STAFF PERSON:                                                                              SUSAN THOMAS, AICP

PLANNING COMMISSION DATE:                                              SEPTEMBER 14, 2004

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS DATE:                                              OCTOBER 6, 2004

 

ZMA 2004-0010 UVa Research Park amendment

 

Applicant’s Proposal:

The applicant is seeking to amend an existing proffer approved with ZMA 2000-00, to allow additional square footage within the University of Virginia’s Fontaine Research Park for research and laboratory space.  (see Attachments A, B and C).  If approved, no other site plan changes will be necessary.  Because the laboratory use requires less parking than the previously approved office use, existing parking capacity will accommodate the additional building.  An existing proffer limits total buildings in the park to 495,000 square feet.  If approved, this proffer amendment would add 40,000 square feet, increasing total park capacity to 535,000 square feet.  The applicant has also agreed to provide a bus shelter within the park for transit riders.

Petition for Amendment to Existing Proffers

Request to amend existing proffers for 5.9 acres in Fontaine Research Park, zoned CO, Commercial Office, and EC, Entrance Corridor, to allow an increase of 40,000 square feet, for a maximum of 535,000 square feet of research and laboratory space.  The property, described as Tax Map 76 Parcels 17B and 17B6, is located in the Samuel Miller Magisterial District, in Fontaine Research Park, on the south side of Fontaine Avenue (Route 29 Business) immediately east of the 29/250 By-Pass.  The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as Office Service in the southern portion of Neighborhood Six.

Character of the Area:

Fontaine Research Park has seven existing buildings (see Attachment C), primarily involved with medical services or health-related research, with the exception of AIMR and the front building which houses the University’s development office.  Beyond the park boundaries but accessed via Ray C. Hunt Drive are the Forestry Building and associated warehouse.  Nearby are the Nob Hill subdivision, Buckingham Circle neighborhood, Piedmont housing area (UVa) within the County and the Fry’s Spring and Jefferson Park Avenue neighborhoods within the City.

Applicant’s Justification for the Request:

The facility proposed for expansion from 55,000 to 85,000 will be a laboratory building housing medical researchers and scientists who are involved with activities in other clinical buildings in the park as well with the University hospital itself.  Because research equipment typically occupies a larger spatial area than standard office furnishings, a larger research building may generate the same number of people (and cars) as a smaller office building.  Because there are similar activities occurring in other local facilities, the University of Virginia Foundation (the Foundation) has been able to assess what the actual parking requirement is for lab buildings like this one.  The Foundation has worked with Albemarle County to assess the parking issue, and Zoning has determined that parking shown on the approved site plan (SDP 02-011) will be adequate for the changed use.  A small expansion of the medical building to the south (up to 10,000 square feet) may also take place, if this ZMA is approved. 

Recommendation: 

Staff recommends approval, with proffers.  Staff believes that the increased research and laboratory use is appropriate for the site, meeting a public need.  No adverse impacts to the park, neighborhood, or general public are anticipated from the increased building size. 

Zoning and Subdivision History: 

In June 1992 the property in question was rezoned from PD-SC and R-10 to CO Commercial Office, with proffers and a proffered plan of development.  A special use permit for supporting commercial uses, research and development activities, including experimental testing, and medical and pharmaceutical laboratories was also approved in 1992 with the rezoning.  Since then, the site has been subdivided to provide individual parcels for each of the institutional uses referenced above.  In September 2000 amendments to the original ZMA and SP were approved, allowing an additional 106,000 square feet and bringing total research park square footage to 495,000.

Comprehensive Plan:  

The park is recommended for Office Service in Neighborhood Six of the Comprehensive Plan, Land Use Plan.  Recommended Office Service uses include the following:

The applicant’s proposal is consistent with the preliminary findings and recommendations of the Southern Urban Area B Study, which identifies Fontaine Research Park as an existing Neighborhood Center and acknowledges and supports the potential for additional development within the park, both employment related and supporting commercial   Similarly, the applicant’s proposal does not conflict with any of the connector road alternatives between Fontaine Avenue and Sunset Avenue Extended identified and evaluated by the study.  The 1988 JPA/Fontaine Area B Study, predecessor to the current study, stated that these [Research Park] parcels should be considered for rezoning, after completion of feasibility studies by the University.

