STAFF PERSON:                                               Tamara Jo Ambler      

PLANNING COMMISSION:                                      December 6, 2005

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:                                     January 4, 2006

 

SP 2005-30 Michael Caplin Boat Dock

 

Applicant's Proposal:  The applicant Michael Caplin who is located at Tax Map 45 Parcel 187 would like to install a private dock for boating, fishing, and bird watching on the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir (Tax Map 45 Parcel 67A).

 

Petition:  The petition is for approval of a special use permit, in accordance with Section 30.3.05.2.1(2) of the Zoning Ordinance, to allow a boat dock in a Flood Hazard Overlay zoning district.  This petition is requested for the parcel described as Tax Map 45, Parcel 67A which is the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. The property is located in the Rio Magisterial District and the proposed boat dock is located at the west side of the reservoir, approximately 0.70 mile upstream of the Earlysville Road (Route 743) crossing. The property is zoned RA Rural Areas and FH Flood Hazard Overlay. The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as Rural Areas.

 

Character of the Area: Nearby and surrounding land uses consist of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, low density single family residential development, and open space.

 

RECOMMENDATION:  Staff has reviewed the proposal for conformity with the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Ordinance and recommends approval of the special use permit, with conditions.

 

Planning and Zoning History:   The property on which the private boat dock is proposed is owned by the City of Charlottesville.  The dock will serve the adjacent Caplin property.  With the exception of the current request from Mr. Bart Neumann (SP 2005-10) on an adjacent property, there have been very few requests for boat docks on the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir in recent years.  Currently there are a total of 17 boat docks (some in disrepair) on the Reservoir based on a field survey of the Reservoir in May 2005 by staff from the County, RWSA, and the City of Charlottesville.  Because County files are unavailable or nonexistent for the majority of these docks, it is not clear how the potential impacts of the docks were evaluated.  The last documented request was made in 1999 by Mr. James Ogg for a new private residential boat dock (SP 99-28) and also involved the unauthorized construction of a freestanding deck.  The special use permit was approved by both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors with the stipulation that mitigation be provided for disturbance to the 200-foot vegetative buffer, and that lighting issues be addressed.  In 1997 a request from Rivanna Rowing (SP 97-23) to construct a new floating dock in conjunction with establishing a new private rowing facility was approved by the Planning Commission, but denied by the Board of Supervisors.  The denial was based on the proposal’s size, location, safety concerns, and a determination that it would change the character of the Reservoir from a water supply facility to a recreational facility.  In 1994 Virginia Rowing received approval from both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors (SP 94-08) to relocate an existing boat dock associated with an existing boating athletic facility. 

 

 

Comprehensive Plan and The Neighborhood Model:

The Land Use Plan shows this area as Rural Areas and the Comprehensive Plan recognizes the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir as a surface drinking water supply.  The Natural Resources and Cultural Assets Component of the County’s Comprehensive Plan contains the following objective for the recreational use of water supply areas:

 

            “Allow and manage recreational uses of drinking water reservoirs and adjacent public land only as         incidental uses to the primary function of water supply and in such a manner as to prevent           cumulative impacts that may impair that primary function.”

 

The Comprehensive Plan recognizes that recreational use of water supply reservoirs has the potential to threaten water quality and water supply functions, and calls for specific consideration of this issue in the following strategy:

 

            “The County should take a lead role in developing a recreation and water supply protection plan for             each reservoir to address incidental recreational uses of drinking water reservoirs and adjacent   public land.  This effort should be coordinated with the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, the City   of Charlottesville, Shenandoah National Park and other relevant agencies.”

 

Policies and Regulations Regarding Water Supply Reservoir Protection:

Sections 11-300 through 11-306 of the Albemarle County Code address water supply reservoirs utilized by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority and regulate the use and activity on each reservoir.  Section 11-304 specifically addresses activities on the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.  Authorized activities are fishing, canoeing, boating (no internal combustion engines), hiking, bird watching, and picnicking.  Swimming is specifically prohibited under this Section.  An exemption is provided for Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries personnel to utilize internal combustion engines for official purposes.  In addition, Section 17-317 of the County Water Protection Ordinance established a two hundred horizontal feet wide vegetative buffer from the floodplain of any public water supply impoundment.  In this buffer, native vegetation shall be preserved to the maximum extent possible.  The target vegetative cover in the buffer shall be native riparian forest with ground cover, shrub, and tree canopy layers.  Within this buffer, land disturbing activities and the installation of structures are significantly restricted.

