Albemarle County Planning Commission
June 29, 2004
ZMA 2004-002 Fontaine Avenue Townhomes (Sign # 80) - Request to rezone 12.606 acres from Highway Commercial (HC) to Planned Residential Development (PRD) to allow 61 dwelling units. The property, described as Tax Map 76 Parcels 12A and 12G are located in the Samuel Miller Magisterial District on the north side of Fontaine Avenue [Route #702] approximately .25 miles west of the intersection of Fontaine Avenue and Route 29. The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as Neighborhood Service, in Neighborhood 6. The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as Neighborhood Service, in Neighborhood 6. (Margaret Doherty) DEFERRED FROM THE JUNE 22, 2004 PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING.
Ms. Doherty summarized the staff report. The applicant, Weatherhill Homes, proposes rezoning 12.6 acres on Fontaine Avenue from Highway Commercial to Planned Residential District to allow 61 dwelling units, 55 town homes, and 6 garden level apartments. The proposal seeks to protect the ponds, wetlands and stream buffer and develop the property with residential uses instead of what could be permitted by right given the Highway Commercial zoning. The Planning Commission has seen other proposals on this site. They could all agree that the site presents some challenges in that it is quite a balancing act. But, staff thinks that this project is successful. It provides a mix of sizes and affordability. The project includes town homes with garden level apartments, smaller town homes and then larger town homes. Nine of the units or 15 percent will be offered to the County to market as affordable housing. The project provides a community of natural amenities and good pedestrian connections. Staff passed out the revised proffers to the Commission before the meeting. (See Attachment A, Amended Proffer 7/14/04) In addition, staff passed out an email received from a resident of Buckingham Circle. (See Attachment B, Email dated 6/24/04 from Regina Carlson to M. Doherty) She pointed out that there was a big discrepancy between the proffers in the staff report and the proffers distributed tonight. Staff had mistakenly written in the staff report and its attached proffers that the applicant would be proffering 15 percent of affordable units and $3,000 per unit towards the CIP, but that was wrong. Staff has had a lot of back and forth discussions with the applicant about the proffers and it was essentially a typo and should be $1,000 per unit for the market rate units and then 15 percent of the total units as affordable housing. This is exactly as they did it for Avon Park, which the Commission saw last week. Therefore, the revised proffers reflect that same arrangement. If the Commission has any questions, she would be happy to answer them.
Mr. Thomas asked if the Commissioners have any questions for Ms. Doherty.
Ms. Joseph asked what the proposed density on this proposal is.
Ms. Doherty stated that staff would have to calculate that figure.
Ms. Joseph noted that under the general notes of the application plan that it referenced waivers. She asked if the Commission was considering any action on the waivers tonight because it was shown on the plan.
Mr. Rieley pointed out that the proposal was for 4.8 dwelling units per acre.
Ms. Doherty stated no that she was inclined not to do the critical slopes waiver request tonight because staff does not have a recommendation from the Engineering Department.
Ms. Joseph asked if they could assume that they would not be taking action on any of the waivers on the application plan and that the applicant knows that. Therefore, that information should be removed from the application plan itself if this is the one that the Commission approves.
Ms. Doherty stated yes that she definitely wanted to remove waivers from the application plan.
Ms. Joseph stated that schools are always discussed during this process, and staff indicates that the impact is minimal. She asked if staff ever takes a look at what is happening in the area itself to see if it was not so minimal because they have X amount happening in one particular area. She pointed out that it seems as if these things are going to add up at some point in time.
Mr. Benish pointed out that the Commission could not condition a rezoning. When the Commission takes action they could direct staff as to what their action is on these waivers and staff would make sure that the applicant has that corrected by the time it goes to the Board in taking the notes off.
Mr. Thomas asked if there were any more questions for Ms. Doherty. There being none, he opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to come forward to address the Commission.
