County of Albemarle
Department of Community Development
Presumed Safe & Convenient Access
As Required for Issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy
Introduction: This guidance is to be used in evaluating whether a certificate of occupancy requirement for a safe and convenient access has been satisfied. The granting of a certificate of occupancy is not limited to consistency with these conditions. Instead, satisfying these conditions will be presumed to provide a safe and convenient access. Finally, it is noted this determination is made at time of issuance for the certificate of occupancy and does not necessarily reflect the conditions that exist prior to or after the determination.
Driveway Access to Dwellings
For curbed (urban) streets, the maximum grade behind curbs and sidewalks should match the appropriate VDOT standard (e.g. CG-9, 12% max up for 1st 10, 3% max down for 1st 10). For ditch (rural) roads without sidewalks, the grades should be +/- 8% or flatter for a minimum of 20' from the edge of shoulder. If this is a rural road with sidewalks behind the ditch line, a minimum of 10' from the back of sidewalks should be +/- 8% or flatter grades. Steeper landings should be considered in consultation with VDOT for public streets or by the County Engineer for private streets.
An area at least 18' wide by 18' in length or 8 wide 36 long that is graded to 8% or flatter will be considered adequate for two offstreet parking spaces. This parking area cannot overlap any street side sidewalk.
A minimum width of 10' will be considered acceptable for driveways, but pullouts may be considered necessary for longer driveways where it is not possible to see if another car has already entered the driveway and backing up will be difficult (e.g. where a vehicle would need to back onto the street or would need to back around a curve in the driveway to allow a vehicle to pass).
Driveways should be a maximum of 20% slope or flatter, measured over 10 intervals. Steeper driveways will be allowed if a Virginia licensed engineer, surveyor, or architect certifies the driveway to be safe and convenient.
Slopes Adjacent to Driveways:
To reduce the risk of vehicle rollover if the vehicle slides off the driveway, downhill slopes higher than 76 should be graded to 3:1 (horizontal : vertical) or flatter. These grading standards should only be exceeded where guard rail, curbs or other measures (e.g. trees) should be used to keep vehicles from rolling down hills.
Driveways steeper than 10% should have a nonerodable surface, such as a surface treatment or pavement. (Note: It is anticipated there will be circumstances in the rural area where steeper driveways do not require pavement, but this guidance cannot assure this will be acceptable in all circumstances.)
Concentrated runoff (flows from a culvert or street side ditch) above the driveway must cross under driveways in a culvert and be discharged into a stable channel or storm sewer. Sheet flow across a driveway is considered acceptable. Driveway ditches should be used whenever flows along the driveway would be erosive.
In order for a fire truck to provide emergency services, the driveway must provide a minimum vertical clearance of 136. This standard would apply to any driveway where the fire truck cannot provide service from the street. Additionally, a minimum of a 14 wide clear zone should be provided to assure the fire truck can maneuver on those driveways. This effectively creates a box which is 14 wide by 136 high along the driveway. Typically, any driveway where the house is more than 100 from the street would be considered as needing to provide fire truck access. For driveways an ambulance would need to use, a minimum of a 10 vertical clearance with no tree leaning into the driveway to assure ambulances can access the dwelling. This effectively creates a box which is 10 wide by 10 high. Typically, any driveway where the house is more than 50 from the street would be considered as needing to provide ambulance access.
Generally, a suitable area for turning around a fire truck must be provided for any driveways that will be used by emergency service providers to access the dwelling. Turnarounds may not be required for driveways shorter than 300 if Fire/Rescue staff determine the driveway grade and curvature would allow the driver to easily back up to the street. Branch or T-type turnarounds that meet VDOTs subdivision street design guidance are considered acceptable.
Pedestrian Access to Dwellings
Sidewalks and/or driveways should provide a continuous access between the street and entrance to the dwelling. The sidewalk should typically be at least 3 wide and allow emergency personnel to safely reach the dwelling and remove people on a gurney. Unless a railing is provided, the ground next to sidewalks should have no more than a 30 drop for the first 3, measured horizontally from the edge of sidewalk. A set of steps is required to have a handrail if there are more than four risers..
Street Access to the Lot
Streets are designed to provide safe and convenient access to buildings when completed. While a certificate of occupancy is possible for a building prior to completion of the street(s) providing access, it is not considered a desirable situation and staff must verify the street will provide an acceptable access. Builders are strongly cautioned that, even if street improvements are outside of their control, certificates of occupancy cannot be issued without a determination that the street access is acceptable. The following guidance should be used in that determination:
A street shown on the approved subdivision road plans will be considered safe and adequate if the road grades and shoulders have been established with a suitable riding surface provided. Additionally, all improvements under the pavement must be properly installed (e.g. storm sewers, water mains). For streets receiving asphalt pavement, the base course of asphalt pavement should be in place. Where surface treatment has been approved, that treatment should be in place. Where a gravel drive has been approved, the full depth of gravel should be in place.
Obstacles in the Street:
If valves, manholes, or similar improvements are in the street being used to access the dwelling, they should protrude less than 2" above the street surface and should be marked such that they can be easily seen at night ( "dayglo" paint is acceptable). Vehicles should be parked and construction materials, dumpsters and equipment should be stored outside of the primary travelway.
Stop signs, street signs, and other signage required to assure traffic safety should be in place.
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