Albemarle County Planning Commission

October 26, 2004

 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and public hearing on Tuesday, October 26, 2004 at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Room 241, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Members attending were William Rieley; Rodney Thomas, Chairman; Bill Edgerton; Cal Morris; Marcia Joseph; Jo Higgins and Pete Craddock, Vice-Chairman.  Absent was David J. Neuman, FAIA, Architect for University of Virginia (non-voting). 

 

Other officials present were Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning & Community Development; David Benish, Chief of Planning & Community Development; Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development; Tarpley Gillespie, Senior Planner; Sean Dougherty, Senior Planner; Mark Graham, Director of Community Development; Yadira Amarante, Senior Planner; and Greg Kamptner, Assistant County Attorney.

 

Call to Order and Establish Quorum:

Mr. Thomas called the regular meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. and established a quorum. 

 

Public Hearing Items:

SP-2004-00044 Albemarle Ballet Theatre (Sign #52 & 63) - Request for special use permit to allow a private ballet school in accordance with Section 22.2.2.6 of the Zoning Ordinance which allows for private schools in the  C-1 Commercial Zoning District.  The property, described as Tax Map 56A1-1 Parcel 65, contains 1.208 acres and is zoned C-1 Commercial.  The proposal is located on Rt. 240 (Three Notched Road), at the intersection of Three Notched Road and Rt. 810 (Crozet Avenue), in the White Hall Magisterial District.  The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as a part of the Community of Crozet.  (Tarpley Gillespie)

 

Ms. Gillespie summarized the staff report.  The applicants are Gary S. Hart and Sally Hart.  The owner of the property is Unicorn Holdings, L.L.C. The applicant proposes a ballet school to be located within an existing structure at 5798 Three Notched Road in downtown Crozet.  The proposal would use the entire second floor of the building, occupying 3,400 square feet, which can be seen on the concept plan.  The applicant requests the use of two studio spaces with classes beginning and ending in staggered 15 minutes intervals, with a total of 12 students per class.  This would result in some periods of time with up to 24 students on the premises.  At the moment one studio space is a finished space in the building and the other studio is an unfinished storage area.

The building was constructed in 1902 as a manufacturing plant for the Crozet Cider Company.  It has been referred to as the Crozet Cooperage Company.  It was an apple barrel and flour barrel manufacturing plant that operated until 1930. The original development predates the County’s site plan requirements. No site plan has ever been required for this site.  The proposed special use permit will not precipitate a site plan. The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as part of the Crozet Development Area.  This property was, until recently, part of the Rural Area in the Comprehensive Plan.  With CPA-2003-4 this property along with other properties along Route 240 and the neighborhood next to the north were added to the Crozet Development Area.  At this time there are no specific future land use designations for this area of the Crozet Development Area.  It is zoned C-1, Commercial, which allows for private schools by special use permit.

 

Staff analyzed the proposal against the Comprehensive Plan, the Neighborhood Model and our Zoning Ordinance.  Staff found that the proposal meets six of the twelve Neighborhood Model principles including the mixture of uses, neighborhood centers, redevelopment, building and spaces of human scale, relegated parking, interconnected streets and transportation networks.  But, staff was concerned that it really did not meet the principle of pedestrian orientation.  The entrance to the ballet school is located at the rear of the building.  Upon visiting the site, one would realize that it was a site that really does not meet our current engineering standards or current site plan standards.  The applicant will be reconstructing the physical entrance to the building as part of this project.  However, it is a mix match of shared parking back there with an access alley. It is not an ideal pedestrian access area. 

 

In late spring of 2004, the applicant approached the County Zoning staff and requested a parking determination for the proposed ballet school.  The applicant provided the Zoning staff with a parking study which stipulated that one class would be conducted at a time, with a maximum of 12 students per class.  Based on this information, the Zoning Administrator determined that 8 parking spaces would be required for this use.  Currently, the required 8 parking spaces are available and can be accommodated on this site.  There is a shared parking arrangement on this site.  Therefore, none of the parking is to be marked as reserved for specific users. The parking requirement is to be tied to the zoning clearance for this and all uses on the site. Zoning staff has recommended that a minimum number of parking spaces not be included in the conditions of this Special Use Permit, but rather be tied to the zoning clearance for the ballet school. This allows staff more flexibility as the uses come and go. The pick-up and drop-off area behind the building can accommodate no more than 10 stacked cars at a time. It is an area of about 180 feet in length before you get to the entrance of the ballet school. The idea is to pull in from the flower shop off of Route 240 and go behind the building. There are several uses that are shown with parking behind the building. For this reason, staff finds a maximum of 12 students to be a reasonable limitation to place on this use. 

