By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Charlottesville Planning Commission

spent several hours in debating and shaping the language of the city’s critical slopes ordinance to

satisfy concerns of environmental groups that waivers to the existing ordinance are granted too frequently

. However, their work was not completed and at least a few more hours of discussion are expected in 2011.

The current ordinance was adopted in May 2006 in order to prevent soil erosion and improve water quality. However, the review began in October 2009

after the commission granted two waivers for projects being built on city-owned land

. Many were concerned the ordinance did not go far enough to prevent environmental impacts.

The commission took up the issue several times last year, including work sessions in




and December.

Listen using player above or download the podcast of December meeting:

Download 20101214-CPC-Slopes

At their December meeting, the Commission discussed the ordinance’s purpose and intent, and whether there might be times when the public would benefit from critical slope disturbances.

“We have three [public purposes] that we’ve already agreed we’re okay with,” said Chairman

Jason Pearson

. “[They are] achievement of comprehensive plan objectives, stabilization of otherwise unstable slopes, and realization of desired land uses on sites uniquely suited for this land uses.”


Dan Rosensweig

had suggested adding two more. One would grant a waiver if the built-upon slopes match the aesthetic equivalent of a natural slope. The other would allow for a waiver if the applicant were able to preserve open space elsewhere on the project’s site.

“Maybe you can come up with architecture that’s even better than the rock outcropping and we should find a way to value that,” Rosensweig said. “Another thing I’m thinking about is a Frank Lloyd Wright, building something into a hillside that enhances the hillside and looks great.”

However, Commissioner

Lisa Green

expressed skepticism that engineering could be trusted to provide mitigation to a compromised critical slope. Green works as a zoning code enforcement officer for Albemarle County.

“We have so many things out there failing right now where applicants are coming in promising the sun, the stars and the moon and it just doesn’t happen,” Green said.

Members of the development community have expressed concern that the revised ordinance might go too far.

“My concern with this is that I think it’s going to limit infill development,” said developer Paul Beyer at the December planning commission meeting.

Beyer said the ordinance’s definition of “public purpose” should reflect the city’s comprehensive plan goals of providing more affordable housing, stimulating economic development and encouraging green building techniques.

The discussion will continue in 2011 with a public hearing on the revised ordinance, to be scheduled

after City Council weighs in

on the general direction of the critical slopes ordinance at one of their future meetings.


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