Vito Cetta, of Weatherhill Homes, stated that Roxanne White had told him that there has not been a change in the school enrollment for about four or five years. He pointed out that it may be that there is just an increase in older population, and the school enrollment has not been affected. He noted that the children might be going to private schools, but he was not sure. This is the last of their three projects that they were processing through the Planning Commission. He noted that they very much agree with the Neighborhood Model and developing in the growth areas. He stated that he would very much like to think that his projects reflect the Neighborhood Model. This particular site is less than a mile from Cabell Hall and about a mile and a half from the University of Virginia. When they first got involved with this project they met with the University Housing Office. As you know, the University does not get involved very much with housing. They allow the private sector take care of housing for them. He noted that they have always felt this was a very good location for faculty and the hospital housing. There is a very strong need for housing in our community for folks who have a large house and want to downsize. They finished developing out Ednam where the prices are very high. The average price in Ednam is probably about $650,000. There is a big desire for people to move closer into town. The neighborhood is very mixed and there is not a whole lot of activity that passes the big park beyond it. There is a church right around the corner. The Park Service has an office there. There is a school across the street. The Fontaine Business Park is about a quarter of a mile away. Therefore, it is a very mixed area. The heart of this area is the Buckingham Circle residents who have been there since the fifties. It is an interesting community and they are very vocal as the Commission knows. They have been in close contact with these residents and have written them three letters with lots of drawings. They have met with many of these residents and exchanged phone calls and emails. He stated that these residents were very well informed with what they were doing. He felt that the Commission would find that they were generally supportive, but that there would be some differences in opinions. The site is more than 12 acres and only a portion of it is buildable, which was what they were planning to build on in the plan. It is a very urban solution. The houses to the left are uphill and you park on the lower level and live at the level above it. In the elevation you can see that the houses are three stories. On the right side there are townhouses designed for elderly folks with the master bedroom on the main level. There would be a level above it with a walkout basement below it. There are some apartment built in, which he would discuss later. The bottom end would be apartments and the top end would be the larger townhouses. Therefore, there is a mixture of uses. There are also some narrower and smaller townhouses as well that are offered as affordable. The engineers and architects are present to answer any questions. The major water line coming into the site will be replaced. Nine affordable units will be provided. They have worked close with Ron White in the Housing Office and the Planning staff in coming up with this proposal. He felt that this is a win/win situation because they were able to provide the affordable housing without increasing the density on the site in an imaginative way. He pointed out that Ron White was instrumental in helping them with that. He noted that it is a lesson that tells him that if developers have a big open mind that they can figure out ways of solving the affordable issue. He felt that they have not sacrificed anything on the project and they were servicing the community. It is a needed service to the community and everybody has a friend or staff that is driving to other Counties to live. He noted that if everybody pitches in, then it would help solve the problem. The roads that are in their site are meant to be extended if that is needed, which was part of the Neighborhood Model concept. He pointed out that they have cash proffers in addition to the affordable units. The improved lot cost in this project is over 90 thousand because it is an expensive piece of land. The lots will sell from $300,000 to $400,000. There will be considerable positive cash flow to the County, which would be an economic benefit.
Mr. Thomas asked if there were any questions for Mr. Cedda.
Ms. Joseph asked for some history of the constructive wetlands.
Mr. Cetta stated that was done by the prior owner and it was improved in a way that was beneficial to the community. He pointed out that he was not sure what it was before that. There was a fair amount of activity done in that area four or five years ago. He noted that their intent was to leave it as natural as they could, but that it would require a little bit of cleaning up.
Mr. Rieley stated that it was a pond that sediment has filled in over time.
Mr. Thomas stated that the island actually was never there early on and the sediment filled it in.
Mr. Benish stated that the owner had worked with David Hirschman on that project, but he did not know a lot of details about it. It was a prior lake and the beaver dam began the degradation of it.
Mr. Cetta suggested that the neighbors might be able to answer that question. As you all well know, processing projects that require rezoning or special use permit requires more engineering and architecture than it has in the past. The applicant cannot come in with just a sketch. Therefore, they have been designing this project for quite a while and certainly Water Resources and Engineering have had a lot to say in what they have done here. They have justified things to satisfy them. There are a lot of bio-filters that clean up the water, which releases the water into that pond. That has all been worked out with Water Resources.
