This week in county government; Supes ok changes to small-scale solar regs; BOS talks roaming dogs, budget, sports complex, and more; County names new community development director; PC roundup
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, March 14 through March 19
Wednesday, March 16
James River Water Authority, Fluvanna County Public Library, 214 Commons Blvd., Palmyra, 9 am. At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available. (public notice)
Thursday, March 17
Louisa County Industrial Development Authority, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 8:30 am. At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available. (public notice)
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.
Supervisors ok changes to small-scale solar regs
Louisa residents may find it a little easier to install solar panels in their yard thanks to changes to county regulations just adopted by the Board of Supervisors. (meeting materials, video)
Supervisors voted 6-1 Monday night to raise the power generation cap for ground-mounted, small-scale solar facilities, which typically serve individual residences, and to allow increased flexibility in how they are buffered, if at all.
Most notably, the new regulations increase the cap on generation capacity from 15kW to 30 kW and allow the Zoning Administrator to approve buffering on a case-by-case basis, considering the size of the parcel, its topography, distance from neighbors, adequacy of existing mature vegetation, and any planned plantings. The administrator also has the option to eliminate buffers entirely. Previously, the facilities required a 30-foot opaque buffer even if adequate vegetation existed.
Louisa County approved new regulations governing ground-mounted, small-scale solar arrays last year as part of a larger update of the zoning code. According to planning staff, the county since received three applications to install panels, which revealed the need to revisit the regulations.
Senior Planner Tom Egeland told the board that two of the three applications exceed the county’s 15kW cap while all three request revisions to the buffer requirements. He also noted that, while setting the cap at 30 kW is responsive to current applicants, the county will likely need to revisit it in the future as technology changes.
Two residents who applied to install solar panels at their home spoke during the public hearing and urged the board to adopt the amendments.
Dan Booton plans to install a 22 kW array at his Oakland Church Road home. Booton told the board that he already has one 11.5 kW array installed but it’s not enough to power his home. He’s awaiting the county’s decision on raising the generation cap in hopes of installing a second 11.5 kW array.
“My wife and I are retired, and we only want a reliable, secure energy source,” he said.
Joseph Parrish plans to install a 7.5 kW array on his farm along Byrd Mill Road where he says buffers are unnecessary, noting that he owns about 100 acres and his land is largely surrounded by mature hardwoods.
Most supervisors responded favorably to the proposed changes, but Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams asked that the ordinance make clear that the Zoning Administrator isn’t obligated to require any buffering around the panels. The ordinance forwarded by the Planning Commission allowed the Zoning Administrator flexibility in approving buffer requirements but didn’t explicitly say they have the option to eliminate them.
“(What if) five years from now, the Zoning Administrator says ‘I want trees planted around everything.’ Nowhere here does it say that (eliminating the buffer) is an option. It’s implied but it doesn’t say that one of the options is that there’s no buffering required,” he said.
Louisa District Supervisor Eric Purcell agreed, motioning that the board approve the ordinance with language clarifying that the Zoning Administrator has the option to eliminate buffers.
Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry was the only board member to oppose the motion. He wondered why the county would require buffers for ground-mounted panels when there’s no requirement to hide rooftop panels.
“I think they are just as ugly on a roof as they are on the ground,” he said, calling buffering requirements “overkill.”
In addition to increasing the generation cap and allowing flexibility in buffering, the amendments eliminate unnecessary setback text and alter regulations when buffering is required. The ordinance stipulates that a mandated evergreen buffer include a single row of plantings no more than 12 feet apart and, at minimum, three feet in height when installed. Previously, the ordinance required trees to stand five feet tall when planted.
BOS roundup: Supervisors talk roaming dogs, budget, sports complex, and more
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors had a busy Monday, continuing to craft the FY23 budget during an afternoon work session, and covering an array of topics, from roaming dogs to community clean-up, at its regular bi-monthly meeting. (meeting materials, video) (work session video)
Work session roundup
Cost of New Bridge Fire/EMS Station continues to rise: Though the New Bridge Fire and EMS Station was included in a previous Capital Improvement Plan, the rising cost of the facility has made it a hot topic this budget cycle.
