Monday, March 25, 2013

Routine matters

Though free of the drama laden public hearings that have marked recent meetings of the Goochland Planning Commission, the March 21 session was a good illustration of the purpose of this body.
Items on the agenda, the packet is available on the county website,, were routine. These included renewal of two conditional use permits and a zoning reclassification.

All seven commissioners were in attendance, prepared, and offered thoughtful and constructive comments on all matters before them.

The application filed by Alvin E. Smith to renew a CUP for his gunsmith business on Fairground Road provided an opportunity to reign in over zealous application of zoning ordinances to impose what could have been onerous and unnecessary expense on an existing small business.

First granted in 1997, Smith's CUP was last renewed in 2003.
This time around, he asked that the term of the CUP be extended to 15 years, hours of operation be extended one hour to 8 p.m., he be allowed to install a larger sign, and he no longer be required to maintain a derelict fence between land he owns and county property.

During discussion, Smith explained that the original CUP required that he maintain the fence on the boundary between his land and county property. He questioned the reason for the county to require him to maintain a fence ostensibly to keep people off of public property. In any event, the fence, described as a single strand of barbed wire in poor condition, is an ineffective barrier. He contended that improvement of the fence would be a burdensome expense for his business.

The Commissioners agreed and removed the fence as a condition. They also recommended that the term of the CUP be extended to 15 years. As the CUP process is expensive and time consuming, this is another way to ease burdens on small businesses.

An application to divide a 20 acre lot in the Granite Trace subdivision,  which is located off os Sheppardtown Road, proved more tricky. A zoning change from the existing A-2 classification to RR was required to conform to county zoning law. Neither applicant wanted the change, they just wanted to divide their land in half to comply with their divorce decree.

Unfortunately, that proposed lot division triggered a threshold that required the zoning of the land be changed from A2, agricultural to RR, rural residential. Included in the application is the intention to enter the existing road into the state system.

The county also wants the applicant either to proffer that the land in question will not be further subdivided--theoretically it could be cut into as many as four five acre lots--or agree to pay cash proffers of $14,292 for each lot if that occurs. Also, if the zoning change is granted, the applicants would need to turn around and file an application to have Granite Trace declared a major subdivision, which are not generally permitted in rural enhancement areas.

Understandably, the applicants were bewildered by all of these regulations. Staff's job is to enforce laws on the books.

These thresholds were put in place to provide county oversight on division of large "parent" tracts of land. There was concern that, over generations, repeated "cuts" of large parcels for family members could result in residential lots too small to safely supply well and septic.

To their credit, the Commissioners voted to recommend that the extra lot be permitted without requirng the applicants to promise not to further subdivide the land or pony up the cash proffer. It will be up to the supervisors to make final disposition.

Another CUP extension was granted to the wonderful group that operates Field Day of the Past. As this event is the essence of the rural heritage we all want to preserve, it was quite appropriate.

Next month's Planning Commission meeting will be held on Thursday, April 4. The agenda includes the  design standard ordinance for Centerville.

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