SP 2006-00042, Charlottesville Day School – Amendment (Sign # 76)

PROPOSED: Request for special use permit to increase number of students at existing school from 85 to 250.

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: Planned Unit Development - residential (3 - 34 units per acre), commercial, and industrial uses

SECTION: 20.4.2(i) private school

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY:  Urban Density Residential - residential (6-34 units/acre) and supportive uses such as religious institutions, schools, commercial, office and service uses in Neighborhood 1.

ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: No

LOCATION: 200 Four Seasons Drive, approximately 1450 feet from intersection of Four Seasons Drive and Rio Road West.

TAX MAP/PARCEL: 061X2-4D, 061X1-4A, 061X2-4B

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Rio

STAFF: Judy Wiegand

 

Ms. Wiegand summarized the staff report and presented a power point presentation.  (See staff report.)

 

 

·        Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this application:

o       Provides opportunities for additional students to be enrolled in the school.

 

·        Staff has identified one factor unfavorable to this application:

o       Concern has been expressed by owners of nearby properties that there may be some additional noise, but staff believes that the request is comparable to the number of students that have previously been approved for the site.

 

·        Based on the findings contained in this staff report, staff recommends approval of Special Use Permit 2006-042 Charlottesville Day School, with the conditions listed in the staff report. 

 

Ms. Joseph asked if there were any questions for Ms. Wiegand.

 

Mr. Cannon said that there was an earlier approval for 220 students.  He asked when did that occur and what was the nature of it.

 

Ms. Wiegand replied that was back in the early ‘90’s with a request for a nursery school. 

 

Mr. Edgerton asked when it dropped back to 85.

 

Ms. Wiegand replied that it went back to 85 in 2003 when this school first came in.

 

Mr. Edgerton noted that on the property uses map there were two listings.  The one at the bottom says season summer daycare for children occupants 270 per day.  That would exceed the number they are talking about here.  Then the outdoor water park lists 300. Those are both greater numbers.  He asked if those are in addition to that and if the outdoor water park is relevant.

 

Ms. Wiegand said that these are different. The camp happens during summer and does not coincide with the time that the students are in school.  The water park goes from the spring to the fall missing the winter season and much of its after school activities.  Staff did not feel that this creates a problem. 

 

Mr. Edgerton asked if those uses were covered under separate special use permits.

 

Ms. Wiegand replied yes.

 

Mr. Morris noted some concern because by increasing the percentage of students up to nearly 300 percent they were saying that will not have any impact as far as noise, traffic and so on.

 

Ms. Wiegand replied that they were saying that there will be more cars dropping off students and picking them up, but staff feels that can be accommodated within the existing parking area without causing any problems.  The concern that the County Engineer had in looking at it at first was if the cars had been backing up out into Four Seasons Drive that it would create a problem.  But, because parents don’t stop in front of the school to drop off students and actually drive in and park it won’t be a problem.  There are 196 parking spaces.  Even after the staff for 850 students is parked there are still 156 spaces.  So there is more than ample parking.  Also they have a long period of about an hour in the morning when students are dropped off.  All of the students are not coming in at exactly the same time. Staff felt that dropping off the students or picking them up in the afternoon was not going to cause a problem.  Regarding the noise, most of the students are in the classroom or building.  The only time there is noise is when the students are outside at recess.  It was her understanding from the school that they will not have more children outside at one time than they have now.

 

Ms. Joseph opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to address the Commission.

 

Chris Crater said that he represented the property owner, Four Seasons LLC, and ACAC. Also present were several members of the staff, parents and Joe Wallace, of Dominion Development Services, who performed the traffic study on the property in conjunction with this application.  He made a power point presentation and explained the request. 

·        The current home of ACAC encompasses the water park as well as the summer camp, which was mentioned on the property usage report.  The total size of this facility is 30,000 square feet.  It is important to note that when the previous approval for 220 students was granted to the Charlottesville Catholic School the building size was 18,000 square feet and the parking was reduced by the factor of 50.  Last summer the new field house was built, which is 12,000 square feet.  In conjunction with that project they added over 50 parking spaces to the facility.  He presented photos of the water park facility and 50 meter field.  Also, there are 7 tennis courts located on the property.

