STAFF PERSON(S):                                                 David E. Pennock, AICP; Jack Kelsey, PE; Jan Sprinkle

 

PLANNING COMMISSION:                                  August 8, 2006

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:                                  September 6, 2006

                       

CASE:                         SP 06-009: Birchwood Place

 

APPLICANT:             Weather Hill Development, LLC – Frank Pohl

OWNER:                    Weather Hill Development, LLC 

 

APPLICANT’S PROPOSAL:  A preliminary site plan is currently under review for construction of a three-story office building totaling 19,500 square feet and a one-story bank of 3,090 square feet on 1.16 acres of a 3.66 acre site in Crozet Community (Attachment A).  The property is in the White Hall Magisterial District, and is described as Tax Map 56A2, Section 1, Parcel 30.  It is located on Three Notch'd Road (Rte. 240) approximately 0.17 miles east of its intersection with Crozet Avenue (Rte. 810) (Attachment B) and is zoned C-1, Commercial and EC, Entrance Corridor.

 

PETITIONS:  The proposed bank includes four drive-through lanes.   Section 22.2.2 (10) allows “Drive-in windows serving or associated with permitted uses” in the C-1 zoning district “only by Special Use Permit approved by the Board of Supervisors pursuant to Section 31.2.4”. 

 

CHARACTER OF THE AREA:  This portion of Three Notch’d Road is within the Crozet Community, and is designated in the Crozet Master Plan as CT-6, Urban Core and CT-1, Development Area Preserve.  The parcel adjacent to the east is the site of the U.S. Joiner office building (SDP 04-100), which is currently under construction.  Parcels north of this one on the other side of Parrott Creek are within Wayland Park Subdivision, which is single-family residential development.

 

PLANNING AND ZONING HISTORY: The history of the parcel is as follows:

1980 – Comprehensive Countywide Rezoning – The zoning designation of the property was changed from B-1, Business to its current designation of C-1, Commercial. 

1990 - Entrance Corridor Overlay District – Route 240 was approved as an entrance corridor on October 3, 1990.

SDP 2006-029:  A site plan is under review on this property for the construction of an office building in addition to the bank.  This building will be a mix of office uses.

ARB 2006-084:  An application is currently under review for the elevations of the buildings proposed for this site.

 

BACKGROUNDA preliminary site plan is under review for this parcel (SDP 06-029) for construction of an office building and a bank.  Concurrent with this review, an application was submitted for a special use permit for drive through lanes associated with the bank.  This application includes a justification letter (Attachment C) that summarizes reasons why the drive-through lanes are desired as well as means of mitigating any visual impact.  A total of four drive-through lanes (three bank teller lanes and one ATM lane) are requested.  In addition to this special use permit, the applicant also requested two waivers.  One of the requested waivers is a critical slopes waiver and it has been determined that this waiver is not necessary.  The other requested waiver is for a reduction in the number of stacking spaces for the bank, which has been granted. 

DISCUSSION REGARDING STACKING SPACE REDUCTION:  The ordinance requires that a minimum of five stacking spaces are provided for each drive-through lane.  These spaces must not impede the access to parking on site or the vehicular and pedestrian circulation.  The applicant has requested to provide three stacking spaces for three of the lanes, four stacking spaces for the remaining ATM lane, plus four additional stacking spaces in a single “queue” lane.  This is effectively a reduction of three total spaces.  This waiver has been reviewed by both the Chief of Zoning and the County Engineer and was approved. 

 

REVIEW BY THE CHIEF OF ENGINEERING - DISCUSSION REGARDING CIRCULATION:  The circulation around the bank is a mix of one-way and two-way traffic.  The “queue” lane for the drive-through lanes runs the length of one side of the bank, with a second lane designated for through traffic as a bypass lane.  Thus, the sides and rear of the bank are to be one-way circulation.  The one-way bypass lane then intersects the two-way drive aisle that serves the parking area for the office portion of the site.  As previously noted by the Chief of Engineering, there are several problems with this proposed circulation.

 

“The ability of the one-way thru-lane/stacking lane to provide adequate internal circulation is dependent on the lane being unobstructed by the vehicle queues for the drive-in/ATM lanes.  Based on the lack of adequate stacking and the poor visibility of the drive-in lanes (by vehicles stacked in the one-way travelway), this solution is not practical.  The one-way thru-lane, even if paint-striped, will inevitably be obstructed by stacked vehicles – especially during peak business times.  Providing a physical barrier between the stacking lane and the thru-lane is not a viable solution for then the thru-lane will [be] inaccessible by stacked vehicles that choose to exit the stacking lane.

 

The one-way thru-lane ends at the parking area at the rear of the Bank.  This creates a dead-end in this parking area with no means to turn around or to circulate through the other parking areas.  This internal circulation is inadequate and must be resolved.  A bypass traffic lane is not shown adjacent to the ATM lane and the applicant has requested the County Engineer determine if it is necessary (18-4.12.17.c.2).  Since this bypass lane could serve the drive-in ATM customers, as well as facilitate the internal circulation for the adjacent parking area, it is my determination that the bypass traffic lane is necessary.

