Board reconsiders lot size rules

How much land do you need in order to buy a house? That answer varies in Charlotte County. If you’re in the General Residential District, you just need 1.5 acres. In order to follow the rules in the Village Center, it’s 1 acre. The problem is that 96% of Charlotte County is in the Agricultural District, where the current rules say lots must be a minimum of 3 acres. And for a county struggling to bring in younger residents, that can create an issue.

“We keep saying we want our young people to stay in the county,” said Hazel Bowman Smith. She represents the Wylliesburg and Red Oak District on the Board of Supervisors. “Well, if there’s a young couple starting out, they may not be able to afford three acres of land to put a house on. They may be able to afford an acre of land. When I built my house, I couldn’t afford three acres.”

Speaking at the board’s Wednesday, May 8 meeting, Smith pointed out all the higher requirement does is drive young residents to look at other places to live.

“If you’re living in Keysville and have to buy three acres to put a house on, why would you buy three acres when you can go a mile to Mecklenburg and buy 30,000 square feet to put a house on?” she asked.

Currently, Charlotte County does have the highest minimum lot requirement in the region. Prince Edward County’s Agricultural Conservation District calls for a 1.5 acre minimum requirement. In Appomattox it’s just 1 acre, while in Mecklenburg, there’s practically no requirement at all, with just a .69 acre requirement if the land is not served by public water and sewer. If it is served by public water and sewer, then the requirement is even smaller, coming in at .34 of an acre. The closest to Charlotte County is Lunenburg, which has a 1 acre requirement if served by public water and sewer, with a 2 acre requirement if not.

TAKING ANOTHER LOOK

The issue gets raised because of the current and future projections, as far as population growth go. In 2010, Charlotte County had 12,586 residents. But by 2020, that number had dropped down to 11,529. Now, a new study from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service projects that Charlotte will see more losses over the next 26 years.

The Weldon Cooper Center’s projections expect that population to drop to 10,322 people in 2030, 9,705 in 2040 and 9,234 by 2050. It’s also already a much older population than some others in the region. A total of 18.7% of Charlotte County residents were 65 or older in 2010. By 2022, that number had jumped to 22.8% and it continues to rise.

As a way of enticing young professionals and young families to give Charlotte County a look, Smith proposed that the minimum lot size for the Agriculture District go back to the Planning Commission for another look.

“I think three acres is too much, it’s too big,” she said.

She wanted the commission to look at it again, make a recommendation for a possible reduction and then for the county to reach out and get input from residents.

Other supervisors didn’t disagree, but they wanted to make sure the property would be able to have a working well and septic, as well as being able to meet all the other requirements such as setbacks.

By a unanimous vote, supervisors agreed to send the minimum lot size for the Agriculture District back to the Planning Commission, to see if they could come up with a recommendation.