·        During June through August the facility serves over 230 children per day.  In the summer camp it lists 270.  This year it will be reduced to a smaller amount.  Unlike the school traffic these children are actually dropped off and picked up at relatively the same time each day.  From a traffic perspective they have actually handled more traffic at key times of the day than they will be under the school, which has a staggered pick up and drop off.  One important note of the school is that the preschool children only stay for one-half the day.  Some of the preschool children also participate in after school, but the majority are dropped off early in the morning and picked up at some point during the middle of the day.  Currently the preschool component of the school is over 50 children.

·        ACAC also supports tennis members on the property.  They are there primarily between April and October.  There are higher usage rates during the summer months.  The water park is also used primarily during the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Although it is open on weekends during the month of May as well as in the afternoons after the children are released from school. 

·        Currently they service 85 children per day, which is the maximum allowed under their special use permit.  Additionally, they also bus in children for an after school program in the evening. The maximum right now is 180 children.  They are not exceeding this maximum.  But, over the course of the school growing they are actually seeing the number of children being bused in decreasing as the number of children who participate in after school will actually become a higher percentage from our own school located on the premises rather than being bused in from other schools in the area.

·        A variety of youth programs also happen on a year round basis on site.  Those include birthday parties and other sports specific training.  These happen again while children are out of school.

·        The school currently serves preschool children from ages 2 to 4 as well as kindergarten, first and second grades.  The increase in enrollment will occur over a time period and not immediately.

·        The success of the school is a strong indication of fulfilling a need in the community for this type of education.  Even more families will be able to benefit from the Charlottesville Day School if this request is approved.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if there were any questions for the applicant.  There being none, she invited public comment.

 

Krzystztof and Barbara Sliwinski, owners of Four Seasons Learning Center, presented the following letter to the Commission.  (Attachment B – Letter dated 2/20/07 addressed to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors with Tax Map 061X1 and a copy of their special use permit application)

 

“Four Seasons Learning Center has no objections to ACAC Day school’s request to upgrade their student count, but we have a concern.

 

We want to make sure that the increase to ACAC Day school’s student does not hinder our chances for an upgrade as well.  Our concerns come to light because the ACAC location is within 300 yards of our business.

 

We simply don’t want the increase to ACAC’s student count to weigh our chance to upgrade as well and hope the approval for ACAC has no negative affect on our application.

 

If the ACAC approval takes place before ours, we would like some kind of written statement that this will not affect our application for increase in student count for Four Season Learning Center.”

 

Stacy Brums, the head of the Charlottesville Day School, spoke in favor of enrolling more students in the school.  Currently they have preschool, kindergarten, first and second grade.  They were at a maximum of 85 children per day in their first year.  They have siblings and family members that would like to attend the school as well as children that are going to age up to be in the third, fourth and fifth grade.  They are a family based school and have a real need for an increase in enrollment.   Their increase will be with older children whose play may be less noisy.

 

Ms. Joseph invited public comment.

 

Linda Terry, resident of 261 Lake View, said that her property abuts the parking lot of ACAC and the school.  It turns out that the buses that are used to pick up the children for the after school care are parked right against her property and at 263 Lake View, which is owned by Sherry and Bob Zack.  She was concerned about the growth of this school, the traffic and the buses, particularly because of having her office at home that faces that parking lot.  She does hear the noise and the buses start up everyday. They run their buses from about 1:05 p.m to 1:50 p.m. before they go pick up the children with the diesel fuel fuming into her house, which gives her a headache.  She is very concerned about this.  She appreciates that they have a good school and provide a great service for the community.  She is also concerned that her property abuts right up against that parking lot.  What she sees every day are the buses and the fumes from the buses with the traffic coming and going.  If there is a way to solve those problems, then maybe she would be more willing to go along with their request to go to 250 students.   

 

Deanna Sheedy, Secretary of the Four Seasons Townhouse Association, asked to comment about the comment that older children are not as noisy.  Being a mother she could promise that older children are not less noisy.  The proposed increase means three times as many children.  To property owners that means three times as much noise and traffic.  This does not serve the neighborhood.  Their first concern is noise.  The townhouses are perpendicular to the property line, which means that they channel the noise through the development.  ACAC has already heard complaints from home owners over current noise levels.  A possible solution would be for ACAC to install a sound barrier.  The other concern is inadequate parking.  ACAC often refers overflow parking to adjacent lots at Four Seasons Apartments and along Four Seasons Drive next to Lake Drive.  This causes an inconvenience to home owners and is also on our common area grass and has been damaging.  Whether or not that is because they are having events simultaneously she did not know. But, it does happen and does need to be addressed.   They could also consider placing no parking signs or a chain where parking is prohibited.  That may be a possible solution.  The third concern is whether Four Seasons Drive can accommodate the increase in traffic.  Four Seasons Drive is a major school bus route.  So not only is the safety of our children a concern, but drop offs and pick ups at the day school will slow down traffic, including public school buses on their way to and from school.  Would ACAC be willing to compensate home owners for the traffic and noise increase?  One way may be to offer property owners and their immediate families a 15-day pass every year to use their facilities.  Her argument was not to forbid ACAC to increase the size of their day school, but that they must meet the needs of the neighbors that they affect.

