Albemarle County Planning Commission

December 12, 2006

 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and a public hearing on Tuesday, December 12, 2006, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Members attending were Eric Strucko, Calvin Morris, Vice-Chairman; Jon Cannon, Marcia Joseph, Chairman; Bill Edgerton; Duane Zobrist and Pete Craddock.  Julia Monteith, Senior Land Use Planner for the University of Virginia, representative for David J. Neuman, FAIA, Architect for University of Virginia was present.  (She left the meeting at 8:16 p.m.)

 

Other officials present were Wayne Cilimberg, Planning Director; Gerald Gatobu, Senior Planner; David E. Pennock, Principal Planner; Judy Wiegand, Senior Planner; Scott Clark, Senior Planner; Sean Dougherty, Senior Planner; Elaine Echols, Senior Planner; Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development; Amelia McCulley, Director of Zoning & Current Development/Zoning Administrator; Glenn Brooks, Senior Engineer; Jack Kelsey, Transportation Planner and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney.

 

Call to Order and Establish Quorum:

 

Ms. Joseph called the regular meeting to order at 6:06 p.m. and established a quorum.

 

            Regular Items

 

SDP 2006-071 Gillispie - Preliminary - Critical Slopes waiver/ curb and gutter request:  Request for Preliminary Site Plan to allow the construction of two (2) residential condominium units totaling 16,023 s.f., and 7 total dwelling units on 1.71 acres, and is zoned R4 (Residential).  The property is described as Tax Map 61K, Parcels 10-0A and 10-0A2, and is located in the Jack Jouett Magisterial District at the end of Inglewood Drive, near its intersection with Hydraulic Road (Route 631).  The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as Neighborhood Density in Urban Area 7. (Gerald Gatobu)

 

Mr. Gatobu summarized the staff report and presented a power point presentation.

 

o        Looking at the unusual size, topography, shape and location of the property or any other unusual conditions, engineering had a lot of issues with this project.  One of them is that there will potentially be drainage concerns for the adjacent property owners.  Engineering has also noted that the applicant cannot provide adequate perimeter erosion and sediment control measures; therefore, granting the critical slopes waiver could result in sufficient degradation of adjacent properties.  Granting such modification or waiver would serve a public purpose of greater import than would be served by strict application of section 4.2. There are no immediately identifiable reasons that would be considered of greater import.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if there is an engineering justification for the curb and gutter, which was to handle the run-off from the site.

 

Mr. Gatobu replied yes, and noted that an engineering staff person was present to answer those types of questions. 

 

Glenn Brooks, Senior Engineer, said that he was speaking for Allan Schuck, who was the engineer that actually reviewed the plan, but could not be present tonight. When engineering staff looks at a waiver like this they are not looking for reasons that it has to be there.  The ordinance says that it has to be there.   They are looking for reasons it cannot be there, what the alternatives are and what it should not be.  Therefore, engineering staff needs to prove why it should not be there.  It does handle drainage, but it would not on the proposed plan for the road system.  The applicant would have to put in an inlet and do some more work in able to handle the drainage.

 

Mr. Strucko asked what dictates the extent or the length of the curb and gutter from this parcel.

 

Mr. Brooks replied that basically the curb and gutter could stop at their entrance because the ordinance requires it to be on site. The parcel line would end where the hydrant is or fairly close to it.

 

Mr. Craddock asked if the intent letter had come in from the neighbor down stream.

 

Mr. Gatobu replied that it had not.

 

Mr. Brooks pointed out that the applicant had indicated in a meeting that they disagreed with staff on that.  Therefore, they were not going to get it.

 

Mr. Craddock asked if that was the same person that would have to move their car.

 

Mr. Brooks replied yes that it was the same person.  From a drainage standpoint staff is looking at this just like they look at other projects with this same type of situation.

 

Mr. Cannon said that he wanted to make sure that he understands the basics.  This is a proposed condominium construction on an existing lot, which now has one house on it. 

 

Mr. Gatobu said that actually it was two lots that are owned by one person.

