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Albemarle changes regulations around placement of fill material

Brick, concrete, asphalt and other materials from demolitions or construction projects now need approval to be used as fill in Albemarle County’s rural areas.

Last week, the county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved changing Albemarle’s regulations around the placement of fill.

The board previously approved a resolution of intent to consider changes after issues around truck traffic on rural roads, hours of operation and placement of fill on critical slopes and in stream buffers were brought to the county’s attention by neighbors of fill sites.

Prior to the changes, new fill activities were permitted in all zoning districts, and allowed for soil or inert materials.

The changes create two types of fill activities — clean earth fill and inert waste fill. Clean earth fill is defined as rock and soil, while inert waste fill is defined as brick, concrete block, broken concrete, asphalt pavement and uncontaminated minerals.

Under the changes, clean earth fill activity would be permitted by right, or without legislative approval, in all zoning districts, while inert waste fill activity would be permitted by right in all zoning districts except for the Rural Areas, Village Residential and the Monticello Historic District. In those districts, inert waste fill activity would be permitted only by special exception.

Supervisor Liz Palmer said she sees the matter as an environmental issue.

“I think we need to start trying to incentivize recycling of this material, especially as we know we have an aging urban area, we want to encourage development and redevelopment. We know [the University of Virginia] is going through a lot of changes, and many of those changes are wonderful changes, but our rural areas are just not the place,” she said.

Planning commissioners in August recommended approval of the changes.

Fill activities associated with agriculture activities have been exempt from the regulations. Fill activities of fewer than 10,000 square feet are exempted from the regulations of the Water Protection Ordinance, but if the fill material is generated from an Albemarle-regulated activity, the fill is not exempt from the WPO.

Under the changes, agricultural activities would specifically not include “the above ground application or storage of sewage sludge, or the storage or disposal of non-agricultural excavation material, waste and debris if the excavation material, waste and debris are not generated on the farm, subject to the provisions of the Virginia Waste Management Act.”

Also, all fill activity of 2,500 square feet or greater would be subject to performance regulations.

In addition to maintaining the current operational regulations, the changes allow some trees to be cut in the development areas for the placement of fill, require additional setbacks and limit the fill activity area to a maximum of two acres for the lifetime of the property.

The board also modified the hours for operational activities, which are limited to the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

During public comment, Neal Magee, who started an online petition supporting the new regulations, said he and his wife have been concerned about the unanticipated ways that city, county and university building projects affect the rural landscape and the waterways.

“We live very close to the Mechums River, and the four and a half-acre fill project on the property adjacent to ours continues, even after three months of completed construction, to have really significant erosion. And with every rain, we see really large flows of water and silt spilling over the silt basin at the bottom of the fill area,” he said.

His petition, titled “Save Albemarle County’s Rural Landscape,” cites complaints around two fill incidents: one in November 2018, when synthetic turf was taken from an area park to property off Fox Mountain Road; and spring and summer of 2019, when debris from the demolished University Hall and other materials were taken to a property in Free Union and other sites in Crozet and Covesville. More than 130 people have signed the petition.

In an interview earlier this year, Mark Stanis, director of capital construction and renovation at UVa, said the university is making a number of changes around its contracts for hauling materials. He said the university also initiated a protocol with Albemarle County that UVa would reach out as soon as it has a large site that it knows there is going to be hauling from to make sure that the county has been contacted by the contractor and that the site is communicated.

Paul Haney, with the Albemarle County Farm Bureau, told the board that the farm bureau supported the concept of this ordinance, but had some issues with it.

“We don’t want to see any of our agricultural land become dumping lands. We are very much interested in continuing to be able to farm our lands and harvest our timber,” he said.

Haney said they were concerned with the two-acre limit and the length of time it could take to get a special exception.

“I understand that the folks that I am speaking on behalf of, as far as the farm bureau, are not the target of what this ordinance is meant to accomplish, but it does directly limit our ability to continue to manage our lands in the way that we have,” Haney said.


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