 

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority gives the privilege of constructing and maintaining a boat dock on the Reservoir to adjacent riparian property owners for their individual use and requires that construction methods, materials, design, and size be limited to what the Authority has authorized.  (See Attachment E)

 

Zoning Considerations: Zoning has suggested that the type and location of lighting (if any) should be addressed.  In addition, Zoning has suggested that decking or stairs leading to the dock be addressed, and recommended against the installation of these types of structures as a condition of approval.  Staff recommends that these issues be addressed as conditions of approval as discussed below.

 

 

 

Additional Agency Comments:

The City of Charlottesville, as the owner of the Reservoir, has indicated their support of the proposal by including their signature in the Special Use Permit application on October 26, 2005.  (See Attachment C)

 

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, as manager of the use of the Reservoir, has indicated that the proposed construction of the dock meets their requirements and has approved the construction specifications and insurance requirements for the boat dock, and issued a construction permit October 21, 2005.  (See Attachment D)

 

STAFF COMMENT:

 

Section 31.2.4.1 of the Zoning Ordinance below requires that special use permits be assessed as follows:

 

Will the use be of substantial detriment to adjacent property?

The proposed boat dock would not appear to be detrimental to either the Reservoir or to nearby or surrounding properties.  As stated above, there are a number of boat docks for private recreational use already in place on the Reservoir. 

 

Will the character of the zoning district change with this use?

In the past, the issue of how lighting associated with these docks may change the character and appearance of the Reservoir has been a significant issue.  To address this concern, the most recent approval of a boat dock (James Ogg SP 99-28) contained the condition that there shall be no lighting within 25 horizontal feet of the Reservoir.  The same condition of approval is recommended in this case to be consistent with past practice.

 

As stated above, there are currently a number of boat docks already in place on the Reservoir.  These boat docks do not appear to detract from the primary use of the Reservoir as a water supply reservoir because of their size, materials, and periodic usage.  This proposed boat dock would not appear to change the character of the Rural Area zoning district or the character of the use of the Reservoir.  A proliferation of residential boat docks, however, would change the appearance of the reservoir and potentially provide for a more recreational character than water supply character.  In recognition of this, further study of this issue to develop a policy that addresses the strategy identified in the Comprehensive Plan may be warranted.  Staff would ask further direction regarding such an initiative.

 

Will the use will be in harmony with the purpose and intent of the zoning ordinance?

The purpose and intent of the Rural Areas zoning is to preserve agricultural and forestal lands and activities, to protect the water supply, to limit service to the rural areas, and to conserve the natural, scenic, and historic resources of the County.  The Flood Hazard zoning has the purpose and intent of restricting development in the floodplain which may result in danger to life and property, public costs for flood control measures, public costs for rescue and relief efforts, soil erosion and sedimentation, pollution of water resources, and general degradation of the natural and man-made environment.

 

Regarding protection of the water supply and the preservation of natural resources, a concern for staff was the likelihood that the installation of boat docks along the Reservoir would result in clear cutting and disturbance of the required 200-foot vegetative buffer.  However, based on the May 2005 survey it was determined that there is no direct correlation between disturbance to the vegetative buffer and the existence of a boat dock.  Of the total parcels around the reservoir, 67% exhibited a buffer that was mostly intact.  Of the 33% that had a disturbed buffer, 19% had no evidence of a boat dock.  By comparison, 14% did have evidence of a boat dock.  So, while there is a greater chance of buffer disturbance where docks were installed, buffer disturbance occurs whether or not boat docks are constructed.  Interestingly, two parcels where a dock was noted with an intact vegetative buffer were the result of County staff coordination with the adjacent property owner following a violation of the buffer requirement.  In these two situations, mitigation of the vegetative buffer was required, and resulted in an appropriate balance between allowing access to the water and establishing a functioning vegetative buffer.  Therefore, staff does recognize that by coordinating with the adjacent property owner through the special use permit process, there is an opportunity to restore and protect the buffer as a part of the approval process for the installation of boat docks. 

