allowing the development to connect to sewer could be better for the environment.
“It seems like to me that it would be better to have all that [sewage] going into one system then all going into the ground,” said Snow.
warned that allowing this development to connect to sewer could set a precedent.
“There are a lot of properties that are adjacent to sewer lines that are in the rural areas, many with pre-existing zoning that’s inconsistent with the comprehensive plan,” said Davis.
Stoner said he is ready to build the development with septic fields, which he said would require the clear-cutting of around 25 acres of trees. Connecting to the sewer system would be more expensive for him, but he said he is willing to make that investment if allowed.
Both Rooker and Supervisor
changed their minds after hearing from Stoner, and a motion to hold the public hearing passed unanimously and will be held in September. Stoner said he is also considering applying for a comprehensive plan amendment to add the land into the formal development area.