STAFF PERSON: Amy Ransom Arnold





SP_2005-34 Camp Watermarks


Applicant’s Proposal: The applicant has requested a Special Use Permit to allow for the establishment of a camp for girls and boys from ages 8 - 18 in an agricultural setting.  The applicant proposes to hold a maximum of four overnight sessions per year at the camp with a maximum enrollment of 36 - 45 children for each session.  The four week sessions would consist of one week during spring planting, two weeks during the summer growing season, and a fourth week for fall harvest.  Camp activities and accommodations are proposed in several areas of the site including nine cabins, a recreation hall / dining facility, basketball and skate boarding areas, a fishing lake, fire pit, and nearby animal paddock.  The applicants have indicated that one of their primary goals is to provide nature and agricultural experiences for children who normally have limited exposure to outdoor and / or agricultural environments. (Site Maps: Attachment A. 1., 2., and 3.)    


Each of the nine cabins measures approximately 14 x 16 feet with an 8’ porch.  Each cabin includes wall to wall carpeting and an air-conditioning unit.  Five cabins are provided for girls, four for boys.  Each cabin is intended to house a maximum of four to five children at a time.  In the past session, campers have slept in sleeping bags on the cabin floors.  The applicant has expressed the desire to provide bunk beds in future sessions.  The applicant has noted that the orientation of the cabins towards the nearby lake is intended to encourage contemplation and reflection. The cabins would be used for storage related to the operation of the farm when camp is

not in session.


Food service would be provided in the Recreation / Dining Hall which includes a lounge area, stage for music and dramatic performances, a large open area, and kitchen facilities.  The kitchen is approximately 12 x 22 feet and is comprised of an electric range, refrigerator, single sink, microwave, stainless steel tables, and counter space.      


Provisions (interior or exterior) for physically challenged campers have not been included at this time.


(Site Photographs: Attachment B.)   


PetitionSections, 10.2.2 (20.), and 5.1.05 allow for special considerations for the establishment of (day or overnight) camps under Special Use Permits in the Rural Areas. The property, described as Tax Map 136 Parcels 6B, 9D, 9D1, and 9E is designated Rural Area 4 under the Comprehensive Plan.  The parcel is located at 1145 James River Road, with the entrance drive located less than ½ mile west of the intersection of Route 726 and Hatton Ferry Road in the Scottsville Magisterial District.    


Character of the Area: The history of the area is anchored in agricultural traditions.  The landscape was once comprised of a few, larger farms with names like ‘Warren Tract’ and ‘Rock Island’, the latter referencing the islands located in the nearby bend in the James River.  The surrounding context is comprised of evergreen and deciduous forest, open pasture, agricultural fields, hedgerows, as well as occasional residential and agricultural buildings.  Adjacent James River Road is a narrow, rolling road with transitions onto private property that are characterized by compacted gravel or similar, informal driveway materials.  Scattered throughout the area are several farm/storm water ponds and local streams.  Immediately to the south of the area lie the railroad tracks and the banks of the James River. 


Planning and Zoning History:

VIO 2005-180

The applicants had operated the camp for a week during the summer of 2005 utilizing buildings approved only for agricultural use.  Electricity had been installed in the cabins without permits.  The shower room had been in use during the camp session without building, electrical, or plumbing permits.  In addition, the shower room had been operated without Heath Department approval of the septic system.  The violations were abated on September 16, 2005, when the camp showers were disconnected and the applicant agreed to preclude camp activities until the approval of the appropriate permits.

VIO 2005-286

In December of 2005 an anonymous complaint was filed stating that the applicant was charging for the use of the cabins and operating a dance hall in the camp recreation building.  The violation was abated when the applicant began the Special Use Permit process in January of 2006.    



Staff has reviewed this request for compliance with the provisions of Section of the zoning ordinance and recommends approval, based on consistency with the Comprehensive Plan, subject to conditions of approval contained in this report.



Staff will address each provision of Section of the Zoning Ordinance. Special Use Permits provided for in this ordinance may be issued upon a finding by the Board of Supervisors that such use will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property,


While the traffic on adjacent James River Road will increase somewhat when camp is in session, the applicant has expressed the desire to minimize the impact of camp traffic on the neighborhood.  In order to reduce traffic on James River Road, campers and camp staff will congregate at Effort Baptist Church in Palmyra and be transported in a school bus to the site at the beginning of each session and return to Palmyra in the bus at the end of the session.  The bus will make a maximum of two additional trips per week to allow the campers to visit the Scottsville Pool.  A total of approximately sixteen bus trips each year (allowing four trips per session: the initial pick up and drop off and two field trips per session) will occur to and from the site.  Any needed additional parking would be accommodated in a large 50’ x 100’ gravel parking area to the south of the camp area located deep into the Critzer/Tapscott property. 