Staff finds that the proposed use is an appropriate reuse of this building and would provide a benefit to the community of Crozet.  However, staff is concerned that, considering the existing infrastructure on the site, 24 students attending classes on this site at one time would be a detriment to the surrounding uses.  Staff finds that a total of up to 12 students attending classes at any given time on this site would have no detrimental impacts.

The applicant has asked for two classes of 12 students to occur simultaneously in two distinct studio spaces.  The applicant has offered to stagger the classes at 15 minute intervals to address concerns about student drop off and pick up.  However, staff finds, given the current level of infrastructure on this site that up to 24 students on site at any given time would be a substantial detriment to the general public health, safety and general welfare because the proposed ingress and drop off system would only allow for a maximum of 10 cars to stack in the rear of the building at any given time.  Given the limitations of the existing infrastructure, staff cannot support the proposal without a limitation of students on the site at any given time.

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

1.                   The proposal will be an adaptive reuse of an existing historic building;

2.                   There is adequate parking available on site to address this use with the recommended conditions;

3.                   This proposal reflects several principles of the Neighborhood Model, among them Mixture of Uses, Redevelopment, and Neighborhood Centers.

4.                   The ballet school will provide a neighborhood service to surrounding community of Crozet.

 

Staff finds the following factor unfavorable to this request.

1.                   The proposed use increases the level of activity on a site which does not have the supporting infrastructure which would normally be required to support such a mixture of uses, leading to staff concerns about vehicular circulation and pedestrian safety. 

2.                   As proposed by the applicant, a total of 24 students could be attending classes on site at a given time.  Staff finds that this number of students could not be supported by the existing infrastructure and would create a negative impact on the site.

Staff has reviewed this request for compliance with the provisions set forth in Section 31.2.4.1 of the Zoning Ordinance and recommends approval with the following four conditions as listed in the staff report.

1.       Total number of students attending class on site shall not exceed 12.  Breaks of a minimum of 15 minutes shall be scheduled between classes.

2.       Normal hours of operation for the school shall be from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. provided that occasional school-related events may occur after 9:00 p.m.

3.       The parking spaces required for this use shall not be reserved.

4.       On site recitals shall be held on Sundays only.

 

Mr. Thomas asked if the Commissioners had any questions for staff.

Ms. Joseph asked what infrastructure staff was referring to.

 

Ms. Gillespie stated that in this case staff was referring to the site design itself. Therefore, staff was referring to the parking, the travel ways on the site, and the paved parking area at the rear of the building where no parking spaces are marked.  These things are not to the same dimensional standards as they would be for a newly developed site that went through their site plan process. Therefore, staff was really talking about parking lot configuration, travel ways, access within the site and sidewalks. 

 

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

 

Gary Hart stated that he was the advisor and consultant for Ms. Sally Hart, who was the founder of the future Albemarle Ballet Theatre at the corner of Route 240 and Route 810 in Crozet. He made a power point presentation that showed the configuration of the site.  Sally Hart is truly an excellent ballet instructor. She has been an active member of this community for twelve years.  Ms. Hart has submitted an application for a special use permit to open up a professional ballet school at the historical site of the Fruit Grower’s complex in downtown Crozet.  He pointed out that they were not professional site planners or civil engineers. He stated that he was not begging ignorance, however, there were a couple of meetings regarding parking and they believed that it was clear in their floor plan where they showed two studios both labeled A and B.  It was later re-clarified in our responses that the attendance needed to be 24 in order to sustain the school. He stated that he would take the responsibility of not making that fact clear. But, their application did request an attendance of 24 students. There is some compelling information that they would like to share in going forward.  Sally has had a very, very extraordinary career. At fifteen years old she performed with Kevin McKinsey, who is now the Director of the American Ballet Theatre in New York. She performed at the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. She also performed for five years with the Jaffrey Ballet Company and spent ten years as a ballet instructor locally here in the Albemarle County area.  From the community standpoint, she worked under the trade name Afton Ballet at the North Branch School. She also taught at the Crozet Baptist Church and the after school enrichment program at Brownsville Elementary School. She gave grandiose performances at Brownsville Elementary School and Branchland’s Retirement Community in Charlottesville.  She is a mentor to the community’s children.  Our house has always been a safe haven for the children to come to. She constantly is instilling positive values everywhere she goes.  Sally is loved by her students and friends, the student’s parents, her piers, employers and everybody who meets her.  He introduced Ms. Sally Hart.

