Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

RSS feed of this blog

Landfill ZONING AMENDMENT process is fishy, resident says

After talking with the newspaper’s Freedom of Information Act expert, it was determined that the rezoning process for land surrounding the Livingston Landfill is not in any violation of FOIA.

That is if it were actually a rezoning. Boy did I miss this very important change.

Out of the blue, what was once proposed to be a rezoning of A-3 land to Industrial has now become a ZONING ORDINANCE AMENDMENT, which has much larger implications.

How did this happen?

The BOS  and county staff decided to put this major change on the CONSENT AGENDA. The consent agenda is a list of things, normally minor things, that are voted on in one vote. The entire process is over in a blink of an eye.

How a zoning ordinance amendment finds its way on a Consent Agenda is beyond me.  I should have noticed it. I screwed up.

On Jan. 12, this was presented to supervisors as a rezoning and a Comprehensive Plan Amendment, which are serious changes in their own right because they are moving away from the vision in that growth guide, which says agriculturally zoned land should be preserved.

The zoning change was for 70 county-owned acres of A-3 zoned land to Industrial 1. County staff said the intent was to allow for green industries to locate on county-owned property at the landfill.

Sometime between Jan. 12 and Feb. 23, someone made the decision to change direction and instead amend the zoning ordinance to allow landfill industries to locate by-right in A-3 zoning.

THIS IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE, yet the staff report states staff developed this  “alternative approach to accomplish the same end.”

Folks, the alternative approach may accomplish what the rezoning and comp plan amendment would have accomplished, but they are two entirely different actions with possibly two entirely different ends.

A rezoning and comp plan amendment for the land means that only that land would be changed to industrial.

This new process means that any “landfill industry” can set up business anywhere on A-3 land BY RIGHT. No proffers. No public hearing. No community meetings (although one was held for this a week before the public hearing.)

Instead of the 70 acre rezoning, the entire 580 acres of the landfill would be available for “landfill industries.”

As I read the staff reports, this is presented as if this only affects land by the landfill and “this site.” A zoning amendment affects every piece of A-3 land in the county and there is quite a bit of it.

According to the county staff reports, landfill industries are located within an existing landfill property and the uses must be symbiotic or complimentary to the landfill and the facility designed to ultimately reduce potential harmful effects on the environment and surrounding property. That information included in the proposed ordinance seems like it would protect all other A-3 land from “landfill industry” as long as it is not within a landfill.

But, the concern from residents is what was originally supposed to be a 70-acre rezoning turns into a zoning amendment for the entire 583 acres. So, where will the business want to locate on this vast property?

Staff said  development standards are proposed in the ordinance to minimize negative impacts on the environment and surrounding properties, which are primarily residential.

Staff said the rezoning route to I-1 would have permitted any uses in I-1 zoning. But wait a second: the applicant of the rezoning can agree to cancel out any I-1 uses. The applicant is the COUNTY. Therefore, if the county wants to cancel all other Industrial 1 uses from this rezoning, it could have. I see applicants cancel out uses all the time as proffers.

The public hearings are over unless the supervisors decide to redo this entire process. This just happened to be the only BOS meeting I have ever missed, and that was only because I was working on a very important story.

This process was put on the fast track and there are residents who live by the landfill who are not happy. One of them is Kevin Utt, who said the local government is not being transparent.

So, now what?

The Planning Commission meets at 7:30 tonight and members will vote on this amendment. Their recommendation will then move forward to the supervisors at their next meeting.


  • LarryG

    Many proposals have come before the BOS that required concurrent changes in the Comp Plan and ordinances but the package was brought forward so that people could see and understand the complete proposal.

    Not sure why that same approach is not appropriate with this.

    In recent years, the BOS has tended to remove “by-right” uses and then have the applicant obtain a special-use permit where the permit is specific to the landowner and not the land.

    this means if the guy sells it -that the new owner will also have to obtain a special-use permit and that gives the BOS the ability to insure that the follow-on use is consistent with their policy intent.

    Remember Stafford allowing “schools” as a “by-right” in rural? and along comes a “school” doing much more intensive uses than most folks envision schools doing?

    If the theory is that the PC (and the public are provided the opportunity to make an “informed decision”, I’m not sure how this happens with the current dearth of info?

    It might be legal but it sure does not look proper and I just hope the BOS is not making a mistake here.

  • dtelvock

    Larry, I am not sure I have ever seen a zoning amendment proposal on the consent agenda. This went from a rezoning of 70 acres to a zoning amendment to allow landfill uses in A-3 as long as it is within a landfill.

    The difference is instead of a 70-acre rezoning, it’s now an amendment to A-3, making the entire 580 acres open to this type of activity without a public hearing.

    Residents are upset because this proposal is moving too fast and they question how much research county staff has done on industries that do this type of work.

  • http://MAVRICKinc MGWork

    If the BOS are going to use their consent agenda as a launching pad to artfully dodge public input on land use agendas, they will have done so with premeditation, unless of course they want to spin their intentions, but do so, IN WRITING. Dan should have a good handle on this. I’m sure he has received some call-backs on this from Spotsylvania County’s elected officials and BOS members. Any response they might make should necessarily be filtered through Atty Stroman’s office and possibly be stamped with “exception” to the Freedom of Information Act.

    If the Spotsylvania County Government, Boards and Commissions intend to conduct business for the county behind closed doors and beyond any kind of accountability to it citizens, maybe our elected officials or the State should rewrite the ethics laws that govern what our elected officials are reponsible for, and not, and with accountability and consequences favoring the citizen population and not the semantics of political rhetoric. Simply said, if they can’t do it the right way, then let us see how good we can be at holding the reins. Short of that, have someone of repute, out side the State, conduct an independent audit, or at the very least write in a “vote of no confidence” in the way your local government is conducting business for Spotsy.

    Something’s going to give here. There are no longer any sides left to these multiple repeated issues of government behind closed doors, without accountability, responsibility or transparency.