County Administrator Christian Goodwin told the board Monday afternoon that construction, site work, and initial operating costs for the facility could reach $2.3 million with site work alone costing more than $500,000. He said that the site’s sloping topography has driven that cost upward. The board currently has $1.5 million budgeted for the project, which is slated for construction on 2.4 acres of county-owned land along Route 208 near the Lake Anna Food Lion.
When supervisors originally approved funding for the facility in FY21, they allocated just $800,000 with the Foundation for Lake Anna Emergency Services, a citizens’ group advocating for its construction, chipping in another $100,000. The board approved an additional $600,000 in funding late last year after receiving a $1.2 million estimate for the building’s construction sans site work.
Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams suggested that the board consider a land swap with Stillwater Equity Partners, the developers of the nearby Cutalong resort, who own a flatter site near the Food Lion. The board briefly entertained that option last year but it met backlash from residents. Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams, who represents the district where the station is set for construction, didn’t support moving the facility.
Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry expressed concerns about the project’s ballooning cost, saying he felt “misled” from the outset.
“I think it’s been very misleading to this board and even to the residents of the county that we had a $800,000 project and now it’s going over $2 million,” he said.
County Administrator Christian Goodwin countered that, since the project’s inception several years ago, construction costs have risen, which is beyond the county’s control.
Adams scoffed at both Williams’ and Gentry’s suggestions, urging the board to stay the course and finish the facility in its current location.
“We can have a knee-jerk reaction here and say people have been misled and say we want to go back and revisit a land swap or we can continue and build where we’ve told the people for two years it’s going to be, where the county had a groundbreaking, where this board decided twice by a vote (to build it),” he said.
Goodwin told supervisors that staff is still negotiating a final contract for the facility and that he’ll likely have a proposal for their consideration at the board’s next meeting.
Board continues to craft FY23 budget: Supervisors continued to craft the county’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget Monday afternoon. The new fiscal year kicks off July 1.
More highlights from the meeting:
Finance Director Wanda Colvin informed the board that real estate tax assessments came in some $2.6 million over projections. She noted that assessments are up more than 14 percent including new construction and over 12 percent excluding new construction. She said that assessments on personal property came in about $380,000 higher than anticipated.
The board will hold its first public hearing of the FY23 budget cycle at its March 21 meeting, allowing residents to weigh in on a potential real estate tax increase as a result of rising assessments. According to the public notice, the county proposes to maintain the current real estate tax rate of 72 cents per $100 of assessed value. If the board ultimately opts to keep that rate, real estate tax bills will rise, on average, nearly 11 percent.
Supervisors discussed several changes to the FY23 Operating budget. They agreed to fund three new dispatch positions for the Sheriff’s Office, bringing the total number of new personnel to six. The board previously agreed to fund three new road deputies.
At the request of Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes and Fire and EMS Chief Robert Dube, supervisors agreed to consider pay hikes for firefighters and EMTs. Dube told the board that starting pay for the county’s FEMS staff is impacting the applicant pool and Barnes said the department recently lost two employees to higher paying jobs in neighboring localities. Board Chair Duane Adams appointed Barnes and Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams to a working group to investigate the issue while putting a $540,000 placeholder in the budget to potentially cover the increase.
At the request of Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow, supervisors put a $1 million placeholder in the FY23 Capital Improvement Plan to potentially cover the cost of installing a new emergency communications tower in southeastern Louisa County. Barlow said that emergency services personnel have difficultly communicating via radios in parts of his district. He pointed out that, during a recent fire on Mickie Town Road, firefighters had to use cell phones to talk with dispatchers.
County Administrator Christian Goodwin said that the EMS communications system covers about 95 percent of the county but much of the five percent it doesn’t cover lies within “challenging terrain” in the southeast corner. He said staff is working with Motorola and a radio engineering firm on how best to address the issue, noting that Motorola provided a $750,000 to $1 million estimate to erect a new tower.
Board Chair Duane Adams appointed Barlow and Green Springs District Supervisor Rachel Jones, who previously worked as a dispatcher, to collaborate with staff and report back to the board in the next several weeks. The board agreed to put a placeholder in the CIP at the upper end of Motorola’s estimate.
