For the love of home

Wednesday night, 9/2/15, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors is holding a public hearing about the forested hillside parallel to Franklin Street . Following the public hearing and discussion the Supervisors will vote on the fate of the slope.
There have been five meetings (two community meetings + three Albemarle Planning Commission meetings) leading up to the Supervisors vote Wednesday night. Wednesday night a decision will be made.

The Franklin Street hillside is currently designated as “preserved”. The Albemarle Planning Commission voted 5-1, recommending that this slope retain its “preserved” status for the following “official” reasons:

1. The slopes are a contiguous area of more than 10,000 square feet.
2. The slopes are identified as a resource in the Comprehensive Plan and are designated for preservation.
3. Slopes in Area “A” (paralleling Franklin Street) have characteristics of both managed slopes and preserved slopes, but on the whole, contain more characteristics of preserved slopes.

Please write the Board of Supervisors an email.
[email protected]
In the “subject” line Reference: ZMA201500002, Franklin Street
Ask the Supervisors to vote to retain the “preserved slope” designation on the Franklin Street hillside as recommended by the Albemarle Planning Commission 7/14/15.
This is the first challenge to the recently rewritten Albemarle County  30.7 Steep Slopes Overlay District Ordinance. If this slope loses its preserved designation, many others will be in the cross hairs.
Consider attending Wednesday’s meeting at Lane High School, observing, and possibly speaking at the public hearing. “ZMA201500002, Franklin Street” is the last of five public hearings scheduled for Wednesday night.

The reasons cited above are the ones that carry the “letter of the law” weight under Albemarle’s Steep Slopes Overlay District ordinance, the ordinance that provides for protection of Franklin Hill. But, there are other reasons that come into play. Your conservative and polite letter might cite just reasons 1, 2 and 3 above, but motivations for writing include:

The change in designation would be devastating to our neighbors on Franklin Street.

The precedent set by the change from “preserved” to “managed” slopes would encourage developers to file for the removal of protective preserved slope status at other locations throughout the County. The landscape of Albemarle would be altered.

The slopes are part of a system of slopes associated with or abutting a water feature.  Franklin Hill drains to Moores Creek and then to the Rivanna.
Moores Creek and the Rivanna need help from natural systems to maintain water quality.

southern neighborhood master plan map
The Franklin Hill parcel is designated in the Albemarle Comprehensive plan for “parks and green systems”.
“Green systems are the interconnected features of vegetated critical slopes, streams and stream buffers, wetlands, floodplains, parks, trails, and recreational amenities that provide a variety of benefits to residents and preserve the natural environment.”
Being so designated, the status of “preserved” should remain.

Adapt development to the topography and natural setting of the County rather than modifying the topography and natural setting to accommodate development. Excessive grading, cutting, and filling should be discouraged while imaginative and sensitive design should be encouraged.–General standards of Critical slopes standards

Franklin Street is the Boundary between the City and County. Taking extra care in planning matters at “the boundary” was one of two primary outcomes from the HUD funded livability study, Charlottesville and Albemarle, are charged with establishing:
…policies that provide for consideration of development effects on the neighboring locality and shared community resources.

Another “livability study outcome”:
Charlottesville and Albemarle County support neighborhoods and places that allow residents to live, work, and play near their homes, and where attention to the character of new development and redevelopment enhances quality of life.

Franklin Hill and the portions of the Woolen Mills in the County are in what is known by Albemarle County as “The Southern Neighborhood”.
Applicable Statements from Southern and Western Neighborhoods Master Plan that speak directly to steep slopes:
·       Environmental features include streams, stream buffers, floodplains, wetlands and systems of steep slopes.  Preservation of these features is expected. (A.8.50, Existing Parks and Green Systems)
·       The stream buffers, systems of steep slopes, floodplain, and wetlands adjacent to the Rivanna River, Moore’s Creek, and Biscuit Run should be preserved. (A.8.72, Natural Resource Protection Recommendation)

The owner of the property will be able to develop with the “preserved” slope designation in place. The owner can build a driveway across the slope by “special permit”. The special permit process will ensure that they do a minimum of damage to the hillside.

aerial of Franklin Hill
The red polygon +/- contains the area from which TowneBank requests the removal of “preserved slope” zoning

 Staff has not made a convincing argument that the areas are significantly limited or fragmented with respect to the steep slope. The purpose of having a steep slopes ordinance is to prevent intensive runoff and protect natural topography. It is (This slope) is very close to Moores Creek and the Rivanna River, both of which are impaired. Showing one small sliver that is less than 25% is not an adequate rationale for overturning that whole area as a steep slope complex. I am not willing to consider a change to the slopes based on the evidence presented. The comprehensive plan also addresses  this area as parks and green spaces. I’d like the applicant to come back at a later time with a site plan, with a detailed plan for how they need to develop this site and ask for a special exception for what is actually needed rather than asking for a blanket exemption.
— Karen Firehock, Albemarle County Planning Commissioner, July 14, 2015

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