Subdivision Text Amendment Worksession




Consideration of Blue Ridge Homebuilders Association concerns and the location of street trees




Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Graham, Echols





January 12, 2005


ACTION:     X                       INFORMATION: 



ACTION:                              INFORMATION: 











The purpose of this worksession is to provide the Board an opportunity to advise staff of any changes to the proposed Subdivision Text Amendment (STA) considered appropriate.  In that regard, there are two items presented for the Board’s consideration.   First, the Blue Ridge Home Builders Association (BRHBA) provided a letter dated November 24, 2004 which outlined 10 concerns and provided recommended changes for each concern.  That letter is attached to this executive summary (Attachment A). Second, staff notes the issue of a planting strip for street trees was not resolved at the December 8th worksession.    


With regard to the BRHBA letter, staff is providing a response to each concern and a comparison of the BRHBA recommendation to the staff recommendation.  With regard to the planting strip for street trees, staff noted at the December 8th worksession there appeared to be general agreement that street trees should be provided.  The outstanding concern was whether street trees should be in the public right of way or on private property adjoining the right of way.        

With direction on these concerns, staff believes the outstanding issues related to the STA have been addressed and the STA can be finalized for Board consideration.  



Goal 2.1: Protect and/or preserve the County's rural Character

Goal 3.3: Develop and implement policies that address the County’s growth and urbanization while continuing to enhance the factors that contribute to the quality of life in the County.



BRHBA Concerns:

Staff greatly appreciates the BRHBA meeting with staff in an attempt to find solutions to their concerns.  While some concerns were resolved, a few remain outstanding.  The letter of November 24th represents the remaining concerns. 


Before offering specific concerns and recommendations, the BRHBA raised a general concern that the STA reflects the Neighborhood Model as “the” allowed form of development rather than “a” form of development.  Staff has previously addressed this concern, the last time being with at the December 8th worksession. In the staff evaluation of the DISC II recommendations at the December 8th worksession, the following was noted: 


In evaluating the STA recommendations, it is important to make a distinction between proposed new requirements necessitated by better utilization of the developable land and those driven by establishing the form of development promoted through the Neighborhood Model.


-          Infrastructure considered necessary for higher density includes curb and gutter streets, street interconnections, and overlot grading plans. Regardless of whether the form of development is consistent with the Neighborhood Model, this infrastructure is appropriate to assure sustainable development where higher densities are promoted.


-          Other infrastructure is necessitated by the form of development promoted with the Neighborhood Model, but can only be successfully implemented on an area-wide basis.  Sidewalks are an example of this infrastructure. If sidewalks are not required of all development, a pedestrian orientation, which is a key element of the Neighborhood Model, will not be achieved to the level called for in the Neighborhood Model”. 


Staff would note the one outstanding issue that does seem strictly related to the form of development proposed with the Neighborhood Model is street trees.  No specific concern with street trees was raised by the BRHBA.   With regard to the specific recommendations of the BRHBA, staff has provided a discussion of each point with Attachment B.  The following table summarizes that discussion. 


BRHBA Recommendation

Staff Response

1.  Obtain a legal opinion from the Virginia Attorney General on the County’s authority to require reservation and construction of streets to property lines.


Staff believes there is no need to solicit this opinion. The County Attorney has advised the Board and staff on the legality of this requirement, which is clearly within the authority granted to localities by state law to regulate the extent to which and the manner in which subdivision streets shall be graded, graveled or otherwise improved.  This requirement also is consistent with the subdivision requirements of other localities.   

2.  Create a bailout clause so that areas with average slopes below 10% grade do not require a grading plan. 

A bailout clause already exists in the STA in the form of an administrative waiver. 

3. The grade over yards should be expressed as a maximum rise/fall of 3’ over 10’.


This can be accommodated through the Design Standards Manual.  Staff recommends loosening this to a rise/fall of 4’ over 10’. 

4.  Eliminate the requirements that limit the amount of drainage that may be carried across a yard in an open ditch or swale. 


Staff does not support this recommendation and notes these are the most common drainage complaint.

5. a. Allow driveway slopes to exceed 25% when certified by a licensed design professional

    b. Reduce the landing area to 15’ in length.

    c. Average the driveway grade over 10’.

a.  Staff supports allowing driveway grades steeper than 20% where a licensed design professional has certified the driveway as safe and convenient for vehicles that will use the driveway, including emergency vehicles.

b.  Staff supports reducing the landing area to 15’ provided the 8% grade is maintained.

c.  Staff supports measuring the driveway grade as an average over 10’ and believes this can be accommodated in the Design Standards Manual. 


