Albemarle County will now expressly allow the use of pronouns other than “he” in the County Code.
On Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to change the way that gender pronouns are applied throughout the county code. Gender was defined in the code as “a word used in the masculine includes the feminine and the neuter,” and now gender pronouns will be defined as “ a word used in the masculine or the feminine, in particular ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘him,’ and ‘her,’ includes all gender identities.”
The change is part of work being done with the county’s Office of Equity and Inclusion to remove gender-based terminology in the code as part of the Office of the County Attorney’s work updating the County Code.
“This is the first ordinance that’s come through related to the work that we’re doing, that their office is doing,” County Attorney Greg Kamptner said. “They’ve actually reviewed 12 or 13 chapters in the county code looking for language of bias.”
During the public hearing, Lisa Green, a county employee who is part of the county local government and school’s LGBTQIA Affinity Group, said the group was appreciative.
“We would like to just, once again, thank you all for your leadership in this work toward inclusivity and equity on all fronts,” she said. “…We do appreciate the work that is still continuing to be done.”
The board on Wednesday also had a work session on a draft of proposed county anti-displacement and tenant relocation guidelines. The board in 2019 adopted a policy that aims to ensure projects that receive county funds do not displace people. It also commits the county to working to help relocate those who might otherwise be displaced.
Supervisors said they were concerned that the proposed guidelines could push developers to build projects in a way that skirts the policy.
As drafted, the guidelines would apply to only multifamily rental properties with four or more units and mobile home parks, and compliance with the policy guidelines would only be mandatory for redevelopment projects that need rezonings, special-use permits, and projects that receive county funding. By-right developments would be encouraged, but not required, to follow the guidelines.
Projects using federal or state funding programs that require compliance with the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 would also not be required to follow the county’s guidelines.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek asked if they had the authority to require the guidelines in by-right developments.
“The overriding concern is unintended consequences and that it would push people to just say ‘well I’m just going to go by-right and the hell with it,’” she said.
Kamptner said he will be working with the housing office and repackaging the rules so that there are some incentives for developers. He added that the county has ways to encourage compliance.
The draft guidelines require a relocation plan, relocation assistance, and require relocation plan monitoring and reporting. The relocation payment amounts were shown based on the number of furnished rooms and number of tenants in the units.
Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley said she thought the county could be in a “bureaucratic quagmire” with everything that would be required.
“The whole relocation plan, I’m in favor of, but I’m not in favor of how we’re doing it because of all the paperwork and the questions that we’re asking everybody,” she said. “I really have problems with that.”
Supervisor Diantha McKeel expressed concern after staff said developers could advertise relocation units outside of Albemarle County.
“I have a concern about that because now we’re talking, outside of the area that they’re familiar with, or where their jobs are,” McKeel said. “It looks to me like we’re creating a whole ‘nother level of problems, transportation, more expenses for them for gas, and the need for a car, I mean that list could go on forever so that’s a concern.”