 

Ms. Sally Hart thanked the Planning Commission for looking over their plan for the ballet school.  She stated that they have also invested six months of time into this project as well as a lot of money.  She stated that she would like to review the conditions and comments that were provided.  The positive feedback is very much appreciated.  The ballet school would be a benefit to the neighborhood and larger area by providing a neighborhood service use to the area residents.  The first concern mentioned was additional unoccupied space in the building.  She pointed out that there is no other unoccupied space.  Therefore, there would be no additional burden of traffic.  The second and most important concern is the arts are not a heavily funded business or big money maker.  The requirement for enrollment to make or break in this issue is how many students we have.  Gary Hart will further address this matter in more detail later.  She stated that her vision and mission is to bring the arts to the Crozet area and to Albemarle County and to provide a safe and healthy environment for our community children to thrive in.  The art of ballet teaches grace and beauty, gives strength, structure, endurance and discipline. Students of ballet gain a strong understanding of music, theater, and history. These students tend to have better grades. They have increased focus. They have fewer behavior problems and are higher achievers.  The environment needs to be safe, healthy and nurturing for the community’s children.  In all professional ballet schools there is structure. There is a dress code, no chewing gum and no jewelry.  Another big one is no loitering or parents observing.  This is a time honored tradition in the ballet world. As in any school there can be no distractions if the children are really to be taught.  This historic building was chosen because she simply loved it because it was so beautiful and suited their purpose. It has space for two 30’ X 50’ studios, a center bay for offices, and dressing rooms and powder rooms.  As a family, they have ties to the community. Besides teaching ballet to the area children, our son and daughters played in the Peachtree League and swam for the Crozet Gators. They have volunteered at meets and ran concession stands.  Both of their daughters have danced professionally with the Charleston Ballet Company in South Carolina and have plans to eventually teach at the school.  There is community support for the ballet school.  Ms. Anderson, of Anderson Funeral Home, Jerry from Sal’s Pizza and other anonymous benefactors have pledged a need based scholarship fund, which demonstrates strong public support for the school.  The County’s Architectural Review Board and the community of Crozet would like for this historic site to be used and she would like the Albemarle Ballet to be located there.  To make this a financially viable venture, they would require the use of both studios with twelve students in each class for a total of 24 students in attendance. Jay Schlothauer, Building Official, approved the site for the occupancy of fifty persons. This is not just about a school, traffic or cars, but actually about the children and the community and what she can give them.  She pointed out that this was a personal mission.

 

Gary Hart stated that they chose this site because they loved the area and particularly liked the post and beam construction of the building.  The traffic stacking is actually the opportunity course.  What you are weighing is the balance of the value of getting this amazing person. The issue is that ten cars do not show up at once.  He presented a power point presentation to show that each car needs about a minute or a minute and a half to clear, which was how they came up with the 50 minute interval.  How many times a day does the stacking of ten cars actually pose a problem?  In other words, if they can do it four times then can they do it seven or eight times when they are talking about financial viability and the issue of having a maximum of 12 or 24?  It would only be through good fortune that they would have that all of the time. He pointed out that there was only one in eleven instances during the scheduling of classes that would be a fifteen interval and the other intervals would be thirty minutes or longer.  He presented power point pictures of the site and explained the traffic movement around the building. He asked the Commission to weigh in one hand a few more cars so that they could justify the expense to do this important project.  He pointed out that he did have a compromise to propose.

