Project Name:  SP2006-00038  Montessori Community School

Staff: Rebecca Ragsdale

Planning Commission Public Hearing:

February 13, 2007

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing:

 March 14, 2007

Owners:  Montessori Community School

Applicant:  Neal R. Deputy, Architect

Acreage:  6.71 acres

Special Use Permit: Private School

TMP: TM 78, Parcels 12 & 12A

Location: 305 Rolkin Road at the intersection of Richmond Road (Route 250 & Rolkin Road)

Existing Zoning and By-right use: CO Commercial Office – offices, supporting commercial and service uses; and residential use by special use permit (15 units/ acre)


Magisterial District: Rivanna

Conditions: Yes

Proposal:  Phased replacement of existing modular trailers with permanent buildings in a revised site layout plan.

Requested # of Dwelling Units:  NA                           


DA (Development Area):     Pantops (Neighborhood 3)


Comprehensive Plan Designation: Urban Density Residential ( 6-34 units/acre) and supporting uses in  Pantops (Neighborhood 3)

Character of Property: The Montessori School is already established on the parcel subject to the Special Use Permit.

Use of Surrounding Properties: The   property is surrounded by commercial uses to the south, east, and west and residential uses to the north.

Factors Favorable:

1.      The private school will continue to provide expanded educational opportunities to the community.

2.      The Land Use Plan suggests residential and residentially supportive uses in this area of Pantops.

3.      There will be no detrimental impacts to surrounding properties.



Factors Unfavorable:

There were no factors unfavorable identified.

RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends approval  of the special use permit with conditions. A critical slopes waiver and buffer/screening waiver are requested and are recommended for approval.





            STAFF PERSON:                                                                                          Rebecca Ragsdale

            PLANNING COMMISSION DATE:                                                               February 13, 2007

            BOARD OF SUPERVISORS DATE:                                                             March 14, 2007


      SP 2006-00038 Montessori Community School

     Waiver requested to Section 4.2 Critical Slopes

      Waiver request to Section 21.7.3 Buffer Zone Adjacent to Residential districts



PROJECT: SP 200600039 Montessori Community School-Pantops Mountain

PROPOSED: Special Use Permit (SP) request to amend an existing special use permit for a private school to allow for replacement of modular trailers with permanent buildings for 40,700 square feet of total building area on a 6.71 acre site.

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: CO Commercial Office – offices, supporting commercial and service uses; and residential use by special use permit (15 units/ acre)

SECTION: Private School

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY: Urban Density Residential – residential (6.01-34 units/acre) and supporting uses such as religious institutions, schools, commercial, office and service uses in Neighborhood 3 (Pantops) Development Area.


LOCATION: 305 Rolkin Road, adjacent NW of the intersection of Rolkin Road and Richmond Road (Route 250)

TAX MAP/PARCEL: TMP 78-12A and 12A1




The Montessori Community School is located on the north side of Richmond Road (Route 250 East) in the Pantops neighborhood. It is located across Rt. 250 from the Rivanna Ridge/Giant shopping center, east of the American Legion, south of residential developments, and west of the Eckerds pharmacy, the Luxor commercial development and Westminster Canterbury of the Blue Ridge. The site sits high above the Route 250, an Entrance Corridor. The slope that occupies the right-of-way between the site and Rt. 250 is partially vegetated. (Attachments A-Aerial Location map, B-Land Use Plan exhibit, C-Zoning exhibit)



The Montessori School is seeking an amendment to their existing special use permit (SP 99-04-Attachment D) to allow for the construction of permanent buildings to replace their aging and deteriorating modular trailers. A recently updated survey is attached to indicate the Existing Campus Plan and buildings on-site, Sheet EX-01 of the attached plan, the proposed Concept Plan (Sheet SP-01 of the attached plan), and the phasing approach to construction (Sheet SP-02). (All plan sheets provided in Attachment H) There are currently 8 one-story buildings with 32 parking spaces throughout the site. The modular classroom units that are currently on the Montessori site were not intended to be permanent.


