Transfer rule briefly set aside

Published 10:19 pm Thursday, November 20, 2008

Despite months of wrangling over a controversial law that limits real estate transfers between family members, Suffolk’s City Council has been unable to come to an agreement to change it.

On Wednesday, though, members made it clear there are some situations under which they’re willing to set it aside.

The council voted unanimously to grant a variance from the family transfer ordinance for Ruth Rustay, whose son, Craig, asked for council’s intervention on his mother’s behalf.

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Family transfers allow residents to give their land to direct relatives without having to meet certain development requirements. In exchange for the relaxed requirements, the family members who receive the land may not sell or otherwise transfer it for at least 10 years.

Craig Rustay gave his mother a one-acre parcel in 2005. Late last year, she fell and suffered extensive injuries, including a broken femur. Now, she lives in a nursing home, and she will not qualify for Medicaid until she can sell her house.

Rustay’s son asked that council allow a variance from the family transfer rule to help solve his family’s problem.

After council received confirmation from Rustay’s doctor that she could be not be discharged from the nursing home, members were ready to vote.

Councilman Jeff Gardy said the matter was an indicator the family transfer rule needs to be adjusted.

“I think this points out the need we have to address the family transfer,” he said.

City Council has spent all year dealing with the family transfer rule.

Justin Nelson applied for a variance from the ordinance in January.

His father had given him a parcel of land in 2005, but Nelson unexpectedly got a better paying job in Roanoke and needed to sell his land in order to relocate.

Council has repeatedly tabled the Nelson matter while awaiting more input from the Planning Commission

Just two weeks ago, the planning department held visioning sessions in both the Whaleyville and Holland communities to get comment and feedback from residents regarding the family transfer rule.

Planning staff members said they are examining all of the comments received in order to create text amendments to the UDO that would best serve all parties involved.