The entry drive into the camp is immediately adjacent to a single, close-by neighbor; visibility or close contact with camp activities is limited from other nearby vantage points.   County mapping data bases indicate that the entrance drive into the camp is located on neighboring parcel 6E, owned by Paul F. Bryant.  A survey dated December 16, 1992, indicates that the entrance drive is located primarily on parcel 6B, with only a portion of the road encroaching on parcel 6E. (Attachment C.)  The applicant has since provided a letter of confirmation from the surveyor of the original plat confirming that the road is now located fully on Critzer/Tapscott property. 




The applicant has indicated that the recreation hall is used occasionally by a teenage band for practice sessions, but has confirmed that no outdoor amplified sounds or bull horns will be used.  The applicant has also indicated that the recreation hall has been newly insulated to reduce audible levels outside the building.


As required by Section 4.17.4(a.) all outdoor lighting fixtures that emit more than 3,000 lumens must be full cut off: 


The following standards shall apply to each outdoor luminaire:

a. Except as provided in section 4.17.6, each outdoor luminaire subject to these outdoor lighting

regulations shall be a full cutoff luminaire. (Amended 10-17-01)’


However, Section 4.17.6 states that lighting in agricultural contexts are exempt.  The primary use of several areas on the camp site is agricultural, though a few areas are related exclusively to camp use.  The yard lights located at the skate board ramps are an example of site lighting for camp purposes only.  Lighting on the site that is located solely for camp use must meet the lighting ordinance by providing full cut off fixtures for each luminare emitting 3,000 lumens or more.


Since the initiation of the Special Use Permit process, staff has received correspondence from seven adjacent property owners supporting the establishment of the camp at this location.


that the character of the district will not be changed thereby and


The primary use of the property will remain agricultural and forestal, with the camp operating only four weeks per year.  When in operation, it has been the applicant’s intent to minimize the presence of the camp activities.  The cabins and recreation hall are located deep within the site, and are surrounded on all four sides by stands of both deciduous and evergreen forest. The cabins have been constructed with minimal tree removal, are tucked into the edge of a deciduous stand of trees, and closely reflect vernacular farm building architecture.  Their coloring and scale are sensitive to the immediate environment.  The expansion of the previously existing area of asphalt paving near the cabins and recreation hall is located internally and provides a more durable surface for farm equipment movement and repair when camp is not in session.   


On the entrance drive into the camp site, the applicant has used a “prime & seal” (compressed asphalt emulsion & gravel), similar to surfaces found on rural streets.  The resulting surface is as durable as asphalt, but retains the look of a more informal surface.  By taking this approach to constructing the entry and drive, the applicant has allowed the drive to blend with the surrounding context of informal driveways.  This approach to meeting the minimum VDOT requirements while demonstrating sensitivity to the surrounding context is supported by staff and could contribute substantially to the preservation of the character of the Rural Areas as a whole.


While the camp has the option of using signage to indicate the location of the camp, the applicant has elected not to place any signage for the camp on James River Road.  


that such use will be in harmony with the purpose and intent of this ordinance,


Farming will remain the primary activity on this site.  The parcel included in this proposal is a portion of a working farm operated by the applicant that totals just over 100 acres.  The parcels are part of the subdivision in the mid 1970’s of a single, 269 acre farm.  The applicant’s family has been farming on this land for over 100 years.  Farming activities on the site currently include raising goats, cattle, and donkeys, harvesting hay, the cultivation of several crops, and tree farming. 

Purposes of the Rural Areas District Zoning Ordinance include:

·   Preservation of agricultural and forestal lands and activities;

·   Conservation of natural, scenic, and historic resources

The operation of a camp that focuses on and promotes awareness of agricultural processes and natural resources supports the purpose and intent of this ordinance by exposing campers to a rural/agricultural environment.  The applicant has expressed one of the goals of the camp is to teach campers ‘where food comes from’ in an effort to foster understanding of the value of rural/agricultural land.       


with uses permitted by right in the district,


The property and the adjacent properties are zoned RA, Rural Areas.  Staff opinion is that the addition of a (day or overnight) camp would not affect the uses permitted by right in the district.


with the additional regulations provided in section 5.0 of this ordinance,


Regulations in Section 5.0 of the Ordinance that apply to the establishment of a (day or overnight) camp in the Rural Areas are as follows (5.1.05 Day Camp, Boarding Camp):


‘a. Provisions for outdoor cooking, campfires, cooking pits, etc., shall be subject to Albemarle County fire official approval whether or not a site development plan is required;


b. All such uses shall conform to the requirements of the Virginia Department of Health Bureau of Tourist Establishment Sanitation and other applicable requirements.’


Albemarle County fire and rescue have expressed no objection to the proposal provided that the applicant complies with the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code.  The County Fire Marshall has recommended that the applicant contact him to review the provisions for overnight camps and open fires included in the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code.


