From Six Stories Back To Three 
Downtown Returns To Three-Story Height Limits

But Bledsoe said he didn’t understand “why the three-story language was needed.” Ogelman said that the language made it unambiguous; one could build more than three stories with only the 45-ft. height restriction, without the three-story limit.

– By Valerie Cury

The Purcellville Town Council, September 26, voted 5-2 to reduce the maximum building heights in the C-4 District, with Council Members Chris Bledsoe and Doug McCollum voting against.

Said Vice-Mayor Nedim Ogelman, who supported the change, “We are going to be making a very important vote today on height limits in the C-4 area … and judging from what people have said during our election, what people have said during our Comprehensive Plan process, and public input, this will be an important vote.” Ogelman had reviewed citizen input provided during the Comp Plan process, and said most citizens wanted three stories or fewer – with only 15 people out of 236 asking for four stories or more. In 2008, based on developer advocacy, the Lazaro Council raised the building height limits in the C-4 District to 65 ft.

Council Member Kelli Grim made the motion, and the Council voted on limiting the height to a maximum of 45 ft., and no higher than three stories. The Council also removed the Zoning Administrator’s ability to grant administrative modifications to the height limitation. The only exception would be for publicly owned buildings and places of worship.

Council Members Chris Bledsoe and Doug McCollum, who did not support lowering the height limit, said they would support a maximum height limit of 45 ft. But Bledsoe said he didn’t understand “why the three-story language was needed.” Ogelman said that the language made it unambiguous; one could build more than three stories with only the 45-ft. height restriction, without the three-story limit. “And, frankly, that’s the language the citizens want, and I think we owe it to the citizens.” Bledsoe said the people he had been talking to didn’t mention a height limit, and they didn’t want “detailed architecture.”

In some cases, if the language were only to refer to height without the story limit, the height measurement would be counted at average grade level. This could mean that a basement level or levels, below grade, would not be counted – leaving the possibility for even more than four stories.

Said Ogelman, “I would like the three stories and not to exceed 45 ft. as the language. The more vague the language is, the more we will put the interpretations on our Zoning Administrator, and I am in favor of not having our Zoning Administrator to not have to do anything like that. I am not in favor of flexibility, but in favor of specificity in what this document says … I am in favor of going as close as possible to what the rules were prior to 2008, because that is what citizens want.” Ogelman said that the Dillon building and the Magnolias building are exceptional buildings and you can’t take their height as the norm. “They are culturally distinct. “It would be like saying in Washington D.C. – the Washington Monument is this high – why don’t we make all the buildings as high as that?”

Council Member Ryan Cool said, “This seat that I now occupy was previously occupied by an individual who voted in support of the six-story height, and then when people said they didn’t approve of six-stories during election season, his opinion changed. I ran in opposition to the six-story height and remain so.”

The Town attorney said if the third floor was below the grade, ‘it would appear that you would have a two-story building.” Mayor Kwasi Fraser answered, “But it is still three stories.”

Council Member Kelli Grim added, “So, depending on the grade, if you only mention height – it could turn out four or five stories … So only saying 45 ft. does not accomplish keeping it at a three-story height limit.”

Ogelman concluded, “What people said, in any information that I have looked at, is three stories at the most.” He said that citizens didn’t mention feet. He said it’s best to mention both standards to avoid the ambiguity.

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