Albemarle County Planning Commission

April 3, 2007

 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and public hearing on Tuesday, April 3, 2007, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Members attending were Bill Edgerton, Jon Cannon, Eric Strucko, Pete Craddock, Calvin Morris, Vice-Chairman and Marcia Joseph, Chairman. Duane Zobrist was absent. Julia Monteith, AICP, Senior Land Use Planner for the University of Virginia was absent. 

 

Other officials present were Wayne Cilimberg, Planning Director; David Benish, Chief of Planning; David E. Pennock, Principal Planner; Amelia McCulley, Zoning Administrator/Chief of Zoning and Current Development; Allan Shuck, County Engineer; Jack Kelsey, County Transportation Planner; Pat Lawrence, Planner; Summer Frederick, Planner; Sean Dougherty, Senior Planner; Rebecca Ragsdale, Senior Planner and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney.

 

Call to Order and Establish Quorum:

 

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

 

            Public Hearings:

 

SP-2006-043, Field School (Sign #35, 36, 39)

PROPOSED: Middle School for boys of approximately 70 students max. to be located in the existing community building at Claudius Crozet Park.

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

SECTION: 18.10.2.2.5 Private Schools

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY: Designated CT 1 Development Area Preserve for Parks and Greenways in the Crozet Master Plan.

ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: No

LOCATION: 22 acre parcel at Claudius Crozet Park, north side of Park St, 1500 Feet east of High Street

TAX MAP/PARCEL: 56A2-01-72 and 72A

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: White Hall

STAFF:  Rebecca Ragsdale

 

Ms. Ragsdale summarized the staff report.

 

·         This is a special use permit request for a private middle school for boys.  It is requested to be located in an existing community building in Claudius Crozet Park.  The park is owned by Claudius Crozet Park and is managed primarily by the Park Board.  The applicant is the Field School.  The County has a relationship with the Park Board and a partnership with the Park.  It is not an entirely public entity and there are folks here representing the Park both from County Parks and Recreation, the Park Board and the applicant so that they can try to clear up any confusion that may have come up around that and expand a little more about the relationship that the County has with Crozet Park. 

 

·         It is a request for up to 70 students starting out with just fifth and sixth grade and then expanding.  She displayed an aerial of the park.  The park properties were outlined in the yellow central to the residential areas adjacent to Crozet Park where Parkside Village is and the established Hilltop neighborhoods.  To access the park from Crozet Avenue coming down Tabor and Park Road is the main access point in the park.  The property is zoned Rural Areas.  It is a doughnut of Rural Area surrounded by residential zoning. 

 

·         The Master Plan designations for the park recognizes that it is primarily a park use designated as open space and then CT-1 and 2 and then the green infrastructure map emphasizes the park is a major focal point and greenway with trails leading to it. 

 

·         The red outlines area is the primary area that Field School will occupy.  The Field School is proposing to use the existing community building and not make any major modifications, given the temporary nature of it.  It will be something that can be tucked away if the building is used for something else on the weekends and that sort of thing.  The layout shows the pool, parking layout and the pavilions.  She pointed out the sketch provided by the applicant to show primarily where their activity for the private school during the day would be located and where bus parking would be provided.  Also, it shows that there is adequate turn around for a bus to be used. 

 

·         The hours of operation will generally be school hours with after school care until 6:00 p.m.  There are conditions that address the Field School use of the facilities based on Parks and Recreation comments allowing the recreational fields to be used.  She showed a photograph of the community building.

 

·         In summary, staff has received some public comments both favorable and unfavorable.  The Commission has seen some of the emails and concern expressed by residents of deterring public use of the park and taking away a public facility.  Then some of the factors favorable includes that it is an additional educational opportunity in the community within walking distance of the residential areas. 

 

·         In the review of the special use permit, staff focused primarily on the intensity of the use proposed and not necessarily on some of the broader policy questions as to the public/private use of the park that have come up in public comments.  Based on the small scale use of the park staff did not have any concerns with any of the impacts to be addressed.  Staff did recommend approval in the staff report with conditions limiting the number of students, the hours of operation and limiting the use on the park grounds.  One condition to note is some outstanding water line dedications with the Service Authority.  It also recognizing in the conditions that this use is unique because it is not entirely a public park.  A unique partnership with the County is that there is a restrictive covenant agreement that the County Board of Supervisors approved that does not actually allow this school use.  So there is another step with the County and the Park Board to allow this private school use in the park. So staff is recognizing that in the conditions of approval. 

 

·         As noted earlier, there are representatives here from County Parks and Recreation and the Park Board as well that may be more appropriate to answer some of the questions that the Commission might have in terms of specific usage and of the Park Building and who has primary control of what, whether it be Parks and Recreation or the Crozet Park Board entity. 