The applicant has been working with the Virginia Department of Health to comply with minimum standards for septic system and kitchen/food service.    


and with the public health, safety and general welfare.


John Winn of the VDOT Charlottesville Residency has meet with the applicant and determined that the entrance from James River Road meets VDOT requirements for site distances and minimum configuration.  The County Engineer has confirmed that the material and configuration of the existing internal road leading to the camp is adequate for both cars and buses and the number of trips anticipated. 


The need for permanent parking areas is minimal, though there is a large paved area near the main building.  Any needed additional parking would be accommodated in a large 50’ x 100’ gravel parking area to the south of the camp area located deep into the Critzer/Tapscott property. 


The applicant has indicated that a nurse, emergency medical technician, trained counselors, and a youth minister will be an integral part of each session, traveling to the site on the bus, along with the campers, and remaining throughout the course of each session. 


Earlier violations have created concerns regarding the lack of approval by the Health Department for the septic system for the shower and bathroom facilities.  The applicant has been working with the Health Department on approvals for the septic system and kitchen facilities and has agreed to comply with Health Department requirements.


The Fire Department expressed no objection to the proposal provided the applicant complies with the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code.  The applicant is encouraged to contact the Fire Marshall to review the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code. 



Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this application:

  1. Farming will continue as the primary activity on these parcels; the camp is a secondary use.
  2. The applicant’s proposal for traffic management on James River Road is sensitive to potential impacts on the neighborhood.    
  3. The camp environment is well integrated into the surrounding landscape.
  4. The camp has the potential to heighten awareness and understanding of agricultural processes and natural resources.


Staff has identified the following factors unfavorable to this application:

1.        Increased traffic on James River Road.

2.        Increase in overall activity levels on and around the site.



Based on the findings contained in this staff report, particularly as to the projects support of Rural Area objectives, staff recommends approval of SP 2005-34, subject to the following conditions:

1.       Special Use Permit 2005-34 shall remain in general accord with the concept application plan dated February 22, 2006, prepared by Angela and Travis Critzer, and titled “Watermarks  Christian Ministries Camp” (Attachment A. drawing 1.)  However, the Zoning Administrator may approve revisions to the concept application plan to allow compliance with the Zoning Ordinance. 

2.       Compliance with the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code shall be verified by the Fire Marshall prior to clearance and the commencement of the Special Use Permit. 

3.       Compliance with the Virginia State Department of Health regarding minimum septic requirements shall be required prior to the commencement of the Special Use Permit.

4.       Compliance with the Virginia State Department of Health regarding kitchen and food service approvals shall be verified by the Health Department prior to clearance and the commencement of the Special Use Permit.

5.       Total number of staff (in addition to the applicant and their family) on site at one time shall be limited to 10.   

6.       Camp sessions shall be limited to a maximum of four, each one week long, overnight sessions per year.

7.       The maximum number of children per session shall be limited to 45 (forty five).

8.       The maximum number of bus trips (round trips) to and from the camp, each session shall be six (6).

9.       Outdoor amplified sounds or bull horns shall be prohibited.

10.   All site lighting exclusively for camp use must either emit 3,000 lumens or less or be full cut off fixtures.  Lighting issues must be resolved prior to the issuance of a clearance for the commencement of the use. 

11.   Approval of a zoning compliance clearance is required once per year prior to commencing this use.  The applicant shall apply for the zoning clearance no later than three (3) weeks prior to the date for the first session.  Zoning approval will be contingent upon the Zoning Administrator determining that all conditions of this special use permit have been satisfied and on confirmation from the Health Department and the Department of Fire / Rescue  have been contacted by the applicant and can recommend approval.



A.         Site Drawings

1.                Drawing of Camp Watermarks layout by Angela and Travis Critzer

2.                County map of existing conditions.

3.                Combination of Critzer drawing and County existing conditions by County staff

B. Site Photographs

1.                Exterior views of the cabins

2.                Exterior view of the recreation/dining hall (bath house elevation)

3.                Interior views of the recreation/dining hall (2)

4.                A view of skate board ramps on site with light fixtures.

5.                View of the entry drive at James River Road

6.                Animals and paddock at the camp (2)

C. 1992 survey by Robert Lum of the Critzer/Tapscott property.

D. Emails/phone calls from neighbors.

1.                Janet and Thomas Stargell, 9578 Warren Ferry Rd, Scottsville

2.                Lisa Himes

3.                April Fletcher, Virginia Estate Plans-Charlottesville, PLC

4.                Jeff and Christie Schmick, James River Runners, Inc.

5.                K.K. Peterson, Effort Baptist Church

6.                Carmen Holmes

7.                Susan Tapscott (by telephone); in support of the project

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