BoS Denies Family’s Additional Development Request

In today’s Daily Progress, Brandon Shulleeta writes about a pair of rural landowners with a family subdivision who are upset that they can’t divide their land one more time. Ronnie and Janie Matheny had seventeen acres, but they divided it up to give some land to their various kids. Now they want to carve off two of their 4.9 acres for their grandson, but they’re all out of development rights. So they had to appeal to the Board of Supervisors for special dispensation to break the rules, who turned them down in a 4-2 vote, Lindsay Dorrier and Ken Boyd dissenting. Boyd says that an exception should have been made. Republican Rodney Thomas, who is challenging incumbent Democrat David Slutzky, is making a campaign issue out of it, saying that he “more than likely” would have granted an exception to the Mathenys.

The trick here is that all family subdivisions are for family members, so allowing anybody to build more houses than zoning permits because “it’s for family” basically eliminates the notion of limiting the number of development rights in a family subdivision. There may well be criteria under which exceptions should be granted, but if those criteria run counter to the notion of family subdivisions, then they cease to be a logical way to divide up land.

By way of acknowledging conflicts of interest, I a) own land in a family subdivision and b) recently had Ronnie Matheny and his son come out to my land about drilling a well, which I expect to hire them to do.

36 thoughts on “BoS Denies Family’s Additional Development Request”

  1. Here we go again. The liberal/socialist BOS that is working against families. How the heck can one additional development right have an adverse effect on the county. They did not ask to build an entire sub-division. They asked to add an additional home for their family. The BOS has gone seriously wrong here by (and I’m going to call this like I see it) by attacking family values. And before you start on the “they used all their development rights”. That’s a lame asp excuse. The county’s development plan, is just that, a plan. It is not law. And as we all know the BOS have in the past made exceptions for developers who freely spread their money around. Not, that the BOS took any.

    I hope that most of the county residents are as tired of the BOS’ crap as I am. In November, we need to take back the county from the socialist that are running it today. We need a BOS that actually cares about ALL its citizens equally. We need a BOS that is NOT associated with a political party’s agenda.

  2. Steve is right. Restrictions like these are un-American! If I want to build a copper-smelting plant on my farm for my family, who’s the Board of Supervisors to tell me I can’t?

    Communists, that’s who!

  3. cultural appropriation is what it is. communism not so much. wish the BOS were communists with a small c or at least not elitist, out of touch, cultural imperialists…………..

  4. Here’s my experience with a “family subdivision”. Our neighbor carved out a small piece of his land, that could not otherwise be subdivided and gave it to his 21 year old daughter. The land sat undisturbed until the daughter sold it to somebody else, who built themselves a house there. It was a sham and everybody knew it.

    I can’t see anything special about the circumstances cited in this latest situation with the Board of Supervisors denying an exemption for additional development. If these guys got their exemption, why shouldn’t everybody get an exemption?

  5. Let’s see, you know one person who didn’t do the right thing so no one should get an exemption? Sort of like the parent who says “this is why we can’t have nice things.”?. Or the authoritarian who believes any individualism leads to chaos? Or what exactly, you are losing me on your logic.

  6. Here we go again. The liberal/socialist BOS that is working against families.

    You have got some seriously mixed metaphors here, Steve. Socialists’ interest is in community, beginning with the family unit. So if they were, indeed, “socialists,” they would welcome the chance to add a new member to a family collective. The second problem here is your belief that an elected body that agrees to enforce the law is “socialist.” If anything, it’s conservative to strictly interpret the law, as any scholar of constitutional law or Supreme Court will observe. The law says you get X divisions of land, they exhausted X, and the BoS decided that they didn’t warrant special treatment.

    If you think this decision is unfair—and it’s certainly possible that it is—some significantly better logic is going to be called for then “they’re socialists.” If you object to it, find a universalizable basis on which to do so. If you think that any size of land should be allowed to have an infinite number of houses built on it by people who are related to each other, say so. But if you think that’s a bad idea, then find a rule, a standard, and propose it. The alternative—attacking the BoS for doing the wrong thing without proposing a right thing—is not serving you well.

  7. Waldo, you are correct. I should have not used liberal at all. Because the BOS does not believe in individual rights. But, they are most certainly acting like socialist. Which does not start with the family unit. Socialist do not care about a single individual or family. Their only interest is in society as a whole. Socialist do not believe in private ownership of property, i.e. property rights. Socialist want all property to be state owned. So, yes, the BOS is acting in a socialist manner in this situation. By denying an individual’s property rights as being necessary for the good of society.