At the request of a board member, Finance Director Wanda Colvin provided an update on what it would take to re-install a skate park adjacent to the Betty Queen Center. She said if the park is rebuilt on the original foundation and the county purchases plastic ramps, which tend to last longer than wooden ones, it could cost between $175,000 and $280,000, according to Parks and Recreation Director James Smith.
The park was uprooted in 2012 to make way for the Health Department, which has operated out of trailers at the site for about a decade. At the time, county officials told skateboard enthusiasts that the park would be rebuilt when the Health Department found a permanent home. According to County Administrator Christian Goodwin, the Health Department will likely move to the Louisa Medical Center, adjacent to the County Office Building, in 2023.
Now, skateboarders want the county to make good on its promise.
The board rejected, 2-5, a motion by Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams to deny the skate park inclusion in the CIP. Adams asked staff to explore the skate park further, noting that the park was well-used prior to its removal.
After hearing a plea from Lisa Renger, director of the Louisa County Re-entry Council, the board agreed to increase the council’s allocation for the coming fiscal year from $39,000 to $42,000, its original request. Renger said she’ll use the extra money to administer a program in which she works directly with returning citizens preparing for release from incarceration.
County Attorney Helen Phillips said that the county could potentially pay for the program via funds it’s expected to receive from a class-action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. It’s unclear how much money the county will get from the settlement.
Supervisors agreed to allocate an additional $2,100 to the Commission on Aging beyond the $4,500 already budgeted. According to Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry, the board’s liaison to the commission, the funds will cover postage for surveys aimed at identifying elderly residents’ needs. Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams asked that the board receive a report on how many surveys are returned.
Regular meeting roundup
Supervisors contemplate how to address roaming dogs: At Monday’s meeting, supervisors again debated how best to rein in roaming dogs but made no decision on their path forward. Instead, Board Chair Duane Adams appointed Louisa District Supervisor Eric Purcell and Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes to a working group tasked with crafting a list of options for the board’s consideration at its March 21 meeting.
Roaming dogs have been a hot topic at several recent meetings with residents urging supervisors to address the issue. They’ve complained that wandering canines regularly cross their property, sometimes endangering their pets, and local authorities have few tools to remedy the problem.
The county’s current dogs running at large ordinance bars dogs from roaming off leash and out of the control of their owner, beyond their owner’s property, only in the months of April, May, and June. Violators may be subject to a summons and fine.
The remainder of the year, there’s no penalty for dogs running at large. Animal Control officers can pick up roaming dogs and return them to their owner or take them to the animal shelter if the owner is unknown or not home, according to Chief Animal Control Officer Alyssa Ellison. Ellison said officers provide resources to dog owners to help limit problems.
“(The current ordinance) doesn’t really have a lot of bite with a lot of people. A lot of folks know that I don’t have a summons that I can leave them for the dog running at large (most of the year),” Ellison said, describing dogs running at large ordinances as a preventative measure to stop more serious situations from occurring like encounters with dangerous dogs, which are governed by other sections of state and county code.
Louisa’s ordinance applies county-wide except in about 25 subdivisions, mostly around Lake Anna, and the Mineral Trailer Park. Those areas bar dogs at large year-round and violators are subject to a maximum $150 fine. The towns of Louisa and Mineral also bar roaming dogs year-round under their own ordinances.
Ellison told supervisors that Animal Control gets very few calls from subdivisions that fall under the beefed-up dogs running at large ordinance. She said that, generally, calls from those area involve a dog coming into the subdivision from an area that doesn’t have a strict leash law. In those cases, she has no recourse to penalize the dog’s owner unless it’s April, May, or June.
Ellison said that the county-wide ordinance leaves Animal Control officers few options when it comes to addressing residents who habitually allow their dogs to run at large. She pointed to Spotsylvania County’s dogs running at large ordinance as an example of an effective way to regulate roaming dogs.
Spotsylvania County bars roaming dogs year-round and violators are subject to escalating penalties. A first offense qualifies as a Class 4 misdemeanor, the lowest criminal offense in the commonwealth. Ellison said the offense is punishable by a maximum $150 fine.
Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams expressed concern about an officer charging someone with a misdemeanor when a dog may be running at large because it escaped its owner’s property one time.
