The Clarke County Board of Supervisors passed four zoning ordinance amendments at a Tuesday night hearing. The zoning changes cover issues ranging from increased access to wireless internet to digital site plans. Although the Supervisors held the session at 6:30pm, only two members of the public were in attendance.
Internet Access Towers
Last night the Supervisors approved the use of private telecommunications towers up to eighty feet tall. The tower height is intended to allow homeowners to place an antenna receiver at a height above the tree canopy in order gain access to signals from wireless internet providers. The new ordinance will allow shared internet access through a single antenna by clusters of homeowners and includes property line setback restrictions to create a safe “fall zone” in the event of a toppled tower. However, tower owners are prohibited from commercial uses such as reselling services associated with the tower at a profit.
Throughout the design, discussion and final approval of the tower ordinance, elected officials and county administrators have emphasized the importance of improving business access to wireless internet throughout the community. While nothing in the ordinance prevents new tower construction to support wireless access by individual homeowners, the $5K – $10k expected cost of new tower construction may still be out of reach for individual homeowners. However, affordable technology that allows clusters of homeowners to share a wireless internet connection may make the solution feasible for cooperative groups of neighbors.
Building Code Change
Recent changes in the International Building Code used by Clarke County and other local Virginia jurisdictions has increased the minimum area of structures not requiring a building permit from 150 square feet to 200 square feet. The same minimum threshold is also used in allowing limited types of recreational structures in the 100-year flood plain. The supervisors increased the size of such flood plain structures to 200 square feet.
Certificate of Appropriateness
Construction or major alterations in a Historic Overlay District require a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Preservation Commission. The Supervisors made changes to the definition of “major alteration” to include any work requiring a building permit or any repair or replacement of roofs or windows. Application for a Certificate of Appropriateness must be responded to within 60 days by the Preservation Commission.
Site Plan Submissions
The Supervisors approved a requirement that all future site plans be submitted digitally to the County. County staff made the recommendation based on the time consuming and costly effort needed to handle large scale drawings and multiple technical specifications associated with the site plans.