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October 08, 2010

County planners deny critical slopes waiver for new homes in Fontana development

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By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, October 7, 2010

The Albemarle County Planning Commission has denied a critical slopes waiver required before further development can occur in the Fontana neighborhood on Pantops.

The applicant, Fontana Land Trust, is seeking to build 34 homes on 17 acres on a new road off of Fontana Avenue Extended. To do so, approximately 1.7 acres of critical slopes would need to be disturbed.  

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20101005-APC-Fontana

The red areas indicate the location of the new development

Staff recommended approval of the plan because it met the county’s guidelines for mitigating a disturbed slope, and because the land use requested meets both the comprehensive plan and the underlying zoning. The land was rezoned to allow for residential development in March 2008.

One planning commissioner was unhappy with the way the greater Fontana subdivision has turned out.  

“This particular subdivision has been used as an example of poor planning,” said Commissioner Cal Morris. “The incline of driveways, the lack of sidewalks, the narrowness of the streets… I’m quite reluctant to contribute to an ongoing problem.”

For instance, Morris said the roads as depicted on the location plan were too narrow and he could not support the critical slopes waiver.

Download Download staff report for Planning Commission hearing

However, a county engineer said the roads were consistent with the plan presented when the Board of Supervisors voted for the rezoning. Phil Custer said the main road for this section of Fontana would include a sidewalk and a planting strip for trees, but two other roads envisioned did not because they have fewer homes intended to be served by a rural trail.

“That matches what was approved in the rezoning plan,” Custer said.

Fontana Land Trust is being represented by Steve Driver of Terra Engineering. However, Driver was not present for Tuesday’s hearing.

The Commission took two votes on the waiver. The first was made to recommend approval and it failed on a 3 to 3 vote. The second was a motion to deny approval, which also failed.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield voted against the waiver because there was no representative from the developer present, and because she was concerned the trail could not be built.

“I really don’t think staff should have to present an application for someone else,” Porterfield said. “Somebody should have been here to talk about concerns we have.”

Commissioner Mac Lafferty voted against because he was concerned that the critical slopes ordinances is too often overlooked.

“If we looked at this in ten years, we’d be hard to justify why we allowed houses to be built on these kind of slopes,” Lafferty said.

Morris also voted no. Commissioner Duane Zobrist was not present.

 “The plan that’s been presented is consistent with the rezoning expectations that were established by [supervisors],” said Commissioner Don Franco.

Because both motions failed, and the applicant was not present to ask for a deferral, the waiver was not granted.

The applicant will have the chance to appeal to the Board of Supervisors. Efforts to reach Driver to comment on this story were unsuccessful.


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