COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

PLANNING STAFF REPORT SUMMARY

 

Project Name:  SP2006-15 Monticello Memorial Gardens 

Staff: Amy Ransom Arnold

Planning Commission Public Hearing:

August 8, 2006

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing:

September 6, 2006

Owners: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation 

Applicant: S.E. Cemeteries of Virginia, Inc.

Acreage: Monticello Memorial Gardens is currently 26.54 acres; this proposal includes the addition of parcels expanding the cemetery to a total of approx. 60.5 acres

Special Use Permit: The expansion of an existing cemetery.  Section 10.2.2.(32) and 32.2.4.1 of the zoning ordinance applies to this proposal. 

TMP: TM 77, Parcels 37, 34, 38C, 37A, 36, 36A, 36B, 35, 32A (portion), 32B, and 33

Location: Jefferson Lake Drive off Thomas Jefferson Memorial Parkway (Route 53)

Existing Zoning and By-right use: Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery; residential; game preserves; wayside stands; electric, gas, oil, and communication facilities; accessory uses including home occupation class A, temporary construction uses; public uses, etc.; Entrance Corridor Overlay District (Virginia Route 53 and Interstate 64)  

Magisterial District: Scottsville Magisterial District

Conditions: Yes

Proposal:  S.E. Cemeteries of Virginia, Inc. is proposing the expansion of the existing operating cemetery with an additional road network, the construction of a maintenance shed and the demolition of four existing cottages.  (Attachment A.)

Requested # of Dwelling Units:  NA                           

 

DA (Development Area):

RA (Rural Area):  X

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

Character of Property: The parcels subject to the Special Use Permit include open lawn and meadows, small scale residences, and mixed species deciduous forest.  

Use of Surrounding Properties: The Monticello Historic District lies immediately to the east of the parcels, with a large wooded area to the west.  On the south side of Route 53 is Historic Michie Tavern.  Interstate 64 is adjacent to the northern property boundary. 

Factor Favorable:

1.   If constructed as recommended by staff, this use will result in less impact on the existing land form, forest, water quality, and local character than many by-right uses.

Factor Unfavorable:

1.    With the recommended entrance closure, the neighboring parcel 77-32 will loose access to Route 53.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends approval with conditions.

STAFF PERSON: Amy Ransom Arnold                      

PLANNING COMMISSION: August 8, 2006                                    

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: September 6, 2006

 

SP 2006-15 Monticello Memorial Gardens Expansion

 

Petition: 

PROJECT: SP 2006-15 Monticello Memorial Gardens

PROPOSED: Expansion of existing, operating cemetery: additional road network; demolish four existing cottages

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: RA -- Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre); Entrance Corridor Overlay District

SECTION: 31.2.4.1; 10.2.2 (32)

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY:  Rural Areas - preserve and protect agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources/ density (.5 unit/ acre)

ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: Yes__X__No____

LOCATION: Jefferson Lake Drive off Thomas Jefferson Memorial Parkway (Route 53)

TAX MAP/PARCEL: TM 77, Parcels 37, 34, 38C, 37A, 36, 36A, 36B, 35, 32A (portion), 32B, and 33

 

Character of the Area:

The entrance to Monticello Memorial Gardens is located on Thomas Jefferson Memorial Parkway opposite historic Michie Tavern.  The site is adjacent to the Monticello Historic District and historic Michie Tavern.  The area is dominated by mature stands of deciduous woodland, open areas and a few scattered residences.  The adjacent Thomas Jefferson Memorial Parkway is narrow, heavily wooded, and gently winding through the area on the way up to Monticello Mountain. 

 

Planning and Zoning History:

Monticello Memorial Park was established as a cemetery prior to the late 1930’s, becoming Monticello Memorial Gardens in March of 1979 with a change in ownership.  The cemetery was established with 26.54 acres and has remained this size since that time.     

