COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

PLANNING STAFF REPORT SUMMARY

 

Project Name: SP2006-37 Camp Watermarks Amendment 

Staff: Amy Ransom Arnold

Planning Commission Public Hearing:

February 6, 2007

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing:

March 14, 2007

Owners: Angela and Travis M. Critzer; Stuart Vernon 

Applicant: Angela and Travis M. Critzer; Stuart Vernon 

Acreage: approximately 89.4 acres

Special Use Permit:  Amend an existing Special Use Permit to increase the total number of week long camp sessions allowed per year from four (4) to sixteen (16).

TMP: TM 136 Parcels 6B, 9D, 9D1, and 9E 

Location: The parcel is located at 1145 James River Road, with the entrance drive located less than ½ mile west of the intersection of Route 726 and Hatton Ferry Road.   

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

Magisterial District: Scottsville

Conditions: Yes

Proposal: Amend an existing Special Use Permit to extend total number of camp sessions allowed from four (4) weeks per year to sixteen (16) weeks per year.

Requested # of Dwelling Units:  NA                           

DA (Development Area):

RA (Rural Area):  X

Comprehensive Plan Designation: Rural Areas - preserve and protect agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources/ density (0.5 unit/ acre)

Character of Property: The property is comprised of evergreen and deciduous forest, open pasture, agricultural fields, residential, agricultural, and camp buildings.

Use of Surrounding Properties:  The surrounding properties consist of agricultural, forestal and residential uses.  Immediately adjacent and to the west is the Hatton Agricultural and Forestal District

Factors Favorable:

1.   Farming will continue as the primary activity on these parcels; the camp remains a secondary use.

2.   The applicant’s approach to traffic management on James River Road reduces impacts on the neighborhood. 

3.   The camp environment remains well integrated into the surrounding landscape.

4.   The camp experience contributes to Rural Areas goals by heightening awareness and understanding of agricultural processes and natural resources.

 

Factors Unfavorable:

1.   Increased traffic on James River Road.

2.   Increase in overall activity levels on and around the site.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends approval with conditions.

     

 Update:

At the Planning Commission meeting on January 9, 2007 the public hearing for the amendment to the Camp Watermarks Special Use Permit was deferred until February 6, 2007 due to an error in adjacent property notifications. 

 

Staff received a letter dated January 9, 2007 from Catherine J. Womack of Feil, Pettit & Williams PLC Attorneys at Law on behalf of adjacent property owners Mr. and Mrs. Roy Wissel objecting to the proposed amendment to a Special Use Permit.  The Wissel property is comprised of lots 1A, 1B, 2A, and 2B of Tax Map 136, parcel 10 (SUB 2006-78 Hatton Grange Farm) of which lots 1A and 1B are adjacent to the Critzer property. (Attachment I)  The letter outlines the following concerns regarding the proposed amendment and respectfully request the amendment to the Special Use Permit be denied:

 

·         “The usage previously approved counted for about 8% of the calendar year; now almost 31% of the calendar year will be devoted to camp session, further reducing the use of the property for farming.”

 

o        It is staffs understanding that camp activities have not reduced farming activity to date and the Critzers plan to continue to operate the camp and the farm simultaneously.

 

·         “They (Mr. and Mrs. Wissel) acquired their property with the expectation that they would be located in a quiet, bucolic agricultural setting, not next to a camp serving 720 children and 160 staffers.  The applicants’ proposed use would without a doubt change the character of the district, increasing traffic and lighting and reducing the farm use of the property.”

 

o        Camp Watermarks is limited by the conditions of the Special Use Permit to 36 to 45 children at a time with 10 supporting staff per session.   

o        Traffic impacts are limited in the conditions of the Special Use Permit, no changes are proposed: The maximum number of bus trips (round trips) to and from the camp, each session shall be six (6)

o        All lighting on site is by-right under agricultural use; for this reason the Special Use Permit does not address lighting issues. 

 

Staff has received the following additional correspondence regarding the Camp Watermarks amendment:

 

·   Two emails from members of the local community in support of amending the Special Use Permit for Camp Watermarks from 4 week long session per year to 16 week long sessions per year. (Attachment H)

·   Four letters from neighbors and members of the community expressing support for the proposed amendment.  (Attachment H)   

·   Paul Bryant, neighbor closest to the camp site (parcel 136 6E), contacted staff by phone on January 8, 2007 to express his support for the proposed 16 weeks of sessions at Camp Watermarks. 

