COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE STAFF REPORT SUMMARY

 

Project Name: 

SP 2004-00029 Holy Cross Episcopal Church

SDP 2006-00085 Holy Cross Episcopal Church

Staff:  Scott Clark, David Pennock

Planning Commission Public Hearing:  November 7, 2006

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing: December 6, 2006

Owners:  Protestant Episcopal Church Funds; Trustees of the c/o Roy Barksdale

Applicant:  Protestant Episcopal Church Funds; Trustees of the c/o Roy Barksdale

Acreage:  2.376 acres

Special Use Permit for:  Addition to fellowship hall of existing, non-conforming church.

TMP:  84-61

Location: Craigs Store Road, approximately 3.5 miles south of Batesville

Conditions: Yes

Existing Zoning and By-right use:  RA Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre);  

Magisterial District: Samuel Miller

Requested # of Dwelling Units:  N/A

DA                               RA   X

Proposal:  Expansion of an existing, non-conforming church to expand the existing fellowship hall by approximately 800 square feet.

Comprehensive Plan Designation:  RA - Rural Areas: preserve and protect agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources/ density (.5 unit/ acre)

Character of Property:  The parcel is a cleared site with three existing structures (a church, a fellowship hall, and an additional building used only for monthly food-bank distributions), open yards, and a cemetery.

Use of Surrounding Properties:  Residential, farm and forest.

Factors Favorable:

1.  Holy Cross Episcopal is an existing historic church, and no new use is proposed.

2.  The proposed expansion would not create an intensification of use on the site.

3.  The applicants have altered the location of their proposed addition in order to minimize visual impacts on the existing historic church building.

Factors Unfavorable:

1.  The design of the proposed addition has not been specified. The addition should be designed so that it will not adversely impact the existing historic building and its current rural setting. A condition below requiring Historic Preservation Planner approval is intended to address this issue.

2.  The existing entrance is substandard. The new entrance shown on Attachment B and use of the current entrance as proposed by the applicant will address this issue; however, conditions 4 and 5 are needed to ensure that VDOT’s requirements are met.

3.  Construction of the addition and the new entrance would create impacts on neighboring properties (including Tax Map 84 Parcel 60.) Conditions 7 through 9 are intended to reduce those impacts.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends approval of SP 2004-00029 and SDP 2006-00085, subject to conditions.

 


 

SP 2004-00029 Holy Cross Episcopal Church

 

Petition: 

PROJECT: SP 2004-029 Holy Cross Church

PROPOSED: Special use permit amendment for expansion of an existing, non-conforming church to expand the existing fellowship hall by approximately 800 square feet.

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

SECTION: 10.2.2.35 ("church building and adjunct cemetery")

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: No

LOCATION: Craigs Store Road (Route  635), approximately 3.5 miles south of Batesville

TAX MAP/PARCEL: Tax Map 84 Parcel 61

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Samuel Miller

 

Character of the Area:

The area is rural. The church property and several other small, mostly residential parcels are surrounded by a matrix of larger forest and farm parcels.

 

Specifics of the Proposal:

The applicants are proposing to build an 800-square-foot addition to the existing 736-square-foot fellowship hall on the site, to accommodate existing congregation activities that must otherwise be held outdoors. As this is an existing non-conforming church, the addition triggers the requirement for a special use permit.

 

Planning and Zoning History:

The church was built in about 1905 and has been continuously operating since before zoning was established in the County. Therefore, it is an existing nonconforming use and any expansion requires a special use permit.

 

Conformity with the Comprehensive Plan:

The Comprehensive Plan designates the proposed church site as Rural Areas, emphasizing the preservation and protection of agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources.  Churches are allowed in the Rural Area zoning district by Special Use Permit.   

  

This proposal supports the following Guiding Principles from the Rural Areas chapter of the Comprehensive Plan:

 

“Address the needs of existing rural residents without fostering growth and further suburbanization of the Rural Areas.”

 

The proposed addition is intended to serve the existing congregation without increasing the area of assembly or the level of use on the site. Part of the County’s vision for the Rural Areas includes the support of local communities through community meeting places, at rural scales, that provide the opportunity to take part in community life. 

 

“Protect the Rural Areas’ historic, archeological, and cultural resources.”

 

Supporting continued use of this site with additional space to accommodate the existing congregation will help to ensure that the historic church will continue its long-standing pattern of use and will be maintained.  

 

The Historic Preservation Plan contains an objective to “[p]ursue additional protection measures and incentives to preserve Albemarle’s historic and archaeological resources in order to foster pride in the County and maintain the

County’s character.” In this case, the special use permit process provides an opportunity to meet the church’s needs for additional space while protecting the historic character of the church building.

 

 

STAFF COMMENT:

 

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 applicants have stated that this addition would not be used to accommodate more people or additional events. The addition will allow the church to accommodate events and after-church activities that have been held outdoors in the past due to lack of space.