 

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

 

Mr. Morris asked would the school be available for public use every evening after that 6:00 p.m. close down as well as on the weekend.  He asked if the school folks were going to have to vacate virtually everything.

 

Ms. Ragsdale replied yes, the school would be limited to the hours of operation as the school functions that are listed on the special use permit.  Then generally it would be available for public use or any other sort of meetings in the evenings and weekends.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if access was restricted from the soccer field, the two ball fields, the pool and the playground.  He asked if the school was going to use those facilities at any point under this proposal.

 

Ms. Ragsdale replied that the school would use some of the fields for recess.  The school will not be restricted from using the park grounds at all.

 

Mr. Strucko said that even during the day when the school is in operation these residents may compete with the students of the school for use of these facilities. 

 

Ms. Ragsdale noted that there are two playgrounds and there are multiple playing fields.  Given the size of the school there is room enough for everyone basically is what she meant.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if there would be 70 students potentially.

 

Ms. Ragsdale noted that staff left that to Parks and Recreation to advise us on whether or not there would be over use of the park or whether the park grounds and community recreational needs could be met with the school at maximum capacity.  Based on the information that they have the park is not over used now during the week days and the school year.  The community building is somewhat under utilized and the park is looking for other uses.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that Tim Hughes was present from Parks.

 

Mr. Strucko said that he just wanted to get his facts straight first.  He asked if the SOCCER Organization have an agreement with County Parks and Recreation to use that field for the adult soccer field located behind this building.  The Peach League Little League uses the ball fields, T-ball fields and the two standard ball fields.  If there was an event held during the day would they potentially compete with the school for use of these facilities.

 

Ms. Ragsdale said that basically they were saying that all of those uses would take precedence over and that they would have priority access to the areas.  She was not certain of the detailed scheduling with the different organizations that use the playing fields and which fields they are using.  But, she understands his comments about potential conflicts in the future if they have the school there and they are playing and somebody else shows up to use a particular field.  They are trying to avoid those types of conflicts as much as possible.  The school has been working with the Park Board and Parks and Recreation to anticipate that sort of thing and the Field School going in with clear understandings of what would be available and what would not.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if there would be no improvements to any of the physical space as a result to this agreement and no improvements to the parking, pavement or the cinder block building itself. 

 

Ms. Ragsdale noted that the Building Official has said that the building is adequate and can be used as a school. 

 

Mr. Cannon asked staff if there is a restricted covenant applicable to the park. 

 

Ms. Ragsdale said that the restricted covenant expressly allows recreational and entertainment uses that was approved by the County.

 

Mr. Cannon asked if the covenant is between the County and the owner of the park.

 

Ms. Ragsdale replied yes. The County Attorney’s Office was very involved in that.  A copy of the covenant was not included in the packet.

 

Mr. Cannon said that he was trying to get an idea of what it involved.  He asked if the County does not own the land.

 

Mr. Kamptner replied that Claudius Crozet Park Incorporated owns the land.  As part of the County’s contribution of about $200,000 in 1997 the park and County entered into an agreement, which was recorded as a restricted covenant that was designed to make sure that the park lands were used for primarily recreational uses, but also entertainment uses.

 

Mr. Cannon said that for return for the money that the County contributed to the maintenance of the park the owners of the park agreed to restrict its use to certain uses.  He asked if that was correct.

 

Mr. Kamptner replied that was correct.

 

Mr. Cannon said that those uses did not include schools.  He asked if it specifically excluded a school use.

 

Mr. Kamptner replied no.  The document states that the park is to be used “only for park and recreational purposes, which may include any lawful activity such as festivals, carnivals, concerts, celebrations and other community related entertainment uses that have historically been allowed at the park and shall be open for public use unless the County and Crozet Park jointly agree otherwise.”

 

Mr. Strucko asked if that agreement was part of a financial arrangement between the County and the Park in terms of maintenance and other things.

 

Mr. Kamptner replied that Tim Hughes was nodding his head yes.

 

Ms. Joseph invited Tim Hughes to come forward and respond to the questions.

 

Tim Hughes, Athletic Supervisor for Albemarle County Parks and Recreation, replied that the covenant was brokered by our Director, Pat Mullaney, back in the 90’s.  The purpose of the covenant was when
Crozet Park started to build a new pool they were financially short and came to the County and asked for help to build the swimming pool.  In exchange for that the County saw an opportunity that if they could get a restrictive covenant put in the deed and they would allow us to develop the open space into badly needed athletic fields for that area.  The County currently maintains all of the athletic fields.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if the County built the T-ball field in the lower baseball field.

 

Mr. Hughes replied that the County developed all of the athletic fields.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if the County maintains pavilions 1 and 2.