    Further, I contend that the county development plan is just that, a plan. It is not law. It is used as a guide to reach an end. Even the planning commission knows this and wanted the BOS to give the exemption to this family.

    Do I want any size of land to be divided into infinite lots. No! That’s not what is at issue here. What is, is a reasonable request that does not effect the master plan. Each of these types of requests should be and are dealt with on a case by case basis. However, common sense needs to prevail and not a hard and fast “NO.” What is the point of having an exemption process, if the BOS will not listen to the individuals they charged with maintaining the master plan.

    In this case, common sense did not prevail and a socialist attitude did.

  8. Family subdivisions should simply be abolished. We should have a simple rule for dividing land that everyone uses and not exemptions for family or anything else. They can be abused as sham transactions to sell land.

  9. Steve, how are zoning regulations *not* “law,” as you put it? Zoning is land-use regulation: regulation has the force of law. If my property is zoned residential and I try to open a Wal-Mart on my property, I’ve violated the regulations. It’s not a “plan” or a “guide” or just a suggestion–it’s a regulation regarding how I can use my property. By your logic, there is no such thing as zoning regulations–just hopeful suggestions from the community about development.

  10. It does appear that the Mathenys’ request was not unreasonable.Laws and regulations do need to be applied with some degree of flexibility and common sense.
    Perhaps some provision does need to be written into the rules so the sort of sham transactions people refer to are prevented.
    We could do without all the ranting and crying “socialism” every time our government does something we disagree with.
    I am all for land preservation, environmental protection,etc. But it is the developers,the speculators, the corporations that need to be kept in check. Not some “little guy” that wants to build something on his little plot of land, but gets told he can’t do it by some public official for no other reason than “that the rule.”
    The Mathenys did not want to build a copper smelter, or a hazardous chemicals plant, just assist a family member with housing.

  11. We all know what happens in those ‘Family Subdivisions’. I’ve seen friends’ property values go to the shitter because some rednecks’ 25 acre piece of land was turned into 8 shacks on garbage plots, ATVs running day and night and gunfire whenever, wherever!

    No, I think I’ll take the Socialist route on this one.

  12. Uh, how many kids do they have anyway? Look at the parcels beginning 08400-00-00-014 on the Albemarle GIS. I count 17 parcels that used to be one parcel.

    These family divisions outlast the life of the family itself, and generally can’t never be undone. That means that each time a family divides their property to give to their 11 children, they’ve just effectively created a suburban area in an area zoned rural and eliminated farmland. If each generation makes 11 subdivisions, then pretty soon you’ve got a whole city in the rural area, pretty mucfh defeating the whole concept of zoning in the first place.

    I suspect this pretty clearly a case of stealth development. Maybe all those kids will live there, but the history of those 17 parcels suggests otherwise. There’s no point in having a rural zoning if you aren’t willing to back it up and limit exceptions to the policy.

    Besides, legally if the county made an exception for this family then they’d open themselves up to a lawsuit by any other landowner that wanted to do the same thing but was denied. That’s the nature of equal protection, and the county is wise to dodge that bullet.

  13. I can see there valid concerns on both sides of the issue, as to the wisdom of approving the Mathenys’ claim.
    But that comment about “rednecks” destroying property values is totally uncalled for. Remember, the same argument was used against racial integration of neighborhoods, that black people moving in would destroy property values.I remember that was an issue here in Charlottesville in the late 60s,when cries of alarms were raised that blacks might be renting or buying property in certain white neighborhoods like Belmont. And I understand that racial covenants existed in some Charlottesville developments,excluding not just African-Americans, but other ethnicities and religions such as Jews, Greeks,and Roman Catholics. Of course the Supreme Court eventually ruled such covenants were illegal and unenforceable.
    All sorts of people are slobs,trash their property, and create eyesores for their neighbors.UVa students are prime offenders in that respect from what I have seen from walking around in some neighborhoods near Grounds.
    Prejudice against white, rural, workingclass people is the one bigotry that it still seems acceptable to express in our society. Calling people “white trash” and similar names should be just as unacceptable as using the N word.
    From one who grew up in the “boonies” himself and who loves country music,hunting, pro “rasslin” and the “Dukes of Hazzard”.(The TV show only NOT that abominable movie that disrespected everything the Dukes stood for.)