Ms. Higgins questioned what the stated purposed of proffer 2 was, which says, If the cash contribution has not been exhausted by the County for the stated purpose within ten (10) years . . .” She asked if there was an intention for the $1,000 amount because without a stated purpose she was not sure how that applies.
Ms. Doherty stated no because they just said capital improvement program, which would be the only stated purpose.
Ms. Higgins stated that it could be anything such as schools, sidewalks, etc.
Mr. Kamptner stated that it could be for anything in the capital improvements program.
Ms. Higgins stated that there was no chance that it would be exhausted.
Mr. Benish stated no because they would try to use it on a project that relates to this area through service areas.
Ms. Higgins pointed out that was where she was trying to draw the conclusion that it would be used for something related to this. She asked how he could have nine affordable housing units in the $300,000 category to someone at 80 percent of the area medium income.
Mr. Cetta stated that the down hill units to the right, which were the larger ones, are forced to be three stories. The person would live on the main level with guest bedrooms and an office above. They would end up having a basement due to the three stories. They took the end units on those buildings and made them apartments. The owner would own the entire building with an apartment in the lower level. The unit itself would sell as a whole building, but there would actually be two dwelling units in that space. Six of the units would be for rental and three units would be for purchase, but all of the nine units would be affordable.
Ms. Higgins pointed out that the proffer’s language is geared totally and has an out that talks about subsequent purchaser.
Mr. Cetta noted that three of the units, which were townhouses, would be purchased.
Ms. Higgins suggested that the proffer’s language needs to be direct about the affordable units because it says nine units when it gives that price range. She felt that the language needs to be made consistent because if they were going to set a pattern and a track record with this that it needs to be made clear. That item needs to be either broken into two or a line placed in there that indicates that.
Mr. Cetta pointed out that if the units had been for sale that they would have had an issue with having a condominium regime, which they would prefer not to do.
Ms. Higgins noted that it says all purchasers and then an out after a certain period. A purchaser is like a one time thing and she did not know how you would handle rentals. She pointed out that it was a challenge for them to work out with the County Attorney because it did not read that way.
Mr. Thomas asked if there were any other questions for Mr. Cetta. He stated that Mr. Cetta mentioned that they were going to install a 24 inch sewer line and there is already a water line there.
Mr. Cetta stated that the sewer line was 100 years old and they would have to replace it.
Mr. Thomas asked if there was anyone else present who would like to speak regarding this application. The first person listed on the sign sheet to speak is Elena Day.
Elena Day stated that she has been a resident of 151 Buckingham Circle since 1979. She stated that she was very happy that they have made some head way in what the possibilities for the site are. However, she still feels very strongly that the addition of 61 units that will add at least 120 persons to the five or six acres at the end of a dead end street should not be done. She noted that it was also located on the banks of a perennial creek known as Morey or Moury Creek, which feeds into Moore’s Creek that is a primary tributary of the Rivanna River. She asked why so many people should be congested on such a small site that was so close to Morey Creek. She asked if there was another example of such congested planned residential so close to a stream in another part of Albemarle County for something that has come about recently. Run off is run off from human habitation regardless of the state of the art methods to deal with it. She noted that she often hears it claimed by the Planning Department that Morey Creek is already degraded by run off from Bellair and from the Birdwood Golf Course. But, why do we have to increase that run off. She felt that they should be trying to decrease the run off. Since the last three year drought she felt that they ought to have a greater appreciation for our water resources. Is this Comprehensive Plan that we are in the growth area written in stone. Is there any possibility for down sizing in order to protect the water shed from increased pollution? That is really what they are talking about here. This is to close to the bank of Morey Creek. She stated that they have quickly forgotten their problem with the three year drought. Personally, she noted that she would like to see these 12.6 acres protected in perpetuity and become a park. This wetland pond has become quite a wildlife thoroughfare over the years. The destruction of this wildlife thoroughfare would certainly occur if the site is constructed upon and a host of wild creatures would just disappear. She pointed out that Mr. Cetta claims that these condominiums are to be marketed to the Boar’s Head and Ednam sects, but the reality is that the site is across from the Forestry Service Headquarters and on the University side of town and it is very appealing to students. It is no big deal for parents these days to drop $300,000 on a condo for his kids to attend the University of Virginia. If you allow this rezoning, she felt that the City, County, University and the developers need to agree and they need to kick in some money to bring bus service and sidewalks the length of Fontaine and extend it all the way up to the Amoco Station. If you cannot do that then she could not see any way, shape or form that you should allow this to be rezoned away from the Neighborhood Service Model because this does not follow the Neighborhood Model itself. She asked that they allow the property to remain as it was and they would take their chances.
