The Town of Amherst seeks development and redevelopment within the Town that respects and promotes the heritage and appearance of the Town and maintains and improves the quality of life of its residents.
The Town of Amherst is guided in its physical development by its Comprehensive Plan. This document is supported by the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance, the Zoning and Future Land Use Map and the efforts of the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals as well as the Town’s Capital Improvement Program.
The Town Manager serves as the Town’s Zoning Administrator and as such is responsible for administering the Town’s planning and zoning programs. This includes issuing zoning permits, coordinating plan reviews, special use permit requests, and rezoning requests; serving as the clerk for the Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning Commission; and enforcing the provisions of the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance.
Once all zoning issues are resolved, a zoning permit is issued. At this point an applicant is able to obtain other required permits (building permit, land disturbance permit, etc.) from the Amherst County Building Official (946-9302).
A zoning certificate is required by the Town of Amherst for most major construction projects or changes in the use of land. These include building additions, new houses, signs, sheds, and operation of a business from a residence. Inquiries regarding the Town’s Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance (Chapter 18.1 of the Town Code), Zoning and Future Land Use Map or utility connection policies Sections 17-11 through 17-13 of the Town Code) are directed to the Town Manager. (All of these documents can be accessed at www.amherstva.gov.)
Most requests for a zoning permit are approved by the Town Manager. Since, in these cases, the zoning certificate is merely documentation provided by the Town that the proposed use of property meets the Town’s zoning regulations as well as other Town rules and requirements, no fee is charged. The Amherst County Building Official’s office requires a Town Zoning permit before a building permit will be issued for any substantial in-Town construction. Other permits and approvals that must be obtained include erosion and sediment control permits (Amherst County Building Official) and entrance permits (VDOT).
APPLICATIONS REQUIRING ACTION BY BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS, PLANNING COMMISSION AND TOWN COUNCIL
There are several classes of zoning certificate applications that require action by one or more of the Town’s boards as explained in the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance. These are:
Site Plans – Site plans for large commercial and various other categories of development require approval by the Planning Commission. (Section 18.1-1101)
Subdivisions – Creation of new building lots may require approval by the Planning Commission. (Section 18.1-1007)
Special Use Permit – If a proposed new use is listed as a special use in the zoning district for the property in question, an owner may apply for a special use permit. A special use permit may be granted by the Town Council following the required hearings before the Planning Commission and Town Council. (Section 18.1-1003.03)
Rezoning – If a proposed new use is not listed as a permitted use in the zoning district for the property in question, an owner may apply for rezoning of his property. The rezoning request may be approved by the Town Council following the required hearings before the Planning Commission and Town Council. (Section 18.1-1004)
Conditional Zoning – If a proposed new use is not listed as a permitted use in the zoning district for the property in question, an owner may apply for conditional zoning. Rezoning of property to a conditionally zoned status may be granted by the Town Council following the required hearings before the Planning Commission and Town Council. (Section 18.1-1005)
Variances – Applications requiring relief to a non-use provision of the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance require a variance. These may be approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals if it finds a hardship exists after a public hearing. (Section 18.1-1006)
Pre-application conferences with the Town Manager are encouraged. Applicants may request that the Town Manager arrange an informal pre-application conference with the Town Council’s Physical Development Committee. Preliminary sketch plans outlining the development proposal are required before such a conference will be held.
All applications for permits requiring action by the Board of Zoning Appeals, Planning Commission and Town Council should be directed to the Town Manager and should include, as a minimum:
A. A cover letter
B. An application signed by the property owner on a form provided by the Town Manager
C. Site plan or other appropriate drawings (Section 18.1-1103)
D. Application fee required by Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance (Section 18.1- 1009)
Upon receiving a full application for a rezoning or special use permit, the Town Manager will report it to the Planning Commission at its next regular meeting. A public hearing will be held at the following regular monthly meeting of the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the Town Council and which will schedule a public hearing on its application at the regular monthly meeting after it receives the Planning Commission’s recommendation.
Variance and appeal applications are reported to the Chairman of the Board of Zoning Appeals who sets the time and place for the required public hearing.
Required advertisements for zoning public hearings, as required by Section 15.2-2204 of the Code of Virginia, will be placed in the Amherst New Era-Progress, Amherst’s weekly newspaper. Applicants are advised that several weeks are required between receipt of a full application and a final decision by the Town Council, Planning Commission and/or Board of Zoning Appeals. This is due to the public notice requirements and requests for additional information not available at the hearings.
PUBLIC HEARING PROCEDURE
The typical public hearing procedure is as follows:
A. Report by Town Manager
B. Statements by Applicant
C. Statements by other interested parties
D. Questions from the Board, Commission or Council
E. Discussion among Board, Commission or Council members
F. Action by the Board, Commission, or Council