A Nelson County resident looking to rezone property from residential to agricultural had his wish fulfilled by the Nelson County Planning Commission and now has to hope the Nelson County Board of Supervisors feels the same way next month.

On Aug. 28, the Nelson County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of rezoning property in the North District from residential to agricultural.

Robert Fields requested for about 28.5 acres at 47 Hillside Lane off of Rockfish Valley Highway to be rezoned to fit the agricultural use of the property. The current use is listed as farm-agriculture, although it’s currently zoned residential. Fields is currently working on selling the property, which caused the zoning issue to come up. If someone were to complain that he is using it improperly, he would have no choice but to comply with residential zoning laws, which would require the removal of the animals on that property and any other agricultural uses currently in place.

At the planning commission meeting on Aug. 28 Natt Hall, a real estate broker representing the Fields family, spoke to the planning commission about why it should approve the request.

“All we are asking you folks to consider is taking an inconsistency and making it consistent,” Hall said.

Hall said almost 20 acres has cows on it right now and has for ages. The tax department considers it agricultural and its land use is agricultural.

“In order to make it conform to what it has been used for forever, we would like you to consider changing it,” Hall said.

One person spoke during the public comments portion of the public hearing. Eleanor Amidon, an Afton resident, questioned the future of this piece of land.

“Why was it zoned residential in the first place? That’s something for you all to consider,” Amidon said.

Amidon said to consider the future of agricultural land all over the county and she’s concerned, in general, about the future of the county if everyone asks to zone land agriculturally. She stated she’s worried they would use it for ulterior motives, like allowing recreational vehicles, or RVs, to set up campsites. RV campsites are allowed on property zoned for agricultural use, not residential.

Tommy Harvey, representative for the Nelson County Board of Supervisors, said the zoning was done a long time ago and because of that there are inconsistencies with zoning and actual land usage.

“This was done in 1971 when they started zoning. I don’t [know] why it was done,” Harvey said.

Harvey said a number of other properties in the area are zoned residential, but are used for agricultural purposes. Michael Harman, West District representative, said he didn’t have any issues with the request and made a motion to recommend approval to the board.

The Nelson County Board of Supervisors will hear the request at its meeting on Sept. 10.

In other news:

  • The Nelson County Planning Commission discussed extending the stay of transient lodgers in the county. Dylan Bishop, director of planning and zoning, told the commission, transient lodging in the county is defined as “lodging in which the temporary occupant lodges in overnight accommodations for less than 30 consecutive days.” Bishop said the 30 days is currently the maximum amount of stay allowable.

“It can’t even be requested. It’s not something that can even be asked of at this point,” Bishop told the planning commission.

The members of the planning commission plus Harvey discussed the possibility of extended stay campgrounds in agriculturally zoned properties. Bishop said through drafting new language in the county ordinance, the change would still require a special use permit, but it could allow for campgrounds to house transient lodgers for up to 180 days, or six months.

The planning commission decided table the discussion until its next meeting.

  • Sun Tribes Solar, a Charlottesville-based solar power company, shared an educational solar power presentation with the planning commission to provide members with more information on solar energy farms and solar usage in Nelson County. The company is familiar with solar in Nelson, after helping the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Afton get solar panels on its roof. The commission agreed to look into the possibility of a site visit to surrounding localities that have solar energy farms before deciding whether or not to add solar energy into the county ordinance.
  • Dylan Bishop, director of planning and zoning, told the commission she and County Attorney Phil Payne had been working together to clean up the language in the county ordinance on the definition of “non-conforming use.” Bishop said she and Payne believe it’s best to rewrite the section and she will have a draft for review at the next meeting. Bishop also said they have $25,000 in the budget currently to assist with updating, revising, or completely rewriting the county’s Comprehensive Plan. Bishop told the commission the next rewrite of the plan would be in 2022.

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Erin Conway covers Nelson County for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.

Erin Conway covers Nelson County. Reach her at (434) 385-5524 or econway@newsadvance.com.

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