Mountain overlay proposals irk landowners

“Keep your cotton-picking hands off my mountains,” declared Marjorie Maupin Paul shortly into the August 1 public hearing on the Mountain Overlay District (MOD) Committee’s proposal to protect Albemarle County’s mountain resources. Exactly one week earlier the public got their first look at the recommendations that the 12-person committee has worked on for three years—recommendations that County officials hope will lead to an ordinance restricting development on mountain areas.
    As a descendant of ancestors who settled in Virginia 300 years ago, mountain dweller Paul felt it was her right to scold the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission seated near the front of the Burley School auditorium, where the hearing took place. Incensed at guidelines that would limit building to two lots per 10 years, the 70-year-old Paul bemoaned the loss of property value, and urged that the same restrictions be extended throughout Albemarle County. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” she said. Her comments would be echoed by more mountain landowners, but not until a solid hour had passed, as numerous residents and representatives of groups like Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population, the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club, and the League of Women Voters of Charlottesville/Albemarle praised the committee for their hard work in reaching a consensus.
    Withstanding this barrage, mountain landowners voiced their concerns. “I agree with Mr. Jefferson,” said George Howard, invoking the region’s most famous summit dweller. “You should build on a mountain.” Wendell Wood referred to the proposed ordinance as a “lion in sheep’s clothing,” a sentiment echoed by Clara Bell Wheeler, who, after apologizing for paraphrasing Patrick Henry, asked, “Are the views of the population so important that we must sacrifice land owners’ rights?” Tom Hartsell. who recently returned from Texas to build on a Crozet mountain, said, “I came back a year early…so we wouldn’t lose our life savings.” As he spoke, his voice welled with emotion and he started to cry. His teary comments preceded the incendiary barbs of H. A. Spainhour, who rebuked all in attendance: “If you people want to protect the land, why don’t you buy it? Then you won’t be taking somebody else’s land!”