Ellison said it’s at an officer’s discretion whether to cite a dog owner, noting that she’s unlikely to write a ticket under such circumstances.
“You have to consider the totality of the situation,” she said.
Ellison said that state code provides localities flexibility in enforcing dogs running at large ordinances, pointing out that instead of citing a dog owner for a misdemeanor, the county could opt for civil fines that apply county-wide and year-round.
Green Springs District Supervisor Rachel Jones said that when dogs go missing, their owners often call Animal Control for help and post on social media. She wondered if adopting a penalty-heavy ordinance would deter dog owners from taking those steps, which are often helpful in bringing a dog home.
Ellison said that, during her six years working in Spotsylvania, she never encountered that problem and pointed out that she doesn’t generally classify a dog escaping and an owner actively looking for it as a dog running at large.
County Attorney Helen Phillips said that, per state law, localities are permitted to bar roaming dogs any time of year, but ordinances must include a specific exemption for hunting dogs. Any changes to the county’s dogs running at large regulations would require a public hearing prior to adoption.
Ballot referendum expected for sports complex; Committee to explore potential locations: Louisa voters will likely have a chance to decide if they want to fund a multi-field sports complex via a bond referendum on the ballot this November.
Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes stated emphatically Monday night that the project’s fate will be placed in the hands of county citizens.
“This project would not go forward without a referendum. We’ve said that. So, if anybody needs to know what the definition of a referendum is, we can give it to them. It’s a vote of the people,” he said.
Barnes’ comments were an indirect response to Green Springs District resident Will Shaw, a frequent speaker during the board’s public comment period, who suggested supervisors are making decisions about the park “behind closed doors.”
County officials have discussed the project, which could include turf fields for baseball, softball, football, soccer, and other sports, at several recent meetings and preliminarily included $8.9 million in funding in the Capital Improvement Plan for FY24. They haven’t formally voted to move forward with a referendum but face a summer deadline to place the issue on the ballot.
According to Barnes, the county would likely fund the project via general obligation bonds, which usually yield the best interest rates. State law requires that county governments seek the permission of voters to issue the bonds.
Whether Louisa residents want to pay for the complex is one unanswered question. Another is where the facility would be built. Supervisors took a small step toward addressing that issue at Monday’s meeting.
Board Chair Duane Adams appointed Green Springs District Supervisor Rachel Jones and Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry, who serves as liaison to the county’s Parks and Recreation Committee, to serve in a working group charged with scouting locations for the park. The board allocated up to $15,000 for soil work at prospective sites at a previous meeting and several supervisors noted that they wouldn’t necessarily need to select a parcel before moving forward with the referendum.
So far, only one potential site has been publicly discussed: 190 acres of county-owned land along Route 15 just north of Zion Crossroads. That property, located in the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District, is home to ultra-deep wells that provide water to the area. It’s long been the source of controversy and, occasionally, litigation between the county and residents eager to protect historic district.
County officials have suggested that they’d like to site the park near Zion so it’s easily accessible off Interstate 64 and close to hotels and restaurants. Parks and Recreation Director James Smith has touted the facility as a potential destination for “sports tourism,” noting that it could serve as a venue for tournaments that draw out of county visitors.
Jones and Gentry will work with county staff in scouting locations. They are expected to report back to the board at its April 18 meeting.
Board axes AFD fee: The board voted unanimously to eliminate the county’s $100 fee for the creation and/or addition of property to an agricultural and forestal district. AFDs are a conservation tool that allow landowners engaged in farming and forestry to voluntarily prohibit development on their land for a 10-year period. At its February 23 meeting, the Ag/Forestal and Rural Preservation Committee requested that the board remove the fee.
In September 2019, supervisors waived the AFD fee for two years to promote the districts. At the Ag/Forestal Committee’s request, they extended that waiver for another six months last fall.
Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams, who serves as liaison to the committee, said that the fee isn’t a revenue generator for the county and the group believes that removing it helps incentivize landowners to participate in the AFD program.
AFDs have become an increasingly popular conservation tool across Louisa. The county includes 15 districts and, since waiving the fee, has added acreage to existing AFDs and approved the creation of one new district.
