- Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 July 2009 21:17
- Published on Tuesday, 28 July 2009 21:17
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A proposal to relax some rules included in the Westmoreland zoning ordinance were approved this month by the Board of Supervisors. The Planning Commission had already endorsed the amendments the jurisdiction’s Board of Zoning Appeals previously requested county land use staff to draft.
Life will hereafter be easier when owners of unimproved lots want to add accessory structures. If appropriate permits are issues, improvements such as driveways, drain fields, fences, gardens, private wells and sheds no larger than 200 square feet can be installed before a primary structure is added to the property.
Water-dependent structures such as piers, bulkheads and riprap revetment have been added to the list of accessory structures that require a permit, but can be installed on a property before the addition of that lot’s primary structure.
Gardens and compost piles can also be added on properties before the primary structure is in place, as can fences less than six-feet tall, gates and gateposts and even barbecue equipment. In those instances no permits are required.
“Article 4-1.1 states that accessory uses and structures are allowed only in conjunction with, and incidental to, a principal use or structure,” County Planner Beth McDowell told the supervisors.
“On a residential lot, the principal structure is likely a house, and accessory structures may include a shed, pool or carport.
“At this time, all items listed should require a variance for their installation, if installed prior to permitting on the principal structure.
“In some cases, this conflicts with previous Land Use Office policies or other articles in the zoning ordinance and could be considered unreasonable by some citizens,” a circumstance that would result in a hearing before the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).
It is an accepted practice to review and possibly amend zoning provisions that frequently result in issues that a jurisdiction’s BZA must entertain.
McDowell advised that some items in the zoning ordinance’s Article 4-1.2 such as gardens and driveways are not dependent on proximity to a primary structure. The county planner then explained that in its current form, Article 4-1 would make it impossible to install a driveway on a vacant lot.
“The BZA also asked the commission to consider allowing accessory structures prior to a principal structure. The [BZA] reviewed several requests for variances to allow sheds and garages in the past few years. The primary reason given for these requests was storage of lawn maintenance equipment and tools,” McDowell related.
Concerns were voiced that accessory structures might be used as weekend living quarters if plumbing and electricity were in place. The 200-square-foot limitation was imposed as a means of discouraging property owners from residing in their sheds.
- Betsy Ficklin