  14. No, it’s not uncalled for. See, you apparently have been on the receiving end of things. So your perception is that you’re entitled to whatever you want, regardless of how it affects others. Don’t hide behind the racial card to play up your case. The fact is, whether you want to call yourself redneck or not, there’s a category of people who destroy values, deplete the environment and generally make things worse for everyone else. Maybe redneck is not the right word for those folks. Got a better one?

  15. I don’t think I said I or anyone was entitled to do whatever one wishes, regardless of how it affects others. I wanted to make the point that prejudice,using derogatory words or slurs directed at certain groups, because of the behavior of some members of those groups, is wrong. Whether its other races, women, gay people, or yes even a certain socioeconomic group of white people.
    I read once where stereotypes do have a certain basis in fact. The problem comes with describing all members of a group in terms of that stereotype. It does not even have to be meant as derogatory. For example, I understand that some Asian-Americans do not like the image of the “model minority” that has been applied to them by well-meaning people. A very dear lesbian friend of mine who could be a fashion model once said how annoyed she would get when people would say “but you don’t look gay”, meaning she did not fit their image of the lesbian as some “mannish-looking woman.”
    Its not a liberal or conservative thing either. I’ve known some trendy liberals who were total snobs, and some conservatives who treated everyone with respect and dignity.

  16. “That’s the nature of equal protection, and the county is wise to dodge that bullet.” I’m so glad there’s someone that understands the 14th.
    “I wanted to make the point that prejudice,using derogatory words or slurs directed at certain groups, because of the behavior of some members of those groups, is wrong.” Some people’s system of thought only employs myths, percetptions and stereotypes. They can not fathom anything deeper and they can not distinguish those qualities that define uniqueness. I call it MPS. I don’t feel that these observations apply to Majung, however, but we can all be guilty of flippancy and lazy thinking from time to time.

  17. “Maybe redneck is not the right word for those folks. Got a better one?” Do you really need a label or isn’t your description “…there’s a category of people who destroy values, deplete the environment and generally make things worse for everyone else.” Your description is far more sufficient to get your idea across rather than “redneck.” I notice it is not what you’re saying that’s bringing in the objections, it’s your way of saying it. Clearly you are intelligent and articulate so you must be guilty of lazy thinking or maybe just lazy speaking.

  18. Cecil, master plans are never codified. If they were, we would not be having this blog fest. Master plans are a guide to the governing body as to how development should progress in their jurisdiction. The part of the law that prevents you from building a WalMart on your property comes from the enforcement code that protects the master plan’s implementation. Which basically it states that unless you get permission to go against the master plan, you get fined or jailed or whatever. But, the plan itself is not law. This is why the BOS can give exemptions and variances to the plan. Otherwise, if it were law, the BOS could not give exemptions and variances.

  19. What the county needs is a TDR program (transfer of development rights) whereby they could have purchased a development right from someone else to keep the total constant. With this right and a small impact study on the property in question than the exception should be granted.

    There are lots of farmers who could use a few grand in exchange for a development right and in the end it would keep their divisions smaller (or non existent)

    This has worked well elswhere.

  20. I beg to differ: it is indeed what I am saying that some find objectionable, not it’s presentation. The latter is just an excuse to object.

    Entitlement is not just a legal construct; it can be – and mostly is, IMO – an inherited attribute. Having a big swath of land that can now be used to defer living costs and in fact not have to compete on a level field with less fortunate souls is a far worse entitlement than say, a auto worker’s union-negotiated entitlements.

    The consequence is ultimately incompetence and vulgar stupidity elevated to new heights.

  21. As for the purchase of a TDR, are the grandparents gifting this property to the grandson, which would cost nobody anything, or are they selling it to him? Is the purpose of this subdivision to keep the grandson in the family’s compound or to save the grandson money? How much would the TDR cost and who could afford it? Are wealthy people the only ones who could afford TDRs? Could a person who has 50 acres, for example, in a rural area be able to make 24 subdivisions using TDRs and end up with 25 two-acre lots?

  22. The grandparents have no DR to TDR. However, if the county had a TDR system, then the GPs could buy a DR and then split their lot into two. The person selling or giving the DR, would loose a DR for the lot that gave it up.

