STAFF PERSON:                                               Yadira Amarante

PLANNING COMMISSION:                                      October 26, 2004

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:                                     December 8, 2004


SP-2004-040 Mount Fair Farm


Applicant's Proposal: The applicant is requesting approval to construct a dam, for a 1.2 acre pond, and driveway, to provide access to pastures, for the operation of a horse breeding establishment. The driveway will loop from a new entrance on Slam Gate Road [SR #673] to a new entrance on Browns Gap Turnpike. This driveway is proposed to cross the floodplain of a tributary of Doyle’s River in two locations. The dam, with a footbridge, and the pond are also proposed in the tributary floodplains. One new entrance on Browns Gap Turnpike [SR #810) is proposed in the floodplain of Doyle’s River. Total elements proposed to be constructed in the Flood Hazard Overlay District are:

·        Culvert for the driveway

·        Two bridges for the driveway

·        Dam with a footbridge

·        Excavation for the pond

·        Entrance location on SR 810


The applicant contends that the driveway, two entrance locations and pond are necessary in order to run the farm and to transport animals and farm equipment throughout the property, (Attachments A, B & C).


Although not shown on the submitted plans, information gathered on a field visit suggests that an existing gravel driveway, located wholly in the floodplain, will be removed in order to accommodate the proposed changes.


Petition: Request for a special use permit to: (1) allow the construction of a dam and pond in accordance with Section of the Zoning Ordinance which allows for the construction of a dam for water supply; (2) Section of the Zoning Ordinance which allows for the construction of bridges and culverts; and (3) Section of the Zoning Ordinance which allows for fill in the floodplain.


The property, described as Tax Map 26 Parcel 33, contains 75.3 acres and is zoned RA (Rural Areas) and FH (Flood Hazard Overlay District). It is located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Browns Gap Turnpike [SR #810] and Slam Gate Road [SR #673]. The Comprehensive Plan designates this property for Rural Area uses in Rural Area 1, (Attachment A).


Planning and Zoning History:


  1. SUB 95-076 Mount Fair Estates Preliminary Subdivision Plat: On 9/19/95 the Planning Commission re-approved an expired preliminary plat for a Rural Preservation Development involving several parcels in which subject parcel would have been the preservation tract. The development never transpired.
  2. SP 01-052 John Decarlo: On 2/20/02 the Board of Supervisors granted a special use permit for a driveway and culvert off of Slam Gate Road in the floodplain of a tributary of Doyle’s River in order to abate a zoning violation. The plan submitted by the applicant for review of the current application does not show this driveway or culvert. 


Character of the Area:


The property under review is a mixture of pastures and woodlands. Trees are mostly deciduous. There are currently no dwellings and one farm structure on the site. There is an existing driveway off of Slam Gate Road which provides access to subject parcel and the Mount Fair estate on Tax Map 26, Parcel 33F. The property is bisected by two perennial streams and their associated flood plains. The streams are tributaries of Doyle’s River. There are areas of steep slopes but they are limited to wooded areas adjacent to the streams. The entire development is located within the South Fork Rivanna Watershed, a water supply protection area for the South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir. Surrounding properties exhibit similar natural characteristics with similar uses as what is proposed. Staff noticed several bridge and culvert crossings across the Doyles River in this area.




Staff has reviewed the proposal for conformity with the Comprehensive Plan and with Zoning Ordinance Sections,,, and and recommends denial of the special use permit.




The applicant proposes to construct a new gravel driveway which extends from Slam Gate Road to Browns Gap Turnpike and crosses the floodplain twice. The proposed new entrance at Browns Gap Turnpike is located in the floodplain of the Doyles River. The plan submitted by the applicant does not show floodplain at this location.  The applicant is also proposing to construct a dam with footbridge and pond in the flood plain, (see Attachment C). The applicant has stated that the pond will be used for potential fire suppression, irrigation, and horse watering. The applicant does not show the location of a dry hydrant on the pond.


It is staff’s opinion that impacts to the flood plain and stream buffers  can be minimized by allowing just one stream crossing to access most of the property. The rest of the property could probably be accessed with a second entrance off of Slam Gate Road without having to impact the stream buffers or flood plain which exists along the entire frontage of this property along Browns Gap Turnpike. The applicant has not offered an alternate driveway location/design which might minimize or eliminate most of the stream buffer or floodplain disturbance.


Both the Open Space Plan and Chapter 2 of the Comprehensive Plan, entitled Natural Resources and Cultural Assets, provide staff with guidance for managing the County’s natural, scenic and historic resources, and for the preservation and conservation of those resources in order to protect the environment for future use.


Natural Resources: The Open Space Plan Concept Map identifies Doyle's River and its tributaries at this location as a "major stream valley," a significant natural resource which should be left in an undisturbed natural condition and unoccupied by building lots, structures, streets, or parking lots. This recommendation in the Open Space Plan serves various Comprehensive Plan objectives such as protection of natural, scenic, and historic resources, including agricultural and forestal lands, and groundwater and surface water resources.


While reviewing this proposal against the Water Protection Ordinance (WPO), (the WPO offers protection of these natural resource areas, especially in a water supply watershed, through the mandatory implementation and protection of stream buffers), the program authority of the WPO (in this case engineering staff) concluded that he would not authorize the proposed stream buffer disturbances for the new entrance on Browns Gap Turnpike or the driveway.


Certain types of development may be allowed, and with approval of a buffer mitigation plan are allowed in the stream buffer by the program authority. However, in this case, the program authority has not authorized the stream buffer disturbances proposed as shown, citing Section 17.321.5 of the WPO. This section states that if the stream buffer disturbance is for the construction of a driveway or roadway, the authority must determine if the regulations “would prohibit reasonable access to a portion of the lot which is necessary for the owner to have a reasonable use of the lot…” The program authority has determined that the owner would have reasonable use of the lot without disturbing the stream buffers as proposed.


