This week in county government; Planning Commission set for busy meeting, work session
Engage Louisa is a community newsletter aimed at keeping folks informed about Louisa County government. It’s free, non-partisan, and powered by volunteers. We believe our community is stronger and our government serves us better when we increase transparency, accessibility, and engagement.
This week in county government: public meetings, Nov. 15 through Nov. 20
Thursday, November 18
Louisa County Industrial Development Authority, Public Meeting Room, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 8:30 am. At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available. (public notice)
Louisa County Planning Commission long-range planning work session, Public Meeting Room, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 6 pm. The Planning Commission will convene for a work session to continue a discussion about how to define “towing yard” in county land development regulations and to discuss “transportation and local land use issues” with the Virginia Department of Transportation. See below for more information. (agenda packet)
Louisa County Planning Commission, Public Meeting Room, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa. 7 pm. Planners will hold a public hearing to consider Louisa Mini Storage LLC’s rezoning request. In addition, they will discuss amending the county’s sign regulations and hear an update on Vallerie Holdings of Virginia LLC’s latest request for a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals. See below for more information. (agenda packet, livestream)
Additional information about Louisa County’s upcoming public meetings is available here.
Interested in taking your talents to one of the county’s numerous boards and commissions? Find out more here, including which boards have vacancies and how to apply.
Planning Commission set for busy meeting, work session
Due to a scheduling conflict, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors delayed its second November meeting, originally set for this Monday, November 15, until next Monday, November 22. But, that doesn’t mean things will be quiet at the Louisa County Office Building in the days ahead.
The Planning Commission will gather Thursday for a pair of meetings. At 6 pm, the group will hold a long-range planning work session and, at 7 pm, planners will convene their regular monthly meeting.
Here’s a look at what’s on the agenda for both sessions.
Public hearing to consider Louisa Mini Storage LLC’s rezoning request: Planners will hold a public hearing and consider whether to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of Louisa Mini Storage LLC’s request to rezone about four and a half acres adjacent to the Louisa Industrial Air Park for the construction and operation of a self-storage facility.
The property consists of two tax map parcels. One parcel (tmp 41-207) encompasses 4.214 acres, currently zoned industrial (IND). The adjoining parcel (tmp 41-208) includes 0.479 acres, currently zoned General Agricultural (A-2).
The applicant is requesting a rezoning to General Commercial (C-2), for the construction and operation of an approximately 72,000-square foot self-storage (mini warehouse) facility. As defined in county land development regulations, mini warehouse facilities include “rental storage space in cubicles where each cubicle has a maximum floor area of 400 square feet, enclosed by walls and ceilings and have a separate entrance for the loading and unloading of stored goods.” Per the applicant, the warehouse would be the county’s only climate-controlled self-storage facility.
The forested parcels are located one tenth of a mile east of the intersection of Industrial Drive (Route 780) and Davis Highway (Route 22) in the Mineral Voting District. They sit adjacent to the Louisa Industrial Air Park, a 323.28-acre multi-lot development. The parcels are included in the Louisa Growth Area and designated for industrial use on the Future Land Use Map in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
According to the applicant, the proposed facility would have “minimal impact on neighboring properties” as mini warehouses don’t typically produce significant external impacts like noise, smoke, odor, and dust. The applicant estimates that traffic impact would be limited as well, suggesting that the facility would generate a total of seven peak hour trips in the morning and 12 in the evening.
The applicant hosted a neighborhood meeting to provide information and answer questions about the project on October 13, which several community members attended. One neighbor expressed concerns that the facility would lead to increased traffic and trash on the road. The applicant responded that they plan to make trash rounds three times a day and do not accept trash on site.
County planning staff recommend approval of the project with certain conditions. These include the use of dark sky compliant lighting, allowing access to the facility only between 7 am and 9 pm, keeping the area free of trash and debris, and establishing and maintaining a vegetative buffer.
Discussion about amending sign ordinance to prohibit vulgar, obscene, indecent and profane language: At the request of the Board of Supervisors, the commission will discuss amending the county’s sign regulations to prohibit “any sign that displays vulgar, obscene, indecent, or profane language.”
At the board’s November 1 meeting, Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow responded to constituent concerns about a cluster of political signs in eastern Louisa County that include vulgar language.
The signs have upset some neighbors, prompting several people to reach out to Barlow and two residents to share their concerns at the board’s last meeting. Jackson District resident Nathan Ware complained during the public comment period that several school buses pass the signs daily. He said he doesn’t think it’s appropriate that children see them. Barlow pointed out that a school bus also stops near the signs.
He requested that the county consider amending its sign regulations to prohibit signs that display vulgar, obscene, indecent and profane language in public view.
Supervisors acknowledged that prohibiting speech could put the county on shaky constitutional ground but agreed to forward Barlow’s proposed amendment to the Planning Commission for further discussion while instructing County Attorney Helen Phillips to explore their options.
