ZMA- 2004-010 UVA Research Park Amendment (Sign #96) -  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, 17B(1), 17B(2), 17B(3), 17B(5), 17B(6), 17B(7), 17B(8), 17B(X), and 17B(W), 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. (Susan Thomas)

Ms. Thomas summarized the staff report. 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.

Ms. Thomas stated that this proffer request is as straight forward as it appears to be. If the Commission has any questions, the applicant is here to answer any questions.  In the course of building out Fontaine Research Park staff believes that the Foundation has discovered a lot about what it needs and what is really in demand now that the buildings are being built on the ground as opposed to the original master plan.  Like all master plans it was somewhat conceptual.  They have discovered that they need lab space and laboratory space does not generate the number of people working in it generated by office space.  Therefore, it is possible to have more of it with the same number of people.  This proffer amendment request is for an additional 40,000 square feet. Most of the square footage will go in the remaining building to be built in the park.  A little of it might go in to an existing building to add some supplementary office type of space.  Zoning has worked closely with the foundation to ensure that the parking that is available in the park would be adequate for the increased square footage.  Because of the lower human occupancy in laboratory buildings, they have calculated the amount of square footage that they could add with the existing parking.  She stated that she had gone over this with John Shepherd in Zoning and he has gone over his cheat sheet and he has been very meticulous in quantifying parking to make sure that there would not be a problem.  Certainly based on what staff knows since parking regulations allow a little more flexibility than they use to, staff feels that this is a conservative calculation.  This actually was the master plan used in the previous rezoning in 2000 and it shows two buildings. These buildings have been combined into one, but the square footage has to meet the proper amount. The foundation possibly may go into further detail.  She noted that these two buildings have been built.  She noted that this was the only remaining pad, and then this other one was not happening.  She pointed out that she had not been through all of the site plans, but the square footage has been divided up in slightly a different way.  This is an approved site plan. The Clinic Building has been built. There is another building that does not show on this site plan sheet because it was previously approved called the Hour Block Building, which is located down in this area.  There is only one remaining building pad that can go in under the rezoning.  The Foundation is asking for some additional square footage for that.  She pointed out the location of the entrance and the two new buildings on the site.  There is a level pad with existing parking, but there is no building there. She pointed out that in her original staff report that she indicated that the additional square footage was going to the Hour Bock Building, but she has since learned that it was another building.  Overall, from staff’s standpoint they are glad to maximize the benefits from Fontaine Research Park because it was in a location that if not now, but in the future, can be served by transit and it was close to neighbors.  It was a close in office park.  Staff feels that Fontaine Research Park is a good one to use wisely.  She suspected that in the future that they would see more requests for more density because certainly the Area B Study, which the City, County and University all jointly worked on, showed it as an important center for both employment and as a neighborhood center with a lot of potential that is not really being realized with the current plan. But there were future opportunities for that. If there were any questions, she would be happy to answer them.

Mr. Thomas asked if there were any questions for Ms Thomas.  There being none, he opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to address the Commission.

Valerie Long, attorney for the applicant, who is the University of Virginia Foundation, stated that there were also present this evening two members of the Foundation, Mr. Tim Rose, the President of the Foundation and Fred Missile, who if the Manager of Real Design and Development.  She expressed their appreciation to Susan Thomas for all of her help as they have worked through this application.  Her assistance and guidance has been invaluable, particularly in coordinating the various comments from the departments and helping them make final the language for the proffers.  They appreciate all of her help.  To summarize, she stated that this request is as straight forward as staff indicated.  The Foundation is requesting an increase in the permitted square footage at the park.  They are proposing to amend proffer number 5, which would increase the total density cap from 495,000 to 535,000 square feet. Approximately 30,000 square feet of this space is needed to provide additional research and laboratory space at the building that Ms. Thomas pointed to on the plan, which they are currently calling the Advance Research and Technology Building. As she indicated, because the majority of this space would be research and lab space, which has fewer trip generation and fewer parking requirements, they are confident that they can increase the size of that building without developing or creating a need for any additional parking on the site.  The remaining 10,000 square feet of space would likely be allocated to what currently is known as the Medical Office Building.  That building is located on the far left side and would probably be increased. The increase of the Medical Office Building can be accommodated through the existing parking that is located on the site.  There is some excess parking capacity near that building.  Therefore, they are confident that there is plenty of parking there to accommodate the minor increase of square footage there.  As staff indicated, the zoning staff has reviewed the proposal carefully and crunched the numbers with Fred Missile.  They are confident that the parking on site is more than adequate to support it.  She pointed out that the parking ordinance was amended just over a year ago and is as Ms. Thomas indicated much more flexible than it use to be. It also updated the parking requirements for a variety of categories of uses.  She stated that one of those updated categories was for research space and the recognition that laboratory and research space did not require as much parking as standard office buildings. Therefore, they are happy to say that they think that this application is very consistent with the parking ordinance as it was recently amended.  Finally, there are a few other proffer amendments.  Most of them are really housekeeping and clarification amendments to the proffers to reflect and indicate, among other things, that some of the proffers have been satisfied to clarify some maintenance obligations with a few other requirements.  They also want to point out that there is also one new proffer that the Foundation is proposing to construct a bus shop within the park to make the use of transit service there more comfortable for its parked tenants and employees.  She stated that they know that the increased square footage of the park will enable the Foundation to respond to the increased damage for the increased demand for research and laboratory space at the research park all without increasing the need for parking on the site.  It is consistent with the current parking ordinance.  Therefore, they feel that this merits the support of the Commission.  She stated that she would be happy to answer any questions or comments from the Commission or any one from the public.

