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Critical slopes are hillsides protected from development under zoning ordinances in both Charlottesville and Albemarle County. The City Council and Board of Supervisors are charged with granting waivers to projects that would be built on these slopes.
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors passed a resolution of intent to review the county's critical slopes ordinance on April 1, 2009. The county has hosted three public meetings on critical slopes since then, in December 2009, February 2010, and July 2013. As of August 13, 2013, County staff is suggesting that the county's definition of a critical slope (any hillside with a 25% slope or greater) remain the same, but that critical slopes be classified as belonging either to a "preserved" or "managed" category. Development would not be allowed on preserved slopes, which are part of a system of hills or have a water feature. Managed slopes could be developed by right if development standards are met.
The Planning Commission considered 22 waivers between the time the city's critical slope ordinance was adopted in May 2006 and when it began its review in 2010. During that time, the commission approved 19 of them.
The Southern Environmental Law Center has been leading the charge to rewrite the ordinance in order to make it more stringent. Former Kay Slaughter has appeared before the Charlottesville Planning Commission and the City Council with her suggestions.
Before a January 2012 Virginia Supreme Court case, the planning commissions in both Albemarle and Charlottesville had been responsible for granting critical slopes waivers. In Sinclair v. New Cingular, et al., the court ruled that planning commissions were purely advisory and could not grant waivers. The case arose when an Albemarle County resident and University of Virginia law professor, Kent Sinclair, found he had no way to appeal a waiver granted for the construction of a cell tower on the property adjacent to his own.
- Web. Albemarle Planning Commission Agenda for 13 Aug 2013, County of Albemarle
- Web. City slopes ordinance discussion to continue into 2011, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 6 Jan 2011, retrieved 12 Aug 2013.
- Dixit, Rachana. "City Developers on a Slippery Slope? | Charlottesville Daily Progress." Charlottesville News, Sports, Business, Events and Jobs | Charlottesville Daily Progress. 21 June 2010. Web. 21 June 2010. <http://www2.dailyprogress.com/cdp/news/local/article/city_developers_on_a_slippery_slope/57425/>.
- Tubbs, Sean. "Environmental Community Demands Strengthening of City’s Slopes Ordinance." Charlottesville Tomorrow News Center. 15 June 2010. Web. 21 June 2010. <http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/charlottesville_tomorrow_/2010/06/steep-slopes.html>.
- Web. Court leaves planning commissions “dead in the water”, Kurt Walters, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 29 Jan 2012, retrieved 12 Aug 2013.