Dick Smith, resident of 156 Buckingham Circle for ten years, stated that many of their neighbors could not be here tonight; however the points that he was going to make have been expressed in previous public hearings on this property by numerous residents of Buckingham Circle. They were in favor of the Comprehensive Plan and the Neighborhood Model. More than one half of this land is flood zone and so the population density is much higher than 4.8 units. The research park and the church cause significant congestion in the area. The off ramp to the Route 29 by-pass continually backs up at peak times. Often they cannot get out of their street because of traffic. The increased density in the area would make this a bigger problem. Without a VDOT commitment to increased traffic control, it is just going to get worse rather than better with this proposed project. Also as mentioned, without widening the bottle neck on the east side of the research park this area is not really pedestrian friendly or connected with the City in any real way. It is dangerous to walk, ride a bike or do anything other than drive a car through that bottle neck. They understand that the highway commercial zoning is not the best zoning for this land; however they feel that the best use for this property is a true mixed use development. As staff pointed out, the research park on the other side of Route 29 and the church is contributing to the mixed use, however he did not think that these large specialized entities contribute to mix use in our area. This space should have low density residential with office space for other small commercial use combined in the property, and this would help create a community center in our area. In conclusion, this area has been designated Neighborhood Service and this proposal is an urban density plan with no service and it does not meet the criteria for the Comprehensive Plan nor the Neighborhood Model.
Mary McClaren stated that she lived across the street from this property and this development would be located in her front yard. The pond has been something that they have watched over the past 17 years while they raised their children. They have watched developers come and do many terrible things. One developer brought in truck loads of hay and completely covered as much of the site as he could and threw down lots of grass seed. The next developer came in and tore out the dam that the beavers had built and put in a rock dam. They have seen the entire area flood up to the road during some major storms. Therefore, she could speak about the pond and the nature that they have seen there. She noted that her son brought it to her attention that there were snapping turtles in the pond. She stated that her son actually pulled out an alligator snapping turtle out of the pond. They have seen ducks nesting their babies there. They have seen and observed geese, swans, blue herring, scarlet tanagers, red fox, silver fox, squirrel, possum and blue birds. They have tried to be good neighbors to the folks who live in these woods and also would like to be good neighbors to those who would like to build there. It seems like a lot. It is a lot less than was proposed before, but it seems like a lot of people moving into a little area. She asked if the neighbors could meet with the developer before this comes to a vote. She asked to speak to the Neighborhood Model and the mixed use idea that was spoken about before. There is just a narrow bridge and a small road, which has a speed limit of 45 miles per hour. That makes it difficult to do anything else on the road but drive. There is a little preschool around the corner that her neighbor used to try to walk her daughter to, but the road was too dangerous. She pointed out that something to improve the road definitely needed to be in the plans. There is no bus service out that far, which is really needed. She pointed out that she did not represent all of her neighbors, but there are many who could not attend this meeting and they have heard their view expressed before.