The proposed amendment to the special use permit is to replace the temporary modules with permanent classrooms and to develop the site as indicated on the concept plan with an amphitheatre, ball field and ball court, playgrounds, gardens, lawns, and associated site improvements. (Attachment H) There is no increase in enrollment, staffing or change in operating hours requested. The existing 1924 main house and carriage house would be retained, with the carriage house being moved to a different location on the site. New buildings will be two to three stories in height and total 40,700 total square feet with 54 parking spaces. The applicant has noted that the total footprint of the buildings will remain comparable to the existing campus plan with 20,800 square feet as the proposed foot print and 20,880 square feet as the existing buildings foot print. The applicant has indicated that the proposed buildings will reflect the traditional architecture of the site and the surrounding area, modified as required to support the environmental and educational goals of the school. The school intends to employ green roof technology in most or all of the new buildings. New classroom buildings are organized around the main administration building, linked by colonnades. The carriage house is shown in a new location, on axis with the administration building and the amphitheater. The proposed building layout acknowledges the existing historic residence and reuses the carriage house in a new location that will improve the conditions on the site.  



The Montessori Community School was established in the early 1980’s and located at the Pantops Mountain site in 1991. The site was rezoning from R-15 to CO Zoning, including proffers, with ZMA 82-03. A subsequent rezoning (ZMA 95-12) and special use permit (SP 95-22) allowed for deletion of the proffers approved with the previous ZMA, and permitted up to 120 students at the school. SP 99-04 was approved May 12, 1999 to allow for expansion of the school with 9 modular units, a multi-purpose building, increased enrollment up to 300 students and additional grade levels, along with 25 additional parking spaces. (Attachment D-SP 99-04 approval letter)


There is currently a zoning violation on the site (VIO-2006-239). A fence was installed around a majority of the perimeter of the site without site plan or ARB approval. Most of the fence is chain link; a 100’ length of fence situated parallel to the EC near the east end of the site is a board fence. Both fences are approximately 6’ tall and are visible from the EC. Over the past several months, representatives from the school have been discussing abatement of the violation with staff. ARB staff recommended that the applicant pursue replacing the fence along the EC and any other portions of the fence that are visible from the EC with black aluminum (or other metal) picket style fencing. Because it appeared that the school was moving forward with abating the violation, a formal notice of violation was not processed at that time. However, an ARB application was never submitted for review. With the submittal of the request for the amendment to the SP, a formal notice of violation has been processed. The existing fence is shown on the Existing Campus Plan EX-01 in Attachment H. As an interim measure, the school has offered to add plants to minimize the visibility of the fence, but a proposal for new fencing coordinated with the phased expansion plan has not been provided. The applicant has agreed, following ARB discussion of the matter at their meeting on February 5, 2007 to address fencing, providing details and location, with the site plan for Phase 1 improvements as shown on the Concept Site Plan SP-02 in Attachment H.




Land Use Plan-

The property is located in Pantops (Neighborhood 3) of the Development Area and is designated Urban Density Residential in the Land Use Plan. As determined with previous land use applications (ZMA 82-03, ZMA 95-12, and SP 95-22 and 99-04) to allow the use, the school is consistent with this residential land use designation. It is supportive of nearby residential uses and an appropriate use at this location in Pantops, as a transition from the nearby residential areas to commercial uses. The proposed Pantops Master Plan is also supportive of this use at this location, along with expansion of the school, and the proposed land use designation is to remain Urban Density Residential.


Neighborhood Model-

The Neighborhood Model sets forth twelve principles for evaluating development proposals within the Development Area. How these principles are met with the requested amendment to the special use permit is addressed in the table below:


Pedestrian Orientation

The proposed Concept Plan provides for improved pedestrian orientation and pedestrian circulation system on the school campus. All buildings, central features, and parking areas will be connected with walkways, including colonnades. (Attachment E) This principle has been met on-site.