 

In conclusion, it is my opinion that the drive-in access and internal circulation between the front and rear parking areas is inadequate.  The inadequacy of this circulation is exacerbated by the lack of adequate stacking area in the drive-in/ATM lanes.  This site would be better serve by removing the one-way travelway between the proposed Bank and the US Joiner site and then redesigning the internal circulation to access the drive-in/ATM from the rear of the site.  Therefore, I do not recommend approval of this special permit.”

 

Clearly, adequate stacking space to serve the proposed drive-through lanes is a key component for a functional layout.  A determination that the site plan proposal is acceptable has not yet been made, due to unresolved issues involving the internal circulation.  However, the applicant has requested that the Planning Commission consider the appropriateness of the drive-through lanes to serve the proposed bank, with the understanding that the specifics of the circulation and the related waiver are yet to be resolved.

 

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AND THE NEIGHBORHOOD MODEL:

Requests for special use permits in the Development Areas are assessed for conformity with the Neighborhood Model and the Land Use Plan.  This parcel is located in the Crozet Community and is designated on the “Place Type and Built Infrastructure Map” as both CT-1, Development Area Preserve and CT-6, Urban Core.  The portion of the site that is shown as CT-1 is currently shown entirely as a stream buffer.  In addition, an easement will be dedicated with this plan in order to accommodate a greenway trail along Parrott Creek in a location comparable with that shown on the “Green Infrastructure Map”.  The remainder of the site is designated as CT-6, Urban Core.  This portion includes a proposed three-story office building, a bank, and the associated parking.  This mix of uses at a relatively high density is appropriate both in scale and type of development.

 

The analyses of the proposed project in relation to the twelve principles for development in accordance with the Neighborhood Model are provided below:

 

Pedestrian Orientation – This plan provides sidewalk between buildings on site, as well as a sidewalk link along the entire frontage of the site on Route 240.  This link will tie in with other pieces on the US Joiner site to the east, and may tie in with future redevelopment proposals that are currently under review on sites to the west.  Due to the stream buffer on the rear of this site, as well as the stream itself, it is impractical to extend sidewalk to the rear yards of the adjacent houses in Wayland Park subdivision north of this property.

 

Neighborhood Friendly Streets and Paths – There is a greenway trail anticipated along Parrott Creek, as depicted in the Crozet Master Plan.  This site plan proposal provides a dedicated easement along Parrott Creek for such a trail.

 

Interconnected Streets and Transportation Networks – The plan utilizes existing public street networks as an infill development proposal.  The internal circulation of the site includes drive aisles stubbed to the property lines on the east and west sides, which will create a connection with the US Joiner site and a potential future connection on the west side.

 

Parks and Open Space – Approximately 2.49 acres in the rear portion of this 3.66 acre site are designated as stream buffer, which will remain undisturbed, other than some initial grading and a potential future trail.  On-site landscaping as required by the ordinance will be provided on the remainder of the site.

 

Neighborhood Centers – This development is intended only for office and commercial activity.  The development does not meet the definition of Neighborhood Center as defined by the Neighborhood Model.

 

Buildings and Spaces of Human Scale – The Architectural Review Board is currently reviewing this project.  Among the factors they will consider are the scale and massing of the buildings.  It is too soon to say for certain that this standard is being met.  However, a Certificate of Appropriateness is required prior to final site plan approval. 

 

Relegated Parking – As with the previous standard, staff looks to the Architectural Review Board for determination of appropriateness of this standard for applicability to this site plan.  For purposes of the Special Use Permit review, however, it is appropriate to comment about the drive-through lanes at this time.  The applicant has relegated the drive through lanes to the rear of the building, where they will be less visible to the Entrance Corridor.  However, the queue lane is along the side of the building, and other parking is in the front.  Landscaping is proposed to screen this to some extent, as required by ordinance.  Thus, this standard is only partially being met.

 

Mixture of Uses – There are two buildings proposed for this site, with a combination of bank and office uses.  No residential uses are proposed.  A special use permit would be required for any proposed residential use.  No analysis has been done to determine the appropriateness of residential use on this site.

 

Mixture of Housing Types and Affordability – Not applicable; no residential use proposed.

 

Redevelopment – Not applicable; no development currently on site.

 

Site Planning that Respects the Terrain – The bank portion of this site requires relatively minimal grading.  However, the rear portion of the site requires a large amount of fill and the use of retaining walls throughout.  Despite this, no critical slopes are being disturbed.

 

Clear Boundaries with the Rural Areas – Not applicable; this property is within the Development Areas.