 

Since the adjacent Caplin parcel (TMP 45-187) was in existence prior to the adoption of the Water Protection Ordinance and the resulting 200-foot vegetative buffer requirement, the existing lot improvements and lot configuration prevent the establishment of the full width of the buffer.  However, there is currently a buffer of woody vegetation between the normal pool elevation of the Reservoir (elevation 382) and the elevation of the edge of the floodplain (elevation 390).  This existing vegetation does provide water quality benefit and should be preserved.  In addition, staff recommends that no structures such as a deck or stairs be constructed within the 200-ft. buffer, and that access paths within the buffer avoid the removal of vegetation.  

 

Regarding the issue of creating a flood hazard, no adverse impacts are anticipated.  The floating dock is designed to respond to changes in flood levels and not impede the natural flow of water, unless it were to break loose and travel downstream to the dam.  The dock will be anchored to avoid being broken loose by floods.

 

Will the use be in harmony with the uses permitted by right in the district?

By-right uses in Rural Areas include single family and duplex uses, public uses and buildings, agricultural, forestry, boating, and fishery uses.  This incidental use would appear to be in harmony with the other uses permitted by right in the district.

 

Will the use comply with the additional regulations provided in Section 5.0 of this ordinance?

There are no supplementary regulations relating to boat docks in Section 5.0 of the Zoning Ordinance.

 

Will the public health, safety and general welfare of the community be protected if the use is approved?

The use of drinking water reservoirs for recreational use creates several risks to water quality and the ability to adequately treat raw water from the reservoir for public consumption.  Swimming and other recreational activities that involve body-contact with the water can significantly increase the occurrence of pathogens, such as Cryptosporidium in the reservoir.  The use of boats poses a threat of contamination from gasoline, and more specifically the additive methyl-t-butyl-ether (MTBE).  Also, the launching of boats raises the risk of introducing invasive species, such as the zebra mussel, which can proliferate and impact the aquatic ecosystem and also damage water treatment facilities.

 

The County has already addressed the threat of pathogens by prohibiting swimming in the Reservoir.  The threat of contamination from the gasoline additive MTBE has already been addressed through the County’s requirements to restrict the use of internal combustion engines on the Reservoir.  Lastly, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has advised that the introduction of invasive species such as the zebra mussel has yet to present a serious risk for Virginia.  To date there has been only one documented location of zebra mussels, in a Prince William County quarry.  The presence of the mussels in this location could be attributed to use by recreational divers, who benefit from the filtering performed by the mussels and the resulting clear water.

 

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority Boat Dock Construction Requirements adequately address design and safety issues, such as construction materials, anchoring, and length of the dock.

 

SUMMARY

 

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

 

1.  No direct impact to neighboring properties or the water supply is expected as a result of this special use permit.

2.  No increase in flood levels will result from the addition of a dock

3.  The proposed dock is supported by the City of Charlottesville, and meets the requirements of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority for residential boat docks.

 

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

 

1.  If a significant number of these requests are approved, the resulting proliferation of boat docks could impair the primary function of the Reservoir as a drinking water supply.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION

 

Staff recommends approval of the request with the following conditions: 

1.  There shall be no lighting within 25 horizontal feet of the Reservoir, measured from the elevation of the normal pool, which is Elevation 382.  See Attachment H.

2.  There shall be no removal of vegetation or earth disturbance within the 200-foot buffer associated with the installation of the boat dock.  The stream buffer is measured from the edge of the floodplain, which is Elevation 390.  See Attachment H.

3.  There shall be no other structures, such as decking or stairs, constructed in the 200-foot stream buffer.

 

 

 

 ATTACHMENTS:

 

A –      Proposed plan from the applicant

B –       Location Map

C –      City of Charlottesville signature supporting the application

D –      Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority approval and Boat Dock Use Permit and Agreement

E –       Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority Boat Dock Construction Requirements

F –       Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority Procedure from Boat Dock Permit Applications

G –      City of Charlottesville resolution to sign special use permit applications for boat docks

H –      Elevations for Normal Pool and Edge of Floodplain for the Reservoir

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