Overlay districts approved in county’s eight growth areas

A map of the Ferncliff growth area from the 2040 Louisa County Comprehensive Plan, passed by the board of supervisors in September 2019. The board voted on Feb. 16 to include the area designated for future mixed use (in pink) within a new growth overlay district, but to exclude the area designated for industry (in gray).

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors approved a major revision to the zoning ordinance, adding growth overlay districts where developers and landowners have more flexibility but are also subject to new requirements.

The board voted unanimously on Feb. 16 to accept the revision after members won over Supervisors Fitzgerald Barnes and Eric Purcell (Patrick Henry and Louisa voting districts), who objected to including sections of the Ferncliff and Louisa growth areas in the overlay districts. 

The overlay districts include areas of the county with the greatest potential for development. Within those areas, most new construction other than single-family homes will be subject to architectural design rules, like a requirement to use brick as a primary material in buildings. But the revised zoning code also provides developers in those areas reduced building setbacks and more land uses allowed by right. 

For example, a gas station in the Ferncliff growth area along parts of Three Notch Road (Route 250) will require a conditional use permit from the supervisors, while a gas station within the overlay district at the corner of Route 250 and Courthouse Road (Route 208) will not. The conditional use permit process enables the board to turn down a project if it doesn’t meet with community support.

Barnes said he didn’t want people who live in the Ferncliff area, which is in his voting district, to lose the ability to influence what is built in their community.  

“If I’m from New York or California, I don’t care what comes to Ferncliff,” he said. “If I live there, I do. What I’m talking about is the ability to have a say.”

Purcell had a different concern about the overlay districts, that they will stifle development in growth areas like Louisa where public water and sewer service only extends to certain areas, or in others, such as Gum Spring, where there are no public utilities at all.

He initially proposed limiting the overlay districts to the Zion Crossroads and Lake Anna growth areas, where development pressure is greatest and that will have public utilities. While Lake Anna does not have public water, it will have public sewer once the county acquires and revamps a wastewater treatment plant behind Lake Anna Plaza (see related article on page A-1). 

Jeff Ferrel, assistant county administrator, worked on rewriting the zoning regulations with staff in the community development department. He said a number of market conditions determine when the time is right for growth to occur. But having access to public water and sewer “helps push it along.”

After some debate, board members agreed to exclude from overlay districts the part of the Ferncliff growth area designated for industrial use, and two mixed-use areas on the east and west edges of the town of Louisa. The overlay districts do not apply to areas designated for residential use. 

Panhandling ban

The board voted 7-0 on Feb. 16 to bar people from asking for money while standing in public roadways, responding to ongoing panhandling issues in Zion Crossroads.

The ban applies across the county, but the intersection of James Madison Highway (Route 15) and Camp Creek Parkway is where it has been reported as a significant problem. Board Chairman Bob Babyok (Green Springs District) requested action on the issue after reports that panhandlers were creating a public safety issue by walking in traffic.

The county is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation to install a sign in the Zion Crossroads intersection to advise people that they can contact social service agencies for help with housing, food and other needs.

County staff who worked on the ordinance change considered exempting charities such as churches or volunteer fire departments from the ban, since they sometimes raise funds by soliciting motorists. But officials decided it’s unsafe to stand or walk in busy roadways, regardless of the purpose.

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