 

Mr. Thomas invited public comment.  There being none, he closed the public hearing to bring the matter back before the Commission for discussion and possible action.

 

Mr. Rieley asked Mr. Hart to finish his sentence about the proposed compromise.

 

Mr. Hart stated that he did a financial analysis of the school.  The bottom line is that there are two things that are impacting the situation.  One is the traffic.  There is a bell curve in the age of their students.  The bulk tends to be from 10 to 16 and on the outside ends they have the smaller classes.  If you match those up, you would have less traffic. The compromise is if they could get a 20 student maximum at a time that allows 15 students in only one class, which would mean 15 students plus 5 in another or 15 students and an empty studio.  That would raise the one classroom limit to 15.  They would only have a few classes that would hit that amount, and those classes would be very long.  As the children get older, the classes get longer.  Some children may spend as much as 3 hours a day, 3 times a week in class.  He hoped that compromise as opposed to 24 students would be suitable in order to meet their needs to make this happen.

 

Mr. Thomas asked if any Commissioner had any questions.

 

Ms. Higgins stated that in looking at this in a very detailed manner about the scheduling and traffic, that it was very obvious that a family might have more than one child taking classes.  Also there was probably some economy in one person picking up a group of children in a car pool.  The Crozet Community Association has pushed on the Master Plan concept that they need to look at Crozet and the whole area where the church, school and library are located. There is a condition for that area that says the parking spaces required for this use shall not be reserved. This is going to be a very touchy thing.  But, as the uses start to get some vitality in the downtown Crozet area there is going to be some people that don’t want cars parked in front of their business or vice-versa. But, how much broader can they look at this is a question that needs to be considered.  The Zoning Administrator has done a very careful job to decide how many parking spaces are needed for this use.  But, at the same time they want the flexibility to not reserve or state in the special use permit how many parking spaces are required.  There is a very good reason for that.  They are expecting that people will be here and park down at the church or they might park across the road or at the library. She noted that she was hesitant to overrule the Zoning Administrator on her parking calculations. She felt that generally in Crozet something is going to have to give in order to gain occupancy in those buildings.  She felt that was an important issue for the Planning Commission.

 

Mr. Rieley agreed.  He stated that his first reaction in looking at and seeing the stacking requirements for 24 kids was that on two or three mornings a week he drops his son off at Monticello High School and he has never seen more than ten cars there at the same time dropping children off or picking them up.  It seems that the scenario that Mr. Hart showed us was probably realistic. He noted that not everybody would arrive right on time and a couple of children might come a little early.  He agreed with Ms. Higgins that if they are going to get these areas revitalized again that they are going to have to make some accommodation for that. But, he was unsure what that accommodation is.  He suggested that there be some flexibility given in this matter.

 

Ms. Joseph agreed with Ms. Higgins in that it will be a little less stacking than it was showing at the same time.  It is also something that they have been talking about for a long time in the adaptive reuse of some of these historic buildings in that they need provide a little more flexibility.

 

Ms. Higgins stated that this was not a very risky thing to think about that even at 24 students, if they are fortunately enough to have 24 students, it will be hard to monitor it anyway. The second part is that if they are that successful then they will outgrow this location. If the people have trouble dropping their children off, then they will complain and it all will come back to the business sense. There was a karate school there and she goes through that intersection numerous times during the day and she has never noticed any issues with that. But, about 5 pm when Crozet Pizza is opened and a few of the other businesses at dinner time that it is crowded and you can’t find a parking place. She noted that people might drop their children off in front of the building rather than behind it at those times. She supported allowing the applicant to be as successful economically as possible and let the governing of that go to the business. Then if they outgrow that, then their business might outgrow the location altogether.  That would be her recommendation.

 

Mr. Thomas agreed.

 

Mr. Craddock concurred with everyone’s comments about the revitalization of downtown Crozet. This business is just another peg to keep that historic center alive and viable.  He supported allowing the 2 dance studios and the maximum of 24 students.

 

Mr. Rieley stated that he wanted to make sure that he understands the situation clearly.  He asked Ms. Gillespie if the key issue is the stacking and not the parking. 

