To: Wayne Cilimberg Planning  Commission                               Hearing Date: October 5, 2005

For: County of Albemarle Board of Supervisors,

Re: SP 2005-016 Special Use Permit for Hope Builders International


Dear Mr. Cilimberg and Board of Supervisors,


            This request is submitted on behalf of Hope Builders International regarding our application for a special use permit to continue a church and religious retreat center and operate the business office for a missionary organization on grounds that have been used for religious purposes for over 30 years. In particular we are concerned about a condition that would effectively eliminate wedding ceremonies in the building.


            We are asking for an amendment of Condition #6 of the permit approved by the Planning Commission on September 13, 2005. The condition states that “Seating capacity in any area of assembly shall not exceed 100 persons.” This condition was presented to us by the Planning Commission office after the deadline for making any changes was possible. In addition, prior to the Planning Commission hearing, we had not had an inspection by the Fire Department advising us of standard room seating capacities. That inspection took place on September 20.


            The room in question is a large oak paneled ballroom. It is approximately 45x34 for a total square footage of 1530. At the Fire Dept. rate of 7 sq. ft. per movable chair over 200 people could be seated in it. With tables the number drops to 15 sq. ft. per chair or the 100 already granted. For many years Oakleigh Christian Fellowship held meetings in that room with average attendance of 150-200 people. It is a beautiful room for weddings and many have been held there. To limit seating capacity to 100 would effectively end its use for this purpose. This would be a loss for the Albemarle community.


            We specifically request that the Board of Supervisors allow the easing of Condition #6 to allow for seating of 150 for a maximum of 5 weddings per year.  Parking is plentiful on the property and has never been an issue in the many gatherings of this size been held there over the years.


            We are aware that these conditions are still subject to Health, Building Department and VDOT approvals. As of the date of filing this appeal, those inspections have not taken place. We have sought to be good custodians of the property. Our understanding is that Albemarle County is in favor of retaining properties of historical importance intact. It would be a shame if we had to subdivide and sell the property because the limiting conditions hampered us to the point where we would have to look elsewhere for suitable grounds. We recognize that such appeals are not the norm but hope you will understand our position and find in our favor.




                                                                        Lance Thollander, President

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