COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE STAFF REPORT SUMMARY

 

Project Name: 

SP 2006-020 First Christian Church

Staff:  Scott Clark

Planning Commission Public Hearing:  November 28, 2006

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing: January 10, 2007

OwnersThomas, Robert P Revocable T/A; et al

Applicant:  First Christian Church

Acreage:  15.12 acres

Special Use Permit for:  Construction of a church building and parking area

TMP:  79-24A

Location: Northeast corner of intersection of Richmond Road (US 250) and Keswick Road (Route 731)

Conditions: Yes

Existing Zoning and By-right use:  RA Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre);  EC Entrance Corridor – overlay to protect properties of historic, architectural or cultural significance from visual impacts of development along routes of tourist access;

Magisterial District: Scottsville

Requested # of Dwelling Units:  N/A

DA                               RA   X

Proposal:  Construct a new church

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:  Wooded

Use of Surrounding Properties:  Mixture of small and large residential parcels, some wooded land, and one adjacent church

Factors Favorable:

1. VDOT and the County Engineer are satisfied that the entrance design is adequate to accommodate the traffic generated by the proposal.

2.A church on this parcel would provide a community meeting place, and opportunities for residents to take part in local community life.

Factors Unfavorable:

1.       Construction of the church would require clearing of parts of this wooded site. Recommended conditions are intended to reduce the visual and environmental impacts of this clearing by controlling its extent and location.

RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends approval, subject to conditions.

 


 

 

Petition: 

PROPOSED: New church on 15-acre parcel with seating for 306 persons, rooms for youth/community events, church office, and outdoor pavilions for church activities.

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: RA -- Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre); EC Entrance Corridor - Overlay to protect properties of historic, architectural or cultural significance from visual impacts of development along routes of tourist access

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: Yes

LOCATION: Northeast corner of Richmond Road (US 250) and Keswick Road (Route 731).

TAX MAP/PARCEL: 79-24A

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Scottsville

 

Character of the Area:

The surroundings are a mix of open and wooded land crossed by two major highway corridors—US 250 and Interstate 64. Most of the surrounding parcels, including the Village of Rivanna to the southeast, are residential properties. Union Run Baptist Church (a mid-20th-century building, possibly modified in the 1970s) is located directly across Keswick Road to the northwest. The subject property is currently wooded, with deciduous trees and some evergreens. (See Attachments A and B.)

 

Specifics of the Proposal:

The applicants are proposing to build a new church building of approximately 15,750 square feet to accommodate seating for 306 persons. (The original proposal was for 400 seats and eventual expansion to 650; the applicants have reduced their request after discussions with staff regarding the scale of rural projects.) The building would also have rooms for youth/community events, a church office, and outdoor pavilions for church activities. See Attachment C for the proposed conceptual plan.

 

Planning and Zoning History:

No previous applications are on file for this parcel. The parcel was rezoned from “Agricultural” to “Rural Areas” in 1980.

 

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 may support 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 church is designed to serve a congregation that currently meets in downtown Charlottesville, but that draws members from rural Albemarle and surrounding counties. It would serve existing rural residents, but is of a scale that might also serve new residents.

 

“Protect the quality and supply of surface water and groundwater resources.”

“Preserve and manage the Rural Areas' natural resources in order to protect the environment and conserve resources for future use.”

“Preserve the County's rural scenic resources as being essential to the County's character, economic vitality, and quality of life.”

 

The property is currently wooded; forest cover provides the best protection for groundwater. Forest cover also protects surface-water quality and helps to maintain the scenic character of the area. Conditions of approval included here-in are designed to maintain forest cover over much of the property.

 

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 conceptual plan includes areas limiting tree removal on the property (see discussion below). These areas also form buffers along the boundaries of most adjacent properties and along the Entrance Corridor (US 250). However, the entrance and building would be visible from the adjacent residence at 3304 Keswick Road.

 

Staff is also recommending conditions that require the parking setbacks usually applied to commercial uses (20 feet from RA-zoned parcels, 10 feet from public rights of way), and that require that any outdoor lighting be designed to avoid impacts on surrounding rural properties.

 

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

The immediate surroundings are largely residential, with the exception of Union Run Baptist Church located directly across Keswick Road. The property’s current wooded state maintains the rural character of the area and of the Entrance Corridor (US 250). Staff has recommended conditions of approval that are intended to maintain, as much as possible, the forest cover on the property. Much of the property would be included in an area where grading and tree removal would not be permitted. This area includes a 75-foot setback along US 250 that would limit visibility from the Entrance Corridor.

 

This property is also located in the Entrance Corridor (EC) overlay zoning district. The proposal has been reviewed by the Architectural Review Board (ARB)--see the action letter in Attachment E. The ARB had no objection to the request for the Special Use Permit if the following issues are adequately addressed:

 

1)      Clarify the location of the existing and proposed tree lines on the concept plan.

