Lot sizes left alone in rural areas

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors voted to leave the minimum lot size the same in the county’s rural areas.

Members voted 5-2 at an Oct. 28 work session to support a motion by Eric Purcell (Louisa District) to keep the minimum for new lots in the agricultural (A-1 and A-2) zoning districts at 1.5 acres. The county planning commission, which makes recommendations to the board, had proposed raising the minimum in the A-2 district to 3.5 acres, and in A-1 to five.

Purcell made the motion after Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes (Patrick Henry District) said raising the minimum lot size would be unfair to landowners and do nothing to help the cause of affordable housing in the county.

“All [bigger] lot sizes do is keep out a certain status of people,” Barnes said. He added that many landowners see their ability to divide their  property as a means to save for retirement.

Supervisors Duane Adams and Toni Williams (Mineral and Jackson districts) voted against Purcell’s motion. Williams said the county should consider how Hanover County has controlled growth in its rural areas with a 10-acre minimum lot size. 

“If you want to try to control growth you have to be willing to make a hard choice,” he said. “Yes, somebody’s going to be affected somewhere, but I don’t think it precludes anyone’s private property rights.”

He said raising the minimum lot size will not affect many large landowners, who are limited in how many new lots they can legally subdivide on a property. In the A-2 district, so-called “parent parcels” have a total of seven subdivision rights.

The planning commission came up with 3.5 acres as the minimum in A-2, which composes most of the rural areas, as a compromise. Some members wanted to set the minimum as high as 10 acres, while others wanted to leave it at 1.5. The commission discussed the issue after residents who attended meetings about the county’s comprehensive plan in early 2019 showed support for increased lot sizes.

The board also continued discussion of a proposal for growth overlay districts to better control how development looks in fast-growing areas such as Zion Crossroads and Lake Anna. 

Howard Loudin, a Louisa-based builder, and landowner Charles Purcell advised the board not to impose controls that will drive away development. Requiring a builder to use brick might work in Charlottesville, Purcell said, but it won’t necessarily pencil out in Louisa. He said if the board is going to approve design requirements, it should provide developers with the option of seeking a waiver.

Higher-end developers want to have some protection from a next-door neighbor who builds something ugly, said board Chairman Bob Babyok (Green Springs District), explaining why he supports some architectural requirements. 

Adams made a motion to accept the concept of growth overlay zones with design rules, subject to more discussion at another work session on Nov. 12. The motion passed 4-3, with Supervisors Willie Gentry (Cuckoo District), Purcell and Barnes opposed.

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