Off-site, a sidewalk exists along both sides of Rolkin Road, which is on the north side of Route 250, leading to the school campus.  There is no sidewalk located along the north side of Route 250 adjacent to the Montessori School. Since the Montessori School is not proposing an intensification of the school use on this site, staff did not recommend any off-site improvements to the sidewalk system as a requirement of approval of this special use permit request. Staff did bring the lack of a sidewalk at that location and need for improvements to the school’s attention but they declined to offer the off-site improvement to Route 250.

Neighborhood Friendly Streets and Paths

There are existing sidewalks on Rolkin Road adjacent to the site. These sidewalks are not buffered by street trees but the applicant is proposing enhanced vegetation of the bank adjacent to the sidewalk and leading up to the school campus. While this principle is not met due to the slopes adjacent to the sidewalk, no changes to Rolkin Road are expected.

Interconnected Streets and Transportation Networks

The site is located along Rolkin Road, which will eventually provide for interconnections to Fontana and an east-west parallel route to Route 250, north of the school site. This site is not expected to provide for any interconnections to adjoining properties and this principle has been met.

Mixture of Uses

Pantops has been rapidly developing and a greater mix of office, commercial, and future residential uses have emerged adjacent to this site. The institutional use of this site, along with the American Legion site to the west, adds an appropriate use to the mix in this area of Pantops.  This principle has been met.

Neighborhood Centers

The Montessori School is located adjacent to two neighborhood centers, one at Luxor and the other across Route 250 at Rivanna Ridge/Giant Shopping Center. This principle has been met.

Building and Spaces of Human Scale

Buildings will be two to three stories in height and range in size from 5,000-7,000 square feet in size with one building proposed at 10,000 square feet in size at the southwest corner of the property adjacent to Route 250. Buildings and site features will be connected with colonnades. This principle is met on the school campus. Due to its location on a hill above Route 250 and Route 20, the new buildings will not have a relationship to those adjoining streets. Internally this principle is met; externally the grades make the principle hard to achieve.


Relegated Parking

Parking is relegated from Route 250, with the campus buildings and other features located between the parking and road. It Is located to the side of buildings in relation to Rolkin Road and vegetation between the parking area and Rolkin Road will be enhanced.  This principle has been met. 

Site Planning that Respects Terrain

The applicant has indicated that the previous flat-graded-site-approach established for the modular classrooms will not be continued with the new plan for expansion. Instead, a more sensitive approach will be used, where 2-3 story structures will be built into the hillside, allowing walk-outs at-grade for classrooms. Two site sections have been provided to describe the relationship of the proposed structures to the grade. (Attachments E and F) There are existing critical slopes on the site that the applicant is proposing to impact and a critical slopes waiver is attached. (Attachment G)


The applicant is proposing to use low impact design techniques and biofilters. Sheet SP-03 of the Concept Plan in Attachment H illustrates the conceptual stormwater management strategies, utilities and tree conservation. This principle is met.


Parks and Open Space


The redesign of the school campus will provide intentionally designed open space on the site with the central lawn, gardens, and playgrounds on the campus. The applicant has noted that the site is a Certified Audubon Sanctuary and the school is careful in maintaining native plant and wildlife habitat. Woods, nature trails, orchard, and gardens are proposed along the northern property line to enhance the site with new landscaping and vegetation. This principle is met.

Mixture of Housing Types and Affordability

No residential uses are proposed but a variety of residential uses are located nearby with Fontana and the proposed Pavilions town homes adjacent. This principle is met.


This proposal represents redevelopment of the site to better accommodate the school use with an improved layout, landscaping, and additional square footage, while keeping the school centrally located in the Pantops Development Area.  

Clear Boundaries with the Rural Areas

This project is located central to the Pantops Development Area.


Staff finds that the proposed Concept Plan for redevelopment of the Montessori Community School campus appropriately address the 12 Principles of the Neighborhood Model.



Staff will address each provision of Section of the Zoning Ordinance as follows: 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 proposed buildings and new campus plan to accommodate the existing school are not expected to have any impact on adjacent properties and the use is considered compatible with adjacent uses.