    The county could put a limits on the price of a DR and what types of lots can give or receive them and how many you are able to receive for a given lot. That would level the playing field of who sells and who buys. So, no 24 lot subdivisions on 50 acres.

  23. My question dealt with the selling of the land, not the selling of a TDR to the grandson. I understand that the grandparents are out of development rights. If there was a TDR program, then somebody would have to buy a development right to develop on the property, whether it’s the grandparents or the grandson.
    “So, no 24 lot subdivisions on 50 acres.” I’ll take this as conjecture since there is no code to examine to tell how many TDRs a property owner could purchase.

  24. Good morning! Two items from from Charlottesville Tomorrow that may add to this conversation.

    First, we have the audio of the Board of Supervisor’s discussion, as well as our story, on our News Center.

    Second, we reported extensively on the TDR discussion as it unfolded in Albemarle County last summer and fall. The issue reached an impasse, but the discussion will likely resume at some point in the future. There is enabling legislation to allow Albemarle County to introduce a TDR market, but no consensus was reached during a series of conversations facilitated by the Weldon-Cooper Center.

  25. One other key thing to rememebr about TDR is that you are required to have both a sending and a receiving area. Because the ultimate goal is to transfer division rights away from the rural area, it would be unlikely that Matheny’s would be in a Receiving Area. Instead, they’d be far more likely to be in a Sending Area, which would not help them in terms of gaining extra division rights.

    That said, one way the program could be structured is instead of applying TDR to the whole rural area, the sending area could just be “high value community assets”. That means areas with high value in terms of culture, history or biodiversity. Since those regions would be fairly limited, then they could transfer divisions to elsewhere in the rural area while still being consistent with the master plan.

  26. Agree with Harry, Majung, and Dirt Worshiper. Rezonings and subdivisions are applied to parcels, not applicants (hello, Belmont!). That’s the proverbial slippery slope. People have this generalized warm and fuzzy notion about family members living together on a compound. That Norman Rockwell-style scenario is true… except when it isn’t. The parcels do get sold off to non-family members.

    If I hadn’t seen that abused so many times, I wouldn’t be concerned about this application. But how can we single out the Matheny family and say “but they’re nice, and they probably won’t abuse the subdivision rights” and then not extend that courtesy to others? The answer is that we can’t.

    It would be a great world if everyone was neighborly (as in considerate), ethical, and environmentally responsible. But that’s not the case, so we have codes and laws.

    As so many have stated though, the county allows developers to run roughshod over both the land and the regulations. That allows people to make the entirely valid claim that the BOS and PC are discriminative and hypocritical.

  27. I think there has been hypocracy in some districts, but I believe Sally Thomas when she says that she’s only voted for that one exception in the Samual Miller district (to expand a firehouse, which is totally reasonable).

    Also, I think what people often see as allowing developers to “run roughshod over both the land and the regulations”, is often where the master plan has indicated greater density than allowed by right. This is intentional so the the developer has to come and ask for an exception, and then they can place design restraints on that development or ask for proffers.

    What I don’t understand at all, are situations like on Pantops where they allowed a developer to build right to the edge of the Rivanna in a zone planned for greenspace. They had the authority there to require a buffer and didn’t apply it. Likewise, I can’t understand how folks Wood can manage these secret deals to have his property moved from the rural area to the growth area.

    Speaking of which, I already see the culvert pipes laid out for removing a stream on one of those developments on 29. I can’t for the life of me understand how that is still legal… (when everyone else is required to have stream buffers)

  28. Dirt Worshiper, a perfect example is the critical slopes waivers that are handed out. Why bother having the ordinance in the first place if you’re going to roll over every time a developer comes before you? Hurt’s proposed Pantops project is a perfect example of this.

    A lot goes on behind the scenes, and you’d be surprised how often developers have to be literally forced to abide by guidelines and best practices. Most of them use the proffer system as a bribery machine to push through bad projects. For the price of a few affordable units or trails– which are obvious afterthoughts, and may never actually be built– they can lay down an immense amount of impermeable surface. In the meantime, the county has once again created a huge potential problem along a river they barely know exists. By doing so, they then add to an already dangerous precedent for short-sighted harmful development.

    The basic problem, as I see it anyway, is that the county’s attitudes are shaped by land rights nuts. There’s little sense of the communal good, and it’s led to some pretty significant environmental problems. Word to the wise: check the Master Plan before you buy a house anywhere in the county!