 

Mr. Cannon said that it was two lots owned by one person with one dwelling on one lot and none on the other.  The lots are currently zoned R-4, which accommodates condominium construction. This is a by right use if the waivers were to be granted and consistent with the Comprehensive Plan at that density.

 

Mr. Fritz replied that was correct.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if there were any other questions for staff.  There being none, the public hearing was opened and the applicant invited to address the Commission.

 

Bill Daggett, representative for Daggett and Grigg Architects and a citizen of Albemarle County, said that he was representing the request for Clark Gathright, who was the author of this plan, because he had knee surgery and could not be here. 

 

·        The project area is not within a drinking water supply watershed or in a floodplain.

·        There are no septic drainfields in the vicinity of the critical slopes.

·        Soil Erosion will be minimal since the impacted area is at the top of the slope and will not be exposed to concentrated run-off.

·        New landscaping will provide additional protection of the existing steep slopes. 

·        Large scale movement of slopes is not likely given the limited size and natural vegetative cover of impacted critical slopes. 

·        There is a small wet weather ditch down gradient from the critical slopes.  The run-off eventually flows to the existing storm system of the City of Charlottesville.  This situation is not a concern as far as the slopes are concerned.

·        Aesthetic resources will be enhanced by the proposal by the proposed landscaping and water quality pond associated with the project.  In addition, they could put these buildings on the area that is now noted as the parking lot and avoid the critical slopes.  They could put the parking in front of the buildings, which would give all of the neighbors a grand view of a parking lot with a building behind it.  It was their intention to hide the parking from the neighbors as much as possible. 

·        In addition, they have opted to gain one unit to go to a conservation plan for 25 percent of the site.  That means that they have to propose a plan that will be enacted with this site plan that future owners of the property will have to uphold that will preserve 25 percent of this property in perpetuity.  This will save trees and improve the neighborhood over the long period of time.  The landscape plan is not part of the preliminary process, but the process for final site plan.

o       To explain some of the concerns that were stated in engineering’s dismissal of approval for the waiver they talk about:

1.      Movement of soil and rock – They note that adequate perimeter erosion and sediment control measures to protect the neighboring properties will be needed.  They agreed with staff.  That is done with the erosion control plan, which is done at final site plan.  They fully intend to do that.

2.      This new development will increase the volume of water discharging onto the property.  This is the request for the down stream easement for drainage of Ms. Cowan. He read from the Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Regulations to show the Commission that they were not capriciously suggesting that this be let go, but that their situation is not going to have much impact on the land because of the conservation easement. 

 

In Chapter 1 under Minimum Standards  from 1 through 19 its says, “Properties and waterways downstream from developments sites shall be protected from sediment deposition, erosion and damage to the increases in volume, velocity and peak flow, rate of storm water run off for this state and frequency storm of 24 hour duration in accordance with the following standards and criteria:  Concentrated storm water run off leaving a development site shall be discharged directly into an adequate natural or man-made receiving channel pipe or storm sewer system.”  Further down it reads, the applicant shall demonstrate that the total drainage area to the point of analysis within the channel, which is where they are, is 100 times greater than the contributing drainage area of the project in question or there are a series of remedies and ways to go about maintaining the ordinance’s intent.  This is a pretty big size drainage area with a lot of paved area.  The water that is running through there now is probably very close to 100 times greater than what they will contribute to it with this site.  As a result even if they slightly more it is going to be on the very low side.  So they are being asked here to get a waiver for something that they don’t know is necessarily going to be necessary. 

 

Given the intuitive nature of this and the size of our property versus the overall area they are asking the Commission to put that off until they can make reasonable calculations as demanded by the Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance and do this empirically and the seat of the pants.   Those final calculations are due at final site plan.  They are asking the Commission to let them get to the final site plan stage.  They have no intention of being on someone else’s property.  This should work just fine.  They want to do it in the order that the ordinance says to do it and not have to bring forth that kind of information before they know where they are.  They will be happy to do it at the final site plan.