 

George Delagan, President of the Four Seasons Townhouse Association, reiterated what Deanna Sheedy had to say.  The Four Seasons Townhouse Association is an association with moderate income families.  The people that live there are retired and live on a fixed income.  There are young families who are living in their first homes.  There are also working class families. The people that live in Four Seasons Townhouse Association are not served by this facility. While it is a neighborhood school the people who live there cannot afford to go to that school.  The students coming in there are not students from Four Seasons Townhouse Association.  So he would like to dispel the perception that this school is serving this particular neighborhood.  It is serving people that are outside of this neighborhood.  They are having an impact on the neighborhood.  That impact is on the streets where they have people parking, particularly in the evenings during the summer time when events are taking place at the facility.  There is a lot of parking that spills out onto other areas and down Four Seasons Drive.  There are no walkways along Four Seasons Drive.  Therefore, they are creating a dangerous situation as well.  Then there is the noise issue.  Some of those parties run fairly late at night.  It impacts our neighborhood.  Those are the concerns of the neighborhood.  There are probably ways to solve those issues.  The school does provide a service that sounds like it is a positive service to the community at large.  So they don’t necessarily want to oppose the school, but the neighborhood wants their concerns addressed.

 

Mr. Morris asked if they have met with the school folks.

 

Mr. Delagan replied no that they have not met with them.

 

Sherry Zack, resident of 263 Lake View Drive, said that her property, along with Linda Terry’s, is directly behind the ACAC parking lot.  She was not opposed to the school, but was opposed to the buses and wished that they could find another way to deal with the bus situation.  Currently there are four school buses parked directly behind their property.  Every afternoon the buses are started up and ran for a certain amount of time because of being diesel.  The fumes at times have rolled in like fog banks into their back yards.  It is a health concern.  ACAC has been a very good neighbor.  But, suddenly they have these big buses in the back that is unsightly.  The diesel fumes are not good.  In the summer time the buses are not parked there, but are parked at the Albemarle Square facility. She questioned why the buses could not always be parked there.  She asked if they could address parking the buses somewhere else.  It would be a lot healthier for everyone in the neighborhood.  There are a lot of houses that abut that parking lot.  It is a health concern.

 

Rachael Willview, a resident of Four Seasons, said that she lived close to the playground area.  She has met with the school people and they are very nice.  She has toured the school and offered suggestions.  She was concerned with the noise level.  With the current enrollment of 85 students the noise was unacceptable.  The noise is loud all day long and really gets on her nerves.  They need something done about the noise before adding more children.  The number and ages of the students does not matter because when they get outside they just scream.  She understands that children need to play, but the screaming level and the noise level heard by the residents was just too much.

 

Robin Rosa said that her son was enrolled at the Charlottesville Day School.  It is a wonderful opportunity for him to go to school there.    Being in a small classroom was a very nurturing environment.  She hoped to continue that through the 5th grade.  The parents drop their children off and don’t use the buses.  That should not be part of the issue.  The school tries to take into consideration the neighborhood and wants to be good neighbors.  It would be a terrible thing not to have the school there.  It has been a life changing experience for her family.  It has worked out to be a really incredible experience.  It would be great if the Commission would consider giving them the ability to increase their numbers because they are providing a great service for the community.

 

Lance Risen said that he has two daughters that go to Charlottesville Day School.  One of them is in preschool.  The demand for preschools is growing.  He suggested that there were some things that could be done to address the noise.  It is a great facility and service that he supports.

 

Angela Oakley said that she comes as a Charlottesville Day School parent and a concerned citizen of Albemarle County.  Children are the future of our community.  Due to this fact they all benefit from the value of educating our children well.  The demands of the school are great and they have already maxed out their current allowed capacity.  She asked that the Commission allow expansion of Charlottesville Day School’s enrollment.  The entire community will benefit from this growth.