Board considers reviving Clean Community Commission: In response to concerns about litter along roadsides, the board is considering reviving the county’s Clean Community Commission. The commission once served as a locus for community clean-up efforts before supervisors axed it due to difficulty recruiting members.
Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes suggested re-organizing the committee, albeit in a modified form, during Monday night’s meeting, noting that community members are willing to volunteer when they can, and local government needs to assist in those efforts.
Barnes endorsed an idea floated by his constituent, Beth Ann Boone, to host two county-wide clean-up days a year organized by residents.
Boone told the board during the public comment period that she recently launched Louisa Clean, a volunteer group “dedicated to organizing a movement to get the county clean and keep it clean.” Boone said that the group plans to work with schools, churches, and community groups to organize the clean-up days as well as actively promote participation in VDOT’s Adopt a Highway program. In that program, groups take on the responsibility of cleaning up specific sections of roadside.
Boone asked supervisors to formally support her group’s clean-up efforts, pointing out that there will be costs involved in publicizing clean-up days and purchasing safety equipment. She also suggested that the county place signs along major thoroughfares to remind residents to keep the community clean.
Several supervisors agreed with the need to ramp up litter-removal initiatives, noting that they’ve repeatedly heard from constituents about the issue and residents are eager to get involved.
Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams said that he’s organized three community clean-ups in his district. He said he’s worked with the Sheriff’s Office, businesses, and community groups to ensure safe and successful outings. During the clean-ups, which took place early on a Saturday morning in spring and fall, Adams said volunteers picked up more than 350 bags of trash and about 37 tires.
The board could formally reorganize the Clean Community Commission and appoint new members at an upcoming meeting though they didn’t lay out specific plans.
Board approves CUP allowing agricultural activity on property zoned residential: The board voted 7-0 to approve Nathan and Chelsea Newcomb’s request for a Conditional Use Permit to establish an agricultural operation on three adjoining parcels zoned General Residential (R-2). The Newcombs own the parcels via Farmhouse 5 LLC.
The properties (tmp 97 68A, 97 68 B, and 97 68 C) cover about 8.2 acres located along Owens Creek Road in the Mountain Road Voting District and lie adjacent to a larger parcel owned by the Newcombs. The land is surrounded by properties zoned Agricultural (A-1, A-2) and General Residential (R-2).
According to their land use application, the Newcombs plan to establish a farmette with a garden and some livestock. The couple told the Planning Commission that they aren’t looking to run an extensive livestock operation but want to get their three children involved in 4-H.
Louisa County’s land development regulations allow for passive agricultural activity on property zoned residential by-right including the cultivation of crops and silviculture. But, keeping and raising farm animals and fowl is specifically excluded, requiring a CUP on R-2-zoned property.
To alleviate the Planning Commission’s concerns about how many animals the land can support and potential impacts on neighbors, the Newcombs agreed to cap the number of animals they’ll raise. Under a condition recommended by county planning staff, the CUP also prohibits the Newcombs from raising swine, alpacas, and llamas.
Supervisors made only minor changes to the proposed CUP prior to approval, clarifying language relating to the number of cows and calves permitted on the property.
Board approves amendment to CUP for telecommunications tower: Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a request for an amendment to a Conditional Use Permit that clears the way for a telecommunication tower’s sale and continued operation.
The permit, issued in 2006, allowed National Communication Towers LLC to construct and operate a cell tower at 7383 Zachary Taylor Highway (tmp 16-7) in the Mineral Voting District, a 141-acre agriculturally zoned (A-1) parcel owned by Samuel and Jean Bazzanella.
The permit included a condition that prohibited the tower’s transfer to another applicant or owner, stipulating that it must be removed within six months of its sale. NCT plans to sell the 199-foot tower to SBA Communications Corporation, prompting the company to request the condition’s removal.
According to Stephen Gallagher, an NCT consultant, the tower hosts equipment for several major cellular providers as well as a local broadband service. Gallagher said that if the board denied NCT’s request, the tower site would be razed or the company would be forced to retain it. He noted that SBA has already acquired all NCT towers in the county except this one.
Senior Planner Tom Egeland told the board that, over the last four years, similar conditions have not been included in other CUPs and it’s unclear why such a condition was included in this permit.