Tom Loach, resident of Albemarle County, stated that there was some good news and bad news. He noted that he lives in Crozet so he could say one thing for Mr. Cetta as far as his developments. Mr. Cetta’s developments are first rate. There are several of his developments in Crozet. One development has 85 units on less than 20 acres that he lives next to and that was an excellent development. Compared with the other developments in Crozet, his developments are first class. He pointed out that there was another problem here in that there was a lack of infrastructure. It is consistent with everything that they see in the growth areas. If they were going to call this a Neighborhood Model, then it has to be a pedestrian oriented neighborhood. That means that somebody has got to come and say that if we are going to have this we are going to build sidewalks for these people. The same situation exists on Jarman Gap Road. As you know, they have 285 new units and no sidewalks. It is some where down the horizon in the never, never land. He felt that all growth area residents have a valid complaint when they say it can accommodate infrastructure we mean it can accommodate infrastructure and that it comes with development. It just goes back to the last discussion about the rural areas. How are you going to continue to ask residents in the growth area to say we want you to put up 61 units on this amount of acres while you are not seeing a reduction in the development in the rural areas? That is what this is all about. For us it is the infrastructure. If you are going to use the Neighborhood Model let’s make it neighborhood friendly. Let’s get the sidewalks in and make sure that we are being served as well as we should be with the type of development that we have to put up with.
Mr. Thomas asked if anybody else in the audience wanted to speak on the application. There being none he closed the public hearing to bring it back to the Commission for discussion, comments and possible action.
Ms. Higgins asked if someone could explain to the Commission on the full plan what is happening with that since she did not see that plan in the packet.
Ms. Doherty pointed out that there were sidewalks on all of the streets out in front of all of the town homes and it came down to a sidewalk that goes along Fontaine and curves up. The sidewalk could not be continued along Fontaine because of the bridge culvert.
Mr. Rieley asked if she meant that it would be an expense to increase it along the road and it was not that they cannot do it.
Ms. Doherty pointed out that they would have to fill in the floodplain and it was a wetlands permit. It got so complicated that the applicant proposed an alternative. In addition VDOT discouraged it. That was reviewed on the previous application that she reviewed two years ago and everyone decided that was not the way to go. She stated that this would actually connect Buckingham Circle to the sidewalk that exists in front of Fontaine Research Park.
Ms. Higgins pointed out that a couple of the residents had indicated that even walking is dangerous along this section. She asked if this would be off the road and a separate pedestrian path.
Ms. Doherty pointed out that David Hirschman and the Water Resource people wanted that sidewalk to cross that existing dam.
Ms. Higgins pointed out that plus there was a 30 foot greenway or dedication that goes along there. She asked if there was another pathway system that starts at the intersection and goes back along Buckingham Circle.
Mr. Rieley stated that unless he had the wrong scale or was counting the contours incorrectly it looks like that sidewalk is going up about a 35 percent slope. Normally stairs are used when you get above 11 percent. That is three times as steep. That is not a sidewalk, it is a staircase.
Ms. Higgins noted that you can see steps in it.
Mr. Thomas stated that there were thirty steps on this side and forty on the other side.
Ms. Higgins stated that the plan has breaks in it where they must have steps. She felt that there was some pedestrian access at least for that short of a stretch if it was to pick up at Buckingham Circle and go all the way over to the Foundation Park that gives people a way to walk underneath.
Mr. Rieley stated that nobody can walk on a 35 percent slope.
Mr. Edgerton stated that there was no way that pedestrians were going to go out of their way on that path because they would simply walk on the road.
Ms. Higgins stated that the Design Standards Manual has slopes on 6 percent slope and they will have to design to it.
Mr. Edgerton asked if she really believed that somebody is going to go around this way to get to this point.
Mr. Rieley stated that he did not want to lose sight of the big picture. There have been five proposals on this property since he has been on the Commission and this by far is the best plan that they have seen. There is not question about it. But, there are nagging difficulties with the proposal. He agreed with Mr. Smith’s about there not being mixed use. There does not need to be a lot of mixed use to break the pattern of these monolithic housing developments that the Commission was seeing one after the other. He applauded the inclusion of affordable housing, but he wished that a larger percentage of it was for purchase and a smaller percentage of it was for rental units in the basement. But, nevertheless the affordable housing was there. There are several areas that are very troublesome. They have to have a sidewalk system. If they are going to take the Neighborhood Model seriously they are going to have to make it easy and convenient for people to get to one place to another. He felt that there was not a financial issue or a wetlands issue that is sufficiently compelling to not have a sidewalk along the side of this that leads into town. In addition, he felt that they could not be approving high density residential development this close in with no bus service. They just cannot do it. Provision has to be made for those things. Despite of the fact that this is a handsome plan and a huge improvement, he felt that those are fatal flaws. He noted that Ms. McClaren made a really good suggestion to have Mr. Cetta get together with the community and see if they can work out these issues. These are not overwhelming issues that could not be adjusted. Overall, he felt that this is a plan that deserves to take the next step, but it needs to have serious attention paid to some of these issues.
