BERRYVILLE — Anyone wanting to modify their land in Clarke County had better not owe the county any money on it.

The Board of Supervisors recently adopted a policy barring officials from accepting land development applications from anyone with debts on lots they want to develop. Those debts include delinquent real estate taxes and other unpaid charges legally considered to be liens.

Under the zoning ordinance amendment, applicants may be asked to prove they have no outstanding debts.

Those affected by the new policy include rezoning and variance applicants as well as people seeking special-use, construction and erosion and sediment control permits.

County Treasurer Sharon Keeler suggested the amendment as a way to improve revenue collections, according to County Administrator Chris Boies.

“Denying a property owner access to a county service such as regulatory permitting can be an effective tool for collection of unpaid debts,” Planning Director Brandon Stidham told the supervisors.

State code allows localities to enact such a policy, which applies only to specific properties on which someone has debts. An application still will be accepted from anyone wanting to redevelop a site on which he or she has no debt, even if the person owes money on another tract, according to officials.

In another matter, the county is limiting the allowable number of dwelling unit rights (DURs) for merged properties.

A DUR basically is zoning approval to build a house on a property, according to Boies. For example, a 100-acre farm with five DURs can have as many as five houses built on it.

Another ordinance amendment recently adopted by the supervisors reads, “No lot resulting from a merger of lots shall have more dwelling unit rights than the total number of dwelling unit rights … assigned to the lots at the time of (a) merger plat application filing.”

Ordinance Section 3.8 declares that when lots are merged, the number of DURs for the resulting lot must be based on an allocation chart elsewhere in the ordinance — not the total number of existing DURs on the merged lots.

As the section reads, a merger of lots possibly could result in either the loss or gain of DURs as compared to the total number of rights on the individual lots merged.

The amendment clarifies that no new DURs can result from the mathematical outcome of complying with the allocation chart, Stidham told the supervisors.

He was out of the office Monday afternoon and couldn’t be reached for further comment.

Boies said, though, the situation essentially is “a loophole we’re trying to close.”

“You shouldn’t be able to gain a DUR when you merge lots,” he said.

Anyone wanting an extra DUR should go through another process, such as rezoning, he added.

The ordinance amendments were adopted following public hearings. 

By AKDSEO