“I don’t want the public, certainly not my constituents, to think that we are doing nothing. If we send it out and federal or state law says we can’t do it then fine. It’s on the federal and state people,” Barlow told fellow supervisors.
Currently, the county’s sign ordinance prohibits political signs on county property, signs that violate state laws governing outdoor advertising or violate other state and federal laws, and signs that could impact public safety. Public safety prohibitions include signs that feature the words “stop” or “danger” and/or could be confused with a sign displayed by a public authority, some signs that display flashing lights and cause glare, signs that obstruct building entrances and exits, and signs that interfere with those displayed by public authorities for the purpose of providing traffic instruction and other public information.
Review of Vallerie Holdings’ variance request: Commissioners will hear a review of Vallerie Holdings of Virginia LLC’s request for a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals to allow no setback in an area along the shore of Lake Anna where a five-foot setback is required.
In 2017, Michael Vallerie erected outdoor stairs and a deck on a structure at his business, Pleasants Landing, (tax map parcel 47-(11)-B2 ) in the Jackson Voting District, which violate county setback requirements. The BZA denied a variance that would’ve allowed the structures to remain in place and Vallerie subsequently removed them.
In 2019, Vallerie again asked the BZA for a variance to construct the deck and stairs in the setback. He claimed that the structures were necessary to provide access to the renovated building’s second floor because constructing an access point internally was not feasible.
In addition, according to the applicant, the specific location of the stairs and deck was necessary so that employees could monitor them from another location on the property. Vallerie said that patrons attending events at Pleasants Landing have repeatedly tried to gain unauthorized access to the structure to get a better view and the building was repeatedly burglarized prior to when he acquired it.
The BZA approved the second variance request in a 3-1 vote, prompting Vallerie to reconstruct the stairs and deck. But, Louisa County appealed the ruling. In March 2020, Louisa County Circuit Court vacated the decision because it wasn’t approved by a majority of the seven-member BZA.
Since then, Vallerie has applied four more times including the latest application. The three previous efforts have not resulted in a hearing in front of the full BZA.
The county’s Zoning Administrator rejected the third application, arguing that it couldn’t be filed until a year later since the court upheld an appeal of the BZA’s ruling. Vallerie withdrew the next two applications as the BZA was unable to assemble all seven members to hear the case. Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors appointed two alternate members to the body to fill in when regular members can’t attend a meeting.
The BZA is expected to hear Vallerie’s sixth variance request at its December 15 meeting.
Planners to discuss traffic analysis, towing yards at work session: At the Planning Commission’s August meeting, Cuckoo District Commissioner George Goodwin expressed concern about the process by which county officials evaluate traffic impacts in land use applications. Goodwin requested a work session to address the matter.
According to the meeting materials, planners will meet with the Virginia Department of Transportation and discuss several key topics and questions related to transportation and local land use including:
Institute for Transportation Engineers generation data for solar and planned unit developments.
How does VDOT equate transportation with local land uses?
What role can VDOT play in doing a traffic impact analysis with mitigation suggestions?
Currently, the county gets traffic impact analysis from applicants which, planners suggest, could be biased. The commission would like for county officials to have the option to select projects for study by a “disinterested third party (VDOT)” with the cost covered by the applicant.
Does VDOT use a warrant system for determining the need for and timing of road improvements and do developers have to pay their fair share?
In addition to a discussion about traffic impact and analysis, planners will continue a conversation about how to define “towing yard” in county land development regulations.
Earlier this year, Community Development Director Robert Gardner explained in a memo to the commission that several people approached the county with an interest in establishing a towing yard. Because county land development regulations do not define or address towing yards, they aren’t currently allowed.
During a work session on the topic last month, planners opted to take a different tack in defining “towing yard,” instead crafting a revised definition for “Motor Vehicle Impoundment Yard” and a new definition for “Motor Vehicle Towing Services.”
According to the proposed definition, “Motor Vehicle Impoundment Yard” encompasses “the storage of motor vehicles towed or otherwise removed from one place to another by the use of a motor vehicle specifically designed for that purpose. Storage of towed vehicles means the keeping of such vehicles in an approved impoundment yard for a time not to exceed that which is required to return it to the owner or dispose of it in accordance with the Code of Virginia, state and local law enforcement, judiciary order, or insurance settlement.”
A second definition, “Motor Vehicle Towing Services” covers smaller operations that store vehicles for shorter periods. It reads, in part, “a business that tows or otherwise moves vehicles from one place to another by the use of a motor vehicle specifically designed for that purpose. Motor Vehicle Towing Services may include the temporary storage of motor vehicles. For towing services that store less than six (6) vehicles, the business is exempt from fencing, visual barriers, or other local ordinances that apply to Motor Vehicle Impoundment Yards. Towing services that temporarily store less than six (6) vehicles may do so up to thirty (30) days.”
A “Motor Vehicle Impoundment Yard” would require a Conditional Use Permit, per the proposed definition. Beyond the draft definitions, the commission will discuss the conditions under which an impoundment yard would be permitted and the requirements for its establishment and operation.
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