Ms. Joseph stated that one of the reasons that she asked about the density was that if you look next door it is zoned R-4 and what they were looking at is 4.8 units per acre. Therefore, R-4 was not that far removed.
Mr. Rieley asked what the Comprehensive Plan call for in density in this area.
Mr. Benish stated that the Neighborhood Service is for a nonresidential designation and it was in the plan based on the existing uses that had been there at the time.
Ms. Higgins asked if it was unrestricted highway commercial and was not proffered out because it was the existing grandfathered use.
Mr. Benish pointed out that there have been so many plans on this site that he did not know if they had approved a plan with other proffers on it or not, but he did not think so. Therefore, he thought it was unfettered.
Mr. Morris echoed all of the concerns that the other Commissioners have had on the sidewalks. He pointed out that he lived in the Walton Farm area and they were just now getting into the sidewalk that should have been put in ten or fifteen years ago. He noted that he could not imagine the cost now, but that it needs to go in. The sidewalks need to be a primary concern.
Mr. Benish pointed out that was a half million dollar project and about two-thirds of the cost is getting across the stream at the Dorrier’s property.
Ms. Higgins stated that the fourth general note said information regarding the type of pedestrian bike bridge proposed to span Moury Creek is included as an attachment to this application. She pointed out that she did not see it anywhere. She asked if some of these things might have greater detail and explanation.
Mr. Benish suggested that the applicant may be able to shed some light on some of the design issues, too. He pointed out that he was not sure staff could answer all of the concerns that the Commission had raised.
Ms. Doherty pointed out that the applicant has been discouraged by staff because initially they wanted to put that sidewalk along the road. Engineering staff and VDOT have discouraged the applicant to put the sidewalk along the road and encouraged to put it in the location shown. Therefore, the applicant is feeling caught in between difference opinions.
Mr. Rieley asked if staff encouraged the applicant to run a sidewalk on a 35 percent slope.
Ms. Doherty stated no because they have been in discussions about how to finalize that and certainly it would have to meet the design standards. Staff has already been talking about how that bridge is going to work, but have not gotten to that detail of the site plan.
Mr. Rieley stated that there is a fairly detailed application plan before the Commission that is completely inconsistent with what would be required by the Design Standards Manual. Therefore, it is not a little difference, but a huge difference because this is already a long way around and it would have to zigzag up the back of a hill. That just exasperates the point that Mr. Edgerton pointed out.
Ms. Higgins stated that it seemed that some of the information was missing.
Mr. Benish stated that there was some technical information that they were not going to be able to help them with, but they were at a conflict here that was a barrier and they were trying to figure out how to get across the bridge.
Ms. Higgins asked if the applicant could answer the question on where that information is or does he want to take an opportunity to address the Commission as a rebuttal.
Mr. Thomas asked if the applicant would like to address the Commission.
