At a special meeting on Monday, July 19, Rappahannock County supervisors denied a Sperryville rezoning application that sought to change the minimum lot size on a 35-acre Woodward Road property from five acres to two acres. The resolution to deny the application passed 4-1, with Jackson Supervisor voting against it.
Under the company name Mt. Airy Field, LLC, Sperryville residents Tom and Cheryl Taylor submitted the rezoning application last October, indicating that they planned to subdivide their Woodward Road property and build up to 13 single family dwellings for working families and seniors. At a public hearing on July 7, Tom Taylor explained that he had pursued the rezoning because he believed it would be more affordable to sell two-acre parcels than five-acre parcels. “[The Mt. Airy parcel] has been in our family on and off since the Civil War,” Taylor said. “I’d always been told even by previous supervisors … that we had access to the sewer, it was a good location, that it was in the village, we had small lots [and] we had access to everything.”
Taylor said various county residents had approached him asking if he was interested in selling a lot. “For most of the people who were asking, a 5-acre lot would have been too expensive,” he said. “It got me thinking if we could reduce the size of the lot [we could] make it more affordable.”
The Mt. Airy property is flanked by Route 211 and Woodward Road, an unmarked and partially unpaved lane with views of the Shenandoah National Park. In her staff report, Michelle Somers wrote that “the adjacency of residential village zoning suggests that, in general the current transitional zoning of RR-5 (5-acre minimum) is not unreasonable, nor would the requested R-2 (2-acre minimum) be unreasonable as it would serve as a transition from residential village and land zoned rural residential.”
But many Sperryville residents, including neighbors on Woodward Road, vehemently opposed the rezoning proposal. For one thing, Woodward couldn’t handle the traffic, they argued. “The road itself comes within feet of our house. Every vehicle that passes by, we know it. We feel it,” said Bob Trafton, who lives with his wife on Woodward Road, at a public hearing on July 7. Trafton was one of 33 village residents to join the Sperryville Coalition Against Rezoning, a group whose singular focus was on opposing the Mt. Airy application.
“Understandably we have concerns with increased traffic — we also have additional concerns related to safety, water, sewer, increased pressure on public services, harming the scenic view and the precedent this upzoning could set in the county,” Trafton said on July 7. “The existing RR-5 [rural residential] zoning of this parcel is entirely appropriate for its location around the village. It’s located between the areas of residential village [zoning] … commercial highway, commercial village, and on the other side, agriculture. This is the perfect intermediary between those uses.”
At the Board of Supervisors meeting on July 19, Piedmont Supervisor Christine Smith, in whose district the Mt. Airy property sits, said the current zoning does not preclude the Taylors from subdividing their property. “There’s no limits on what they could do on those five-acre lots, but that five-acre zoning is also an appropriate use of that property,” Smith said. “It could easily be developed as five-acre lots.”
Frazier, alone in support of the Mt. Airy application, said that the Rappahannock’s 25-acre agricultural zoning density has caused a “disruption of the agricultural community” which could be remedied by increasing density within the county’s villages. “Here we have a property that’s served or can be served by the sewer system … it’s really not difficult to make the argument that two-acre zoning in areas like this follows the comprehensive plan.”
Smith disagreed with Frazier’s assertion that rezoning the property would align with the comprehensive plan, a non-binding vision document intended to guide county officials in their decision making. Quoting the comprehensive plan, Smith said: “‘Current zoning in and around villages generally reflects current and historical uses of the land. … This comprehensive plan encourages that future residential and commercial development be focused in or around the major villages consistent with undeveloped potential of the current zoning district designation.’” She argued that the language clearly advocated for infill within the villages rather than changing zoning practices.
“What we’re really looking at in my view is whether two-acre lots abutting the rest of those village two-acre lots is compatible with the community,” Frazier replied.
Hampton Supervisor Keir Whitson responded by saying his focus has been on asking whether the current five-acre zoning designation was reasonable. “In an effort to focus my analysis on the parcel in question and the ultimate question of whether RR-5 zoning is reasonable zoning, I did not take into account sewer capacity or the condition of the sewer system,” Whitson said. “I did not take into account the question of aesthetics or viewshed in my analysis. Also, I did not take into account the fact that more people seem to oppose this application than those who support it … I also did not take into consideration the fact that the Taylors are great people.”
In the end, Frazier could not convince his colleagues. Smith moved to adopt a resolution denying the Mt. Airy application, which carried 4-1.
The resolution to deny the Mt. Airy application, adopted in a 4-1 vote on July 19, reads:
WHEREAS, a zoning application (RZ#20-10-01) was submitted by Mt. Airy Field, LLC (property owner), to rezone the property known as Tax Map Parcel 38-59, consisting of 35.1663 acres, from Residential Rural District (RR-5) to Residential District, Conditional (R-2) and to thereby amend the Rappahannock County Zoning Map, and,
WHEREAS, the property requested to be rezoned is located within the Piedmont Magisterial District along Woodward Road (Rt. 600) and Lee Highway (Rt. 211), and,
WHEREAS, the applicant submitted a voluntary proffer statement together with the application, and,
WHEREAS, the Rappahannock County Planning Commission held a duly-advertised Public Hearing at their December 29, 2020 meeting. At the meeting of February 17, 2021, the Planning Commission forwarded the application of RZ#20-10-01 to the Board of Supervisors for further consideration, by a vote of 4-3, and,
WHEREAS, the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors held a duly advertised public hearing on July 7, 2021, and,
WHEREAS, the subject property is located within a rural residential area near the major unincorporated village of Sperryville, and,
WHEREAS, the existing access to the parcel could lead to potential adverse effects on convenience of access and safety for fire and could limit the facilitation of transportation, water and sewer services within the meaning of section 15.2-2283 of the Code of Virginia, and,
WHEREAS, the Comprehensive Plan states: “As noted in the preceding chapters, this Comprehensive Plan envisions and encourages that future residential and commercial development be focused in or around the major villages consistent with the undeveloped potential of the current zoning district designations;” and,
WHEREAS, the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors finds that the proposed change in zoning to Residential District, Conditional (R-2) is at a size and scale that is not supportive of the existing use and character of the area and does not provide a proper transition of uses from the village area to the agricultural area and is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan; and,
WHEREAS, the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors yet further finds that the current Residential Rural District (RR-5) zoning is most appropriate and reasonable for the site given the environmental constraints, traffic concerns, and general harmony with adjacent and nearby zoning districts and the size of parcels within those zoning districts,
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors that the Application RZ#20-10-01 be, and it hereby is, denied.