COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

PLANNING STAFF REPORT SUMMARY

 

Project Name:  SP 2006-13 Little Keswick School Dorm

Staff:  Joan McDowell

Planning Commission Public Hearing: 

August 8, 2006

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing:

September 6, 2006

Owners:  Little Keswick School Enterprise

Applicant:  Robert Wilson

Acreage:  21.005

Special Use Permit:  SP 06-13  private schools.  Section 10.2.2.(5) of the zoning ordinance applies to this proposal. 

TMP: 80-110, 110A, 110A2, 112, 117A, 118, 119

Location: 500 Little Keswick Lane

Existing Zoning and By-right use: RA Rural Areas District agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential; game preserves; wayside stands; electric, gas oil and communication facilities; accessory uses including home occupation Class A; temporary construction uses; public uses

Magisterial District:  Rivanna

Conditions: Yes

Proposal:  A private school proposes to construct a new dorm on the school property for existing resident-students and convert their existing dorm into offices, meeting spaces, and storage. No increase in enrollment or staff is requested.

Requested # of Dwelling Units: N/A

DA (Development Area)                             

RA (Rural Area) X

Comprehensive Plan Designation:  Rural Areas RA -- agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre)

 

 

Character of Property:  Private school with school one and two story buildings, sports fields, and open spaces. 

Use of Surrounding Properties:  Agriculture, commercial, residential

Factors Favorable:  1. The proposed dorm would be located in an area of the site that would cause minimal visual impact to the adjacent property.  2. The proposed dorm would comply with current state Department of Education standards. 3. The dorm relocation would not increase the enrollment or the number of staff. 

 

Factors Unfavorable

Staff has not identified any factor that is unfavorable to this application. 

 

 

RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends approval with conditions

 

 

STAFF PERSON:                              Joan McDowell

PLANNING COMMISSION:             August 8, 2006                                   

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:           September 13, 2006

 

SP 2006-13 Little Keswick School Dorm

 

Petition:  PROPOSED: Construct building for dorm; use existing dorm for offices

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: Rural Areas - preserve and protect agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources/ density ( .5  unit/ acre) SECTION: 10.2.2(5) Private School COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY:  RA -- Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre) ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: Yes____No__X__ LOCATION: 500 Little Keswick Lane; Rt. 731 1/20th of a mile south of Rt. 22

TAX MAP/PARCEL: TM 80 Parcels 110A, 110A2, 112, 117A, 118, 119

 

Character of the Area: The area surrounding the Little Keswick School consists of farmland, commercial, scattered residential.  The school buildings are generally located within the 21-acre site and have limited visibility from the public road.  The former depot that later served as the fire department community building on Keswick Road now serves as the dining room for the school.  Stokes of England, a blacksmith, is adjacent to the dining hall on a parcel owned by the applicant (TMP 80-110A).  Keswick Country Club property is located to the south of the subject property, across the CSX railroad. 

 

Specifics of the Proposal: The applicant has proposed to construct a 45' by 95' two-story dormitory building for 13 students in a private school.  The existing dorm building, adjacent to the CXS Railroad would be used as storage and office areas. A concept plan has been submitted to show the existing and proposed dorm sites, as well as the other buildings located on the school properties (Attachment A).  The applicant has not requested approval for any additional staff or students, with this application.  The Commonwealth of Virginia has granted a license to the school to operate a children's residential facility providing educational and treatment services for 31 male residents with ages ranging from 9-17 years.  The current license expires on June 30, 2007.  A copy of a letter sent by Ms. Gloria Dalton of the Department of Education stating that the proposed dorm meets their required residential standards.  The letter is attached as reference (Attachment B.)  

 

Planning and Zoning History: The school was established in 1963 prior to the adoption of zoning. There have been four special permits approved for this facility since then. These are briefly summarized as follows:

 

SP-84-43 was approved on August 14, 1984, permitting the housing of one teacher and three students in a dwelling on Parcel 112 (yellow house on the concept plan - Attachment A). It was approved with no conditions. The staff report mentioned inadequate sight distance "toward Route 22 is inadequate for either a private or a commercial entrance due to a short, sharp hill in the road" and recommend denial.