 

Mr. Zobrist said that he was a little bothered that he wants to dump a 30” drain pipe down on the neighbor when they don’t have an easement.

 

Mr. Daggett replied that there was a stream that runs through there now.  It is not a permanent stream, but a wet weather stream.  Clark Gathright went down stream to look at what is there. 

 

Mr. Zobrist asked what right he has to dump water on the neighbor’s land.

 

Mr. Daggett replied that they were not dumping it on the land, but showing it to have dissipation on our land and go back into the channel that goes onto her land.  They have to use the drainage that is available. 

 

Mr. Zobrist said that if it is on her land what gives them the right to channel it into a 30” pipe and dump it on her land.

 

Mr. Daggett replied that they don’t have to do that and could do it by other means.

 

Mr. Zobrist said that he was suggesting that they asked for a letter of intent to grant a drainage easement and she has not responded.

 

Mr. Daggett replied that to his knowledge she is not there because Mr. Gillispie has tried to contact her and she is out of town.

 

Mr. Zobrist pointed out that when someone starts putting water, pipes and sediment somewhere you have to have the right to send it where it is going.  That is his question.

 

Mr. Daggett said that if Mr. Gathright were here he could help him.  They are not ending the pipe and dumping it on to her property.  They are ending the pipe on the Gillispie’s property and dissipating that water in the natural channel as it is today.

 

Mr. Zobrist said that once they channel it and put it into a pipe it tends to go differently.  If he understands Virginia law correctly that there is natural drainage and artificial drainage that is created by development of the property.  Once you put it in an artificial conduit it becomes your water and not hers.  They cannot just dump it on to her property without her consent.

 

Mr. Daggett said that if what he read in the ordinance is true, however it is done they have to meet that ordinance. 

 

Mr. Zobrist agreed that he had to meet the ordinance.  But, stepping back they still have to have the ability to go on her property to dissipate their water there is they don’t have some kind of an easement.  That is a common drainage law.

 

Mr. Daggett asked if anyone down stream has to give a waiver to anybody upstream.

 

Mr. Zobrist said that anybody downstream has the right to stop him from developing their property if they have to dump the water on their property without adequately disposing of that water in accordance with the ordinance.

 

Mr. Daggett said that their point was that this was a preliminary plan.  All of the calculations and all of the engineering that goes with that are done at final site plan level.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if he was asking to come up with the easement at the final site plan phase.

 

Mr. Daggett said that if the easement is necessary at final site plan because the calculations show it to be.  Then Mr. Gillispie would be happy to talk with her then, but he thinks that this is premature.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if there any other questions for Mr. Daggett.  There being none, she asked Glenn Brooks to come back up and explain the drainage situation to the Commission. 

 

Mr. Brooks agreed with Mr. Zobrist. They can tell at this stage that concentrated water in a 30” pipe and dumping it on the neighbor is going to be a concern.  They can talk about detention and adequate channels, but these are all mitigating things they can do as engineers that don’t solve the problem, but help it.  If someone develops a property and disturbs the land they create asphalt and increase the volume of water, which cannot be avoided.    The water can be held back and release it slower.  The discharges can be played with, but they still have more water that you have to get rid of.  If there is no where for the water to go but the down stream neighbor that is the situation.  What they are talking about is an ancillary issue.  What they are talking about is a curb and gutter waiver and a critical slopes waiver and the easement will be needed for the approval of the final site plan.

 

Ms. Joseph said that the two issues that the Commission is dealing with here are the curb and gutter to be placed in the existing right-of-way and then the critical slopes waiver request.

 

Mr. Brooks pointed out the requests were required by the ordinance.

 

Glenn had difficulties getting meetings together and there has been some hostility.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if the disturbing of the critical slopes exasperate this problem with drainage.

 

Mr. Brooks replied certainly.  If they did not disturb as much area they would not have as much problem.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if he was just talking about area in general if they did not disturb the area including the critical slopes.

