An arbitrary Albemarle County bill

Um, who exactly would be determining this?

Any such overlay zone may be established upon any area in the county where it is determined that the visual impacts of buildings and structures within such area may have a significant adverse impact upon the county’s scenic resources or on tourism. (Bolding mine)

This seems that an arbitrary panel of citizens(?) could decide that any new development could be shut down using this extraordinarily vague language.

Don’t just take my word for it, read the whole thing at Richmond Sunlight. I like Sen. Deeds, but this bill seems dangerous.

Update 01-24-2007:

From an email exchange with Sen. Deeds, this is his response to my inquiry, posted with his position.

My question:

Will you please provide more information on how SB 988 will work in practice?

Who determines what is or is not a “significant adverse impact upon the county’s scenic resources or on tourism”?

His response:

This bill comes at the request of the Albemarle BOS. It is supported by the local chamber. This would be a pilot project for Virginia, so I would suggest you contact Sally Thomas, a member of the Albemarle Board. She is a better source for exactly how they expect the bill to work.

Update 2: Due to a miscommunication between a member of the local Tourism board and Sen. Deeds, it was thought that the local Chamber supported this bill. This is not correct. Again, I thank Sen. Deeds and his office for their communication. Despite my disagreement with their bill, I sincerely appreciate their taking the time to communicate.

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17 Comments

  1. Jim Duncan January 22, 2007 at 17:53

    The more time I spend reading this bill, the more horribly irresponsible, undefined and potentially damaging to any and all property owners it seems.
    Anybody else?

  2. TrvlnMn January 22, 2007 at 18:17

    It sounds like a hand full of people will get to make decisions to the detriment of rural property “A”, but for the financial benefit of urban or suburban property “B” and their associated view-shed.

    It seems like more of the TDR crap (a variation of it anyway)- Richmond trying fix a problem that the Albemarle BoS want fixed but don’t have the local support to implement.

    When you don’t have the support locally call in a favor higher up the food chain.

    All boils down to a state version of the BoS attitude “We know better than you what’s good for you. Like it or not we’re doing it the way we want.”

    But that’s just my first impression. Could I be wrong? Sure.

  3. C January 22, 2007 at 18:26

    Don’t we have some of the most scenic and historically significants landscapes in the area. Why not protect them. How many millions of dollars are generated through tourism, much of which is based on these scenic qualities. It’s time for this community to have the tools to protect itself from the unplanned, ill concieived developement fracturing our farms and forests.

  4. Jim Duncan January 22, 2007 at 20:25

    Sen. Deeds has written a column at The New Dominion and I’m hoping he takes the time to answer my question.

  5. CJ January 22, 2007 at 21:52

    Don’t we have some of the most scenic and historically significants landscapes in the area. Why not protect them. How many millions of dollars are generated through tourism, much of which is based on these scenic qualities. It’s time for this community to have the tools to protect itself from the unplanned, ill concieived developement fracturing our farms and forests….

  6. TrvlnMn January 22, 2007 at 22:13

    Here’s to hoping.

    I noticed it wasn’t one of the bills he mentioned in his column.

    I also think think this was a particularly telling quote:

    My own proposals this year include a number of bills that I was requested to propose by local governments or citizens;… (emphasis mine)

    As I said in my other post:

    When you don’t have the support locally call in a favor higher up the food chain.

    More of that familiar BoS attitude- “We know better than you what’s good for you. Like it or not we’re doing it the way we want.”

  7. O January 22, 2007 at 22:30

    Don’t we have some of the most scenic and historically significants landscapes in the area. Why not protect them? How many millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs are generated through tourism, much of which is based on these scenic qualities. It’s time for this community to have the tools to protect itself from the unplanned, ill concieived developement.

  8. C January 23, 2007 at 10:37

    I disagree. Our community has some of the most scenic and historically significant landscapes in virginia if not the country, and they are worth protecting. This bill could give the county the tools it has lacked to accomplish this.

  9. p January 23, 2007 at 20:23

    I disagree. This community has some of the most scenic and historically significant landscapes in Virginia, and this bill could give our elected officials the power to protect these precious resources.

  10. Jim Duncan January 23, 2007 at 20:29

    I don’t disagree with the fact that we have scenic landscapes. One of my concerns is the utter vagueness of this bill, combined with the fact that I inherently distrust most government.

    Giving a governmental entity to do anything without limiting the scope of their charge is dangerous.

    Granted, tourism is a major player in the local economy, but is this a reason to give government carte blanche to do whatever they please?

    This part (really, the whole bill) troubles me too (bolding mine):

    An ordinance adopted under this section shall provide that the decision as to whether a proposed building or structure complies with the standards established for the overlay zone shall be made administratively by the county’s staff, without a public hearing; provided that an applicant may appeal an adverse determination to the planning commission or board of supervisors as provided in the ordinance.

  11. o January 23, 2007 at 22:01

    Albemarle County has a professionally trained planning staff that consists not only of planners, but also professional architects and architectual historians. It makes more sense to trust these folks to monitor the appropriateness of structures, rather than the private sector whose design framework is driven by very different motives. I guess if you don’t mind the “pantops-ivization” of Albemare County, you might oppose this bill.

  12. TrvlnMn January 23, 2007 at 22:38

    Albemarle County has a professionally trained planning staff that consists not only of planners, but also professional architects and architectual historians. It makes more sense to trust these folks to monitor the appropriateness of structures,

    And these wonderful experts you site- they were not employed by Albemarle County when Pantops was being plowed under??

    I don’t think the County of Albemarle has yet earned the trust required to give them such broad authority.

  13. o January 24, 2007 at 11:06

    Pantops looks the way it does because developers built it that way….I highly doubt that county planners had much voice at all in its design.

  14. Jim Duncan January 24, 2007 at 11:20

    Whether the planners had voice in Pantops’ design is an interesting question and one that will lead to another post.

  15. TrvlnMn January 24, 2007 at 18:19

    Re the Update:

    This bill comes at the request of the Albemarle BOS. It is supported by the local chamber. This would be a pilot project for Virginia, so I would suggest you contact Sally Thomas, a member of the Albemarle Board.

    HA!!! I thought so!!

    They couldn’t get local support for any variation of TDR so they have to go to the state to try and bypass the will of those that elected them to office.

    The Albemarle BoS Motto: “We will do what we want regardless of whether or not you the voter approves.

    Shame on them!

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