 

Ms. Gillespie stated that the key issue for the special use permit is the stacking.  However, if there is a time here where there are 24 students that may affect their parking requirement.  Staff is not tying the parking requirement to the special use permit.  That may be an issue that they might have to deal with down the road in order to get their zoning clearance. The parking will create an issue for their zoning clearance if they have to come up with more parking spaces than the 8 that they have on site now.  She stated that one of staff’s concerns with the stacking relates to the fact that there is shared parking back there for all of the businesses that are a part of this parcel.  Staff is imagining a scenario where there are ten cars stacked and then somebody might not be able to get in and out of their space.  Staff is just trying to keep some level of control on that site.

 

Mr. Benish stated that it was the cumulative effect on that area.

 

Mr. Morris stated that the classes will be staggered and there will be a half an hour in between so that there is only going to be the dropping off of 12 students at any one time.  Then another half an hour goes by and then there will be another 12.  Then the parents will pick up the other 12.  Therefore, there is not going to be a total of 24 at any one given time.

 

Mr. Hart stated that 24 students would never be dropped off at the same time.  That would not happen.

 

Ms. Gillespie stated that Zoning staff’s experience, which they have shared with her, has been that some parents in a small private school setting tend to get there early and sit and wait for their children, and some get their late.  Therefore, zoning staff was concerned about the cumulative effect of having 24 students on the site at one time with only 10 stacking lanes available.

 

Mr. Rieley asked if Mr. Hart's suggestion for a compromise of 20 allowing 15 in one class appeals to anyone else.

 

Mr. Edgerton asked if staff could clarify the statement made by Ms. Hart that the building had been determined for occupancy of 50.  That is not issue regarding the 24 or 15.  It is a fairly large space.  If the space is safe for up to 50 people, then he was not sure why they would need to go with the compromise on it.  The staggering of classes would solve everybody's problem as Mr. Morris mentioned.

 

Mr. Thomas asked if the door at the rear that they would be coming around to was the only entrance and exit to the building.

 

Ms. Gillespie stated that was the entrance and exit to the second floor.  The entrance to the first floor is located on Route 240.

 

Mr. Thomas asked if the children could be picked up in another place.

 

Ms. Gillespie stated that if a child was dropped off at the front of Route 240, they could walk down Route 810 across the street from the Dairy Queen and then enter the site.  That would be a fairly long walk on a road with a sidewalk.

 

Mr. Rieley pointed out that if the Crozet Master Plan flushes out that one of its components was the fact that one could walk to the area businesses in downtown Crozet.

 

Mr. Thomas asked if there was further discussion or a motion.

 

Mr. Rieley moved for approval of SP-2004-00044, Albemarle Ballet Theatre, subject to the limitation of 24 students and the conditions recommended in the staff report. He asked if Mr. Kamptner had other suggestions for the conditions.

 

Ms. Higgins seconded the motion.

 

Mr. Kamptner proposed that condition 1 be changed to the total number of students attending classes on site shall not exceed 24 at any given time.  Another condition could state that the classes shall be staggered so that no class begins or ends within 15 minutes of the beginning or ending of another class.  He stated that if the Commission wants to put a limit on the size of a single class the condition could say no class shall have more than 15 students. He questioned whether that was a consideration.

 

Mr. Rieley stated that he was persuaded by Mr. Edgerton’s observation that really the capacity of the building is not an issue with these kinds of numbers.  He amended the motion for approval to include Mr. Kamptner’s suggested language for the rewording of the conditions excluding the reference to the limitation on the size of the class as follows.

 

  1. The total number of students attending classes on site shall not exceed 24 at any given time.
  2. Classes shall be staggered so that no class begins or ends within 15 minutes of the beginning or ending of another class.
  3. Normal hours of operation for the school shall be from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. provided that occasional school-related events may occur after 9:00 p.m.
  4. The parking spaces required for this use shall not be reserved.
  5. On site recitals shall be held on Sundays only.

 

Ms. Higgins seconded the amended motion to include Mr. Kamptner’s reworded conditions.

 

The motion carried by a vote of (7:0).

 

Mr. Thomas stated SP-2004-00044 will go forward with a recommendation for approval, and would be heard by the Board of Supervisors on November 10.

 

Return to PC actions letter