Mr. Thomas asked if there were any questions for Ms. Long.

Ms. Joseph asked why the bus stop was not included in the transportation management plan because it seems like that was part of that.

Ms. Long stated that she did not know the answer to that, but that she would be happy to check.  It is certainly something that was recommended by the County’s Transportation Planner as part of this rezoning proposal.  The Foundation was certainly very pleased to accommodate it.  It may well have been that it was something that was sort of planned for all along once they had the build out of the park more established and complete.  They feel that it will be a very positive addition to the park.

Ms. Joseph asked if they have any plans for any sort of stellar communications on any of these buildings going up. It is a site that everybody wants.  She asked if they planned to have them hanging off of buildings.

Ms. Long stated that she was aware that the Foundation frequently receives inquiries from the representatives of the wireless communications industry and believes frequently works with them to see if they can put together proposals for facilities on the buildings that will certainly be of the appropriate design and location for the strict standards of the research park’s design as well as a site that would function.  Therefore, she believed that they were talking with some current wireless companies right now.  She stated that she did not know if there were any current plans, but she felt that it was a good location if they can find a way to do it that is mutually agreeable to both sides. She stated that the first building when you come in on the right does have at least one set of wireless antennas on it and possibly more.  They have certainly demonstrated a willingness to work with the applicants in that regard.

Ms. Joseph stated that it would be nice if they were not visible.

Mr. Thomas asked if there was any one in the audience that would like to speak on this application at this time. There being none, he closed the public hearing to bring the request back to the Commission for discussion and possible action.

Mr. Rieley asked Ms. Thomas to tell the Commission about the findings of the Area B Study.

Ms. Thomas stated that the Area B Study is currently at the PAC TECH level. The PAC TECH members are Wayne Cilimberg, David Newman, and Jim Tolbert. They are talking about the findings of the study and are going to make a recommendation to the committee, which will take the matter up at their November meeting.  Therefore, an official outcome will come out at that point from the study.  The study has been under way for about 1˝ years.  It has been added to twice.  One component dealt with a contract addendum for the redesign of Fontaine Avenue in the City.  The second one added in about $25,000 to do more detailed engineering of several connection possibilities between Fontaine Avenue and Sunset Extended from the County.  That was something that was originally identified as a need way back in the Southern City’s Report, which was done in the late ‘80’s.  It seems to be that the preferable recommendation is for a connector road coming through the Granger property from Sunset Extended through the eastern portion of the Research Park parking lot, which seems to be the one meeting with the most interest and support. That would come out to Fontaine Avenue in a new intersection.  They were not at all at the level of detail where anybody knows who is going to build what.  But, with the Granger property being down here, it would roughly come up through this portion of the far eastern section of the Research Park staying away from the buildings so that there would be a safe way for pedestrians to get into the building.  It would probably meet at some point with the structured parking.  But, it would provide a connection up to Fontaine Avenue.  The existing entrance would remain open.  All kinds of things could happen with that existing entrance.  It could become right in, right out.  It could stay signalized.  They were not quite at the point of knowing all of the details of the intersection analysis.  This would allow a good connections and better access to the park for employees and users of the park.  It would provide a much needed link between Fontaine Avenue and the southern part of the urban area in the County.  She felt that it would open a lot of possibilities for increased complimentary development within the park that could make it a more balanced array of uses, but still a very heavy use on medical employment with perhaps some supporting commercial or some things that would allow people to come to work and stay on the park campus without having the need to leave for lunch or other kinds of things.  Of course, it would disperse traffic with another southern access point, a northern access point and perhaps a rearrangement of some of the traffic signalization and management within the park.  With some additional density they would hope to have a better chance for transit to the park.  Staff did talk with CTS as a part of this review.  Although their long range plan calls for a route serving this park, CTS just did not feel that it was supportable quite yet.  The Area B Study recommendations, if implemented, could offer some really nice possibilities.