  29. Voice of Reality, I share your anger and frustration. I think though that the issues are far more subtle…

    I’d say that one very major problem was the creation of the growth areas. What’s happened is that the growth areas have essentially become dumping grounds for development. Staff and elected leaders have told me that the loss of slopes and stream buffers (or entire streams) are small price to pay to encourage growth in the growth areas. Now they haven’t totally forgotten about polution of streams and rivers, they’re just counting on more treatment off-site and through stormwater systems. Personally, I think this is a big mistake, but I understand the thinking.

    Besides, while the original goal was to preserve the rural area, unfortunately the creation of the growth areas was never paired with significant protection, and thus we continue to see rural development and loss of farmland.
    Futhermore, if we create uber-dense low quality developments without greenspace, parks, and such then no one is really going to want to live there. Instead, they’ll move to the rural area where they can walk through a forest anytime they want. I’ve heard lots of promises that we haven’t really seen a “neighborhood model” development built yet, and that when we do that it will be much improved and address most of my concerns. That said, I’ll believe it when I see it. Hollymeade was originally talked up as a sustainable neighborhood model development, and that obviously never materialized.

    In short, I think most of the BOS really do intend to do the right thing, but so far it’s a general lack of political will paired with a flawed strategy that is the real problem. I also blame the Farm Bureau, who I hold personally responsible for the large losses in local farmland through their opposition of virtually all rural protections.

  30. “The basic problem, as I see it anyway, is that the county’s attitudes are shaped by land rights nuts.”

    Having lived in several countries, I’ve got to say Virginia is ‘messed up’ regarding the whole property rights thing. See, the way I see it, some land owners have inordinate rights, including the ability to sell their land whilst often still keeping oversight on what goes on on that land which is no longer theirs on paper, but which they continue to hold dominion over. Other less fortunate souls buy a parcel of that sold land and have little to no rights, typically excluding putting up a ecologically friendly windmill, or having a few chicken, or even exploiting their land for agricultural purposes: the ARB or whatever entity allows original owner to maintain control.

    How can a society be truly sustainable when seniority plays an inordinate role in personal success? This is a pattern that’s unfortunately nation-wide, whereas Pyramid schemes such as Social Security are condemning future generations into servitude.

  31. Majurn said “Pyramid schemes such as Social Security are condemning future generations into servitude”.
    Well thanks because without my SS Disability I would not have Medicare and without Medicare I would not have had dialysis nor a transplant and I would be leaving this world in about 2 or 3 years. So thanks for calling my lifeline a Pyramid scheme. Who don’t you hate Majung, and please don’t patronize me by telling me to “Stand tall” when I was calling you a bigot. You don’t even know if I CAN stand tall, now do you?

  32. Well, Alison, glad to know you can get the care you need. I guess you don’t care whether me or my children will get that same care, even though I’m paying for your lifesaving transplant!?!

    Yes. You read that right. I’m paying for your care right now, but I may not get the same courtesy in return. And certainly my children won’t. It’s a pyramid scheme, in the purest sense.

  33. Nice projection M. or whoever you are. I earned my SSDI through working and paying taxes for disability insurance which is what SSDI is. So did my parents and all my siblings pay into the system and have not taken out, so it’s probably about even. What is not even is the way the SS trust fund has been raided for decades for other uses, if it had not been raided it would have plenty of money. But thanks for caring only for you and yours, just the kind of folks we want to bring a better world for your children I’m sure, teach them well to only care about you and themselves and they will go far. In AIG. How dare you assume I don’t care about your children’s health? I am for national health insurance but I bet you are opposed to that too.

  34. Dirt Worshiper– re the stream buffers, and critical slopes, I don’t understand their shortsighted thinking, nor will I ever, thank god. Ongoing stewardship of our precious (and finite) resources is a huge part of the planning process. Failure to do so is inexcusable. We’ve now reached a point where we all need to draw a line in the sand and say “no more, this isn’t acceptable.”

    Like you, I’ve also spoken with BOS and PC members, and am continually disheartened by their ineffectual, half-hearted attitudes towards smart proactive planning. It’s as if they’re somewhat cowed by the might of the developers. Intimidated by their wealth perhaps? Afraid they’ll offend? Who knows.

    Agreed re the Farm Bureau.

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