STAFF PERSON:                                                                  CLAUDETTE GRANT

PLANNING COMMISSION:                                              DECEMBER 6, 2005

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:                                              JANUARY 11, 2006

 

ZMA 2003-008: Woodbrook Station 

 

Petition:  The petition is a request to rezone approximately 1.21 acres from Planned Development Shopping Center – PD-SC zoning district, (shopping centers, retail sales and service uses; and residential by special use permit (15 units/acre) to Neighborhood Model District - NMD (residential (3 -34 units per acre), mixed with commercial service and industrial uses) for a combination of residential and commercial uses with a proposed density of approximately 7 dwelling units per acre. The property described as Tax Map 45 Parcel 94A is located in the Rio Magisterial District. The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as Regional Service.

 

Character of the Area: The character of the area is a mix of neighborhood service, commercial and residential uses. Immediately adjacent to the south is a mobile home park; adjacent to the east is the back of the Rio Hills Shopping Center; to the north and west are roads separating this property from retail, Agnor Hurt School and service uses.

 

Planning and Zoning History: On September 2, 1987 this property was rezoned (ZMA 87-07) from Highway Commercial (HC) to Planned Development Shopping Center (PD-SC). ZMA 94-23, a rezoning

for a portion of the site from PDSC to HC, was approved April 12, 1995. There have also been several site plans and site plan amendments for this property.

 

Specifics on the Proposal:  A 9,600 square foot commercial building is shown at the northern portion of the site, and a 12,000 square foot residential building with 8 units is proposed for the southern part of the site. Parking is located in between the two buildings and includes some shared parking. Green open space is located on the property and includes a play area, garden, picnic area, and gathering areas.

 

A Code of Development (COD) has also been provided which describes the development standards to be used for the development. 

  

Applicant’s Justification for the Request: The applicant believes this project is in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan and the Principles of the Neighborhood Model. The applicant indicates it is trying to create a dense and livable community in the development areas.  

 

By-right Use of the Property: As previously mentioned, the property is the wooded buffer between the back of the shopping center and Berkmar Drive that was approved as open space in the PD-SC application plan.

 

Comprehensive Plan and the Neighborhood Model: Requests for rezonings in the Development Areas are assessed for conformity with the Neighborhood Model and the Land Use Plan. 

 

The Comprehensive Plan designates this area as Regional Service which uses allowed includes:

· Regional-scale commercial, regional malls, medical centers, mixed-use developments, hotel/motel/conference facilities, professional and corporate offices, interstate interchange developments and uses providing retail, wholesale, business, and/or employment services to Albemarle County and the region.

 

· Areas designated as Regional Service typically encompass a large site (+ 30 acres), arterial road accessibility, water and sewer availability, and compatibility with adjacent land uses. Both vehicular and pedestrian interconnections are expected to nearby residential areas.

 

· A mixture of Urban Density Residential uses (6.01 to 34 units per acre) and community service uses is anticipated within this designation.

 

· Larger areas may be designated as Regional Service if a mixture of uses includes residential units relating to the commercial area. The proportion of residential square footage to non-residential square footage should be at least 25%. In these mixed use areas, green space should occupy at least 15% of the area. Amenities such as parks, paved plazas, indoor or outdoor gathering areas, lakes, pedestrian paths, and the like should occupy at least 10% of the area.

 

Although it is a relatively small scale development, Woodbrook Station includes a mixture of office and residential uses (7 units per acre), along with open green space and a variety of amenities, generally consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. The location of this development is a portion of a larger area on the Albemarle County Land Use Plan Map that is designated as Regional Service. This area is fairly dense in development and is part of the development area. As stated in the February 24, 2004 staff report (attachment D), there is a recommendation in the Comprehensive Plan (page 42) relating to the need for maintenance of a wooded buffer in the location of this development which reflects the Open Space Plan identification of this as an important wooded area.

 

The ways in which the proposed project meets the twelve principles for development in accordance with the

Neighborhood Model are provided below.

 

Pedestrian Orientation

Both buildings will have pedestrian connections to Berkmar Drive. The plan shows good pedestrian accessibility through the site and to the back of the existing shopping center. The streetscape improvements include a sidewalk and proposed benches. Staff believes the principle is met.