Mark Keller, representative with TARA, stated that the important thing that they were trying to get across here is that they know that the sidewalks are an important component of this. That is why they are on the plan. Typically, the sidewalks are not a very technical thing when it comes to a rezoning, but they have chosen to put them on there. Also, they have chosen to speak with the people who would be involved later at the site plan stage of approving these types of things. They talked with VDOT who have some serious concerns about the bridge that they own right there not only for its width, but the actual crumbling condition on the downstream sides of one of the headwalls. Therefore, VDOT was very concerned not only about our attaching a future waterline improvement to that, but bringing gas service and attaching it or hanging it from that structure. But, VDOT was even more concerned about adding people to that structure. Therefore, VDOT discouraged us from attaching to that abutment or that physical improvement. At that point there was the option of not attaching to the bridge, but yet staying within the right-of-way, which is where a lot of sidewalks end up being. But, they also know that is going to require a lot of back and forth with VDOT because now they are placing a second bridge within their right-of-way which they would now be liable for. Therefore, it was suggested that they look at alternatives to not placing it in the VDOT right-of-way. At that point they would be a ways away from the road and would have to talk with David Hirschman and Glen Brooks about how else they could do this. It was very clear that free spanning this creek as opposed to doing a culvert or any sort of fancy thing was the way to go. The recognition there was, and a resident has suggested this, that during very heavy rain storms from time to time, which he was not aware of the frequency of that, that the water actually gets up and passes over to some degree the roadway itself. So attaching something to the road way means that there is just one more thing that is over the top of that. The advantage of locating a bridge at that location aside from all of the disadvantages is that at that point there is a very sharp gradient drop in the water. It goes down a water fall if you have been to the site. By having that bridge being a certain height above the flood elevation, but at or near the point where the water makes a hydraulic drop means that they don’t run the risk of a large tree that has fallen into a swollen stream coming by and taking out not only a bridge and anybody that may be on it, but also the gas and water mains that are going to be hanging from whatever facility we choose to span that. He stated that they could place that bridge anywhere from where it was at now all the way to the right-of-way and even within the right-of-way if they chose to. VDOT has not said that they can’t put it in the right-of-way. There is no real magic in that, but that Glenn Brooks actually suggested that they move it to that location. The area on the eastern side of that branch is actually a really nice flat area and there is a park. It is pretty obvious that people play soccer in that area. Even across the street there is a net that people kick soccer balls from across the road into. Therefore, they don’t want their trail to transect what appears to be a miniature soccer field that is used by the community right now. Therefore, rather than putting it on one side they just shoved it to the other. That is pretty plain and simple. If you go out there you will notice that there is a small trail that comes down to the dam and the area just above the dam that is on the eastern side that is really a pedestrian walkway down to engage that pond. It is steep in some areas, particularly more steep on the western side. But, it is traversable by foot and he could conveniently walk down there in topsiders without bushwhacking his way down there. He agreed that the grading is going to have to be looked at and they are going to have to be able to get in there. His point in closing is that this is not a deal breaker or a show stopper. They have a sidewalk that they are taking all the way to Fontaine Avenue. In the technical end of all of this stuff if the plan looks good, they are going to come up with a winning concept that the Commission will approve.
Mr. Thomas asked if there were any more comments from the Commission.
Mr. Rieley stated that he would be happy to vote for it when that winning concept comes up, but not now.
Mr. Edgerton agreed with a lot of Mr. Rieley’s comments. With the various plans that they have seen for this property he definitely felt that this is by far the best. He stated that he could not support this request in its present configuration. The density is too great. It was actually about ten units per acre if you discount the wetland area, which is about one-half of the site. The traffic impact is going to be significant. Without more attention to a pedestrian focus, which is called for in the Neighborhood Model and asked for in the development area, he did not see anyway of ignoring the enormous traffic impact to an already over stressed area. From the geographic location he was convinced that this will in fact be housing for students and/or faculty and they need safe access to the University. The plan before the Commission does not provide safe access. Therefore, the County needs to mandate some sort of public transportation as well as pedestrian access. He stated that he would like to see a solution to these problems before they rezone the property.
Mr. Rieley asked if there was something that they were not seeing here in this cross section or do these units come out onto that steep slope. This is an issue that they were dealing with the proposed over lot grading plans and so forth. There would be a 10 foot flat section required outside of each of the units.
Ms. Doherty stated that those elevations were done before staff negotiated these apartments. The application plan shows steps coming off of the driveway. The elevations provide guidance for the architecture.
Mr. Rieley stated that it was important that this be resolved to the extent that it was consistent with the grading recommendations that the Engineering Department now has relative to the access from these areas. That should not come out onto a small ledge with a steep slope off of it. It should be pretty clear what the criteria should be.