 

ANALYSIS OF THE SPECIAL USE PERMIT REQUEST:

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 location and design of the windows and travelways are such that they will be visible from adjacent property.  The US Joiner site adjoins this property on the eastern side.  As such, given the close proximity to the property line, the windows, stacking lanes, and queue lane will be visible.  However, the applicant is providing landscaping along the property line to mitigate this impact.  As both sites are designated for high density commercial/office uses, some visibility of traffic on adjacent sites may be anticipated. 

 

Some of the stacking spaces and the queue spaces are aimed towards the houses north of this property in Wayland Park Subdivision and are at a comparable elevation.  However, the proposed office is between these lanes and the houses.  In addition, the distance between the drive-through windows and the residential units in Wayland Park is more than 500 feet.  The buffer on both sides of the stream and the distance between these uses will help mitigate headlight issues that can arise with drive-through windows. 

 

The stacking spaces and those proposed in the queue lane are intended to adequately address the traffic through the site.  In the event that a larger number of automobiles entered the site in quick succession, there is also space along the front of the building to allow the traffic to maneuver without backing up into the public road.

 

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

Drive-through windows are fairly common in this zoning district.  Approval of this special use permit will not change the character of the district. 

 

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

Staff has reviewed the purpose and intent of the ordinance as contained in Sections 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6, the intent of the C-1 district as contained in Section 22.1, and the intent of the EC district as contained in Section 30.6.1.  Generally, these requests are consistent with the ordinance and the intent of the C-1 zoning district.  However, staff cannot say for certain that the intent of the Entrance Corridor has been met.  This application has not been reviewed by the Architectural Review Board, and no comments have yet been issued.

 

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

By-right uses in the C1, Commercial District include a wide variety of commercial activities.  Drive-through windows are not uncommon with many of the uses in the district. 

 

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

Section 5 contains no additional regulations for this type of request.

 

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

The public health, safety, and general welfare of the community are protected through the special use permit process, which assures that uses approved by special use permit are appropriate in the location requested.   The two issues which typically arise in the review of drive thru windows are:

  1. Traffic impacts on and off site;
  2. Visibility of the site from an entrance corridor.

 

Traffic impacts on and off site:

VDOT has provided the following comments:

·        This Special Use Permit is part of a site development plan previously reviewed and comments are provided. Please refer to comment letter dated April 3, 2006. [included here as sub-comments]

o       The frontage improvements need to extend full width to the western property boundary.  This will allow for a continuation further to the west.  A paved taper should be added at the western end to tie into the existing roadway (use a 25 foot taper);

o       The new standards require a 3 foot offset behind the curb and gutter or an 8 foot sidewalk.  This is different from the previous submission along this corridor;

o       The entrance need to include handicap ramps;

·        The comments require full frontage improvements. To accommodate this work ROW dedication should be provided to include the necessary improvements;

·        Interparcel access should be provided between adjacent sites; [note- this comment has been addressed]

·        Review the entrance in the field and [recommend] improvement if it is substandard;

·        The entrance and frontage improvements need to be designed in accordance with the current Subdivision Street Standards, the Road Design Manual and the Minimum Standards for Entrances to State Highways.

 

Revisions addressing the above comments have been provided by the applicant, and have been distributed to VDOT for review.  However, no further comments have been received from VDOT.  Staff believes that these comments will be adequately addressed at the time of final plan without resulting in any changes to the on-site improvements beyond that which occurs for all site plans and subdivisions. 

 

Visibility of the site from an entrance corridor:

As has been previously mentioned, this case has not yet been reviewed by the Architectural Review Board.  Initial comments from staff indicate that the location of the drive-through lanes at the rear of the building is appropriate.  Thus, for purposes of this review, it has been assumed that the drive-through location is appropriate to the site, though the remainder of the site features have not been analyzed.  Full comments regarding the appropriateness or visibility from the Entrance Corridor are premature because review is not complete.

 

SUMMARY OF STAFF REVIEW OF SP 06-009

Staff is concerned with a number of issues that have not yet been resolved.  Chief among these is the circulation within the site.  Many revisions have attempted to address the concerns raised by the Chief Engineer, and the most recent submittals are based on additional discussion.  However, this issue is still pending resolution.

 

Another important issue that is outstanding is the appropriateness of this use in the Entrance Corridor.  The bank usage is allowable, and the placement of the drive-through lanes in the back is appropriate.  However, other features on the site have not been analyzed by the Architectural Review Board.  As such, it is impossible to adequately consider all of the principles of Neighborhood Model development.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION

Staff recommends denial of SP 06 – 009 (drive thru for a bank). 

 

However, if the Planning Commission is of the opinion that the outstanding issues are not material to the approval of this Special Permit and can be resolved through the site plan process, staff recommends the following conditions of approval: 

  1. Architectural Review Board issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness prior to final site plan approval.
  2. Virginia Department of Transportation approval of entrance design and frontage improvements as well as any associated road plans and/or drainage plans. 
  3. Approval of site plan by County Engineer.

 

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ATTACHMENTS:

A – Site Plan

B – Location Map

C – Applicant’s request and justification 
Return to PC actions letter