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Panel Shelves Bill to Change Rezoning Process

February 1, 2015

By Janeal Downs
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Virginia Association of Counties received its wish when a bill to change local governments’ rezoning process was killed in a House subcommittee this past week.

House Bill 2262, proposed by Del. Rick L. Morris, R-Carrollton, would have required the staff of the local planning commission to advise rezoning applicants about the feasibility of their requests and possibly grant preliminary approval.

On Wednesday, a subcommittee of the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns voted to table the bill for this legislative session.

That was a relief to VACo, which the day before asked its members to call legislators and urge them to vote against the bill. Gage Harter, the association’s director of communications, wrote on the group’s website that VACo objected to the bill for two reasons.

First, Harter said, it would put the staff of the local planning commission “in the inappropriate position of having to provide the preliminary approvals of rezoning requests.” Moreover, “the bill circumvents the local land use process that all concerned citizens have a chance to comment on rezoning requests in a public hearing before planning commissions and local governing bodies grant or deny rezoning requests,” Harter wrote.

VACo officials were pleased that the subcommittee agreed to put off the bill until legislators can study it after their regular session.

“We really appreciated the delegates, the patrons agreeing to consider that bill in the housing commission during the off season and take a look at the issue in a broader sense,” said Erik Johnston, the association’s director of government affairs.

Besides HB 2262, the General Assembly this session has considered several other bills involving zoning issues. They include:

¶ SB 889, which would add the city of Fairfax to the list of localities whose governing bodies are authorized to adopt zoning ordinances that provide for an affordable housing dwelling unit program. The bill has passed the Senate and is in the House.

¶ SB 1248, which would add Charlottesville to the list of cities that may use volunteers to issue notices of noncompliance with certain ordinances related to property maintenance and zoning. It has been approved by a Senate committee and is being considered by the full Senate.

¶ SB 1355, which would apply certain provisions, including a 60-day time limit, to the process of approval by any local planning commission of a plat or site plan that solely involves commercial real estate. Currently, these provisions apply only in cities with more than 90,000 residents. This bill also has been endorsed by a Senate committee and is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.