Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Using the land

The notion of property rights is complicated. On the one hand, we all want total control over our land, but seem to also want a say in what our neighbors do with their property. It’s local government’s job to decide what is fair to both sides.

At their monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 3, Goochland’s Board of Supervisors held public hearings on various land use issues.
Unanimous approval as given to applications to rezone and allow conditional uses for approximately 18 acres on the north side of Broad Street Road just east of Rt. 288. Lawrence Page, a county resident, plans to open an Audi dealership here and develop the entire site with other commercial uses that could include restaurants and a hotel.

Due to the non-traditional architecture of the dealership, which features Audi corporate branding architectural elements, the structure received design review approval before rezoning. One of the major points of contention between Audi and the Centerville overlay standards was the extensive use of metal on the building fa├žade. The metal in question is an aluminum matrix that resembles a lace veil and gives texture to the exterior.

This aluminum lattice will grace the exterior of the Audi dealership

Page is to be commended for his care and foresight in assembling a number of parcels into an elegant visual gateway statement for the county. In addition to extensive landscaping on the Audi site, Page will plant trees in the Broad Street Road median.
The only fly in this ointment is the refusal of VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—to sell the parcel it owns on Broad Street Road and Rt. 288 to Page. VDOT claims it plans to build a park-and- ride lot there. This area is already the most perilous intersection in the county and will get worse when traffic from nearby commercial and residential projects under construction is added to the mix. A better solution would be to swap parcels with Page to move the park-and-ride well off of Broad Street to be accessed by the signalized boulevard that will be the sole access to the Page project.

Page took great pains to move parking lots away from Broad Street Road to soften the Audi dealership. Yet, VDOT, which is exempt from any overlay or other local input on its property, will slap a basic parking lot right next to the road, with minimal landscaping and ugly signage. There has been a park-and-ride on Ashland Road just north of I64 for years; why do we need another one?

This is no place for a park-and-ride.

The supervisors also renewed a conditional use permit to (CUP)operate an office out of a three car garage on a parcel that runs between Three Chopt and Broad Street Roads west of Centerville. The original CUP was issued in 2001. There have been no issues and the renewal runs for a period of 20 years.

A CUP application filed by Second Union Baptist Church was unanimously approved. Calvin Hopkins, a church member and pillar of the community who was inducted into the Parks and Rec Wall of Fame at a dinner ceremony prior to the evening meeting, spoke on behalf of the application. Second Union, he said, has been an important part of the community since it a was founded in 1865. The church moved to its current location on Hadensvile-Fife Road in 1880. It is home to the Second Union Rosenwald School (http://www.secondunionrosenwaldschool.org/) museum, a valuable cultural resource. A CUP was required because the planned expansion will increase the size of the church to more than ten thousand square feet. The supervisors wished the congregation well in its next centuries of service.

Turning from a venerable congregation to the future, the Board approved a CUP to permit a new kind of crop, photovoltaic (solar) panels, to be planted on no more than 35 of 114 acres of land near the confluence of Shannon Hill, Broad Street, and Martin Roads in the northwestern part of the county.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Martin Solar Center, and Coronal Development Services of Charlottesville, Kyle West painted a compelling picture of the future of power generation.

The acreage where the photovoltaic panels will be deployed, currently in land use, will be taxed at assessed valuation generating approximately $6,000 in rollback tax. West said that the panels are taxable as personal property, rather than capital improvements. He said that at the conclusion of its expected 25-year life, the equipment will be removed and the land restored to its original condition.

Ken Peterson, District 5, asked about the cost of removal and legal obligation to honor the removal agreement. West said that ultimately, the cost would be borne by an unnamed Fortune 500 corporation that would be holding entity for the panels. The initial cost is $8 million, which takes about seven years of operation before generating a return on investment.

Susan Lascolette, District 1 asked about the impact of the panels on nearby homes. West said the panels have no adverse impact on bees and that Coronal will comply with buffer and landscape requirements to adequately screen the panels. West said that recently timbered land adjacent to the solar farm has been replanted in young pines.

Power generated by the panels, which absorb rather than reflect light, will be transmitted to a nearby substation of the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative. West contended that this is an innocuous, benign, renewable power source whose price will be stable for the duration of the contract, unlike fossil fuels, whose price is governed by unpredictable market forces. The panels will be fixed and, said West, have little impact on the permeability of the soil. West estimated that the electricity generated by the facility, five megawatts, could power about 800 homes for a year.

Principal Planner Tom Coleman explained that the visual impact on nearby homes was the main concern expressed by neighbors at community meetings. Martin Solar proffered installation of a fence and a double row of evergreens to screen the facility.
Martin Road, from Shannon Hill Road to the project entrance, will be improved to VDOT standards at a cost of approximately $45,000. The project, according to West, will generate some temporary construction jobs.

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