As part of the review of the special use permit request, the need for additional setbacks or buffering beyond those required in the Zoning Ordinance Section 21.7 for CO zoned property is considered to address any impacts to adjacent properties. (see below)  There is R-6 zoned property adjacent to the Montessori School to the north/northwest where a townhouse development called Pavilions is proposed. A final site plan (SDP 06-43) is under review for that project. Staff does not feel that there is a need for additional requirements for setbacks and buffering beyond that which is provided for on the proposed Concept Plan. The Concept Plan, if approved as proposed, requires  a waiver of the required buffer zoned adjacent to the residential district to allow for trails. This waiver is recommended to achieve the concept plan and is discussed in the Waivers section of the report.



21.7.1 Adjacent to public streets: No portion of any structure, except signs, shall be erected closer than

thirty (30) feet to any public street right-of-way. No off-street parking or loading space shall be

located closer than ten (10) feet to any public street right-of- way. (Amended 7-10-85; 7-8-92)

21.7.2 Adjacent to residential and rural areas districts: No portion of any structure, excluding signs, shall

be located closer than fifty (50) feet to any residential or rural areas district. No off-street parking

or loading space shall be located closer than twenty (20) feet to any residential or rural areas

district. (Amended 7-10-85; 7-8-92)

21.7.3 Buffer zone adjacent to residential and rural areas districts: No construction activity including

grading or clearing of vegetation shall occur closer than twenty (20) feet to any residential or rural

areas district. Screening shall be provided as required in section 32.7.9. (Amended 9-9-92)

Except, the commission may waive this requirement in a particular case where it has been

demonstrated that grading or clearing is necessary or would result in an improved site design,

provided that:

a. Minimum screening requirements are met; and

b. Existing landscaping in excess of minimum requirements is substantially restored. (Added 7-



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

There will be site development changes and new buildings on the property. No intensification in land use is expected The Architectural Review Board will ensure that the appearance of buildings and landscaping visible from Route 250 are in keeping with the Entrance Corridor guidelines for improvements. An ARB application was submitted as part of the SP and the ARB reviewed and provided advisory comments to the Planning Commission at their meeting on February 5, 2007. The ARB did no have any objections to the proposed concept plan and offered the following comments, which planning staff feels can be addressed at the site plan stage:


1.       There is insufficient information to comment on architectural design, compatibility of scale, or the impact of blankness in building design on the EC.

2.       Regarding fencing:

a.       Remove the existing chain link and wooden fence that parallels the EC and remove the length of chain link fence on the west side of the site that extends from the southwest corner of the site 160’ north to the “wooded area to remain” shown on the concept plan; and

b.       Add a black picket style fence, or alternate style fence as approved by the ARB, along the side of the site that parallels the EC, and extend it from the southwest corner of the site 160’ north to the “wooded area to remain” shown on the concept plan, and

c.       This fence removal and replacement shall be accomplished as part of Phase 1 construction or by the end of August 2008, whichever is sooner.

3.       Regarding the inconsistencies in the submittal regarding landscaping:

a.       Coordinate the proposal regarding the wooded area at Building E; clarify if the trees in this area are to remain or are to be replaced.

b.       Include in each phase of construction the proposed landscaping adjacent to the area of construction.

4.       No building shall be constructed higher than the existing administration building.


that such use will be in harmony with the purpose and intent of this ordinance,

The Commercial Office (CO) Zoning District was created to establish a zone that provides for administrative, business, and professional offices and supportive accessory uses and facilities. It is intended to act as a transition between residential districts and other more intensive commercial and industrial districts. Private schools are allowed by special use permit in this district.


The Montessori School is consistent with this purpose and intent and provides an appropriate transitional use, along with the adjacent American Legion, between the more intensive commercial uses to the west and the adjoining residential uses.


with uses permitted by right in the district,

Uses permitted by-right in the CO Zoning District include offices and institutions, churches, libraries, museums, and child care facilities. This private school is similar to many other institutional uses and child care facilities allowed by-right in the zoning district.