Neighborhood Friendly Streets and Paths

No new streets are proposed or needed. While staff generally believes that street trees should be located between the back of the curb and the sidewalk, the existing sidewalk system along Berkmar Drive and other connecting streets in the area are not designed in this way. Street trees are proposed behind the sidewalk on the south side of the Berkmar Drive entrance which is acceptable.  The lack of street trees on the northwest portion of the site adjacent to Berkmar Drive is of concern to staff because it does not comply with Section 32.7.9.7 of the Zoning Ordinance. (This is further discussed later in this report.)

Interconnected Streets and Transportation Networks

There are good pedestrian interconnections. The site is extremely small and obtaining vehicular connection to the adjacent shopping center would be difficult, if not impossible, due to the terrain of the property. Interconnection to the adjacent mobile home park might be possible, but is not viewed as necessary because of the shape of the lot and amenities. This principle is met.

Parks and Open Space

 

As previously stated this property was intended to be open space for the Rio Hills Shopping Center. The proposed landscaped open space is 13,906 square feet of the site. The General Development Plan shows open space, gathering areas, play areas, a picnic area and a garden area. This principle is met.

Neighborhood Centers

This is a small site; therefore, it would be difficult for it to be a neighborhood center on its own. However, its’ proximity to the Rio Hills Shopping Center and school across the street allow it to function as part of the existing neighborhood centers.

Buildings and Spaces of Human Scale

The two story height limitation and shallower setbacks than allowed by current zoning will allow the buildings to have more of a relationship to the street and be of a human scale.

Relegated Parking

Parking is a dominant feature as shown on the concept plan. While relegated to the side of buildings, because of the shape and depth of the lot and the amount of parking needed for the uses, it extends across much of the frontage along Berkmar Drive.

Mixture of Uses

 

Residential unit types are mixed on the site with office uses. This principle is met.

Mixture of Housing Types and Affordability

The size of the residential component in this development is fairly small at eight units so only a single unit type is provided. The applicant has made no commitment to affordable housing. The Director of Housing believes that the small number of units should not be subject to the County’s 15% affordable housing policy. (This is further discussed later in the report.)

 

Redevelopment

This principle is not applicable.

Site Planning that Respects Terrain

For the most part the building and parking are located on the buildable portion of the site. This principle has generally been met.

Clear Boundaries with the Rural Areas

This principle is not applicable.

 

STAFF COMMENT

Relationship between the application and the purpose and intent of the requested zoning district

 

The purpose and intent of the Neighborhood Model (NMD) district is to establish a planned development district in which traditional neighborhood development, as established in the County’s Neighborhood Model, will occur. The NMD provides for compact, mixed-use developments with an urban scale, massing, density and an infrastructure configuration that integrates diversified uses within close proximity to each other within the development areas identified in the comprehensive plan. The existing Planned Development Shopping Center (PD-SC) district is intended to serve areas not conveniently and adequately provided with a broad range of commercial and service facilities.

 

In general, most of these items have been covered above.

 

Public need and justification for the change

 

The County’s policy for encouraging infill development within the Development Areas provides a public need and justification for this request.   Using the available land in the Development Areas for new development lessens the pressure to expand the development area boundaries.  The project will be providing a mixed-use development and the developer indicates the housing will be affordably prices although this has not been proferred.   

 

Anticipated impact on public facilities and services

 

The property is served by public water and sewer.  Streets are viewed as adequate to serve the development and provide appropriate interconnections. Staff does not anticipate additional impacts to schools, and stormwater management.

 

The applicant is proffering a sidewalk and a stairway and pedestrian crossing. 

 

Anticipated impact on natural, cultural, and historic resources

 

There are no known cultural and historic resources on the site; however, as previously stated there are important wooded areas on the site.

 

Proffers

 

The applicant is proposing a sidewalk along Berkmar Drive from the southern most property line northward to the rear entrance to the Rio Hill Shopping Center, and proposing a stairway and pedestrian crossing from the eastern portion of the site to Rio Hill Shopping Center. These are viewed as acceptable, as to content, but will need to be in an approvable format before going to the Board of Supervisors. There is also a question about the need for a commitment for affordable housing.

