Albemarle County Supervisors hear recommendations for Historic Overlay Ordinance

The Albemarle County Historic Preservation Committee presented to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, November 5, 2008. Committee member Benjamin Ford summarized their review of the County’s current preservation measures, and recommended that the County create a Historic Overlay District. Most of the Supervisors offered broad support to the recommendation, but all questioned whether funding would be available for implementation.

Ben Ford of Historic Preservation Committee

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The Committee reported that increased population and development trends have put pressure on local historic properties. They praised programs, such as Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE), that are targeted at preserving the rural landscape, but noted that other preservation efforts are strictly voluntary. They identified four properties they deemed significant in the county that were not saved under current regulations: Wilton farm, Oakleigh farm, Advanced Mills general store, and Sutherland barn.

The Board of Supervisors discussed to what degree an Historic Overlay Ordinance is necessary to preserve the character of the county and to what degree it could become a burden on property owners. Supervisor

Ken Boyd

(Rivanna) said he was bothered by an ordinance that would lead to unnecessary government intrusion. Other Supervisors were also concerned about the subjective nature of designating historic resources. For example, an airport motel on the list may be old, but does the community really want to preserve it? Ford responded that an ordinance could be flexible, stating, “protect and preserve does not mean that the property owner cannot touch the property.” Adaptive reuse would be encouraged.

Sally Thomas

(Samuel Miller) added that, at a minimum, an ordinance could simply require historic documentation before a demolition permit is issued.

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

Secondly, the Board discussed whether historic preservation is a high enough priority to warrant County funding during a time of

budgetary restrictions

throughout County offices. Currently, a part-time intern staffs the historic preservation office, but this position will not be funded beyond December of this year. The Supervisors agreed to pursue unpaid interns from the University, but

David Slutzky

(Rio) added, “I don’t want it to be left with the public that we are satisfied that we have addressed our intent with those meager volunteer efforts.” Supervisors also asked volunteers from the Historic Preservation Committee to conduct background research of ordinances enacted in other communities.

The Board of Supervisors will next revisit the issue in February 2009 as part of the review of the Community Development work program.

Daniel Nairn