Proposed Artisan Trail hung up by zoning ordinance

By Page H. Gifford, correspondent

“It began a couple of years ago when a neighbor of a local artist complained about the nearby art studio,” said artist and Fluvanna Art Association member Linda Staiger. Neighbors are often concerned that someone running a business out of their home could increase traffic or noise and disturb the peace and tranquility of the residences nearby.

Staiger and other artists who have studios in their homes in the county are rooting for the idea of an Artisans’ Trail which had been proposed by a couple of members of the 2016 Fluvanna Leadership Development Program as a way to bring tourist dollars into Fluvanna. According to Staiger, standing in the way of all this was a $850 fee for Special Use Permit for artists’ studios – a fee some artists feel is too high and so work under the radar.

The idea of an Artisan Trail is not new and had been tested as a successful fundraiser for the Fluvanna County Historical Society in the past. In February of this year, Jason Smith, director of community and economic development, gave his report on the future of tourism in Fluvanna before the Board of Supervisors. Cited as a strength was the performing arts at Carysbrook Performing Arts Center, a boon to the Fluvanna County Arts Council. He said that having an Artisan Trail would be an opportunity to promote tourism in the county.

“There is the feeling that some residents may be reluctant to encourage tourism, on the grounds that it might change the county, bring in new people or overwhelm local resources,” said Smith.

Many nearby counties encourage tourism by supporting their artists while recognizing the needs of residents in rural areas who want to maintain the peaceful surroundings. Artists often work in the solitary confinement of their studio and may sell work at nearby galleries or online, so different rules apply as opposed to other businesses that may generate more traffic. However, counties like Albemarle and nearby Louisa, have detailed ordinances covering certain businesses in homes.

Staiger attended the August 7, planning commission meeting regarding Senior Planner Brad Robinson’s proposed amendment concerning running businesses at home. The original definition stated that a home occupation was carried on by the occupant of a dwelling as a secondary use in connection with which there is no display, no one is employed other than members of the family residing on the premises, there is no substantial increase in traffic, and provided that not more than twenty-five square feet of the gross floor area of such dwelling shall be used for such occupation.

Similar to nearby counties, Fluvanna County maintains the core of the original ordinance but amended it with more details to make less broad and more specific. Staiger said she was on board with the amended version, and the section regarding studio fine arts which allows a building, or portion of a dwelling to be used as a place of work by a sculptor, artist, or photographer, or used as a place to exhibit and offer for sale works of the visual arts (other than film). A fine arts studio exceeding the requirements for a home occupation shall require approval of a special use permit.

The Planning Commission approved the changes and it will hold a public hearing on the amendments to the ordinance on Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. After that it will go to the Board of Supervisors for final approval on Sept. 19. If approved, this could mean the go ahead for the Artisan’s Trail.

“These changes are viewed as good planning and promoting economic development,” she said.

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