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

There are no additional regulations in Section 5.0 relating to private schools.


and with the public health, safety and general welfare.

The public health, safety, and general welfare of the community is protected through the special use permit process which assures that the proposed uses are appropriate in the location requested. The Fire Marshall, Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) and VDOT have provided comments.


The Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) has indicated that water and sewer service is adequately available for the proposed use and the site is currently served with both water and sewer. The Fire Marshall has reviewed the plan and has no concerns to the proposal, noting that when the phases of construction begin, they will make field visits to ensure adequate access is being maintained. Adequate fire flow will also be verified during phases of site development plan approvals.


Regarding transportation, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has commented that the recent improvements to the entrance and Rolkin Road are adequate for this use; improvements have included alignment of Rolkin Road, turning lanes, sidewalks, and signalization.


Staff has identified the need to ensure adequate fencing for safety on the site. Due to its proximity to Route 250 and Rolkin Road the fencing of the Lower Elementary Playground should be required during the special use permit.  Potentially the Central Lawn should also have fencing adjacent to Route 250 to address safety.  A condition of approval is recommended to address this issue and the specifications recommended are those provided by the Building Official for fencing of swimming pools.




Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this application:

1.      The private school will continue to provide expanded educational opportunities to the community.

2.      The Land Use Plan suggests residential and residentially supportive uses in this area of Pantops.

3.      There will be no detrimental impacts on surrounding properties.


Additionally, staff notes that there is a zoning violation on the property regarding fencing; however, the applicant is currently working to abate the violation.



Based on the findings contained in this staff report, staff recommends approval of Special Use Permit 2006-38 with the following conditions, which replace those previously approved: 


1.      Maximum enrollment shall be 300 students.

2.      The site shall be developed in general accord with the plan entitled “Montessori Pantops Mountain Community School Sheets SP01-SP-03”, prepared by Neal R. Deputy, Architecture & Master Planning, last revised January 16, 2007.

3.      Fencing shall be provided at a minimum around the perimeter of the Central Lawn, Lower Elementary Playground, and Children’s House Playground, or at other locations as required by the County to ensure safety of children adjacent to Route 250 and Rolkin Road. Final design of the fence shall be subject to review and approval by the Architectural Review Board. However, to address safety concerns, the fence details shall include:

§         At least 48’’ tall

§         No more than a 2” gap under the fence

§         Openings shall be small enough that a 4” sphere will not pass through

§         No ornamental indentations that can be usedas a ladder

§         Maximum mesh size for chain link fences is 2-1/4’’

§         Maximum mesh size for diagonal lattice fences is 1-3/4’’


Conditions approved with Special Use Permit 99-04 are provided for information below, marked up to show recommended changes and staff comments:


  1. Modular units which are not subject to Architectural Review Board ARB approval will be a shade of green closely matching Pine needle in color and design with the modular units in the photographs shown at the Planning Commission meeting and attached to the report.

This condition is not necessary. The applicant has not provided architectural details of the proposed buildings and the ARB will address that with the site development plans.

  1. Enrollment will be limited to not more than students 300 students.
  2. Sewer connection shall be made prior to issuance of a certificate ofoccupancy for the first additional classroom

The school is now connected to sewer and all new buildings will be connected to sewer, this condition is no longer needed.

  1. A conservation plan will be provided with the preliminary site plan to show how the undisturbed buffer between the residentially zoned properties and the school will be retained if required by construction of a retaining wall.

This condition is not necessary and there are no retaining walls proposed.

  1. Approval of the conceptual plan does not constitute approval of the design or appearance of modular structures. Any buildings constructed in the Entrance Corridor must meet requirements of the Architectural Review Board.

This condition is not needed because ARB is a requirement of the Ordinance.





The applicant has submitted a request for modification of Section 18-4.2 of the Zoning Ordinance and provided all pertinent analysis and information in their request which is attached. (Attachment H) Critical slopes, which are slopes greater than 25%, on the site are located primarily around the perimeter of the site and would be disturbed for the parking area and ball field. The areas of critical slopes are illustrated on Sheet SP-03 of the concept plan provided as Attachment H. These critical slopes are not identified in the Open Space Plan for protection.