 

Mr. Hughes replied that the County does not.  The County maintains all of the athletic fields, which includes the soccer field.  They do not maintain the pool or spend any money on the pool.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if there was a fee for use of the pool.  He asked if there was a financial arrangement between the Field School and Crozet Park pending this.

 

Ms. Ragsdale replied that there is.

 

Mr. Craddock noted that years ago the Indians used Crozet Park for a weekend festival.  He asked if they still do that. Would any groups like that be restricted to using the park if the school is there?   With the school’s 50 or 60 children along with the parking mean that they can’t have a festival going on during the day.

 

Mr. Hughes replied that the Crozet Park Board could answer that better because they actually take care of those arrangements when they have other activities other than the athletic activities.  But, historically those events have been on weekends.  So it should not be a conflict with any other public or recreation use.

 

Mr. Craddock asked if the school would operate on a similar school year schedule like Albemarle County’s Schools and will not be operated during the summer.

 

Ms. Ragsdale replied that was correct.

 

Mr. Strucko asked what hours of operation are proposed.

 

Ms. Ragsdale replied that it was 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. to include both before school staff and the after school program.

 

Mr. Strucko asked what time the Peach League Little League practice starts.

 

Mr. Hughes replied that practice generally begins at 5:30 p.m.

 

Mr. Strucko noted that there would be a ½ hour overlap with the traffic going in for practice with the school operation. 

 

Ms. Ragsdale said that the school may have, as they describe, students there that are getting picked up and staff. But, condition 6 says specifically that the athletic fields are not available for the school’s use after 4:00 p.m.

 

Mr. Strucko said that currently the parking there is difficult with the use of the athletic fields.  In fact, the open space close to Park Street doubles as a parking lot. 

 

Ms. Joseph asked if there were any other questions for Mr. Hughes.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that regarding Mr. Strucko’s earlier question it has been represented that there is not any concern from the Parks and Recreation about competing for use of athletic facilities.  He asked if that is correct.  He asked if they feel threatened by having 70 children there.  He was a little confused by the representation because staff’s drawing with the red box around it was pretty clear, but that is really not what is being asked for.  They are intending to use all of those athletic fields during the day.  He asked if Parks and Recreation have programs during the school year that would have to be compromised because the school would have the first option for the use of those fields. 

 

Mr. Hughes noted that the County does not have any organized activity programs that would conflict between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. 

 

Mr. Edgerton asked if occasionally the children of the neighborhood go out there and have a pick up game.

 

Mr. Hughes said that he was sure that there are probably pre-school aged children that use the playgrounds and the fields some during the day.

 

Mr. Edgerton asked if they know how much use that involves.

 

Mr. Hughes replied that while maintaining the fields their maintenance crews have said that occasionally they have seen a mom and 3 or 4 children on the playground and the T-ball field.  Therefore, it appears that is a minimum use.

 

Mr. Edgerton asked if the playgrounds would be used by the school.

 

Ms. Ragsdale replied that the school would have access to the two playgrounds.  But, these are middle school boys.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if they anticipate an increase in the maintenance budget for maintaining these fields with potentially 70 middle school aged boys using the facilities.

 

Mr. Hughes replied that if they were just using them in a manner consistent with a regular P.E. class they would not anticipate a huge jump in their maintenance budget. 

 

There being no further questions for Mr. Hughes, Ms. Joseph opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to address the Commission.

 

Dr. Todd Burnett said that he was opening Field School, which was a boy’s middle school inspired by the model of Village School for girls.

 

·         There will be 16 students each in grades 5 through 8 starting in 2007 with grades 5 and 6 and adding grade 7 and 8 the following 2 years.  The Village School has been very successful in providing something that our public schools can’t as a single sex middle school education providing all of the benefits associated with learning that focuses on girls.  His efforts for Field School have been inspired by the many parents that he has met in this area over the years that have encouraged him to start this school for boys.  Their mission is to develop well rounded boys of character and accomplishment.  He thanked all of the Board members, parents and supporters who came out tonight to support the Field School request.  With the County’s approval, they plan to establish the school next year at Claudius Crozet Park in their community building. 

 

·         He thanked Bryan Campbell and Kelly Strickland, particularly of the Park Board, and the entire Park Board for their support.  The park is a private community organization opened under the public under the approval of the Crozet Park Board.  He went to the Park Board back in the fall and told them what he was interested in doing.  The Park Board liked what he was proposing, particularly since he embraced the idea of their students helping out by volunteering in the park at the Arts and Craft Festival in the spring and fall.  The students would also assist in maintaining the appearance and up keep of the park.  In addition to those benefits they will also provide annual rental income to the park. They intend to make two minor improvements to the building.  One is to put a wood floor in to improve the appearance inside and possibly cut down on some of the noise.  They also want to put in 6 to 8 skylights to bring natural light into the middle of the building. 

