County pursues strategic zoning for Zion Crossroads

Rezoning land for economic development in the Zion Crossroads area may soon get a little easier.

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors directed county staff Wednesday (Jan. 31) to move forward with implementing “strategic zoning” in the Zion Crossroads community planning area (CPA).

A significant hurdle exists for some landowners wishing to sell their property for economic development.

Some landowners have their property in land use, the program that delivers significant tax savings to those who use their land for agricultural, horticultural, forestal or open space purposes. But if the usage of a parcel of land changes from, say, agricultural to industrial, the county collects rollback taxes. These rollback taxes can be significant.

A property owner who wants to change the zoning of a piece of land that was formerly in land use in order to make it more attractive for business can therefore face a serious fee. On top of that, the charge to apply for rezoning is $1,000 plus $50 per acre, planner James Newman told supervisors.

There is therefore little incentive for landowners who make use of land use to attempt to change their property zoning.

But land not approved for business use will not attract the eye of companies looking for locations. Nor will the state of Virginia “actively market” properties not zoned for commercial uses, which can result in lost economic development opportunities for the county, said Newman.

Strategic zoning would make it so that landowners in the land use program would not owe rollback taxes until the use of their land changes, rather than the zoning.

This means that a landowner could, in theory, successfully obtain a business zoning for a piece of property and market it for economic development without having to pay rollback taxes. Rollback taxes would become due only when the actual use of the land changes.

Having expensive rollback taxes come due during a sale can be much more manageable for landowners, who can treat the cost as part of the transaction – much like closing costs on a house purchase. Landowners may also be able to haggle with purchasers over who will be responsible for the taxes.

Some people don’t have “a lot of free cash sitting around,” said County Attorney Fred Payne.

“It helps them market their land much better,” said Supervisor Mike Sheridan. “They will still pay [rollback taxes]; it will just come out of the sale.”

The proposed code change would only apply to parcels of land in the Zion Crossroads CPA that are enrolled in the land use program.

Supervisors unanimously directed county staff to create a code amendment and to schedule a public hearing on the matter.

The Board also unanimously adopted three county code changes regarding unsafe buildings, trash and inoperable vehicles after three public hearings in which no one spoke.

The first allows the county to remove, repair or secure any building that poses a danger to the health or safety of county residents. The cost will be charged to the property owner.

The second amends the timeframe in which property owners must clean up trash, waste or refuse on their property to 30 days and allows the county administrator, rather than the Board of Supervisors, to take action.

The third states that only two inoperable vehicles may be kept on a piece of property in a residential zoning district, and only five may be kept on an agricultural piece of property. The inoperable vehicles must be screened from view.

Supervisors also approved a special use permit for Jackson Automotive after a public hearing in which no one spoke. Jon Jackson asked for permission to operate an automobile repair shop on Route 53 across from Turkeysag Trail by Lake Monticello.