IW supervisors table zoning, subdivision ordinance changes

Published 7:04 pm Friday, March 25, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A slate of proposed zoning ordinance changes, which include new restrictions on solar farms, stalled for a second time upon reaching Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors March 17.

The changes, which range from allowing commercial reptile breeding to setting policies on Dumpsters, include provisions that would restrict utility-scale solar farms to areas outside of the county’s development service districts and require them to be sited within a 2-mile radius of an existing substation or high-voltage power line.

Currently, Isle of Wight has designated three development service districts, which serve as geographic areas where the county hopes to attract developers with available or planned water and sewer infrastructure and improvements. The Newport DSDS spans Benn’s Church, Brewer’s Neck and Carrollton boulevards. The Windsor DSD surrounds the northern, southern and eastern borders of the town of Windsor. The Camptown DSD spans Route 258 and Carrsville Highway near the county’s border with the city of Franklin.

The supervisors first considered the changes in November, but voted to send them back to the county’s Planning Commission for further review. In February, the Planning Commission gave its assent to a revised version of the draft ordinance, which now includes a provision permitting short-term rentals like AirBnB in areas of the county zoned rural residential (RR) or rural agricultural conservation (RAC).

The board voted to table the matter again after Supervisor William McCarty asked for further discussion regarding the added short-term rental provisions. McCarty added that he was not in favor of approving the listed changes “as a gigantic slate.”

The board then voted to approve changes to its subdivision ordinance, with two proposed provisions pulled at McCarty’s request.

The approved changes include a provision stating that any statements made by the county’s zoning administrator on a proposed plat or construction plan that did not receive approval shall maintain efficacy for six months and be void thereafter. They also strike a requirement that boundary line adjustments to a parcel not result in the creation of irregularly-shaped lots.

The two provisions McCarty asked be pulled were sections 5.11.1 and 5.11.4. The former would require lots be “generally regular in shape, such as rectangular or pie-shaped” and “not contain peculiarly shaped elongations” except when necessary to provide access to a public street. The latter would require the sidelines of lots be “reasonably straight and approximately at right angles or radial to the street line.”

According to Amy Ring, the county’s director of community development, removing the prohibition on irregular-shaped lots during boundary line adjustments is intended to make the county’s subdivision ordinance more flexible. When creating new lots, though, as opposed to adjusting a boundary line, the irregular-shaped lot prohibition still applies, unless it’s intended to work around natural topography or roads.

“It does not mean a fence,” Ring said, explaining her staff frequently receives requests to subdivide land along fence lines.

The two provisions McCarty singled out, she said, are clarifications of existing county policies rather than new restrictions.

Prior to the vote, the supervisors put the zoning and subdivision ordinance changes to a public hearing, which drew three speakers — two opposed and one in favor.

All three spoke regarding the irregular-shaped lots provisions in the subdivision ordinance changes.

Aaron Millikin of Carrollton, one of the developers of the South Harbor age-restricted housing development, argued the proposed subdivision ordinance changes would negatively impact his ability to move forward with construction.

Millikin read from a letter he’d recently received from the county’s planning staff taking issue with “peculiarly or irregularly-shaped” lots.

“I”m not understanding what’s driving the proposed change, what has happened to warrant this more restrictive approach,” Millikin said.

“Now we’re having to chop off triangles, significant portions of the lots, to comply with this prospective ordinance,” said Branch Lawson of Suffolk, another South Harbor developer.

Land surveyor Robert “Ben” Stagg, however, said he was in favor of the restrictions on irregular-shaped lots.

According to county staff, the letter the developers of South Harbor received pertains to the subdivision ordinance currently in place — not the changes proposed. Anything approved under the current ordinance would be grandfathered if the ordinance requirements were to change.