The Neighborhood Model

The Neighborhood Model, an adopted part of the Comprehensive Plan, Land Use Plan, sets forth twelve principles for evaluating development proposals within the Development Area. 

Neighborhood Model principles are not strongly reflected in this research park, which pre-dated the County’s current policy and embodies a more suburban approach to development.  Those which are reflected to some degree in this proposal and/or in the park are:

Pedestrian Orientation – Although the organization and dimensions of the park do not make it an easy pedestrian environment, there is a sidewalk network linking buildings within the park, and linking the park network to Fontaine Avenue.

Neighborhood Friendly Streets and Paths – Landscaping and streetscaping make many of the internal streets attractive for pedestrians.  

Interconnected Streets and Transportation Networks - The applicant is agreeable to staff’s suggestion that it construct a bus shelter for transit riders to improve waiting conditions.   Currently, the site is served by JAUNT and a hospital van shuttle.  Staff explored with the City the need to initiate a proposed bus route serving the park identified in the City’s Transit Management Plan, but was informed that demand is not adequate to operate it at this time.  The recommended bus shelter would also serve the CTS route when it commences.  There is a Transit Demand Management Plan in place for the park that identifies ways in which alternative transportation can be accomplished, but the research park has not required any implementation measures from its tenants so it has had little effect on peak hour congestion conditions.

Mixture of Uses – The proposed site and adjacent parcels are characterized by a limited mixture of uses including office, laboratory, clinical/medical and institutional/educational.  Because there is very little commercial or other non-office mix, however, in staff’s view this is not true mixed-use development.  Should the University request additional square footage in the future, staff would expect to see a greater mix of uses within the park. 

Neighborhood Centers – The park serves as a neighborhood center, and has the potential to become a better center with the addition of supporting commercial uses.  It is an important regional employment center.

Site Planning that Respects Terrain – Since the applicant is not altering the site plan for this component of park development other than adding floor space, no environmental, open space, etc. impacts are envisioned.  Development in the park has been oriented away from sensitive environmental features.

Analysis of the Rezoning Request

Relationship between the application and the purpose and intent of the requested zoning district

The applicant is requesting an amendment to the existing proffers to allow additional office use in a CO Commercial Office district. The purpose and intent of the CO district is to permit development of administrative, business and professional office and supporting accessory uses and facilities.  The district is intended as a transition between residential districts and other more intensive commercial and industrial districts.  The proposal meets the intent of the CO Zoning District.

Anticipated impact on public facilities and services

Roads

No adverse impact to roads is anticipated from this proffer amendment.  As noted previously, no increase in occupancy or cars is anticipated due to the lower occupancy associated with the research and laboratory use.

Water and Sewer

Water and sewer are adequate for the proposed use.

Stormwater management

Stormwater facilities on this site can accommodate the proposed use. 

Schools

The expansion of building area will not impact schools. 

Fiscal Impact

A fiscal impact analysis has not been requested, due to the fact that the additional square footage being requested does not significantly change employment numbers but rather involves mainly a change to programming and spatial needs.

Anticipated impact on cultural and historic resources

No impact is expected on cultural or historic resources.

Anticipated impact on nearby and surrounding properties

No impacts to nearby and surrounding properties are anticipated since the lab use is very similar to the approved office use.

Public need and justification for the change

The University’s medical research program would benefit from the building expansion, ultimately benefiting the general public as well as other University affiliates. 

Summary

Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this rezoning request:

  1. The building expansion can be accommodated by the existing site plan, without adverse impacts to the physical environment, other activities on the site, or nearby properties and neighborhoods.
  2. The research park is located within the urban area, close to the City, and concentrating office and research activities in this location places jobs close to areas of dense population.
  3. The applicant is willing to proffer improvements that benefit transit users (the bus shelter).

Staff has not identified factors unfavorable to this request.

Recommended Action

Staff recommends approval of ZMA 2004-010, with proffers.  At the time of preparation of this report, staff was still working with the applicant, County Attorney and Zoning on final wording of the proffers.  Staff has attached the documents in their current form, and will provide a final version at the public hearing.  (see Attachments D, E, and F).

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Attachments:

A – Vicinity Map

B – Concept Plan (September 3, 2004

C – Applicant’s Justification

D – Existing Proffers

E – Proposed Proffers (mark up)

F – Proposed Proffers (clean)

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