Owners of landlocked residential property in Ashland now have an escape valve.
Oct. 15, Town Council approved a process allowing exceptions to the town law requiring residential lots to front on a road or improved right-of-way.
Before approving the measure, Mayor Faye Prichard pushed for stronger language to ensure that developing residential property won’t disrupt neighboring property owners.
“I want to make sure we have some way to turn this down if, in fact, it will negatively impact the folks around it,” she said.
For a property owner to be granted an exception, they would have to prove that it wouldn’t be detrimental to public safety, health or welfare or injurious to other properties and that they are experiencing a unique hardship. Exceptions would not be granted in cases where the property is adjacent to a proposed roadway.
The exception also only applies to cases where there is a single residential unit and would only pertain to already established parcels and not newly subdivided land.
There are currently a total of 10 affected lots in town, many of which came into the town’s control during annexation, when Ashland’s boundaries changed.
Though staff recommended approving the exception process, Nora Amos, director of planning and community development, said the current statute has been an impactful tool.
For example, requiring new roads to be developed to the town’s standards helps ensure standards for emergency services access are met. Road maintenance costs are also lower in the long term because roads are built to consistent standards.
Current regulations require a property owner to dedicate 40 to 50 feet of right of way to the town. At minimum, they would also have to construct a road 18 to 24 feet wide when developing a residential property.
“As you can imagine, we have many property owners who own these single lots and want to build a single home come to us and talk about their hardship,” Amos said.
However, in some instances, requiring a property owner to construct a road doesn’t make sense. Amos pointed to situations where future road expansion is not planned or when other topological or physical factors limit development possibilities.
During the public hearing, Chris Gilman urged council to adopt the policy. He had also applied for an exception on property adjacent to the Patrick Henry YMCA near Maple Street. Town Council later deferred his request to allow time for him to obtain feedback from neighboring property owners.