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August 04, 2010

Roundtable discusses streamlined site plan and subdivision review process in Albemarle

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DailyProgress By Bridgett Lynn
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Albemarle County staff held a roundtable discussion last week to receive public input on potential changes to the site plan and subdivision review process. The project is part of the implementation of the economic development priorities outlined in the “Albemarle County Action Plan” approved by the Board of Supervisors in January.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100728-site-plan

“We’re trying to make the regulations match the necessity,” county planner Bill Fritz said to the group of about 20 participants.

County Planner Bill Fritz addresses roundtable

In June, the Board of Supervisors held a work session to initiate an evaluation of the site plan and subdivision process for the purpose of “reducing the time and cost processing applications.”

“One thing we can do is [make] more decisions administratively,” Fritz said. “The other is to simplify the process and give … applicants more guidance at the very start of the application process [by] clearly stating what your requirements are.”

Fritz said that the changes would also clarify submittal requirements, give good concise timeframes for reviews, eliminate multiple public hearings, and include a presumption of approval.

“I like the sound of it,” said Jo Higgins, former member of the Planning Commission. “It changes the site review committee [to] something of much more power … [Fritz is] talking about evolving site review as to a much more complex and decision making committee, and I think that’s a key thing that needs a definition.”

Some roundtable attendees were concerned about the elimination of public input opportunities.

“The more things you take right now that aren’t purely [administrative] and put into that category of [administrative], you’re shutting out public opportunity where it currently exists,” said Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum, speaks at roundtable

“We were told [by supervisors] very clearly to … not remove public involvement,” Fritz responded. “We’re trying to figure out how to still include public involvement to the extent that you can in a purely administrative process. What we came up with was the site review meeting where you can work with staff and you can sit down and do those things.”

For projects not receiving planning commission review, staff plan to conduct a site review committee (SRC) meeting with a greater level of public input when a project would require conditions for approval or when staff expect to recommend denial.

Currently, when a project is reviewed before the planning commission, comments up to three minutes are allowed and there is no opportunity to ask follow up questions or provide clarifications. The SRC meeting would give the public an opportunity for an informal dialogue between all parties.

The input gathered from the roundtable and the Board of Supervisors will be presented to the Planning Commission and the Architectural Review Board possibly in September, but no dates have been set yet according to staff. Another roundtable discussion may be created after staff reviews all the feedback and make recommendations before returning to the board.


00:50 – Bill Fritz introduces proposed changes to the site plan and subdivision review process
27:08 – Question from the public about project denials
35:02 – Morgan Butler comments on proposed site plan and subdivision review standards
1:01:56 – Jo Higgins comments on public input at Planning Commission meetings
1:04:36 – Jack Marshall, president of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP), asks about opportunities for citizen input into any specific ordinance changes.
1:44:56 – Conclusion


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