Plan­ners move zon­ing amend­ments for­ward, push comp plan

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Patty hardee Spe­cial to the Rappahannock News

The county’s com­pre­hen­sive plan and pro­posed amend­ments to the lo­cal zon­ing ordinance took cen­ter stage at the Septem­ber 20 meet­ing of the Rappahannock County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

The plan­ners voted unan­i­mously to ask Zon­ing Ad­min­is­tra­tor David Dameron and County At­tor­ney Art Goff to cre­ate a no­tice for a public hear­ing on all the zon­ing ordinance amend­ments now pend­ing. The hear­ing could po­ten­tially take place at the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion’s Oc­to­ber 18 meet­ing.

For much of the past

year, the plan­ners and the county’s Board of Zon­ing ap­peals have worked through a multi-page chart of amend­ments to the zon­ing ordinance in­tended to tighten stan­dards for ap­pli­ca­tions for spe­cial use or spe­cial ex­cep­tion per­mits for a range of dwelling types. These in­clude ef­fi­ciency apart­ments, fam­ily apart­ments, guest houses, B&Bs, tourist homes, and board­ing homes.

Many of the pro­posed changes are in re­sponse to the con­cern among county res­i­dents of the grow­ing pres­ence of tourist homes owned by non-res­i­dents for in­vest­ment pur­poses.

Dur­ing the Septem­ber 20 meet­ing com­ment pe­riod, Jack­son dis­trict res­i­dent Page Glen­nie urged the plan­ners to re­spect the in­ter­est of res­i­dents over non­res­i­dents and in­clude a res­i­dency re­quire­ment for ap­pli­cants for tourist homes.

“The root is­sue of res­i­dency is not be­ing ad­dressed,” said Glen­nie. “In gen­eral, peo­ple don’t seem to have a prob­lem with tourist homes if the landowner is a res­i­dent on the prop­erty. The is­sue is prop­erty in­vest­ment for short term rentals.”

A re­cent ex­am­ple was the ap­pli­ca­tion by Des­mond and Heidi Dodd to turn their cabin on Gid Brown Hol­low Road into a tourist home. The Dodds cur­rently re­side in South Africa on a work as­sign­ment, but call Rappahannock their home.

Their ap­pli­ca­tion was met with much op­po­si­tion from neigh­bors on Gid Brown Hol­low Road and ad­join­ing Har­ris Hol­low Road who con­sid­ered the Dodds non­res­i­dents.

Dameron and Goff pre­sented a res­o­lu­tion Septem­ber 6 meet­ing of the Board of Su­per­vi­sors propos­ing another set of amend­ments to the county code. If adopted, these amend­ments would re­move the dis­tinc­tion be­tween

spe­cial use and spe­cial ex­cep­tion per­mits and change the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the BOS and the BZA.

Cur­rently, both types of per­mits come first be­fore the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, which can vote to rec­om­mend the ap­pli­ca­tions to ei­ther the BOS or the BZA. Su­per­vi­sors hear spe­cial ex­cep­tion per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions, while the BZA hears those for spe­cial use per­mits.

Un­der the Dameron-Goff amend­ments, there would be only one per­mit type, which would go to the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and then to the BOS. The BZA would only hear ap­peals and ap­pli­ca­tions for zon­ing vari­ances.

The pur­pose for the change, as ex­pressed by John Lesin­ski, the Hamp­ton su­per­vi­sor who sits on the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, would be to sim­plify the ap­pli­ca­tion process and help ad­dress con­fu­sion in the public over the dif­fer­ence be­tween spe­cial ex­cep­tion and spe­cial use per­mits.

Other items were em­bed­ded in the DameronGoff doc­u­ment. One would change the process for mov­ing per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions for­ward. Un­der the cur­rent sys­tem, a public hear­ing is ad­ver­tised as soon as an ap­pli­ca­tion is re­ceived.

The pro­posed change would re­quire ad­ver­tis­ing a public hear­ing only after the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion has re­viewed the ap­pli­ca­tion to en­sure that it was com­plete.

Many ap­pli­ca­tions in the past year have had to be tabled and hear­ings post­poned be­cause of in­com­plete in­for­ma­tion or im­proper no­tices to the public.

Another pro­posed amend­ment would clar­ify acreage re­quire­ments for B&Bs and tourist homes.

The con­tro­versy over the Dodd ap­pli­ca­tion also sur­faced a ques­tion about whether acreage re­quire­ments rec­om­mended by the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion in 2010 and adopted by the BOS were valid.

Ac­cord­ing to an opin­ion memo is­sued by Goff in July, the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion at its June 16, 2010 meet­ing dis­cussed an amend­ment to re­place ex­ist­ing lan­guage in the county code with one re­quir­ing a min­i­mum of 10 acres for a tourist home.

How­ever, the BOS made ma­te­rial changes to what had been ad­ver­tised, and voted to ap­prove sub­stan­tially smaller acreage re­quire­ments. Be­cause the new lan­guage had not been prop­erly no­ticed, Goff found that the amend­ments were il­le­gal and that the pre­vi­ous ordinance lan­guage re­quir­ing a min­i­mum of 10 acres for a tourist home stands.


Hamp­ton dis­trict plan­ner Al Henry added to the Septem­ber 20 agenda a dis­cus­sion of the county’s com­pre­hen­sive plan which has been un­der re­view for about three years.

“Cer­tainly, it’s been un­der re­view since a year be­fore [then-County Ad­min­is­tra­tor] John McCarthy left,” said vice chair Gary Light.

State code re­quires that com­pre­hen­sive plans be re­viewed ev­ery five years. It has been more than five years since the Rappahannock plan been up­dated.

“We’ve been drag­ging on this com­pre­hen­sive plan for a long, long, long time,” said Henry. “I think we need to bite the bul­let and get this be­hind us and get it done.”

Light noted that the plan­ners had “been through the plan twice com­pletely, go­ing around the county talk­ing about it, mark­ing it up, vot­ing on changes. The only thing re­main­ing to be fin­ished … was the up­dat­ing the data ta­bles.”

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