Recommended Action:

There are no engineering concerns with the critical slopes waiver request. Staff recommends approval of this modification of Section 4.2.3.



Section 21.7.3 of the Ordinance requires a 20 foot undisturbed buffer adjacent to residential zoning districts. The concept plan submitted with the special use permit requires a modification of Section 21.7.3 to allow removal of vegetation for nature trials and some passive recreation areas adjacent to the R-6 Zoned property line to the north of the site. This is illustrated on Sheet SP-01 of the Concept Plan provided as Attachment H. This area is noted on the plan to be reforested with a deciduous/evergreen mix of Piedmont specific vegetation. Screening must be provided in accordance with Section below.


21.7.3 Buffer zone adjacent to residential and rural areas districts: No construction activity including

grading or clearing of vegetation shall occur closer than twenty (20) feet to any residential or rural

areas district. Screening shall be provided as required in section 32.7.9. Except, the commission may waive this requirement in a particular case where it has been demonstrated that grading or clearing is necessary or would result in an improved site design, provided that:

a. Minimum screening requirements are met; and

b. Existing landscaping in excess of minimum requirements is substantially restored. (Added 7-


The following requirements shall apply to screening:

a. When required, screening shall consist of a planting strip, existing vegetation, a slightly

opaque wall or fence, or combination thereof, to the reasonable satisfaction of the agent.

Where only vegetative screening is provided, such screening strip shall not be less than

twenty (20) feet in depth. Vegetative screening shall consist of a double staggered row of

evergreen trees planted fifteen (15) feet on center, or a double staggered row of evergreen

shrubs planted ten (10) feet on center. Alternate methods of vegetative screening may be

approved by the agent. Where a fence or wall is provided, it shall be a minimum of six

(6) feet in height and plantings may be required at intervals along such fence or wall.

(, 7-10-85; Amended 5-1-87)

b. Screening of parking lots shall not be counted toward the interior landscaping

requirement. When screening is required along the frontage of public streets, the agent

shall determine if the street tree requirement has been met. (, 7-10-85)

c. Screening shall be required in the following instances:

1. Commercial and industrial uses shall be screened from adjacent residential and

rural areas districts. (, 7-10-85)

2. Parking lots consisting of four (4) spaces or more shall be screened from

adjacent residential and rural areas districts. (, 7-10-85; Amended 5-1-


3. Objectionable features including, but not limited to, the following uses shall be

screened from adjacent residential and rural areas districts and public streets:

- loading areas

- refuse areas

- storage yards

- detention ponds

- recreational facilities determined to be of objectionable character by the agent

other than children's play areas where visibility is necessary or passive

recreation areas where visibility is desirable. (, 7-10-85; Amended


4. Double frontage residential lots shall be screened between the rear of the

residences and the public right-of-way when deemed appropriate by the agent.

(, 7-10-85; Amended 5-1-87)

5. The agent may require screening of any use, or portion thereof, upon

determination that the use would otherwise have a negative visual impact on a

property listed on the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register. (, 7-10-

85; Amended 5-1-87)


Recommended Action:

Staff recommends approval of the waiver of Section 21.7.3 to allow construction activity including

grading or clearing of vegetation closer than twenty (20) feet to the adjoining residential property line, in accordance with the concept plan provided as Attachment H. Provided that:

1.      Screening requirements of Section are met.



A.      Location Map-Aerial

B.     Location Map-Land Use Plan

C.     Location Map-Zoning

D.     Approval Letter for Special Use Permit 99-04 Montesorri School

E.     Cross Section Diagram A

F.      Cross Section Diagram B

G.    Montessori Pantops Mountain Community School-Request of Modification of Section 4.2 to allow Activity on Critical Slopes

H.     Concept Plan sheets entitled “Montessori Pantops Mountain Community School”, prepared by Neal R. Deputy, Architecture & Master Planning, last revised January 16, 2007.


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