Mr. Thomas pointed out that he had copies of all of those maps that he could bring and show the Commissioners.  Also, away from this piece of property they are proposing a cross over from Stribling Avenue over to Fontaine Avenue with a new bridge crossing the tracks. That was another possibility.

Ms. Thomas pointed out that there are really about six different alternatives.  This one probably received the most discussion, but they looked at all of them.  The PAC TECH has had some initial discussions and is at least investigating this one.  There was also a connection to National Resources Drive by the Forestry Department that was looked at.  The road comes down further there, but it does not offer the benefit of taking traffic right to where the most activity is in the park. That is a relatively low level area.  They also looked at reopening the Sunset Avenue Bridge, which of course was something that would be contemplated with care because those neighborhoods are very concerned. There is a potential new road extending from Sunset Road northwest of Fontaine, which would take out some existing structures and require the purchase of right-of-way, but that might offer some interesting options.  She pointed out that possibly some of these things may be done in combination with each other. There has been that discussion, too. The PAC TECH has not made a decision, but it certainly received a lot of discussion.

Mr. Thomas stated that he liked the alternative coming through the Park because it creates a lot of openings in that neighborhood.

Ms. Thomas stated that everybody sees that Park as a tremendous resource in a lot of different ways.

Mr. Rieley stated that he appreciated the answer.  It creates an inevitable question. Staff articulated very clearly the vision of the Area B Study for this particular parcel and it does need flushing out in terms of the use. There are transportation issues. Typically the Commission does not review rezoning applications that have an opportunity to further a long range vision. He stated that he did not disagree with any of the conclusions of the staff report, but wondered why they were not utilizing this opportunity to push along any of these alternatives.

Ms. Thomas stated that staff found that the level of maturity of the study, its conclusions and the PAC TECH final position on it that made it difficult to incorporate the findings of the study in a relative recommendation. Certainly the study has taken some direction, and she outlined some of the options.  She stated that Mr. Rieley was correct that on rezoning applications that staff tries hard to rely on any current guidance that they have in the form of Comprehensive Plan Studies.  But, in this case it just did not seem to be quite at a level of maturity where they could know what the final recommendation by the PAC TECH was going to be. 

Mr. Rieley stated that it was also the issue of scale with this, but he would presume that everybody was on notice that the next time they get a proposal for this piece of property that they will be looking hard at that.

Mr. Benish agreed that it was the issue of scale. The other thing is that overall the concept they find that it is consistent and supportable with our policies to encourage infill development and greater utility of the site.  That along with the scale issue, staff felt comfortable moving forward.  But it is a good point to make.

Mr. Thomas any if there were any more questions.  He noted that on page 2 of the previous report in the third paragraph from the bottom, the applicant is acknowledging and supports the potential for additional development within the park of both employment related and supporting commercial.  Similarly, the applicant’s proposal does not conflict with any of the connector road alternatives between Fontaine Avenue.

Ms. Higgins moved for approval of ZMA-2004-010, UVA Research Park Amendment, with the proffers as recommended by staff.

 

Mr. Rieley seconded the motion.

 

Ms. Joseph pointed out that she was very happy that the Commission waited another week to get this because she really did not like seeing proffers the night of the meeting.

 

The motion carried by a vote of (6:0).  (Craddock - Absent) 

 

Mr. Thomas stated that the motion carried for ZMA-2004-010, UVA Research Park Amendment, and would be heard by the Board of Supervisors on October 13.

 

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