SP 00040040


Ms. Dudley W. Macfarlane (Applicant) is appealing the recommendation of denial by the Program Authority of the Water Protection Ordinance for disturbance of stream buffers based on the Section 17-321 (5) of the Water Protection Ordinance for “reasonable use of the lot”.  The Program Authority contends there is currently reasonable use of two proposed pastures without allowing access via a bridge over a stream.  Due to how the Applicant intends to use the pastures, a bridge is necessary to provide access to the pastures.


Ms. Macfarlane recently purchased Mount Fair Farm and intends to breed and raise European Warm Blood horses.  In order to restore and renovate the farm to accommodate horses, Ms. Macfarlane proposes to construct a barn, create five fenced in pastures, and excavate a pond for water supply, irrigation, and possible fire protection.  A 12 foot wide internal gravel farm road is necessary to provide access to each of the pastures from the barn.  Mares, foals, and retired horse will be transported from the barn to the pastures on a daily basis.  The location of the barn is adjacent to Slam Gate Road in the southeastern portion of the property. The pastures extend to the western edge of the property along Browns Gap Turnpike (Highway 810).  Two streams bisect the property that would need to be crossed to access the front pastures along Browns Gap Turnpike.  The Applicant proposes small, 12 foot wide, wooden bridges over the two streams to provide safe access for the horses to the pastures.


Two bridges for access to the pastures are required for the following reasons: 

1)      They provide complete access between all pastures and the barn without breaking the farm into sub-plots with various access points. 

2)      As a working horse farm, mares and foals will be taken from the barn to the pastures daily.  The bridges will provide safe passage over the streams which are susceptible to periodic flooding.  In general, it is unsafe for the mares and foals to ford the streams.      

3)      Without the second bridge for access to the front pastures, horses would have to be transported onto Browns Gap Turnpike and Slam Gate Road in order to reach the barn.  This creates a serious conflict and safety issue.

4)      Horse trailers, trucks, and other farm equipment will also use the farm road and bridges to access the middle and front pastures.  If the bridges are not allowed, the equipment will be required to ford the streams and subsequently impact the stream bed and banks.  This will create erosion problems and degrade the water quality of the streams.

5)      The streams and even Slam Gate Road frequently flood.  The two bridges with access to Browns Gap Turnpike, approximately 300 feet north of its intersection with Slam Gate Road, will also provide a secondary emergency route from the house and barn for the owners and farm workers.  The access to Browns Gap Turnpike was preliminarily approved by the Department of Transportation.


A pre-application meeting was held with Albemarle County representatives in February 2004.  A preliminary site plan was reviewed at that time and the two stream crossings were discussed at length.  It was agreed that the two proposed wooden bridges, designed to span the streams and avoid impacting the banks, would have less impact on the streams than requiring farm equipment and livestock to ford the streams.  It was also determined at that time that the project qualified for a Special Use Permit.


The Planning Department stated in their staff report that the proposed farm operation is in conformance with the Rural Area goals of the Comprehensive Plan.      


Efforts have been made to avoid and minimize impacts to the 100 foot stream buffer.  The buffers are primarily old fields that are periodically mowed.  Mature trees line the stream banks.  The layout of the farm road has been designed to minimize any tree cutting.  Stream buffers have also been crossed as perpendicular as possible to limit impacts.


In conformance with Section 17-322 of the Water Protection Ordinance, a mitigation plan for development within the stream buffer has been proposed.  Approximately 15 acres will be set aside in the northern portion of the farm as a Preservation Area.  The area includes approximately 2,500 linear feet of streams, 4.5 acres of wetlands, and 10.5 acres of uplands.  In some locations, protection for streams buffers will be extended to as much as 200 feet.  The Preservation Area will be assessed for existing wildlife habitat that will be enhance as needed by planting native mast producing trees and other vegetation as a food source.  The Preservation Area will be protected in perpetuity with a conservation easement or restrictive covenants to be filed with the deed. 


Approximately 0.19 acre wetland will be constructed on a littoral shelf designed around the edge of a proposed pond which is located within the stream buffer.  The littoral shelf will be planted with aquatic vegetation to enhance the breeding and feeding habitats for various fish other aquatic species.  The wetland will also serve as a natural filter for sediments and to control erosion around the pond fringe.  


An existing gravel driveway from Slam Gate Road is presently located within the 100 foot stream buffer.  It was authorized by a Special Use Permit by a previous owner in 1995.  Approximately 500 feet of the driveway that lies within the stream buffer will be removed and the area will be restored to a grassed field.


All livestock will be kept in fenced pastures and out of the streams.  This will aid in protecting the water quality of the streams.


Best Management Practices will be used as applicable for activities proposed in the Special Use Permit application.





Kenneth H. Collier

Environmental Manager, Hughes Good, O’Leary & Ryan

Representative for Mr. and Ms. John Macfarlane


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