6.  Eliminate any requirement for providing a graded area from building entrances to the driveway or street.  Failing this, specifically exclude stairs, shorter distances to property lines and accessible routes from backdoors on basements.  

Staff supports specifically excluding stairs and shorter distances to property lines. 

Staff does not support eliminating this requirement for basement accessible routes as those may be used as accessory apartments. 

7.  Switch Sections A and B of 14-234 and eliminate the requirement for earthmoving computations and natural survey.


Staff does not agree with switching sections A and B.

Staff notes the earthwork computations are a requirement for private roads in the Rural Area and should be considered under Rural Area policy.

8.  County must affirm its intent to use construction condemnation powers to allow for the construction of roads on property lines or the prohibition of spite strips should be removed.


Staff does not support eliminating the spite strip provisions. 

Spite strips also are prohibited by VDOT subdivision street regulations.

Staff notes the use of condemnation powers can be considered on a case by case basis.  Furthermore, this Board cannot obligate future Boards to condemn property.

9.  Eliminate the drainage provisions or revise the flood standard to a 25 year standard similar to VDOT.

Staff supports revising the road drainage / flood standard to a 25 year storm.  

10.  Recommends the Board of Supervisors formally instruct the county engineer that a county mandated requirement for piping is an option of last resort. 

Staff recommends keeping the current STA language to assure property owners are not adversely impacted by runoff. 




Street Trees:

Staff notes the previous discussion of street trees has not resolved where the trees should be located. There are two alternatives that have been considered, both of which have advantages and disadvantages. Those alternatives are placing the street trees in a planting strip within the street right of way or placing the street trees in the yard or common space outside of the right of way. The County Attorney has advised staff it is questionable that a property owners association can be required to maintain street trees in the public right of way; the law is clear that an owner seeking a rezoning cannot proffer such an obligation.  Thus, it is assumed that street trees in the public right of way will be maintained by the County. Street trees along private streets would be the responsibility of the property owners, as the trees are not a public improvement. Finally, as previously noted, the City of Charlottesville requires street trees to be located on the private property rather than within the right of way. The following summarized the pros and cons of each alternative.





Street Trees in Right of Way

-                   Consistent with DISC II recommendations and Neighborhood Model desired street section

-                   County maintenance assures more consistent appearance

-                   Trees do not conflict with underground utilities (underground wire utilites are usually placed just outside the right of way)


-                   Requires more right of way, increasing developer’s costs (additional 6’ width for right of way )

-                   County maintenance requires additional funding  (est. FY 2030 would require $100K to $250K) 

-                   Increased risk of damage to public infrastructure due to proximity of sidewalk and curb


Street Trees on Private Property

-                   Private maintenance minimizes County expense

-                   Reduced risk of damage to public infrastructure with greater separation from curb and sidewalk

-                   Requires less right of way, reducing developer’s costs



-                   Private maintenance will likely result in less consistent appearance 

-                   Increased enforcement difficulty and expense

-                   Not consistent with DISC II recommendation or Neighborhood Model desired street section

-                   Tree location may conflict with underground utilities, requiring larger front yards


From the above, staff notes the decision appears to balance between an ideal of the envisioned Neighborhood Model street sections and a significant new expense to both the County and development community for street trees in the right of way.  To help the Board put this into perspective, an example is provided using a local urban street that has 28’ between curbs and sidewalks in the right of way.  In this example, the distance between street trees on opposite sides of the street is 35’ with the trees in the right of way and 57’ apart with the trees outside the right of way.  Staff will provide an illustration of this example at the worksession that might help the Board in this decision. 


Next Steps:

With resolution of the above issues, staff believes all the controversial provisions of the STA have been addressed.  At this point, staff proposes to incorporate any changes into the STA and schedule a final worksession to review the STA in whole. While the worksessions have focused on the controversial parts of the STA, there are other changes which staff would like to review with the Board before a public hearing.  Assuming no other changes are required, a public hearing for the STA can then be scheduled. 



Staff recommends the Board concur with staff’s response to the BRHBA recommendations or note where a different response is considered appropriate.

Staff requests the Board inform staff whether they prefer street trees in the right of way or on the adjoining private property.



Attachment A – Letter from Blue Ridge Home Builders Association

Attachment B – Discussion of Blue Ridge Home Builders Association recommendations

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