 

This has been clarified by the applicants. Grading and tree removal will not occur in the area on the concept plan marked “area not to be disturbed.”

 

2)      Add a note to the concept plan stating that no grading or tree removal is to take place within the proposed protected tree line or within the 75 foot setback adjacent to the Route 250 East Entrance Corridor, with the exception of the septic area in the location indicated on the plan.

 

This note has been included. The reference to the septic area has been removed. When the ARB reviewed the plan, a septic field was shown in the middle of the “area not to be disturbed.” After discussions with staff, the applicants agreed to remove that area from the plan in order to avoid conflicts between the no-disturbance area and any future construction or maintenance activities related to the septic fields or the lines connecting them to the church.

 

In order to accommodate the septic field outside the no-disturbance area without getting too close to the existing wellhead, the applicants reduced the no-disturbance area to the west of the proposed church building. ARB staff and Rural Areas planning staff have discussed this change and do not anticipate significantly greater impacts as a result of the change. (See Attachment D.) Visibility of the west face of the church would still be limited by the hill along US 250 and the forested 75-foot buffer. However, the greater tree removal just west of the church could result in somewhat greater visibility of the church. Consequently, the ARB may have more comments about the exterior design of the church building during the future review of a site plan. The applicant points out that they do not necessarily intend to remove all trees outside the no-disturbance area, and that a significant number of the existing trees may remain outside that 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 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)”

 

The conceptual plan for this proposal includes buffers and vegetation-protection areas that are intended to reduce its impacts on natural and scenic resources. Tree protection on the site will also help to protect groundwater.

 

with uses permitted by right in the district,

The property and the surrounding 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. Although the proposed church is larger than the typical small historic church in the Rural Areas, it is comparable to other Rural Area churches approved in the County, which have included several designed for 250 to 300 attendees.

 

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 church buildings.

 

and with the public health, safety and general welfare.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has indicated that the taper and turn lane from Keswick Road to the vehicular entrance to the property provided on the concept plan is adequate for the church and traffic generated.  A permit for a commercial entrance will have to be obtained from VDOT at the time of construction; at that time more detail may be necessary in terms of topography, the length of taper, and sight distance requirements.  The entrance will have to meet the standards as shown in Minimum Standards for Entrances to State Highways.

 

This area is known to have soils with poor septic-field capacities. However, the Virginia Department of Health has stated that the information submitted for this application “appear[s] to support favorable conditions for the church and an onsite sewage disposal system.” Staff has recommended a condition requiring Health Department approval of the well and the septic system on the site.

 

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.).  The applicant has requested 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.  Staff supports the applicant’s request.

 

 

SUMMARY:

Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this application:

1. VDOT and the County Engineer are satisfied that the entrance design is adequate to accommodate the traffic generated by the proposal.

2. A church on this parcel would provide a community meeting place and opportunities for residents to take part in local community life.

 

Staff has identified the following factors unfavorable to this application:

1. Construction of the church would require clearing of parts of this wooded site. Recommended conditions are intended to reduce the visual and environmental impacts of this clearing by controlling its extent and location.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION: 

Based on the findings contained in this staff report, staff recommends approval of Special Use Permit 2006-20 First Christian 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 “First Christian Church,” prepared by McKee Carson, and dated 11-14-2006.

2)      The area of assembly shall be limited to a maximum 306-seat sanctuary.

3)      No grading or tree removal shall take place within the area marked "area not to be disturbed" on the conceptual plan or within the 75-foot setback adjacent to Route 250 East.

4)      No erosion and sedimentation control plan nor building permit shall be approved for the area marked "area not to be disturbed" without prior approval of a tree conservation plan complying with section 32.7.9.4 of the Zoning Ordinance.

5)      All parking setbacks and undisturbed buffers required by Zoning Ordinance section 21.7, Minimum Yard Requirements, shall apply if this use is developed.

6)      All outdoor lighting shall be arranged or shielded to reflect light away from the abutting properties.

7)      The existing prescriptive right-of-way along this parcel’s Keswick Road (Rte. 731) frontage shall be replaced with a public right-of-way at least 25 ft wide and dedicated to public use.

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

9)      If the use, structure, or activity for which this special use permit is issued is not commenced within sixty (60) months after the permit is issued, the permit shall be deemed abandoned and the authority granted thereunder shall thereupon terminate.

 

 

ATTACHMENTS

Attachment A – Area Map

Attachment B – Aerial view of site

Attachment C – First Christian Church conceptual plan

Attachment D – Comparison of boundaries of no-disturb area

Attachment E – ARB Action Letter

Attachment F – SP2006-00020 Application

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