STAFF PERSON:                                                                            Rebecca Ragsdale

PLANNING COMMISSION:                                                           August 24, 2004 

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:                                                        October 13, 2004




Applicant’s Proposal: The applicant is requesting approval of SP 2004-023 to allow for a church, parking, and accessory recreation uses. The specifications for the proposed expansion are as follows:


·         The footprint of the proposed church building at build-out would be 19,733 square feet;

·         Seating capacity of the assembly area of the church at build-out would be 500;

·         Parking Spaces would total 170;

·         Outdoor recreational areas: half-court basketball court, tot lot, and playground.


The church is currently meeting at Sutherland Middle School in Hollymead where the average attendance is 245.  No daycare or school uses are proposed with this application. However, areas for outside play have been set aside. No outdoor lighting has been proposed with this application.  


Petition: Request for special use permit approval, as set forth in Section of the Zoning Ordinance, for a church building to be constructed on a 19.4 acre parcel. A waiver from the critical slopes requirements, as set forth in Section 18.4.2 of the Zoning Ordinance, has also been requested. The property, described as Tax Map 21 Parcel 11, is located in the White Hall Magisterial District on State Route 606 (Dickerson Road), west of State Route 29, and south of the border with Greene County. The property is zoned RA Rural Area and the Comprehensive Plan designates this property as Rural Area 1.


Character of the Area: The area surrounding the church is a mixture of rural agricultural, residential, wooded areas, and the GE Corporation Facility. The site proposed for development is wooded, as are properties to the north and east of the site. There is some scattered residential along Dickerson Road north of the church site. Adjacent to the site are the Northridge Community Church and across Dickerson Road is the Grace United Methodist Church.


Site History: The wooded site proposed for the church use is currently vacant and there is no planning or zoning history on the site.  The church purchased the property in 2001.


Comprehensive Plan: The Comprehensive Plan identifies this site and surrounding area as being located in the Rural Areas. Churches provide a service to rural area residents and the use is considered to be consistent with the policies within the Comprehensive Plan


Rural Area: The primary objective of the current Rural Area section of the Comprehensive Plan is not compromised with this proposed application. Agricultural and forestall activities and watersheds will not be adversely impacted by this proposal. Service delivery to the Rural Areas will not be expanded to accommodate proposed facilities. 


Natural Resources and Biodiversity: It is important to note possible adverse impacts to biodiversity with development of this site and ultimate fragmentation of habitat.  Habitat fragmentation reduces animal’s ability to move freely across a habitat.  Forests are a particularly important asset for the County as they provide habitat for many birds, mammals, reptiles and other species and help improve air quality and ground water.


Open Space Plan and Mountain Protection Plan: The Open Space Concept Map does not identify the site as part of a major open space system. Piney Mountain is an identified mountain resource in the Mountain Protection Plan and is located behind this site. The proposed site development does not cause substantial disturbance of the mountain and all proposed site improvements are below the 600’ elevation. The applicant has indicated in their application that site development has been designed to respect terrain, avoiding critical slopes and steeper portions of the property to minimize clearing and grading.


To address concerns regarding natural resources, the applicant has provided limits of tree disturbance on the concept plan and has agreed to tree protection measures. Staff has suggested, that as part of the site plan process, these limits be further defined and recommends that a tree conservation plan be submitted in accordance with Section and would indicate the trees to be saved; limits of clearing; location and type of protective fencing; grade changes requiring tree wells or walls; and trenching or tunneling proposed beyond the limits of clearing. In addition, the applicant would sign a conservation checklist approved by the agent to insure that the specified trees would be protected during construction and such checklist shall conform to specifications contained in the Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook, pages III-393 through III-413, and as hereafter amended.



Staff Comment: Staff will address each provision of Section of the Zoning Ordinance:


The Board of Supervisors hereby reserves unto itself the right to issue all special use permits permitted hereunder.  Special use permits for uses as provided in this ordinance may be issued upon a finding by the Board of Supervisors that such use will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property.


As the church is a use of greater intensity than residential or agricultural uses within the RA, greater setbacks are recommended to reduce impacts to adjoining properties. A comparison of commercial and rural side, front, and rear setbacks is as follows:








75 Feet

30 Feet


25 Feet

50 Feet


35 Feet

50 Feet


The Commercial District side and rear setback standards adjacent to rural areas are the larger of the two and would further protection of the rural area. A condition of approval has been offered to require compliance with section 21.7.2 standards for side and rear setbacks adjacent to rural area districts. As the rural area front yard setbacks are greater, the RA front setback would remain. These setbacks were also a condition of approval for the Northside Community Church located adjacent to this site.


