The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has deferred adopting changes to rural road standards that would have required all lots subdivided from the same piece of property to use the same entrance. Another proposed change before the Board at their November 12, 2008 meeting would have applied the same standards required of private driveways to private roads that only serve two lots, roads that have in the past only required a “travelway passable by ordinary passenger vehicles in all but temporary extreme weather conditions.”
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Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development for Albemarle County, presented the report at the meeting. He said the proposed changes would require that roads serving two lots comply with the same regulations as private roads serving rural subdivisions and would require rural subdivisions to share a single point of access (SPOA) from the arterial road. Fritz said the intentions of the County in requiring a SPOA are to improve public safety, protect transportation investments and to assure County consistency with new the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) access management regulations.
Currently private roads serving rural subdivisions do not need to meet the same standards that the County has for driveways. For instance, a private road may have a slope greater than 16% but a driveway coming off of it may not have that steep of a slope.
“We’re trying to provide consistency between the two requirements, said Mark Graham, the County’s Director of Community Development. The proposed changes would require that roads serving two lots with a slope greater than 7% be paved and have a maximum slope of 16% with a clear zone of 14 feet.
Presently, developers who wish to avoid having to comply with road standards for subdivisions with three or more lots simply subdivide the property in a two step process. They subdivide the lot once and then subdivide again rather than creating four lots at once. “What the proposed ordinance does is subject rural divisions to the same rules as subdivisions,” Fritz said. In addition to an available waiver process, the two-lot road standard does not apply to lots created for immediate family members.
The Board discussed alternatives to address the “two step” problem., Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) suggested a timetable be required between those subdivisions to discourage developers from skirting the requirements.
Regarding the SPOA provision of the ordinance, Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) expressed that the “size of the frontage makes a difference,” in how he thinks this ordinance should be applied, wondering if “there is a way to get rid of the two step problem without eliminating rural divisions with sufficient frontage.” If multiple points of access, in the form of private driveways are permitted from the arterial roads, developers do not need to build private roads at all.
(Rio) asked if the text could include waivers for areas where ecological systems might be damaged by a paved road. Fritz responded that waivers would be granted for “unusual circumstances” that would allow developers to avoid the new road requirements. The Board agreed that a basis for administrative waivers should be established to give the community certainty about when waivers could expect to be granted.
Many County residents attended this meeting to express concern about the ordinance. Most of those who opposed the changes objected to the limitations they felt it would place on their property rights and ability to gradually subdivide their land as they see fit.
County resident Elizabeth Gibson said her land “is my 401K.” She asked the Board not to put herself and her neighbors in a position where they have no choice but to sell to a developer because of all of the different rules being put into place. David Carr objected to these changes in road standards saying they make it “unnecessarily difficult and expensive for a rural landowner to sell a lot, should that be necessary in case of financial difficulty.” He pointed out that heavy road costs may also have the unintended consequence of leading landowners to subdivide more than they want to in order to pay for the costs of construction.
Brian Ray asked that the Board postpone voting on this topic and summarized the main thoughts the citizens had mentioned: . “Loss or restriction of development rights, longer roads, environmental impacts, multiple separated building sites close to the roadway.”
Additionally, many residents, including Morris Foster, felt that the two-step skirting of the rules could be dealt with more directly and that the County should address one problem at a time.
Several citizens questioned the Board’s objectives were for this ordinance. Sarah Henley told the Board “this looks like a back doors down-zoning” and called upon the Board to “realize that we want you to represent our interests and listen to us as opposed to deciding how we should divide up our property.”
After the public hearing was closed, the Board opted to direct staff to conduct roundtable discussions with members of the public. If the ordinance amendments are changed radically, the issue may be sent back to the Planning Commission for their guidance.
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