 

STAFF COMMENT:

S.E. Cemeteries of Virginia, Inc. is proposing the expansion of the existing operating cemetery with an additional road network, the construction of a maintenance shed and the demolition of four existing cottages. (Attachment A.) S.E. Cemeteries is proposing phasing the expansion, increasing the footprint of the cemetery slowly over time.  Currently the cemetery averages 15 internments a month with a maximum increase not likely to exceed 30 internments a month by 2016. 

 

The current operating hours of the cemetery are 8:30 to 5:30 Monday through Friday and 8:30 to 12:00 pm Saturday and Sunday.  S.E. Cemeteries is proposing an extension of their weekday hours to seven days a week. 

 

Currently there are 7 employees on site:

·         3 maintenance staff

·         2 sales persons

·         1 administrator

·         1 manager

S.E. Cemeteries is proposing an increase of 4 additional employees; 2 additional maintenance staff and 2 additional sales persons. 

 

 

Staff will address each provision of Section 31.2.4.1 of the Zoning Ordinance as follows:

 

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,

Monticello and S.E. Cemeteries of Virginia, Inc. have worked together and with neighbors to minimize the impact of the proposed expansion.  Staff has raised the concern that should the adjacent parcels in the future include residences, cemetery activities may be disruptive to those neighboring properties.  Considering internments as structures, staff recommends a setback for internment areas of 25 feet (typical RA set back for side boundaries) from all external parcel boundaries.   

 

The County Engineer recommends the closing of the Jefferson Lake Drive exit onto Route 53 to reduce the “points of conflict” along this sharp curve in Route 53 (discussed further under health, safety, and general welfare).   Jefferson Lake Drive and portions of the existing internal roads in the cemetery provide the only means of access to Tax Parcels 77-32 and 77-38.  Staff recommends that the existing driveways be modified to provide alternative access to Route 53 for these two parcels during site plan review. 

 

The applicant has expressed concern about the impact to neighboring parcel 77-32 of eliminating the entrance of Jefferson Lake Drive onto Route 53.  The applicant has requested an alternative, closing cemetery access to this entrance by removing the connecting paving, leaving the resident of parcel 77-32 as the sole user of this access to Route 53.  However staff remains concerned for the safety of the neighbor due to the lack of sight distance on this curve in Route 53 and supports the County Engineers recommendation to close the entrance at Jefferson Lake Drive and Route 53.    

 

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

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation has established a zone adjacent to Route 53 (Thomas Jefferson Memorial Parkway) where mausoleums will not be allowed to be constructed.  It is staff’s understanding that this zone was located based on maintaining the character of views from Route 53 and Monticello Mountain.      

 

At its meeting on July 17, 2006, it was the consensus of the ARB to forward the following recommendation to the Planning Commission: A 50' wooded buffer should be maintained along the I-64 Entrance Corridor side of the site.

 

The retention of the character of the area is dependent on sensitively locating the roads, building, and internment areas. Disturbance of critical slopes would impact not only the existing land form, but the total amount of woodland on the site.  In order to retain the inherent character, critical slopes must not be disturbed and tree removal should be kept at a minimum.  The County Engineer has recommended two preservation areas on the site to retain a sense of local character.  These preservation areas include not only large areas of critical slopes, but large stands of trees.  (Attachment A.2)

 

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 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)”

 

Provisions to limit the disturbance of critical slopes have been provided in the Code (Section 4.2 Critical Slopes) to protect and conserve steep hillsides together with public drinking water supplies and flood plain areas and in recognition of increased potential for soil erosion, sedimentation, water pollution and septic disposal problems associated with the development of these areas.

