In July 2005, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution of intent to change the zoning ordinances related to contractor offices and equipment storage yards. Their goal was to create a legal mechanism to review this use on a case by case basis in the County’s light industrial districts. Storage yards, the resolution suggested, would require a special use permit as opposed to being a by-right activity, “so that the impacts resulting from the use may be identified and, if it is approved, mitigated by appropriate conditions.”
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The resolution of intent was finally taken under consideration by the Albemarle County Planning Commission at their August 26, 2008 meeting. County staff presented the Planning Commission with a set of draft regulations that, it said, would allow contractor’s offices to remain by-right in light industrial districts, but that would differentiate the scale and intensity of the equipment and vehicles associated with a storage yard. The Commission unanimously approved the zoning text amendments.
Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning for the County presented the amendments to the Board of Supervisors and the public on November 12, 2008.
“The purpose is really to allow the scale and intensity of the activities associated with the storage yards to be appropriately differentiated,” Cilimberg said.
The Supervisors initiated this process three years ago after rejecting a site plan submitted by the Faulconer Construction Company for the development of their property in the Ivy Business Park along Morgantown Road. Faulconer sued the County to have that decision overturned. The case examined local government’s right to restrict by-right industrial development posing potential off-site impacts to roads, vehicles and pedestrians. In December 2005, Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Paul Peatross ruled in favor of Faulconer, stating that Albemarle’s attempts to force an examination of off-site road and public safety issues was “illegal and invalid.”
The zoning text amendment creates two categories of storage yards, one for general parking and light equipment, and one for “heavy equipment and heavy vehicle parking.” In the ordinance, heavy equipment is defined as “equipment that requires an oversize/overweight permit from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to be transported over public highways.” Those are vehicles and loads, for example, that exceed eight feet six inches in width, exceed thirteen feet in height, or have a length greater than sixty-five feet. Heavy vehicles are those that have “more than five (5) axles or haul heavy equipment” as defined above.
The amendment includes some restrictions on what may be stored in storage yards. Heavy equipment and heavy vehicle storage yards may be used for storing explosives, including blasting caps, used in off-site activity. However, those storage yards may not be used for storing nuclear products, by-products or volatile materials except that which is reasonably necessary to maintain equipment and vehicles.
Storage yards visible from entrance corridors will still require special use permits regardless of zoning. Additionally, service vehicles for personal use or farm use may be kept on private property as long as they do not qualify as heavy equipment or vehicles as defined by the ordinance.
At the Board’s public hearing, former Supervisor David Wyant pointed out that VDOT contracted certifiers of heavy equipment use devices to test soil compaction which contain a small amount of nuclear material. He asked that the Board consider a modification of the amendment to allow those devices to be kept at heavy equipment storage yards. Supervisor
(Rio) asked that a caveat be included to ensure that these devices be allowed. The Board approved ZTA 2007-007 with no further changes.
Faulconer has recently broken ground on their complex in the Ivy Business Park. Had this amended ordinance been in place, however, Faulconer would have had to apply for a special use permit to store and maintain many of its large construction vehicles. Faulconer’s rights remain vested even though the County has adopted the new ordinance. Other light industrial storage yards in Albemarle with heavy equipment are now considered “non-conforming,” meaning the owners could not expand their activities on their property without seeking the special use permit.
Brian Wheeler and Fania Gordon
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