 

Other Issues

 

·   The plan as proposed is unable to fully meet site development plan requirements for street trees. Street trees are shown south of the entrance. North of the entrance, a utility easement is in a location that makes it difficult for street trees to be located between the utility lines and the parking lot and office building. If the parking and office building are moved further to the rear of the site in order to include the street trees, the building is pushed further away from the street, which is not the intent of the Neighborhood Model District.

 

An administrative waiver is available if a hardship can be demonstrated to the Agent in accord with section 32.7.9.3 of the Zoning Ordinance. Current Development staff has reviewed the request and has been unable to make a finding that there is a hardship that allows an administrative waiver. However, the Planning Commission can permit this if it feels it is warranted. Section 32.3.10 b., d., and e of the Ordinance describe the Commission’s basis for granting this waiver. (See Attachments F & G)

 

·   There is no affordable housing commitment. The Director of Housing has said that, due to the small number of residential units, the 15% affordable housing policy should not be applied. The Director has also noted, based on information the applicant has verbally described, that the affordability of this project will more than likely be achievable because of the market for housing at this location. With no commitment to affordable housing other than potential market driven affordability, staff asks for guidance from the Commission as this would be different than past Commission expectations for commitments to affordability.

 

·   The design of the development maximizes lot coverage with buildings and parking, creating parking as a dominant feature along Berkmar Drive. A redesign would be possible that better relegates parking, such as elevating the buildings and place parking under them. However, this would likely remove any possibilities for an affordable housing component as this would be more expensive. A different alternative would be to preserve the northern part of the site and only develop the area south of the entrance where the shape of the lot better allows for relegated parking. However, this would likely remove the mixed use component of this project and leave it as exclusively office use.

 

Also, a waiver is needed regarding the use of only one housing type per Section 20A.8 of the Zoning Ordinance. (See Attachment G) Staff can support this request due to the size of the project.

 

SUMMARY

 

Staff believes that the project reflects a number of principles of the Neighborhood Model. Although the Open Space Plan shows this area as having important wooded areas and the Comprehensive Plan states this area as buffer/open space for nearby residential areas, the Planning Commission indicated at its prior work session that retention of the buffer was not essential if an appropriate plan for Neighborhood Model style development could be offered. As such, the following factors are favorable to this rezoning request:

 

·        Shopping and employment opportunities are adjacent to the development.

·        Market driven affordable housing may be provided.

 

As such, the following factors not favorable to the rezoning:

 

·        The lack of required street trees on a portion of the site is not consistent with the Zoning Ordinance.

·        There is no affordable housing commitment. It should be noted that the Director of Housing has said the 15% affordable housing policy should not be applied to this project.

·        Sidewalks are not separated from the street by street trees. It should be noted that the existing sidewalk system along Berkmar Drive and other connecting streets in the area are not designed in this way.

·        The intensity of the use in combination with lot characteristics result in the prominence of parking on the site as it relates to Berkmar Drive. 

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION

The shape and depth of the property make it difficult to both relegate parking and provide a mix of buildings that can include affordable housing without resulting in parking as a dominant feature along Berkmar Drive and a loss of street trees along the property’s northern Berkmar Drive frontage. Staff can recommend approval as proposed with the waiver of the street tree requirement along Berkmar Drive north of the entrance to the project provided that the Commission agrees with the Director of Housing and does not feel there needs to be a commitment to affordable housing. If the Commission feels a commitment is necessary  then an appropriate proffer would need to be offered by the applicant. Absent such a commitment, staff offers the following development options different than proposed by the applicant that would not provide affordable housing, but provide design more in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan:

 

1) Retain the mixture of office and residential uses, but lessen the prominence of parking by redesign of the plan which places parking under the buildings. This scenario could be more expensive and affordable housing would not be anticipated.

or

2) Go back to the original proposal of only one use, most likely office, and redesign the plan to reduce the area being developed or disturbed. By developing only the southern end of the site the Comprehensive Plan recommendation of retaining the trees and/or wooded area could be retained and no street tree waiver would be necessary. 

 

 ATTACHMENTS:

 

Attachment A – Location Map

Attachment B – Application Plan

Attachment C – Code of Development and Proffers

Attachment D – Staff Report, dated February 24, 2004

Attachment E – Draft Planning Commission Minutes, dated February 24, 2004

Attachment F -  Memo from Bill Fritz, dated October 26, 2005

Attachment G – Mixture of Use and Street Tree Waivers

Attachment H – Tax Map

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