 

The County Engineer has provided the following comments:

“The proposed internal accessways have been aligned to avoid or minimize impacts to “critical slope” areas, with the exception of two locations.  One location is the “loop” at the northern property limits.  Attachment A.1 shows how the roads could be reconfigured to avoid impacts to the “critical slopes”.  The second location is along the “loop” near the south-east corner of the property.  Attachment A.2 shows how the road could be realigned to avoid the “critical slopes.  Within the project area there are two significant swaths of “critical slopes” that deserve specific attention.  The first is a 1400 foot long stretch of “critical slopes” that are bordered on the west by the Monticello Memory Gardens perimeter road and on the east by Jefferson Lake Drive and the pond.  The slopes in this area range from 28 to 50 percent.  The second is 450 foot long area in the southern portion of the property and adjacent to Tax Parcel 77-32.  The slopes in this area average 35 percent.  Both of these areas have been highlighted in Attachment 2.  To provide assurance that these “critical slope” areas will not be used for interment areas, I recommend they be designated as ‘preservation’ areas.”

 

Staff has further defined these preservation areas as areas where critical slopes and all indigenous trees over 12” in caliper should be retained.    

       

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 the conservation of rural land.  If the proposed expansions to the cemetery are constructed in a manner that is sensitive to the existing land form and stands of trees, this use will result in less impact on this rural land than many by-right uses.

 

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

There are no regulations in Section 5.0 of the Ordinance that apply to cemeteries. 

 

and with the public health, safety and general welfare.

The current rate of internment is 15 per month: While the applicant does not expect this to increase in the near future they could increase to not more than 30 per month by the year 2016.  The Virginia Department of Transportation has not expressed concern regarding the traffic levels this use would generate.  The concerns VDOT has expressed have focused on the location of the main entrance to the cemetery related to the near-by curve in Route 53 and the entrance to Michie Tavern.  The County Engineer has expressed similar concerns and has provided the following comments:

 

“The concept plan shows that the expansion area will be accessed by the existing entrance on Route 53 serving Monticello Memorial Gardens (TMP 77-33).  Sight distance is limited at this entrance due to the topography, the sharp curve on Route 53, and the shrubs screening the Michie Tavern parking area.  VDOT concurs that sight distance is limited (225’ to 230’) and notes that the only way to achieve the required 280’ of sight distance would be to relocate the entrance across from the Michie Tavern entrance.  Unfortunately, as you move westward from the cemetery entrance the ground slopes downward from the roadway at an increasingly steeper grade.  Directly across from the Michie Tavern the slope is approximately 33 percent (see Attachment A.2).  Construction of a new entrance at this location is impractical. 

 

Relocation of the entrance to any other point along this sharp curve provides little or no improvement in the sight distance, however; improvements to facilitate the ingress/egress of vehicles are possible. The existing cemetery entrance slopes downward from the roadway and opposes the superelevated cross section of the road through the sharp curve.  This condition makes vehicle transitions, from the superelevated curve into the entrance, a slow and awkward movement (see Attachment A.3, pg. 1).  More effective ingress/egress of vehicles could be facilitated by regrading the entrance to provide a relatively flat “landing” adjacent to Route 53 (see Attachment A.3, pg. 2).  Therefore, I recommend these entrance improvements be included as a condition of this special use permit.

 

Approximately 200 feet east of the cemetery entrance is the entrance for Jefferson Lake Drive that serves Tax Parcel 77-32 and the parcels in the area of the proposed cemetery expansion.  The Concept Plan shows that Jefferson Lake Drive will be gated such that only Tax Parcel 77-32 will have regular use of the existing entrance (see Attachment A.2).  Closing this entrance and requiring this parcel to use the internal roadway would reduce the “points of conflict” along this sharp curve.  It’s worth noting that Michie Tavern was required to remove an existing entrance at this curve for the same reason.  The County Engineer recommends the closure of the existing Jefferson Lake Drive entrance be included as a condition of this Special Use Permit. 

 

The Code does not provide design standards for accessways within cemeteries.  The applicant has stated on the Concept Plan that all new roads will be asphalt paved to 18 feet wide.  Based on a site visit by Staff, the paved width of the internal accessways within the current Monticello Memory Gardens site range from 10 to 18 feet depending on whether the road provides primary access (2-way), minor access (2-way), or minor access (1-way).  Comfortable driving speeds along the accessways were 20 mph for the primary access and 10 mph (parking lot standard) for minor access.  The road grades generally ranged from 5 to 12 percent with the maximum grade being 16 percent.” 