 

Keith Roots said that he has a 3 year old son that attends Charlottesville Day School.  They have been incredibly pleased with the school.  It has a small neighborhood school feel.  Therefore, he is in favor of the expansion of the school.  He has two other children that he hopes can attend the school.

 

Mr. Crater asked for a rebuttal.  The goal is not to extend the discussion any further than necessary.  However, he feels like he should respond to the adjacent neighbors.  ACAC wants to be a good neighbor.  Some of the issues such as the buses and the parking are not related to the school application per say.  But, he also believes that it is important that they address those.  He offered his hand as a form of willingness to work with the neighbors to determine a way that they can be good neighbors. This is for either during the summer when school is not in session and they have large swim meets, or during the school year when after school buses are running to see if there are ways that they can mitigate their concerns irrespective of this increase in enrollment.

 

Mr. Cannon asked if the buses producing the fumes were school buses and used to bus some of the children to school.

 

Mr. Crater replied that the school buses are used to bus the after school children to the facility after the local county, public and private schools have been let out.

 

Mr. Cannon asked if those buses were not implicated in this request.

 

Mr. Crater replied that they were not.

 

Mr. Cannon asked if ACAC controls those buses and if they can do something about them.

 

Mr. Crater replied that is correct and that they can do something about the buses.  That is why he felt it was important that they work together with the neighbors to address the concerns.

 

Mr. Strucko said that there are a number of uses going on here.  There is an athletic and fitness club, summer camp and the Charlottesville Day School. What is the program that during inclement weather or for some other reason people can purchase for a fee day care, which is like a day camp?  He asked if that is correct.

 

Mr. Crater replied that is correct.

 

Mr. Strucko said that the pools are open during the summer and asked if there is a swimming team or swimming athletic events going on there as well.

 

Mr. Crater replied yes, during the summer months.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if the parking was adequate for the peak use of the cumulative effect of all of these activities.

 

Mr. Crater replied that they have secured parking from the apartment complex across Four Seasons Drive from their facility to handle overflow parking during those events.  They also staff that parking with paid attendants from ACAC to guide folks into this area to park.  They also do their best to instruct folks not to park on the grass adjacent to the Town home Association.  Hearing that is an issue they will do their best to relief that this summer as the events come back.  As far as the genesis of the site it is important to note that it no longer serves as an athletic facility.  It is primarily for the children in the community with 99 percent of the activities there being child related.  The reason that the school fits so well in this is that during the school year the facility was in fact empty because all of the children who typically populated the site during the summer months for the water park and/or summer camp obviously were in school and now they were on the school property.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if the events were staggered in terms of scheduling daily and seasonally so that parking is adequate and there is no detrimental impact to the neighborhood.

 

Mr. Crater said that the school events will not be interfering in any way with what would be happening in the summer.  The swim meets are the highest use of the facility and would not occur during the school year itself.  It would not interfere in any way with the school parking requirements.

 

Mr. Morris said that one individual brought up the fact that the increased traffic on Four Seasons Drive is hitting right about the time people are going in, school buses are going out to the public schools and so on.  He asked how is this not going to affect the traffic with increasing the number of students at the school.

 

Mr. Crater stressed that a number of their students would in fact stay on at the school for after school programs beyond the close of school.  So even though 250 children may be coming in during the morning they will be leaving at different times.  The children arrive any time from 7:45 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and may leave at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. So although there will be an increase in the traffic flow from having more children it will be interspersed during the day so not to be detrimental to the neighborhood. 

 

Mr. Morris asked that the traffic engineer address this issue.

 

Joe Wallace, with Dominion Development Services, said they prepared the traffic analysis for the school for the existing and proposed condition.    Referencing their last question about the increase in traffic, their analysis or study looked at the maximum of 250 students.  If they use the same breakdown of students with teachers or administrators, students that come 2 to 3 to a car or siblings plus the single occupant students, they are looking at an increase of vehicular trips of about 175 to 200 vehicles during those periods.  Those periods are as Chris Crater mentioned from 7:45 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.  That is an hour and 15 minute period in which they have their morning movers that get in to use the facility for the before school program.  They do have a peak time where they have the most that come in.  But as they found based off of existing conditions and the fact that the school does not employ the stop and drop method of delivering the child to the school and picking them up that the parking is adequate.  The additional vehicles on Four Seasons Drive and the adjacent roadways will not have a measurable impact to the traffic that is already there.  The parking lot has enough spaces.