Dominion delivers State of the Station address: Representatives from Dominion Energy attended Monday night’s meeting to deliver the North Anna Nuclear Power Station’s annual State of Station address. Read the written version of the address in the meeting materials. No one spoke during a public hearing that accompanied the address.
Board approves updated Emergency Operations Plan: Without discussion, the board approved an updated Emergency Operations Plan, which lays out the legal and organizational basis for the county to effectively respond to and recover from disasters and emergency situations. The plan, revised by Fire and EMS Chief Robert Dube, requires an update every four years. Read the basic plan in the meeting materials.
Louisa County introduces new community development director
Louisa County introduced Josh Gillespie as its Director of Community Development at Thursday night’s Planning Commission meeting. Gillespie takes the place of Robert Gardner, who retired after serving in the role since 2017. (video)
Gillespie comes to Louisa County from Orange County where he served as Director of Planning and Development Services for just over a year. In that job, he oversaw the county’s current and comprehensive planning, building and development services, inspections, code enforcement, and enforcement of zoning and subdivision ordinances.
Before joining Orange County government, Gillespie worked for two years in Chesterfield County’s Planning Department where he handled land use applications and provided special expertise in master planning and mixed-use, reuse, and redevelopment projects, according to his profile on Linkedin.
In addition to his experience as a planner, Gillespie brings a strong background in historic preservation to the job. He served as Director of Heritage Assets and as a Historic Preservation Officer at Hampton’s Fort Monroe Authority for five years and as a project manager for the Fort Monroe Federal Development Authority for three years. The Fort Monroe Authority oversees the operation, conservation, and preservation of the Fort Monroe National Historic Landmark District, which is home to the Fort Monroe National Monument and other historic resources. In his role as project manager, Gillespie helped facilitate Fort Monroe’s transition from a military installation to civilian destination for tourism, recreation, and educational programming.
Gillespie received a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Furman University and master’s degree in historic preservation from the University of Georgia. He resides in Goochland County.
“I have a background of service in the public sector to cities, counties, and the state of Virginia. I’ve also worked in the private sector, and I’m thrilled to be here as a community development director, which is a combined department including our planning activities but also our building and code enforcement activities,” Gillespie told the Planning Commission.
Planning Commission roundup: Commissioners recommend shortening retention period for family subdivision parcels, green light AFD renewals
The Louisa County Planning Commission voted Thursday night to recommend that the Board of Supervisors shorten the retention period for family subdivision parcels. (meeting materials, video)
In a 4-3 decision, planners opted to advise supervisors to cut from 10 years to five years the period that recipients of a family subdivision plot are required to own it before it can be sold.
Five residents weighed in during the public hearing with four urging commissioners to recommend significantly shortening the period.
Mineral District resident Jack Matthews, a former member of the Planning Commission, said that Louisa’s lengthy retention period is out of step with those in neighboring localities and puts an undue burden on residents.
“This is not fair. A 10-year retention period, in my opinion, is an overreach by the county. None of our peers have a 10-year retention period, none of them,” he said, adding that “not one county that touches Louisa County has more than a five-year retention period.”
In an email to the commission, Michael Ralvus said that he and his wife used the family subdivision ordinance to provide land so that his aging parents could build a home nearby. But, now, they worry his parents will be prevented from selling the plot even if medical hardship intervenes. Ralvus called the 10-year retention period “a heavy burden.”
State code requires that localities provide reasonable provisions for the creation of family subdivisions. According to Louisa County’s land development regulations, landowners are permitted to subdivide properties in the agricultural (A-1), agricultural (A-2), residential limited (R-1), or residential general (R-2) zoning districts into two or more parts for the purpose of sale or gift to a member of their immediate family. The person to whom the property is sold or gifted must retain it for at least 10 years before it can be sold unless it’s subject to “an involuntary transfer such as foreclosure, death, divorce, judicial sale, condemnation or bankruptcy.”
At the request of a constituent, Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams asked that the Planning Commission take a look at the retention period to “see if (10 years) is still an appropriate length of time.” The Board of Supervisors has the final say on whether the period changes.
During the commission’s February meeting, Deputy Zoning Administrator Linda Buckler told planners that the county raised the retention period from one year to five years in 1997 to combat circumvention as property owners divided parcels under the more generous family divisions rules then sold them after one year.