  

 

      STAFF PERSON: Amy Ransom Arnold                

PLANNING COMMISSION: February 6, 2007                                       

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: March 14, 2006

 

SP 2006-37 Camp Watermarks Special Use Permit Amendment

 

Petition: 

PROJECT: SP 2006-37 Camp Watermarks

PROPOSED: Amend existing Special Use Permit, extending camp sessions allowed from 4 weeks per year to 16 weeks per year

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

SECTION: 31.2.4.1; 10.2.2.20; 5.1.05

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY:  Rural Areas - preserve and protect agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources/ density (0.5 unit/ acre)

ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: Yes____No__x__

LOCATION: 1145 James River Drive, west of Route 726 and Hatton Ferry Road;

TAX MAP/PARCEL: TM 136, Parcels 6B, 9D, 9D1, 9E

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Scottsville

 

Character of the Area:

The surrounding context is comprised of evergreen and deciduous forest, open pasture, agricultural fields, hedgerows, as well as occasional residential and agricultural buildings.  Adjacent James River Road is a narrow, rolling road leading to the center of the town of Scottsville near-by and to the east.  Scattered throughout the area are several farm/storm water ponds and local streams.  Immediately adjacent and to the west is the Hatton Agricultural and Forestal District.  Immediately to the south of the area lie the railroad tracks and the banks of the James River. 

 

Specifics of the Proposal:

The applicant has requested a Special Use Permit to allow for extending the number of camp sessions allowed from four (4) to sixteen (16) per calendar year.  Camp Watermarks will otherwise remain a camp for girls and boys from ages 8 - 18 in an agricultural/faith based setting with a maximum enrollment of 36 - 45 children for each week long session.  Camp activities and accommodations would remain unchanged and include nine cabins, a recreation hall / dining facility, basketball and skate boarding areas, a fishing lake, fire pit, and nearby animal paddock.  One of the primary goals of Camp Watermarks is to provide nature and agricultural experiences for children who normally have limited exposure to outdoor and / or agricultural environments.    

 

Each of the nine cabins currently located on the property measures approximately 14 x 16 feet with an 8’ porch.  Each cabin includes wall to wall carpeting and an air-conditioning unit.  Five cabins are provided for girls, four for boys.  Each cabin is intended to house a maximum of four to five children at a time.  The cabins are used for storage related to the operation of the farm when camp is not in session.  Food service for the camp sessions is provided in the Recreation / Dining Hall which includes a lounge area, stage for music and dramatic performances, a large open area, and kitchen facilities. 

     

Planning and Zoning:

Tax Map 136 Parcels 6B, 9D, 9D1, and 9E have been farm and forest land owned by the same family for over 100 years.  These parcels were part of the subdivision of a single, 269 acre farm in the mid 1970’s.  A Special Use Permit to operate a faith based agriculture camp within the farm (SP 2005-034 Camp Watermarks) was

 

approved by the Board of Supervisors by vote of 6:0 on May 3 of this year, subject to ten conditions recommended by the Planning Commission.  These conditions are repeated as conditions of approval for this amendment to the Special Use Permit.      

 

Conformity with the Comprehensive Plan:

The Comprehensive Plan designates the subject properties as Rural Areas emphasizing the preservation and protection of agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources as land use options.   Under the Rural Areas Section of the Comprehensive Plan extending the total number of sessions annually at Camp Watermarks supports the following Guiding Principles for the Rural Areas:

 

 “Protect Albemarle County’s agricultural lands as a resource base for its agricultural industries and for related benefits they contribute towards the County’s rural character, scenic quality, natural environment, and fiscal health.”

 

“Encourage creative and diverse forms of rural production and support rural land uses that provide rural landowners with economic viability.”

 

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

 

The operation of the camp provides an additional source of revenue for the applicant and contributes to farm revenue and local fiscal health.  The low intensity and minimal visibility of the camp helps maintain County’s rural character and scenic quality by not significantly impacting the local landscape.  

 

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

 

“Protect Albemarle County’s forest as a resource base for its forestry industries and watershed     protection.”