 

On October 23, 2006, staff received a letter from the owners of Tax Map 84 Parcel 60, which is adjacent to the church parcel to the west (Attachment D). The letter requests buffer plantings, a prohibition on new lighting, and control of drainage. As listed later, condition 7 would require a vegetative buffer as recommended by the Design Planner. Condition 8 would require full-cutoff fixtures for any new lighting, rather than prohibiting new lighting, to provide the church with options for safely lighting the site without impacting neighboring properties.

 

In order to address the drainage problem—increased runoff from the new driveway into a ditch that already carries more runoff than downstream culverts can accomodate—staff recommends condition 9, which would allow the applicants to design stormwater-management facilities to reduce runoff from their site during the final review of their site plan. (The analysis for SDP 2006-00085 that follows already recommends conditions of approval; condition 9 could be addressed at the same time as the site-plan waiver conditions.)

 

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

The scale of this use will not change.  Small churches are a longstanding feature of the rural landscape.

 

The church on the site dates from circa 1905. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources has no survey data for the site, but the church building would be eligible for listing on the Virginia Landmarks Registry and/or the National Register of Historic Places due to its age. Holy Cross church (“bld. 1” on Attachment B) is a simple gabled structure with pointed arch windows, a pyramidal belfry, and a small gabled entry porch. A later fellowship hall (“bld. 2”) stands to the west of the church. (See Attachment F for photographs.) “Bld. 3” is an additional structure used only for monthly food-bank distributions.

 

The original conceptual plan showed the addition in the front of the existing fellowship hall. The Historic Preservation Planner was concerned about impacts on the historic church in this location, which also would have necessitated the removal of a mature maple. The applicants have moved the proposed addition (see “bld. 4”) on Attachment B) to the side of the existing hall, which reduces the impacts to the church and saves the tree. However, the applicants have not submitted elevations of the new addition design. In order to ensure that the addition does not detract from the character of the historic church, staff is recommending condition 6 as listed later, which would require Historic Preservation Planner approval of the design before a building permit is issued.

 

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)”

 

Holy Cross Episcopal Church has been active on the site for over 100 years. Allowing this expansion helps the church continue its relationship, and directly supports the conservation of historic and cultural resources in this part of the County.

                                                                                                                                

with uses permitted by right in the district,

This property and the adjacent properties are zoned RA, Rural Areas.  The uses permitted by right under RA Zoning directly support agriculture, forestry, and the conservation of rural land.  Part of the County’s vision for the RA districts includes the support of agricultural and forestal communities through community meeting places, at rural scales, that provide the opportunity to take part in community life.  The expansion of the fellowship hall will allow Pleasant Grove Baptist Church to continue to support local community life at a rural scale.

 

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

There are no supplemental regulations in Section 5.0 that apply to this use.

 

and with the public health, safety and general welfare.

 

The entrance to the church is on Route 635, Craigs Store Road. The latest traffic count available for this road was done in 2000. The one-day count totaled 830 vehicles. The following table shows the available information from VDOT on crashes on this section of road (Route 635, from the intersection with 691 south to the Nelson County boundary):

 

Collisions, 1/1/2000 through 6/30/06

Collision Type

Number of Collisions

Angle

1

Sideswipe Same Direction

2

Fixed Object Off Road

5

Deer

3

 

Of these accidents, 2 involved injuries (2 people were injured), and none led to fatalities. The applicant’s representative has stated that no accidents have happened at the church entrance.

 

VDOT considers the existing entrance for the site to be substandard, due to insufficient sight distance (300 feet, versus the required 390 feet) and the need to upgrade to a “minimum standard commercial entrance.” The sight-distance problem is caused by vertical curvature (a hill obstructs the view of the road for drivers approaching from the northeast—see photograph in Attachment F). This means that improvement to the existing entrance will not improve the sight distance, and VDOT recommended that the entrance be moved farther from the hill.

 

The conceptual plan (Attachment B) shows a new entrance. The design of this entrance, which is curving and very steep, is driven by the topography of the property. At the point where a new entrance is located to provide sufficient sight distance, Craigs Store Road has dropped well below the level of the church’s yard, and the entrance must be cut through a tall bank (see photograph in Attachment F). Then, in order reach the higher grade while avoiding the site’s septic system, the entrance must be short, steep (approximately 15%), and curving. Although VDOT typically would not permit an entrance with grades above 10%, they acknowledge that no other location is possible. VDOT will require that the entrance meet their “CG-11 standard for algebraic differences and vertical curves” (see Attachment C). Recommended condition 4 as listed later would require VDOT approval of the entrance.

 

While the applicants have shown this new entrance on the plan, they have also included a note requesting that they not be required to build it due to “prohibitive expense.” If the plan is approved with the entrance as shown, this note should be removed to avoid later confusion. Recommended condition 4 as listed later addresses removal of this note.

 

The applicants have also requested to keep the existing entrance as a right-out-only exit should a new entrance be required. VDOT can support this request provided that appropriate directional signage is installed. Condition 5 would require VDOT approval of signage.