Family divisions aren’t required to adhere to the same road frontage requirements as other divisions, Buckler explained, and gifting or selling a parcel to a family member doesn’t require a road maintenance agreement though parcels do require a platted right of way. In addition, family divisions don’t count against the total number of lots allowed on a particular parcel. Per state law, an individual is only permitted to receive one family subdivision parcel per locality during their lifetime.
Buckler said that supervisors raised the retention period from five years to 10 years in 2010, the longest period among surrounding localities, but she could find little information about what motivated the change. She noted that the county handles family subdivisions regularly and there don’t seem to be any significant issues with the current criteria.
Cuckoo District Planner George Goodwin suggested that the county keep the retention period at 10 years. He said he wasn’t convinced by the argument that Louisa should change its rules simply because they differ from those in other localities.
“We don’t know what (surrounding counties’) planning assumptions are and what they are trying to accomplish with their planning. I know what ours is. It’s to maintain the rural character of the county,” he said.
But Goodwin said he understood that unforeseen circumstances can intervene and recommended including a carve out for individuals facing medical hardship. He said he could support an amendment that allowed a five-year retention period for someone who could prove they needed to sell their land to deal with medical issues.
Louisa District Planner Manning Woodward said that commissioners aren’t privy to the many compelling reasons residents may have for selling a parcel and argued that mandating a 10-year retention period is overbearing.
“If we have to start making exceptions and adding things on, to me, that proves that there’s some overreach by the county,” he said.
Patrick Henry District Planner Ellis Quarles agreed. He said he understood Goodwin’s point that Louisa shouldn’t blindly follow other localities but argued that the county should be “in line” and adopt a reasonable retention period.
Mountain Road District Planner Gordon Brooks said he was moved by Ralvus’ letter and inclined to shorten the period to five years.
“That’s the people we need to look out for. That’s when we are dictating what you can do with your property and when for reasons we can’t justify,” he said, noting that no one in county government seems to know why the retention period was raised from five years to 10.
After some discussion about adding a specific exemption for medical hardship, Woodward moved to recommend simply shortening the retention period to five years. Brooks, Quarles, and Jackson District Planner Cy Weaver supported the motion while Goodwin, Mineral District Planner John Disosway, and Green Springs District Planner Jim Dickerson opposed.
Planners recommend AFD renewals: The Planning Commission held three public hearings focused on agricultural and forestal districts, a conservation tool that allows landowners engaged in farming or forestry to voluntarily prohibit development on their property. The districts require review and renewal by the Board of Supervisors every 10 years.
Planners unanimously recommended that the board approve renewals for the Goldmine Creek and Ellisville AFDs, which stretch across portions of northwest Louisa County around Goldmine Road and Ellisville Drive.
The Ellisville AFD, originally created in 1992, currently encompasses 18 parcels covering about 1,505 acres. Property owners requested the removal of three parcels from the district, which would reduce its size to just under 1,000 acres. The Goldmine Creek AFD currently includes 34 parcels covering just over 3,400 acres. One property owner requested the removal of a roughly 69-acre parcel, which would reduce the district’s size to about 3,334 acres.
In a third public hearing, the commission unanimously recommended that the Board of Supervisors approve a request to withdraw about 288 acres from the Mountain Road AFD. Louis Kean and Cora Pennell own the Indian Creek Road property via Louis L. Kean Jr. LLC. They requested its removal for estate planning purposes.
Property owners are free to remove parcels from an AFD when the district is up for review and renewal but withdrawal outside of that 10-year interval requires Board of Supervisors’ approval. The Mountain Road AFD is up for review and renewal by August 1, 2022.
In an email to the Planning Commission, Pennell said that she and Kean are in their late 70s and want to divide the parcel and gift it to their heirs as soon as possible. Because the property is in an LLC, they can’t divide it under the county’s family subdivision ordinance, which is the only division permitted for property in an AFD.
Kean reiterated the couple’s desire to remove the parcel Thursday night, noting that he and Pennell “aren’t getting any younger” and their recent involvement in a car accident reminded them of the importance of completing estate planning as soon as possible.
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