 

SP-86-54 was approved on August 20, 1986, permitting a mobile home classroom on Parcel 110 until May 1, 1988. The staff report noted that the license limits the school to 27 students. The report mentioned that the sight distance is inadequate for a commercial entrance; however, access through the fire department property would provide adequate sight distance.

 

SP-1990-30 was approved on June 6, 1990, permitting construction of a new recreational building on TMP 80-110A.  The following conditions were approved with this application:

1.  Virginia Department of Transportation issuance of a commercial entrance permit (SP 90-31 only);

2.  Staff approval of a sketch plan for a new building;

3.  Virginia Department of Health approval;

4.  No increase in enrollment; and

5.  Parcels to be combined prior to the issuance of a building permit for the recreational building or the commencement of activity in the existing Fire Company building.

 

SP-90-31 was also approved on June 6, 1990. This permitted the expansion of the school into the existing fire department community building on Parcel 110-A. The following conditions were approved with this application: 

1.  Virginia Department of Transportation issuance of a commercial entrance permit in the event of increased enrollment or paving of Rt. 731;

2.  Virginia Department of Health approval;

3.  No increase in enrollment; and

4.  Parcel to be combined with the existing parcel (Parcel 110) prior to the commencement of activity in the existing Fire Company Building. 

 

The Board granted one six-month and two eighteen-month extensions for SP 90-31.    

 

On February 5, 1992, the Board of Supervisors approved relief from #4 (SP 90-31) with a substitute condition: "Use is for expansion of the Little Keswick School. (#4 required the combining of parcels)

 

SUB-90-144 was approved on August 7 1990 combining Parcels 110, 110A(1) and 111.

 

SDP-90-73 was tentatively approved on September 4, 1990. The plan showed the new gym and recreation facility.

 

STAFF COMMENT:

 

The Little Keswick School proposes to construct a 45' by 95' dormitory to replace the dorm currently used by students.  The existing dorm is "grandfathered" in by the state, but it does not meet all current state requirements, according to a phone conversation with Gloria Dalton, of the Department of Education.  The existing dorm is also located close to the CSX Railroad, causing concerns regarding safety and noise according to the applicant.  The existing dorm would be converted to office, storage recreational type uses after the new dorm was occupied. 

 

The proposed site for the dorm would be at a lower elevation than the adjacent property not owned by the school, thereby, reducing its visibility.  The owner of the neighboring property also allows the school to use the area of his property closest to the school as a pasture for the school's horses, according to the applicant.

 

In existence since 1963, the school is an established part of the Keswick community.  The school maintains a low-key presence and does not intend to expand its enrollment.  The school's continuation avoids fragmentation of land for residential development. 

 

Staff will address each provision of Section 31.2.4.1 of the Zoning Ordinance.

 

31.2.4.1: 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,

The proposed dorm would be constructed into the side of a slope and at a lower elevation, making only a portion of the roof visible from an adjacent farm property.  The dorm would be set back 60' from the nearest property line, as well.   With permission from the landowner, the school uses a portion of this adjacent property to pasture their horses. The new dorm would not be visible from Keswick Road or from Louisa Road.

 

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

The character of the surrounding rural area would not be affected by the relocation of the dorm or by a change in the interior uses of the existing dorm building, as this application does not propose an increase in the current staff or enrollment and will be minimally visible in the area.

 

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

Section 18, Chapter 10 of the zoning ordinance outlines the purpose of the Rural Areas zoning: "This district (hereafter referred to as RA) is hereby created and may hereafter be established by amendment of the zoning map for the following purposes: (Amended 11-8-89)

-Preservation of agricultural and forestal lands and activities;

-Water supply protection;

-Limited service delivery to the rural areas; and

-Conservation of natural, scenic, and historic resources. (Amended 11-8-89)

Residential development not related to bona fide agricultural/forestal use shall be encouraged to locate in the urban area, communities and villages as designated in the comprehensive plan where services and utilities are available and where such development will not conflict with the

agricultural/forestal or other rural objective."

 

A private school is permitted by special use permit in the Rural Areas District.  The dorm would be sensitively located, so not to interfere with the adjacent agricultural use and the new dorm would not intensify the private school use. 