 

Ms. Joseph closed the public hearing to bring the matter before the Commission.

 

Mr. Joseph opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to address the Commission.

 

Mr. Strucko noted that in the spirit of full disclosure he has to say that his family is in use of this facility.  His son goes to the summer camp.  They just celebrated his birthday party there on a Sunday.  They use it during those days when the public schools are either closed or snow days, which was why he asked about the daily fee.  He was not sure how the Charlottesville Day School factored into all of the uses that go on in this facility.  It is quite busy.  Through his own experience he has not seen the traffic problems that he would expect to see given the size and scope of this facility.  The only time it was difficult was during the months when the swimming pool was being used for a youth swimming league.  The present of that group, the folks that are members of the pool that use the water park, and the closing of the summer camp all coincide at the same time, which was when the overflow occurs.  Then there is a flock of geese that cross the road that just snarls traffic on Four Seasons Drive.  His concern was the intensity of use here and is there enough facility.  He was hearing from the applicant and the traffic study that it is.  He still harbors concerns about the impact of this on the adjacent neighborhood.  It sounds like some of the problems have easy fixes, such as the diesel problem with the relocation of the buses away from the proximity of the residents.  That would be a good neighborly gesture from the facility.  The decimal level of children playing is a legitimate concern with the doubling or tripling of the number of students.  With the phasing of the children in and out of the play area, it could be a constant noise.  He did not know how to mitigate that.  That might be a fact of life due to the close proximity of the homes and school.  But at the very least he hoped that the applicant will at least make the easy gesture of relocating the buses.  But, generally speaking he is impressed with the business and operation there.  He was favorably inclined to support this request.

 

Mr. Morris said that there needs to be a much closer liaison with the Homeowner’s Association.  That is only being a good neighbor and makes sense.

 

Mr. Cannon said that it sounds like a great institution and like it could be more fully utilized and that there is a demand for that.   It is a good thing for the community, which makes him want to support this application.  There are some effects that Mr. Strucko has mentioned that may or may not be related to the school, but need to be addressed.  That includes the fumes and the problems with overflow parking, which are related to other events.  The parties with overall responsibility for the site need to address those to the extent that they can with the homeowners.  That is fair and the right to do.  But, he did not think that can affect the Commission’s decision on the application here.  Children will make noise and there are ways to manage it, but there is no way to make impacts for it to go away or disappear entirely.

 

Mr. Edgerton agreed with most of what has been said by the other Commissioners.  The noise issue during the summer around the water park is probably worse than during the school hours.  But, that is not before the Commission tonight.  It is two different seasons that the children will be outside even though during the milder months the children will be outside more during the school year.  He was hopeful that the applicant will work with the neighbors to try to address some of these issues.  It sounds like there is reason to believe that they will.   Therefore, he supported the application.

 

Mr. Zobrist was in favor of the application.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that it was clear that the applicant needs to work with the neighbors regarding issues not directly related to this special use permit. If there is any way that the school recess can be scheduled so that there is some quiet time outside for the neighbors it is something that she felt that the neighbors would appreciate.  She suggested that before they go to the Board of Supervisors that they sit down with the neighbors and make sure that they discuss some of these issues.  It would not look good if this item goes to the Board before they talk with the neighbors. She suggested that the applicant might also consider some of the aspects of helping out the neighborhood in some of the other ways that were mentioned.

 

Motion: Mr. Strucko moved, Mr. Morris seconded, to approve SP-2006-00042, Charlottesville Day School – Amendment, subject to the conditions recommended by staff, as amended.

 

1.      Maximum enrollment will be two hundred fifty (250) students;

2.      Normal hours of operation for school shall be from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with occasional uses in the evenings and weekends; and

 

The motion passed by a vote of 6:0.  (Mr. Craddock was absent.) 

 

Ms. Joseph stated that SP-2006-00042, Charlottesville Day School - Amendment, would go before the Board of Supervisors on March 14, 2007 with a recommendation for approval.

 

Ms. Monteith left the meeting at 8:06 p.m.

 

The Planning Commission took a break at 8:08 p.m.

 

The meeting reconvened at 8:17 p.m.

 

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