Without this authorization, the project cannot be approved as proposed. If this special permit is recommended for approval by the Planning Commission, the applicant will still have to appeal the program authority’s decision to the Board of Supervisors when this application goes before them in December.


In terms of impacts to the floodplain and flood levels, Section of the Zoning Ordinance states that the county engineer (in this case engineering staff) can only approve a landfill permit if the fill is “designed and constructed to minimize obstruction to and effect upon the flow of water…” It is the opinion of engineering staff that the dam located in the stream channel would affect the flood carrying capacity of the watercourse and, therefore, a landfill permit is not recommended for the dam.


The subject parcel is also designated as Farmland on the Open Space Concept Map. The proposed use as a horse breeding establishment includes pastures for grazing and for the production of hay which are legitimate, viable and necessary Rural Area uses. The Comprehensive Plan specifically promotes the continuation of viable agricultural and forestal industries in the Rural Areas but not at the expense of unwise design.


Historic Resources: Tax Map 26, Parcel 33F is the location of Mount Fair, on the Virginia Landmark Register and the National Register of Historic Places. As a farm, Mount Fair has not been operational for several years. From the 1940’s to 2001 it was used to raise cows, horses, goats, sheep and chickens. The current owner intends to restore the 3.00 acre home site and raise horses on the adjacent 75.3 acre farm.


On July 27, 2004 the Virginia Department of Historic Resources conducted very limited archaeological tests of the property to determine if archaeological resources were present. Based on the results of these tests, the Department determined that the proposed development would have no adverse impact.




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,

Staff has not received adequate information to assess whether the proposed fill in the floodplain or the dam would raise the flood levels which may affect adjacent properties. It is likely that this can be accomplished depending on the placement of the bridge and dam away from adjacent property lines. However, without information to verify the impacts, staff cannot make a positive finding that this proposal will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property.


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


The preservation of the agricultural and forestal lands and activities, and conservation of the natural, scenic and historic resources are listed as key purposes of the Rural Areas zoning district. Uses allowed by right in the district are either residential, or related to agricultural and forestal activities. The proposed use of the property as a horse breeding operation would fit into the district. The Flood Hazard Overlay District allows certain uses by right. Those allowed by special use permit require stringent review by County engineering in order to ensure that the intent of the district, to restrict unwise use and development of lands subject to inundation, is protected. Staff has not received adequate information from the applicant to assess whether flood levels either on the property or on adjacent properties will be affected by the proposed development in the floodplain.


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


Staff has reviewed this request with consideration for the purpose and intent of the Zoning Ordinance as stated in Sections 1.4.6, 1.4.8, and 1.4.10. Section 1.4.6 states that one of the intents of the Ordinance is to, "protect against loss of life or property from flood." Staff cannot assert that the proposed use will carry out this intent because adequate information about how the flood levels at this location are affected by the proposed use has not been received from the applicant.


with the uses permitted by right in the district,


When adequately designed, stream crossings, dams and ponds, especially on farms, act to support those agricultural activities promoted by the Comprehensive Plan. In this case it is staff’s opinion that the design and placement of those elements on the subject land is not consistent with other Comprehensive Plan goals, namely, water protection through stream buffer preservation and flood control or with the stated relationship of the Zoning Ordinance to the Environment as stated in Section 1.5.


with additional regulations provided in Section 5.0 of this ordinance, and with the public health, safety and general welfare.


There are no additional regulations for the proposed use in Section 5.0.




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


1.      The proposed farm operation is consistent with the Rural Area goals of the Comprehensive Plan.


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


1.      The applicant has not provided the County with enough information to analyze the impacts to public health, safety and general welfare in terms of post-construction floodplain levels.

2.      The location of the driveway and extent of buffer disturbance do not appear necessary for reasonable use of the parcel as a horse farm.

3.      The applicant has not provided an alternate design to eliminate unnecessary stream buffer disturbance.

4.      The Water Protection Ordinance disallows unnecessary stream buffer disturbance.




Staff recommends denial of SP-2004-040.


Should the Board vote to approve the special use permit, staff recommends that the applicant be required to comply with the following conditions of approval:


1.                  With the exception of all changes that would be required in order to comply with the conditions listed herein, the site shall be developed in general accord with the plans entitled, “Mount Fair; Albemarle County, Virginia; MacFarlane Residence; Whitehall Virginia,” dated 6/17/04  and provided herein, with Attachment C.

2.                  Provide a plan which shows all existing conditions – parcel boundaries, structures, driveways, entrances, culverts, floodplain (both on and adjacent to the property and along SR 810 and SR 673), and topography on and adjacent to the entire property.

3.                  Provide a plan which shows proposed topography, extent of fill and limits of the proposed changes to the floodplain and stream buffers.

4.                  Provide plans for the bridges, dam and culverts.

5.                  Provide sufficient engineering data to demonstrate that there will be no increase in flood levels during the occurrence of the one hundred year flood in accordance with Section of the Zoning Ordinance.

6.                  Provide sufficient data to demonstrate that stream buffer disturbances are kept to a minimum, especially for driveways or roadways where reasonable access may be provided elsewhere, according to Section 17.312.5 of the Water Protection Ordinance.

7.                  Obtain necessary federal and state permits the US Army Corps of Engineers and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for work in the stream(s).



A.     Vicinity Map

B.     Map of Parcels (includes aerial)

C.     Plan of development

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