Board Finishes Majority of Rural Work

Board Finishes Majority of Rural Work

The Board of Supervisors concluded its work on the Rural Policy Area policies during its Wednesday, July 5 work session, but without discussing grandfathering, the issue that is at the forefront of most residents’ minds.

If the board accepts the Planning Commission's recommendation on a grandfathering clause, it would allow for any applications submitted before the board adopts the new rezoning policy to finish the subdivision process under the existing zoning of one house per three acres. Without the clause, only those applications that were already approved would be allowed to continue under the current policy.

At the end of the Wednesday work session, Supervisors decided to hold a special meeting July 27, at 6:30 p.m., to deal with the Rural Policy Area. A joint public hearing with the Planning Commission is scheduled for July 24.

Instead of discussing the grandfathering issue during its work session, the board decided to hold an executive session July 18, during its second business meeting of the month.

An executive session is a closed meeting for discussion purposes only that must be entered into unanimously. No official vote can be taken until the board returns to an open-meeting format.

The board can only enter into an executive session for certain reasons, including discussing personnel or legal issues.

"We have to understand the legal implications," Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) said. "There were 200 lawsuits last time. There are certain degrees of granfathering and you can grandfather at different levels. It is a source of legal challenge."

Having the announcement read into the record of the July 5 work session serves as public advertisement for the session.

IN THEIR FINAL session, Supervisors dealt with several issues held over from the June 26 work session, including open space and noise associated with special events, such as weddings and banquets.

The board voted unanimously to require 70 percent open space in the AR-2 and RR-2 zoning districts. AR-2 is the proposed zoning for the northern half of the rural west of the Rural Policy Area and would allow for one unit per 20 acres.

The current policy language requires 85 percent open space, but staff members told Supervisors that 70 percent would give them more flexibility to create a variety of lot sizes, something the board said it wanted to encourage.

To decrease the impact of noise from private events and parties at banquet facilities and country inns, the board voted at the June 26 session to increase the distance between the events and neighboring homes to 2,000 feet.

Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) moved to reconsider the issue at Wednesday's works session, stating he did not believe that any special-exception applications would have a chance to come before the board with the large setback requirement.

"It was my understanding that if they didn't meet the standards to begin with that they would not be able to make it to us to get into the process," he said. "There has to be a minimum set of standards."

Burton proposed changing the requirement back to 500 feet from the property line, not the primary dwelling.

"I do think 500 feet to the next residence is too little," Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin), the only supervisor to oppose the motion, said. "We are talking about the distance between a loud, booming party and your residence."

Other supervisors supported the 500-foot minimum, provided they had the opportunity to raise or lower it based on the specific application.

"It makes more sense if you are going to start talking about minimum setbacks to start with 500 and then you can always increase," Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) said. "I think if you set it at a 2,000 minimum and then tell them you might allow them to get a little closer you're probably setting up a more combative situation."

ACCESSORY DWELLINGS and buildings continued to be a contested issue between board members with Supervisors unsure as to the best way to regulate size.

Staff members presented the board with the Zoning Ordinance Review Committee's recommendation to increase the allowed square footage of both a guest house and an accessory dwelling to 2,500 square feet.

Some Supervisors felt 2,000 square feet was too large for accessory dwellings.

"You could have a house on a one-acre lot and then have another 2,500-square-foot house on the same lot," Kurtz said. She went on to propose that the language use a percentage, 70, of a lot's acreage rather than square footage, but other Supervisors felt a percentage would give larger homes too much leeway.

"When we look at some 6,000, 7,000 square foot McMansions out there that would lead you to 4,500-square-foot guest houses, which are not guest houses," Burton said. "I would prefer to stick with 1,500 square feet period for both guest houses and accessory dwellings."

In the end Supervisors decided to stay with the staff recommendation to cap the square footage at 2,500, after Supervisor Scott K. York (I-At large) reminded the board that the meeting was only a work session and they were not taking official action.

Later in the evening there was debate over the allowed size of accessory buildings, which include garages, barns and storage sheds.

The Planning Commission recommended accessory buildings be up to 70 percent of the total floor area of the main dwelling or 2,500 square feet, which Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) said was too small for an accessory building's intended use.

"I have two wave runners that sit on the back of a trailer. I have a 40-foot RV. I have two antique vehicles," he said, speaking as a hypothetical landowner. "You cannot put everything I just listed in a 2,500-square-foot building. Don't tell me I can't keep the things that I can afford in life on the land that I can buy in life."

The board accepted a scale proposed by Tulloch that would allow an accessory dwelling size to increase and the amount of acreage of each lot increases.

SUPERVISOR STEPHEN SNOW (R-Dulles) abstained from a majority of the votes at the work session, only occasionally voting against certain motions.

During the meeting, Snow said there was not enough analysis of many of the issues the board was addressing.

"I am thirsty for facts," he said. "You've got to do your homework. You've got to show us the historical issues we have had. We're going to cost people dollars and money and time."

As the work session ended Snow stated his position for the record.

"Due to the fact that there has not been a recent study done [which is] in violation of Virginia code, this process and conclusions are in fact arbitrary and capricious," he said.

However, most of the Supervisors felt the process had been a positive one, which is taking the Rural Policy Area in the right direction.

"We may not always agree on the issues," Staton, who served as chairman throughout the work sessions, said, "but at least we were able to handle them with a measure of dignity."