 

For the purposes of this analysis, staff has considered internments structures.  In section 18-4.2.3 Location of Structures and Improvements the Code indicates that “no structure or improvement nor earth disturbing activity to establish such structure or improvement shall be located on slopes of twenty-five (25) percent or greater except as otherwise permitted under section 4.3.01.”  Section 4.3.01 refers to fill and waste areas.

 

SUMMARY:

 

Staff has identified the following factor favorable to this application:

1.        If constructed as recommended by staff, this use will result in less impact on the existing land form, forest, water quality, and local character than many by-right uses.

 

Staff has identified the following factor unfavorable to this application:

1.        With the recommended entrance closure, the neighboring parcel 77-32 will loose direct access to Route 53.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION: 

Based on the findings contained in this staff report, staff recommends approval of Special Use Permit 2006-15 Monticello Memorial Gardens Expansion with the following conditions:

 

1.       Special Use Permit 2006-15 shall be developed in general accord with the concept plan revised July 12, 2006, prepared by Thomas B. Lincoln Land Surveyor, Inc. and titled “Monticello Memorial Gardens Expansion Concept Plan” (Attachment A.) in conjunction with Attachments A.1, A.2, and A.3. 

2.       The operating hours of the cemetery shall be limited to 8:30 am to 5:30 pm seven days a week.

3.       Employees shall be limited to eleven (11).  

4.       A minimum of 11 parking spaces shall be provided for employees.

5.       A 50' wooded buffer shall be maintained on the property along the full length of I64 that abuts the property.  The 50’ buffer shall consist of existing wooded areas, which shall remain without disturbance, and currently unwooded areas that shall be planted with a mix of evergreen screening trees, staggered at 15’ on center, minimum 6’ in height at planting. 

6.       There shall be no disturbance of critical slopes 

7.       All indigenous trees 12” caliper and above shall remain only within the areas of critical slopes defined by the shaded (cross hatched) areas in Attachment 2.  Tree protection, as defined by the Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook, shall be in place before any disturbance of the site adjacent to an area of critical slopes. 

8.       All exterior parcel boundaries shall include a 25’ setback for internment areas.       

9.       The entrance improvements shall be included as described in Attachment 3, pages 1. and 2. with the first phase of  construction. 

10.   The Jefferson Lake Drive entrance onto Route 53 shall be closed with the first phase of construction with alternative access to Route 53 provided for parcels 77-32 and 77-38.     

11.   All internal accessways shall be designed according to the minimum standards listed below:  

Primary Accessway                                       Minor Accessway

Pavement Width:         18 ft.                                                             14 ft. (2-way),ft. (1-way)

Shoulder Width:           4 ft.                                                                4 ft.

Grade:                         less than 12% preferred, 16% max.              less than 12% preferred, 16% max.

Design Speed:              20 mph                                                          10 mph

Centerline Radius:        120 ft.                                                          50 ft. or more (usually dictated by sight

                                                                                                         distance)

Sight Distance:       Stopping: 125 ft.  Intersection: 200 ft.           Stopping: 85 ft.  Intersection: 100 ft.

12.   County approval of a plat consolidating all parcels into one when the use begins.

 

ATTACHMENTS

Attachment A. - Concept Plan revised July 12, 2006, prepared by Thomas B. Lincoln Land Surveyor, Inc. and titled “Monticello Memorial Gardens Expansion Concept Plan” (Attachment A.) in conjunction with Attachments A.1, A.2, and A.3. 

Attachment B. – Site Photographs

Attachment C. - Vicinity aerial

Attachment D. – Location of parcels 32 and 38; proposed entrance removal/road changes

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