 

Approximately 64 acres of the 89.4 acres that comprise the four subject parcels are currently wooded.  The existing forest land is primarily cultivated pines on the south end of the farm, with areas of mature mixed deciduous forest on the northern parcels.  The deciduous woodland is part of a larger wooded area that extends well beyond the boundaries of this parcel and is a primary presence in this district.  The extent and quality of the local deciduous forest contributes substantially to the character of the surrounding district and the health of the James River watershed.  Allowing the extension of the number of total camp sessions per year does not impact the maintenance of wooded acreage in the County, aiding in the protection and quality of local drinking water resources. 

 

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,

 

Within the current approved special use provisions, children attending Camp Watermarks as well as camp staff congregate at Effort Baptist Church in Palmyra and are transported in a school bus to the site at the beginning of each session and return to Palmyra in the bus at the end of the session.  The bus currently makes a maximum of five additional round trips per week long session to allow the campers to embark on various field trips.  A total of approximately sixty four (64) bus trips each year (allowing six trips per session: the initial pick up and drop off and five field trips per session) will occur to and from the site with this proposal.  Any needed additional parking is currently accommodated in a large 50’ x 100’ gravel parking area to the south of the camp area located deep into the Critzer/Tapscott property. 

 

The recreation hall has been insulated to reduce audible levels outside the building and no outdoor amplified sounds or bull horns are used on the property.

 

Section 4.17.6 of the Code indicates agricultural contexts are exempt from restrictions regarding outdoor lighting levels.  The primary use of these parcels will remain agricultural both during and outside of camp sessions.

 

The transportation arrangements, sound restrictions, and by-right use of outdoor lighting will remain consistent with the provisions of the existing Special Use Permit and the County Code.  It is the opinion of staff that the impacts on adjacent property result from the intensity of each single week session rather than from the number of sessions held throughout the year.  Staff feels that adding an additional twelve, week long sessions per year to the operation of the camp will not significantly impact adjacent property to a greater degree than four sessions per year. 

 

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

 

As with the existing camp operation, the primary use of the subject parcels will remain agricultural and forestal, with the camp operating sixteen (16) weeks per year within the context of continuing agricultural and forestall activities.  The applicant has worked to minimize the presence of the Camp Watermarks within the farm and the local community in the following ways: 

 

·   The cabins and recreation hall are located deep within the site, and are surrounded on all four sides by stands of both deciduous and evergreen forest.

 

 

·   The cabins have been constructed with minimal tree removal, are tucked into the edge of a deciduous stand of trees, and closely reflect vernacular farm building architecture. 

 

·   The surface of the entrance drive is paved with “prime & seal” (compressed asphalt emulsion & gravel), retaining the look of an informal paving characterized by near-by roads and driveways.  This material choice allows the drive to blend with the surrounding context while simultaneously meeting minimum VDOT requirements.

 

Because of these existing efforts to minimize the presence of the camp, it is staff’s opinion that the operation of Camp Watermarks for an additional twelve weeks per year will not impact the character of the surrounding district. 

 

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:

 

-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 primary activity on the subject parcels will remain farming and forestry.  The camp is located within a working farm operated by the applicant totaling just over 100 acres.  The applicant’s family has been farming on this land for over 100 years.  Farming activities on the site currently include raising goats, cattle, and donkeys, harvesting hay, the cultivation of several crops, and tree farming. 

 

One of the goals of Camp Watermarks is to promote campers awareness of agricultural processes and natural resources.  This educational emphasis directly supports the purpose and intent of this ordinance by providing a venue where campers have the opportunity to gain understanding of the value of rural/agricultural land to the larger community.  Adding twelve sessions to the camp’s annual schedule creates additional opportunity to increase public awareness of the importance of rural land to Albemarle.         

 

with uses permitted by right in the district,

 

The property and the adjacent properties are zoned RA, Rural Areas.  Given the relationship between the camp and the promotion of agricultural and forestal activities and the existing measures minimizing the impact camp on the surrounding community staff feels extending the number of camp sessions from four (4) to sixteen (16) would not affect the uses permitted by right in the district.

 

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

 

Regulations in Section 5.0 of the Ordinance that apply to the establishment of a (day or overnight) camp in the Rural Areas are as follows (5.1.05 Day Camp, Boarding Camp):

 

“a. Provisions for outdoor cooking, campfires, cooking pits, etc., shall be subject to Albemarle County fire official approval whether or not a site development plan is required;

 

 

b. All such uses shall conform to the requirements of the Virginia Department of Health Bureau of Tourist Establishment Sanitation and other applicable requirements.”