 

Mr. Brooks replied that one of the concerns in critical slopes is handling storm water and how that will be affected.  That is what brings them into that topic.

 

Mr. Edgerton asked for Mr. Brook’s response to the applicant’s statement that the first that they heard about this issue on the curb and gutter was this week.

 

Mr. Brooks said that he only met with the applicant once.  They have meetings scheduled in engineering every Thursday for anybody that wants to come in and talk about the plan.  He knew that they repeatedly asked this applicant to come to one of our Thursday’s meetings to talk about the plan. Instead they chose to go the Director and try to get the plan approved.  The Director sent the applicant back to staff and asked them to meet with them first.  Then they finally met with the applicant and discussed these issues and he said that he could not support them.  He did not know if the applicant was talking about a specific phrase that he wants o hear about safety, but that was certainly on the table with Mr. Gathright.  As far as Allan Schuck he was sorry if it did not get across in a clearer way.  But, they had difficulty in getting meetings together. 

 

Ms. Joseph pointed out that there is a letter in the staff report dated November 13 that is from Mr. Gathright and he talks about the curb and gutter.

 

Ms. Joseph opened the public hearing and invited public comment.

 

Katrina Kiefar, resident at 1715 Solomon Road, said that the house that is going to be removed looks straight across into her home.  In the winter time the house is visible, but in the summer time there are trees on the property that screen the house.  She understands that this property is zoned appropriately for this.  On the issue of critical slopes there is a natural water way where the run off goes.  Her concern is that is a pretty fragile area and a lot of rain water stays around on those slopes.  She was very concerned about the erosion of the property if those slopes are played with in any fashion.  She was not happy with things like the gentleman’s point that large scale movement of slopes is not likely.  She would like to have something more than not likely in this plan.  It seems like this plan has a lot of not likely and may be.  She understands that the plan is in the preliminary stage right now. But, she would like to see all of these issues dealt with so that engineering can recommend it.  She could not see recommending a plan that engineering does not recommend.

 

James Myers, resident at 312 Bennington Road, said there is a drainage easement going through the back of his yard that crosses Solomon Road.  There is a drainage easement that comes out of his property on Bennington Road that crosses at a diagonal down towards these properties.  There were a lot of natural springs in the easement in his backyard.  The natural springs are constantly running and there is always water in this facility.  It is never dry.  Storm water goes in here off of Georgetown Road and other roads coming into this area.  During heavy rains it is not uncommon to have 3 ½’ going through this drainage area.  It crosses Solomon in an underground conduit and then drops going through this property.  This property may also have springs in it because springs have been encountered in numerous homes throughout this area.  He was concerned that if the critical slope was violated they may uncover springs underneath that may not be able to be dealt with adequately.

 

Butch Houchins said that he previously lived on Solomon Road on the north end of this project in the duplex.  He assured the Commission that this is a constant wet area. There is drainage that runs off of Solomon Road.  He now lives across the street in a house on the other side of Solomon Road.  That drainage runs down the side of his house.  There is a 30” pipe that runs under Solomon Road, which is inadequate for the water there during storms.  There are times when there is 8” to 1’ of water crossing Solomon Road that cannot get through that existing 30” pipe at the creek.  He was concerned that the wetlands are constantly wet and it does take all of that run off that needs to be dealt with.  He asked that the development be done within the existing slopes management that is intact.  There is already enough water and run off coming down through that area.  He asked that the Commission stick with the guidelines.

 

