Commercial property owners in Albemarle County’s rural area who do not have a public water connection or a central water system will now have to apply for a permit to have some uses on their properties.
The county Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted, 5-1, deciding that eating establishments, fast-food restaurants, automobile service stations and convenience stores would need a special-use permit on commercial-zoned properties in the rural part of the county if the property is not served by public water or a central water system.
Board Chairman Ned Gallaway voted against the zoning text amendment. He said concerns about impacts should be stated clearly upfront in something like performance standards.
“This current piece, with them all being turned into special-use permits, was not what I was hoping was going to be the outcome,” he said.
Previously, county staff had considered water consumption for those four uses, which had been by-right, on commercial-, commercial office- and highway commercial-zoned properties, which has become problematic, as many by-right uses ultimately require a special-use permit because it is difficult to prove water consumption.
This zoning text amendment removes the water consumption question for those four uses and automatically would require a special-use permit instead. Also, these parcels would be able to use any of the rural area zoning by-right uses, in addition to the commercial uses.
“This ZTA would allow the board to analyze the uses proposed in the rural area of the [comprehensive] plan to determine if they are consistent with the comprehensive plan’s goals and strategies, as well as determining if the use changes the character of the area or creates a substantial detriment to adjacent properties,” said Bill Fritz, the county’s development process manager.
With a grandfathering clause, existing buildings can have the uses by-right, but they cannot be enlarged and parking cannot be added, though maintenance and signage could change.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said she was ready to get away from the water-based decisions.
“The effort is to balance the fact that both neighbors and landowners have property rights,” she said.
This is the first phase of a broader zoning text amendment, which county staff said they could start working on once a resolution of intent was passed by the board.
In June, after pushback from the public, the board put on hold a proposed change that would have amended the county’s zoning ordinance and updated the list of uses by right or by special-use permit for rural commercial and industrial properties that are not served by public water.
Almost 10 community members spoke in favor of the changes, while almost 15 area residents spoke against the zoning text amendment.
Most who spoke out against the proposed changes were local business owners or representatives who cited possible effects on local businesses.
Randolph Kohr, owner of Kohr Bros. Frozen Custard, said he didn’t understand why the county was making this change, and he worried about the possible change in the value of his property.
“I don’t understand the logic behind this,” he said. “I understand that you’ve got some people who are unhappy with a gas station, and if you’re going to live off an interstate, you’re going to have a gas station, would be my guess.”
The county has received applications that have been appealed to the Board of Zoning Appeals over water-consumption issues at least twice recently — for the Restore ‘N Station, a gas station in Crozet, and an application from Tiger Fuel for the proposed Boyd Tavern Market on Black Cat Road.
Those in favor were worried about keeping the rural part of the county rural or thought the proposal was better at aligning future uses on the properties with the county’s Rural Area Comprehensive Plan.
Dana Tarrant, who lives near the proposed Tiger Fuel station, said she supported the amendment and thought it would be a benefit to the county.
“I would much rather have a little bit of oversight to development and to uses of our resources to protect the integrity of what we have in the county of Albemarle,” she said.
The board also briefly discussed looking at changes to the county’s special-use permit process to make it faster and more streamlined.