By

Sean Tubbs



Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The

Albemarle Planning Commission

has been briefed on the status of changes to the county’s zoning code that would allow for more types of businesses to operate in industrial districts.

“The type of industrial district we may need to be focused on is probably very different from when our industrial districts were established more than 40 years ago,” said

Wayne Cilimberg

, Albemarle’s director of planning.

Tuesday’s discussion was the latest in a series of conversations that have occurred since the Board of Supervisors adopted an economic vitality action plan at the beginning of 2010.

One of their directives was to find ways to alter the county’s zoning in order to promote economic development.

“The zoning code changes allow for more flexibility for modern industry, better protections to our environment [and] assignment of more appropriate uses to the industrial districts,” said Susan Stimart, the county’s economic development facilitator.

The changes would alter the county’s zoning matrix in several ways, including allowing industrially zoned parcels to have “supporting” commercial space and office space on up to 25 percent of the land with a special use permit, and would allow retail on 25 percent of the parcels by-right.

Cilimberg said the proposed changes are designed to bring the county’s zoning in line with how today’s industry operates. Previously, industrial uses were segregated from other uses because factories were unsightly and potentially hazardous.

“Harris Street in the city is an example of where you see more modest buildings, some of which are very industrial [next to] others that are different in use,” Cilimberg said.

Many purposes would require the Board of Supervisors to approve a special use permit. Cilimberg said that would allow the Planning Commission to make recommendations on case-by-case basis.

One commissioner said he was concerned about strict space limitations.

“Let’s suppose we have a business and they want to change one of these percentages and they come up with 28 percent [of floor space],” posed commissioner Ed Smith. “Would we stick to 25 percent exactly and potentially lose something?”

One business owner sent a letter to the commission objecting to one of the proposed changes.

“Some of the recommendations are alarming, such as the proposal to eliminate the by-right use of development of free-standing commercial office space in [light industrial] zoning,” wrote Blake Hurt, a developer who owns industrial property on Northside Drive. Hurt’s spouse, Carol Hurt, is on the board of directors of Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Hurt said in the last five years his company has been responsible for the creation of 35,000 square feet of mixed-use development on Harris Drive in Charlottesville, which is light industrial land in the city.

One of the changes would also take away the ability of kennels to be opened in light and heavy industrial districts. They can currently be operated in heavy industrial districts with a special use permit.

Todd Tignor of IsoTemp Research said his firm owns a stake in a property on Broadway Drive. He said the elimination of being able to operate a kennel would take away a potential source of revenue.

“There are people who have come to us to put in a doggy day-care,” Tignor said.

“The building has been empty for two years and we’ve been paying taxes.”

Many commissioners expressed a concern that the rules should be made flexible because industry might continue to change.

“The reality is we don’t know what future will hold when it comes to what businesses will re-locate within the county,” said commissioner Richard Randolph. “I would hate to see us do anything that creates a situation where we put together any risk to businesses who are operating where they are today.”

Cilimberg said he would amend the proposed ordinances to show they are more flexible to the needs of potential businesses seeking to develop an industrial business. A public hearing on this round of changes will be held before the Planning Commission later this year.

In August 2011 the Board of Supervisors amended the zoning code to allow heavy industrial uses in any light industrial districts with approval of a special use permit. So far there have been no applications submitted to take advantage of that change, according to Cilimberg.

In other news, Cal Morris was named as the commission’s chair for 2012. Russell “Mac” Lafferty will be the vice chair.

The commission currently has only six members. The Board of Supervisors could soon name a seventh person to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Duane Zobrist from the at-large position.

Six people have applied for the position, including former commissioner Linda Porterfield and Architectural Review Board member Paul Wright.

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