 

with uses permitted by right in the district,

The property and the adjacent properties are zoned Rural Areas.  The uses permitted by right under RA zoning directly support agriculture, forestry, and conservation of rural land.  The private school and the relocation of the dorm and change of interior uses of the existing dorm building would not negatively affect the permitted by right uses in the RA zoning district.  The private school has existed in this location for forty-three years and has become a significant part of the Keswick community.

 

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

There are no regulations in Section 5.0 of the Zoning Ordinance that apply to private schools.

 

and with the public health, safety and general welfare.

A report of accidents in the area of Route 731, Keswick Road Route 22, revealed 64 accidents from January 1, 2000, and January 31, 2006.   The report states, "It is likely that the majority of these accidents took place at or near the intersection of Route 22.  Due to the data gathering methods, it is difficult to determine the exact location of accidents."   Although there has been some concern with the school's entrance with a past applications (SP 90-30, 31), further entrance improvements have not been required by the County Engineer or VDOT, as there would not be additional traffic created by this application.  A condition of approval that limits the number of students to the existing level (31) is recommended to replace existing conditions that prevent increases in enrollment.  As the previous conditions did not include the number of students enrolled at that time, enforcement was difficult.  The condition also provides guidance that entrance improvements may be required with any future increase in enrollment or the size of the school.   The applicant has advised that they do not plan any increases in either staff or enrollment. 

 

SUMMARY:

Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this application:

1.The proposed dorm would be located in an area of the site that would cause minimal visual impact from the adjacent property. 

2.The proposed dorm would comply with current state Department of Education standards.

3.   The dorm relocation would not increase the enrollment or the number of staff. 

 

Staff has not identified any factor that is unfavorable to this application. 

 

Waiver Request:

The Zoning Ordinance allows 24 months for both construction and start of the use of a Special Use Permit (18-31.2.4.4).  As the applicant may need additional time to construct the dorm, staff recommends that the time allowed for construction and start of the use of this Special Use Permit, should it be approved, be increased to five (5) years.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION: 

 

Based on the findings contained in this staff report, staff recommends approval of Special Use Permit 2006-13 Little Keswick School Dorm with the following conditions (existing conditions that are not applicable or have been changed for this permit are shown with strikethroughs):

 

1.         Staff approval of a sketch plan for a new building.  Special Use Permit 2006-13 shall be limited to the construction of a maximum two-story 45' by 95' residential facility "New Dorm" for students enrolled in the Little Keswick School and for the conversion of the existing "Barn Dorm" to non-residential uses, such as office, recreational, storage, meeting area, or other similar uses.  The "New Dorm" shall be located and developed in general accord with the concept plan, titled, "Little Keswick School, Concept Plan"  (Attachment A.) and dated June 22, 2006 (last revision date).  However, the Zoning Administrator may approve revisions to the concept plan to allow compliance with the Zoning Ordinance. 

2.      No increase in enrollment; Maximum enrollment of students shall be limited to 31. Virginia Department of Transportation issuance of a commercial entrance permit in the event of increased enrollment or paving of Rt. 731.   Any increase in enrollment shall require an amendment to this special use permit and may require entrance improvements subject to Virginia Department of Transportation requirements. 

3.The existing dorm, labeled "Barn Dorm" on the concept plan (Attachment A) shall be subject to review by the Building Official prior to conversion of the existing use to any other use. 

4.   Virginia Department of Health approval;

5    Parcels to be combined prior to the issuance of a building permit for the recreational building or the commencement of activity in the existing      Fire Company building.

6.   Use is for expansion of the Little Keswick School.

 

Waiver Request:  Staff recommends a waiver from Section 18-31.2.4.4 to allow five years from the date of approval of this Special Use Permit to commence construction. 


 

 

ATTACHMENTS

Attachment A - "Little Keswick School, Concept Plan", dated June 22, 2006 (last revision date)

Attachment B - Letter from Gloria L. Dalton, Virginia Department of Education Children's Residential Facilities Specialist, dated July 19, 2006

Attachment C - Location Map

Attachment D - Staff reports/Action letters SP 84-43; SP 86-54; SP 90-30; SP 90-31

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