 

The parking areas shown on the conceptual plan (Attachment B) are delineated on the plan only for the purposes of verifying sufficient parking space to meet ordinance requirements, and showing where parking occurs now. Parking would also continue on the site in the manner typical for small rural churches—not in delineated spaces, but on pavement where provided, and in grass or gravel adjacent to driveways.

 

 

SUMMARY:

Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this application:

1.       Holy Cross Episcopal is an existing historic church, and no new use is proposed.

2.       The proposed expansion would not create an intensification of use on the site.

3.       The applicants have altered the location of their proposed addition in order to minimize visual impacts on the existing historic church building.

 

Staff has identified the following factors unfavorable to this application:

1.       The design of the proposed addition has not been specified. The addition should be designed so that it will not adversely impact the existing historic building and its current rural setting. The condition below requiring Historic Preservation Planner approval is intended to address this issue.

2.       The existing entrance is substandard. The new entrance shown on Attachment B and use of the current entrance as proposed by the applicant will address this issue; however, conditions 4 and 5 below are needed to ensure that VDOT’s requirements are met.

3.       Construction of the addition and the new entrance would create impacts on neighboring properties (including Tax Map 84 Parcel 60.) Conditions 7 through 9 below are intended to reduce those impacts.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION: 

Based on the findings contained in this staff report, staff recommends approval of Special Use Permit 2004-00029 Holy Cross Episcopal Church under the following conditions:

 

1.       The church’s improvements and the scale and location of the improvements shall be developed in general accord with the conceptual plan entitled “Application Plan SP 2004-29” ,” prepared by Lum’s Land Surveys, Inc., and dated 10/25/06.

2.       There shall be no day care center or private school on site without approval of a separate special use permit;

3.       Construction of the proposed addition shall commence within 5 years of the date of approval of this special use permit or the permit shall expire.

4.       The proposed new entrance must be approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation. The note requesting approval of continued use of the existing entrance shall be removed from the conceptual plan.

5.       The existing entrance may be used as a right-turn-out-only exit, provided that directional signage is provided to VDOT’s satisfaction.

6.       The design of the addition is subject to review and approval by the Historic Preservation Planner. This review shall occur with the building permit application. The Historic Preservation may require roof pitches, exterior materials, and window designs similar to those of the existing church, as well as minor changes to the footprint of the addition, as compared to the footprint illustrated on the concept plan, for the purposes of protecting the historic character of the existing church and/or providing sufficient visual compatibility with the existing church.

7.       The applicants shall provide a vegetative buffer consisting of a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees, including some fast growing species, along the west property line to provide year-round screening. The buffer shall extend from the edge of pavement of Route 635 southward 130’. The buffer shall have a minimum width of 20’ except that the planting width may be reduced as necessary at the entrance to the site from Route 635 to accommodate sight distance. The vegetative buffer shall be planted prior to issuing a Certificate of Occupancy for the addition. The vegetative buffer shall be shown on a site plan and is subject to approval by the Landscape Planner.

8.       Any new outdoor building and site lighting shall be provided by full cutoff fixtures. The note regarding the current lighting provisions shall be removed from the conceptual plan.

9.       The applicants shall provide stormwater management facilities to reduce the impact of site drainage on properties downhill along Route 635 to the satisfaction of the County Engineer. The facilities shall be shown on a site plan.

 

SDP 2006-00085 Holy Cross Episcopal Church

 

In conjunction with the Special Permit request, the applicant has also submitted an application for site plan waiver approval.  These requests are reviewed in accord with Chapter 18, Section 32.2.2 of the County Code which states:

 

“32.2.2  The foregoing notwithstanding, after notice in accordance with Section 32.4.2.5, the commission may waive the drawing of a site plan in particular case upon a finding that the requirement of such plan would not forward the purposes of this chapter or otherwise serve the public interest; provided that no such waiver shall be made until the commission has considered the recommendation of the agent.  The agent may recommend approval, approval with conditions, or denial of such waiver.  In the case of conditional approval, the agent in his recommendation shall state the relationship of the recommended condition to the provisions of this section.  No condition shall be imposed which could not be imposed through the application of the regulations of Section 32.0.”

 

The site review committee has reviewed this request and is able to support the waiver with the conditions listed below. Condition 2 requires a lighting plan. However, under the Zoning Ordinance the applicants would not be required to submit a lighting plan for any lighting fixtures that emit less than 3000 lumens or that are exempted under section 4.17.6.

 

1.       In accordance with Section 32.7.2.7, field run topography is to be provided for the entrance in order to verify grades.  If necessary, an alternative alignment to lengthen the entrance drive is to be provided in order to lessen the grade.

2.       In accordance with Section 32.6.6.j., outdoor lighting information including a photometric plan and location, description, and photograph or diagram of each type of outdoor luminaire shall be submitted for any proposed lighting on the site.

 

 

 

ATTACHMENTS

Attachment A – Area Map

Attachment B – Holy Cross Church concept plan

Attachment C – VDOT CG-11 Standard

Attachment D – Letter from Marla Muntner and Laurie Collins, dated October 14, 2006

Attachment E – SP 2004-00029 Application

Attachment F – Site photographs

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