By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On the day before a

Locust Grove

couple was set to move into their newly constructed home, city zoning inspectors notified them their driveway exceeded the permitted size. At the couple’s request, the Charlottesville Planning Commission agreed Tuesday to study the zoning ordinance to see if the section that governs driveways can be made more flexible.

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Download 20100511-CPC-Driveway-Review

The zoning ordinance currently limits driveways to take up no more than 25% of a front yard, and must be between 20 and 30 feet wide.

Excerpt from the

city’s zoning ordinance


“For driveways and off-street parking spaces, except those off-street parking spaces provided in a garage or carport, the portion of the driveway and off-street parking area located between the right-of-way and the building setback line shall not exceed a maximum of twenty-five (25) percent of the lot area between the right-of-way and building line. This does not prohibit a lot from having one (1) one-way driveway entrance of a maximum width of twenty (20) feet… The above language notwithstanding, all driveway entrances shall meet a minimum width requirement of twenty (20) feet and shall not exceed a maximum width of thirty (30) feet.”

“After some analysis of the driveway, it turns out that it was built beyond the maximum square footage allowed in the zoning code,” said City Planner Nick Rogers. The lot is only 50 feet wide and there is no on-street parking.

In the past few weeks, staff have worked with the couple to determine how they want to proceed. One option would have been to remove a portion of the driveway to bring it into conformance. Another would be to appeal the decision to the

Board of Zoning Appeals

, which can grant variances in the case of hardship.

However, Rogers said he did not believe the couple’s driveway falls into the latter category.

Instead, staff recommended a third option: Get the Planning Commission to review the zoning ordinance to see if it could be amended to permit exceptions.  The couple chose this path.

Download staff report on the initiation for study

During Tuesday’s discussion of whether to initiate the study, some commissioners were concerned the review was being considered for the sake of just one property owner. However, Rogers said there are similar driveways in the city that could benefit from an ordinance change.

“This set of circumstances… is not unique to this site,” Rogers said. “We encounter [in] property owners… a real desire to push the envelope as much as possible.”

Rogers said homeowners with narrow lots often wish to increase size of their driveway in order to allow for more parking.


Dan Rosensweig

asked Rogers if the desired outcome was simply to increase the percentage of a lot that could be used as a driveway. Rogers said the Commission might simply consider adopting a more flexible standard because there are so many different types of lots throughout the city.


Bill Emory

said he planned to vote against the initiation of the review because he felt it might lead to the building of larger driveways, which he said would have a negative ecological effect.

“Currently 58% of the impervious surface in the city of Charlottesville is for the benefit of cars,” Emory said. “We have a serious stormwater management problem in town… I’m fundamentally opposed to more pavement.”

But Rosensweig said a review could yield a more flexible ordinance that reduces impervious surfaces by encouraging alternative construction methods.

“If [a driveway is] more pervious than it seems to me that somehow might earn [it] greater flexibility,” Rosensweig said.  “It’s an opportunity to get creative.”

Emory changed his mind and a motion to initiate the study passed 6-0. Commissioner Michael Osteen was not present.

Rogers said that staff will bring forward a potential solution for them to consider at their next meeting in June.


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