Ms. Higgins made a motion to recommend approval of ZMA-04-02, Fontaine Avenue Town homes, exclusive of the waiver requests for critical slopes and stormwater, subject to the proffers recommended in the staff report and with an additional stipulation that an acceptable pedestrian connection come back for approval by the Planning Commission on the preliminary site plan.
Mr. Morris seconded the motion.
Mr. Thomas asked if there was additional discussion before a vote was taken.
Ms. Joseph pointed out that there were a couple of issues brought up concerning the applicant meeting with the neighborhood and that some more investigation be done concerning getting transit to this area. She asked how the other Commissioners felt about those issues. She agreed with Ms. Higgins that it was confusing for the applicant to receive conflicting messages about what to put on the plan and what to leave off. She asked if these were issues that the Commission would like addressed.
Ms. Higgins pointed out that there could be a lot of other things placed on this property that would generate more traffic and more impacts than the residential neighborhood. She pointed out that there was a lot of merit to this proposal. She suggested that the applicant and the neighbors meet between now and going to the Board. If they choose not to, then there could be implications.
Mr. Craddock agreed with Mr. Rieley about this is the best proposal that they have seen on this property. There are some other good things about it as far as affordable housing being one. He noted that he would support Ms. Higgin’s proposal. He stated that since the property was zoned Highway Commercial that they could have the same situation as was right up the street at the Amoco Station. Personally, he would prefer to see $300,000 townhouse than highway commercial uses and a run down Chinese Restaurant.
Mr. Thomas agreed with Mr. Craddock and Ms. Higgins. He pointed out that he had a lot of concerns about the piece of property. Specifically the sidewalks are a definite needed item for pedestrian access coming back into town and also the buses are also needed. The Commission cannot require the buses, but they could request to work towards that point. He noted that there would have to be a place for the buses to turn around, but that there was the large church parking lot. He asked where the City/County line was at the little tunnel that they have to go through to get to the City or County on Fontaine.
Mr. Benish stated that it was on the other side of Fontaine Research Park and the County line was where the stream crossed.
Ms. Higgins stated that on the north side of Fontaine that it was a jagged line and that the research park was in the County.
Mr. Thomas stated that it was the City’s responsibility to widen that road. He noted that it would be nice to get sidewalks up in that area.
Mr. Benish stated that the City was now looking at their JPA improvements again, but they have all along called for pedestrian and bicycle improvements, which would tie into the pedestrian and bicycle improvements along Fontaine.
Mr. Rieley stated that the primary reason that he could not support Ms. Higgins’ motion, although he was sympathetic with the intention of doing this in a efficient way, is that the language of that motion would allow somebody to come in and put in a sidewalk that is going to have to be substantially longer than the existing one is. It will meet her motion and there will be no way that they can turn it down because it will be consistent with the Design Standards Manual and nobody will ever use it. He felt that the people will still walk down the street. This project, if Mr. Cetta’s numbers are roughly correct, is about a 25 million dollar project. To say that you can build a 25 million dollar project and you can’t afford to put a sidewalk because there is a fill section there and an old bridge is irresponsible. They would not be bearing their fair share of this project. If this project goes in it is suppose to be pedestrian oriented because it is in the development areas. To allow the applicant to run this zigzag path down there and call it a sidewalk is why he could support it.
Ms. Joseph stated that because this land was in the urban ring that she did not have a problem with the density. She felt that they need to build out the potential of these lots in the urban area. Safe pedestrian access is needed to get people back and forth to the University from this neighborhood.
Mr. Thomas asked that a vote be taken on the motion.
The motion carried by a vote of (5:2). (Edgerton, Rieley – No)
Mr. Thomas stated that the motion carried and the request would go to the Board of Supervisors on July 14.
Mr. Benish stated that he would check with VDOT on the maintenance schedule on the Fontaine Avenue bridge, just east of this project. If the bridge is crumbling to the extent that you can’t hang anything off of it, then it could potentially be an unsafe bridge. If the bridge was scheduled for improvement, then it would probably solve some of the costs and the environmental issues if they are going to have to get in there and repair the bridge. It appears that the problem is a deteriorating infrastructure, and they were trying to figure out how to get around that.
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