 

Conditions of approval have been included to address each of these supplemental regulations. (Conditions 2, 3, 4, and 11)    

 

     and with the public health, safety and general welfare.

 

Joel DeNunzio of the VDOT Charlottesville Residency has reviewed the applicant’s proposal and has no objection to additional camp sessions.  Mr. DeNunzio felt the proposed increased number of camp sessions did not change the impacts on daily use while camp is in session; he had no comment on the length of the season.  

    

A nurse, emergency medical technician, trained counselors, and a youth minister are currently an integral part of each session; this will be the case with sixteen sessions as well.  Camp staff travels to the site on the bus, along with the campers, and remain throughout the course of each session.  The need for permanent parking

areas is minimal given the applicant’s approach to bussing campers and staff to and from the site; however there is an existing large paved area near the main building and a large 50’ x 100’ gravel parking area to the south of the camp area located deep into the Critzer/Tapscott property should additional parking be needed. 

The applicant is currently working with the Virginia State Department of Health to assure the use of a water source capable of serving the requested 16 sessions per year.  Staff has included a condition of approval addressing this issue. (Condition 11)     

 

SUMMARY:

Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this application:

1.    Farming will continue as the primary activity on these parcels; the camp remains a secondary use.

2.    The applicant’s approach to traffic management on James River Road reduces impacts on the neighborhood.    

3.    The camp environment remains well integrated into the surrounding landscape.

4.    The camp experience contributes to Rural Areas goals by heightening awareness and understanding of agricultural processes and natural resources.

 

Staff has identified the following factors unfavorable to this application:

1.    Increased traffic on James River Road.

2.    Increase in overall activity levels on and around the site.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION: 

Based on the findings contained in this staff report, staff recommends approval of Special Use Permit 2006-24 Pleasant Grove Baptist Church with the following conditions (changes as compared to SP2005-34 are noted with strike through and in bold italics):

 

1.       The improvements, and the scale and location of the improvements authorized by Special Use Permit 2005-34 2006-37 Camp Watermarks, shall be in general accord with the concept application plan dated February 22, 2006, prepared by Angela and Travis Critzer, and titled “Watermarks Christian Ministries Camp” (Attachment A) (Attachment D).  However, the Zoning Administrator may approve revisions to the concept application plan to allow compliance with the Zoning Ordinance. 

2.       Compliance with the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code shall be verified by the Fire Marshall prior to issuance of a zoning compliance clearance and the commencement of the special use. 

 

3.       Compliance with the Virginia State Department of Health regarding minimum septic requirements shall be required prior to the commencement of the special use.

4.       Compliance with the Virginia State Department of Health regarding kitchen and food service approvals shall be verified by the Health Department prior to clearance and the commencement of the Special Use Permit.

5.       Total number of staff (in addition to the applicant and their family) on site at one time shall be limited to ten (10).  

6.       Camp sessions shall be limited to a maximum of four (4) sixteen (16), each one (1) week long, overnight sessions per year.

7.       The maximum number of children per session shall be limited to forty five (45).

8.       The maximum number of bus or van trips (round trips) to and from the camp, each session shall be six (6).  Bus or van trips shall be the primary means of transportation for the children.

9.       Outdoor amplified sounds or bull horns shall be prohibited.

10.   Compliance with VDOT requirements for the entrance shall be verified prior to the issuance of a zoning compliance clearance for the commencement of the special use.

11.  Compliance with the Virginia State Department of Health regarding water supply shall be verified by the Health Department prior to issuance of a zoning compliance clearance and the commencement of the special use.

 

ATTACHMENTS

Attachment A – Camp Watermarks site context

Attachment B – Camp Watermarks site detail

Attachment C – Camp Watermarks site aerial

Attachment D – “Watermarks Christian Ministries Camp” dated February 22, 2006, prepared by Angela and Travis Critzer

Attachment E - Camp Watermarks SP2005-34 staff report

Attachment F – Meeting Minutes, Planning Commission Public Hearing April 11, 2006

Attachment G – Meeting Minutes, Board of Supervisors Public Hearing May 3, 2006

Attachment H – Letters and emails from neighbors and community members

Attachment I –  Relationship of Wissel property to camp facilities

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