The Charlottesville Planning Commission has recommended adoption of a new zoning map that corrects several mistakes that were made when the last one was adopted in 2003. They made their recommendation at their meeting on February 10, 2009.
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The 2003 map was created using a program called Arcview 3.2. Since then, the City planning staff has begun using software called ArcGIS 9. City planners have kept a copy of the older program in order to edit the map, but now wants to move to ArcGIS 9. According to the staff report:
“The new platform is more stable, has a higher degree of accuracy, and is maintained on a secure server in [the City’s] Information Technology Department.”
To make the switch, the City must adopt a new zoning map drawn up using the newer program. Because the City zoning map is a legal document, it must be adopted by the Planning Commission and the City Council through the usual process. The Commission agreed to initiate the study in October 2008, and held a public hearing on the matter the following month. After complaints, the Commission deferred adoption for three months to give citizens the chance to check whether any zoning mistakes had been made in the transition. Staff also looked for mistakes and found some to be corrected during the adoption process.
Another sixteen special use permits (SUPs) and rezoning were shown to be missing from the 2003 map and from Neighborhood Development Services, even though Council had approved them. They were discovered when staff audited City Council records to compare with the adopted and proposed zoning maps. These range from an SUP drive-through window for a restaurant on Cherry Avenue granted in September 2008 to a rezoning of 625 Monticello Road.
“We feel the resulting map is as accurate as possible at this point,” said Jim Herndon, the City’s Geographical Information Systems Manager. Herndon also said that staff has put procedures into place that will prevent future clerical errors from being made. That pleased Planning Commissioner Bill Emory.
“This process has yielded important benefits going forward,” Emory said. “[Herndon] is proposing a duplicate process to make sure that changes by ordinance make it onto the map.”
Before joining the City Planning Commission, Emory unsuccessfully sued the City for what they described as a “technical mistake” that dropped several parcels near the historic Timberlake-Branham house in Woolen Mills from the Individually Protected Property list. In what became known as the
“Taking by Typo” case, the 2003 zoning map, the City argued, cemented the loss of protected status when the error was not identified at the time the map was approved. In June 2008,
City Council refused to reinstate the protected status
and doing so would have gone against the wishes of the current property owner. With the City’s new zoning map and public input process, they are obviously hoping to avoid those mistakes in the future, but clearly, given the corrections entertained by the Planning Commission, some mistakes dating back to 2003 are easier to fix than others.
Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler
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