Tom Szuba, resident of 1703 Solomon Road, said that he was present with several of his neighbors who live on the left side of map.  They are members of the Hessian Hills Neighborhood Association.  The president could not be here this evening.   As a community they are a neighborhood of single family homes and a few duplexes.  They all deal with sloping backyards and the issues of leaves. He would characterize the land in question as a ravine and he agreed with the comments of the earlier speakers.  He suggested that if it was a smaller project it would be much more in character with the neighborhood.  Also, it might not have the same degree with the issues they are talking about tonight with the drainage.  They are talking about 16,000 square feet of developed land.  He would submit that the houses in that neighborhood probably range 1,800 to at most 2,000 square feet.  So they are talking about a tremendous different look and feel to the neighborhood.  So in addition to the drainage issue there is a neighborhood feel issue and a concern about how would this change their neighborhood.  They are fine with development, but at first they thought they were talking about 1 or 2 single family residences that would be put in that area.  Certainly that project has grown to what they originally thought it would be.  Given the run off concerns Berkshire Road, which runs to the bottom of this drainage area, has a history of drainage concerns.  There was one house that had enough drainage back up that it was abandoned.  There is already concern there.  He would submit to the applicant that they are open to some development, but perhaps it would be a better fit if it was not quite as expansive and a little more receptive to the land that they wish to build upon.  He encouraged the Commission to stick with the ordinance regulations.

 

Dale Cheadwade, of 101 Inglewood Court, said that he was present to speak for Ms. Cowan and himself.  He felt that the parking issue has nothing to do with the request at all. They live in the basin or where the water is.  He pointed out that the point was the driveway and not her parking.

 

Al Wooten, resident of 1714 Solomon Road, said that he lived across the street and upslope from this property.  He reaffirmed what the others have said.  There is a tremendous amount of water during any major rain storm that comes through the region.  He agreed that it is a ravine as the previous speaker.  He was very worried about the storm water and run off in this area because it is a very critical slope.

 

Brian Gillispie, owner of the property, said that he did not care about the curb and gutter.  He would build it.  He was just doing that because Ms. Cowan had come to him and asked him not to build it. As to the water, there is already a pile of water that comes through there.  That is why they will deal with it.  They are increasing the rate of water from their site, but they are still not in the 1/100 of that.  But, with their retention basin and their piping system they are decreasing the rate that goes on to her property. 

 

Walt Kouchensh, resident of 1715 Solomon Road, reiterated his agreement with Mr. Houchins that there does seem to be a constant spring there.   It is not just run off.  He considered looking at this property to buy it and see what he might consider for it.  He saw no feasible use down below because it does not seem reasonable to consider construction on it.  Of course, now since he did not see any reason for any type of construction he wanted to keep it as it is.  

 

There being no further public comment, the public hearing was closed and the matter placed before the Commission.

 

Mr. Strucko said that he was not inclined to grant either waiver, particularly the critical slopes waiver.  Increasing impervious surface in this area and disturbing critical slopes would exasperate the water run off, which seems to be an issue already in this particular area.

 

Mr. Morris said that he was sympathetic with the applicant’s point of view that this is a preliminary site plan.  However, the critical slopes just make this untenable.  Therefore, he could not support the request.

 

Mr. Edgerton concurred.

 

Mr. Cannon concurred noting that the burden was on the applicant to establish entitlement to a waiver from the critical slopes ordinance and that requires a showing that can assure us that there will be no adverse impacts or no significant adverse impacts from there.  On the basis of the evidence that he has heard he could not be assured of that.

 

Mr. Craddock agreed with staff’s recommendation.  He suggested that the applicant might want to defer the request and come back at a later date so they can look at it some more.

 

Ms. Monteith concurred.

 

Ms. Joseph said that normally when the Commission sees a request like this there is some mitigation and there is nothing on this.  The buildings themselves are placed pretty much on the critical slopes.  There are areas on the site that are not critical slopes that are not being used either for building or parking.  She felt that this area could be used differently and maybe the configuration and the amount are too much for this site to handle.

 

Motion:  Mr. Strucko moved, Mr. Morris seconded, for denial of the applicant’s request for SDP-2006-071, Gillispie – Preliminary – Critical Slopes waiver and the waiver for curb and gutter request for the following reasons stated by staff in the report:

 

 

The motion for denial passed by a vote of 7:0. 

 

Ms. Joseph stated that SDP-2006-071, Gillispie – Preliminary – Critical Slopes waiver and the waiver for the curb and gutter request was denied.  The applicant has ten days to appeal the request to the Board of Supervisors.

 

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