that the character of the district will not be changed thereby,


Open space, wooded areas, agricultural uses, and very low density residential uses, mixed with two existing churches and an industrial/office building to the south characterize this portion of the rural district. The church land use is not expected to change the character of the district, although the size of the use and the combined impact of the other existing church uses in this area may further diminish the rural character. Although the initial phase of the development would be small, approximately 5,000 square feet, the church feels that this site would meet their needs far into the future, so they are requesting a maximum sanctuary size of 500 seats and a building size of 19,733 square feet. The church size is not in keeping with rural character at build out and will be nearly twice the size of the church to the south. Smaller church sizes, in terms of number of anticipated attendees, have been viewed to be more in keeping with Rural Area character. The average size of churches approved in the Rural Area since 1981 has been 185 seats. Smaller congregations create less impact on roads and neighborhoods, as well as limited demand for services. However, the site proposed for development in this case is located in a setting unique to the Rural Areas, adjacent to a development area and two existing churches.



and that such use will be in harmony with the purpose and intent of this ordinance


The Rural Areas zoning district provides for the preservation and protection of agricultural and forestal lands and activities; provides for water supply protection; provides an area of limited service delivery; and provides for the conservation of natural, scenic, and historic resources.  Staff has reviewed the purpose and intent as contained in Chapter 18, Sections 1.4, 1.5, and 1.6 of the Albemarle Zoning Ordinance.  In the opinion of staff, the proposed use would not conflict with the purpose and intent as described in the Zoning Ordinance.


with the uses permitted by right in the district,


This use would not prevent by-right use of the adjacent properties.


with additional regulations provided in Section 5.0 of this ordinance,


Section 5.0 of the Zoning Ordinance contains no additional regulations governing churches.


and with the public health, safety and general welfare.


The public health, safety, and general welfare of the community are protected through the special use permit process, which assures that uses approved by special use permit are appropriate in the location requested.   



The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has recommended the following:

recommends the entrance be moved to the south end of the site across from the Methodist Church entrance;


The applicant has agreed to VDOT’s recommendations and has relocated the entrance from its original northern location on the concept plan to the current proposed location, across from the entrance to the Methodist church. (Attachment B) Increased traffic on Route 606 would likely result in dust and rutting of the road so a more durable surface is needed on the roadway leading to the church site. The Engineering division has recommended VDOT’s comments be conditions of approval with the special use permit. These were also conditions of approval for the adjacent Northside Community Church.


Engineering staff has requested that a site plan with an Erosion Control plan and Storm water Management plan be submitted for Engineering approval; this site plan should show elevation contours for Route 606 on the site plan. Engineering has reviewed the concept plan and has indicated that regulated critical slopes are not being disturbed on the plan as shown and that no critical slope waiver is required at this time.


No concerns with Health Department approval of this request have been identified at this level of review. The applicant’s engineers have identified potential drainfield locations on the site. Final location will be determined during site plan review.





Staff has identified the following factors that are favorable to this request:


  1. The Comprehensive Plan suggests that churches are supportive to the rural areas in the County.
  2. Tree preservation, additional landscaping, and additional setbacks would help mitigate impacts to the Rural Area.



Recommendation: Based on the findings contained in this staff report, staff recommends approval of SP 2004-023, subject to the following conditions :


1.      The church’s improvements and the scale and location of the improvements, with the exception of storm water management facilities and the front setback (The required front setback shall be 75 feet from the edge of the right-of-way after the 25 foot dedication referenced in Condition number 11.), shall be developed in general accord with the concept plan entitled, “Special Use Plan for Grace Community Church,” prepared by Terra Partners, LLC, and dated May 17, 2004, last revised July 27, 2004.

2.      If the lawful physical construction of any structure necessary for the use authorized by this permit is not commenced within 5 years after the permit is issued, the permit shall be deemed abandoned and the authority granted hereunder shall terminate.

3.      The church's sanctuary shall not exceed 500 seats.

4.      All exterior light fixtures shall be full cutoff luminaire and fully shielded and arranged or directed to reflect light away from adjoining properties and away from adjacent roads.

5.      Commercial setback standards, as set forth in Section 21.7.2 of the Albemarle Zoning Ordinance, shall be maintained along the side and rear property lines.

6.      Day care or school uses are prohibited unless approved through a special use permit amendment.

7.      Subject to the approval of the Virginia Department of Transportation, prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy, the applicant shall surface State Route 606 (Dickerson Road) from just beyond the church entrance southward to the end of the existing asphalt surface.

8.      If phasing of site development is proposed, each phase shall include only the grading and infrastructure necessary to support the improvements of that phase.

9.      As part of the site plan application, a tree conservation plan shall be submitted and approved to the specifications of Section of the Zoning Ordinance.

10.  The applicant shall dedicate 25-foot dedication of right-of-way along the State Route 606 property frontage.  Any plats and/or deeds necessary for this dedication shall be provided by the applicant prior to site plan approval.

11.  An additional 25% of landscaping materials, above the minimum landscaping materials required by Section, shall be installed within the parking area, to offset removal of trees and plant material from the site for construction. The additional landscaping shall consist of a mixture of evergreen and deciduous plant materials.




A - Application

B – Concept Plan

C - Location Map & Tax Map

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