 

·         They are making this petition with certain efforts to minimize impact there.  It is going to be a small school.  They will start with a maximum of 32 students.  It will probably be more like 20 students next year.  They will slowly building, but get no larger than 70 students.  If they are in Crozet for 5 years and they grow at the same rate that the Village School did they will have an average of 42 students over the 5 year period.  They will only be operational during the school day and during the school year when the community building is literally unused.  According to Bryan Campbell, who manages the park operation for the Board, he could not remember a single rental of the building during this time period over the past 5 years.  Field space will be generally available to the public, which is one of the recommendations in the staff report and not available to the school after 4:00 p.m. weekdays or at all on the weekends.  They are doing what they can to minimize traffic.  Most of the students will be coming from Charlottesville and will ride the daily shuttle bus that they are going to drive in and out everyday.   He runs a camp in town called Field Camp, which is run at Camp Albemarle.  He takes a daily shuttle out from the A.L.C. Copies Building to Camp Albemarle in Free Union.  Three-quarters of the children, which he has 50 to 55 everyday in the summer, take that shuttle.  They will probably have about the same number who will take the shuttle out to Crozet every day.  Assuming that three-quarters of the children ride the shuttle every day that leaves an average of about 22 additional parent car trips each day with 11 in the morning and 11 in the afternoon per school day over the 5 year period.  He understands from the staff report that there are 1,600 average daily trips there on Park Street.  Therefore, he would add 20 on average to 1,600, which he did not think was very much.

 

·         As part of their agreement with the Park Board they will build classrooms that can be broken down whenever any community group needs the building on the weekends or in the evenings.  They will get in the habit of breaking down their classes and putting them in the corner whenever someone wants to use the building.   They embrace the opportunity to do that.  As part of his camp they have a lot of things that they do as active hands on learning.  Therefore, that actually appeals to him as an educator.  It will be a temporary home.  The Park Board and Field School have reached an agreement for their first year, which will be re-evaluated on either side each year.  He hopes to be there for 3 to 5 years before moving on to another space. 

 

·         They plan to be good neighbors.  The school will teach values everyday to include respect, honesty, compassion, duty and fairness.  They will do that in a variety of ways.  They plan to give responsibilities to the students and then follow up with them.  That will be done through their work program.  He intends to impress upon the students the importance of being a good neighbor.  When he learned about this he set up a meeting at the Crozet Fire House.  He attended a meeting at the Crozet Community Association.  He put flyers in all of the homes in the area.  He set up meetings to alleviate the concerns of neighbors and community members.  He had one person show up at his meeting.  He has been able to develop an excellent relationship with Camp Albemarle through his summer camp, Field Camp.  He knows that they appreciate their use and their excellent stewardship of that facility each summer.  He fully intends to develop the same relationship with all of the people of the Crozet community and with all of their neighbors through service, good behavior and attention to their concerns.  He hoped that they would be welcomed in the same spirit of friendliness, trust and social ability by their neighbors. 

 

·         They are asking for a special use permit to allow for education in a space that is meant for park and recreational purposes.  It has been very difficult to find a site for the school because he thought given their population that they needed immediate access to outdoor recess space.  He felt that it was difficult to separate those ends, recreation and education.  In fact, he would bet that there is a substantial amount of education going on in the park right now through the Little League and Soccer Programs.  If they are doing their job well they are educating those young people about values such as preparedness, timeliness, hard work, team work, determination and sportsmanship. All of those things are being taught in a recreational context. 

 

·         In sum, they have the support of the Park Board.  They are providing a variety of benefits to the community and are making every effort to minimize impact there.  They are using the space in the building, which has been dormant for the past 5 years during the time that they are proposing to use it.  It is proposed only for current non-use hours that will minimally affect the opportunities for other groups to use the buildings.  He hoped that the Commission would grant them the opportunity to start the school in this location next year.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if there were any questions for the applicant.

 

Mr. Edgerton asked what the intended use would be for the pavilions.

 

Mr. Burnett replied that he did not have any intention to use them.  It would be nice to be able to go outside on a rainy day and use those places.  He could see using the basket ball court the most and any of the field space.  He appreciated the concern about taking care of the field as well.  That is very important.  The children need recess time.  They will not touch the jungle gyms.  The students are too old for that.  Basically, he saw children throwing a football around or a playground ball on the ground.  They will have a 20 minute recess in the morning, a 10 minute recess after lunch and then the sports hours will go from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.  The after care will be a situation where children will drift away.  The shuttle bus will leave, but there will not be a lot of children left that will create a large impact.

 

Mr. Strucko asked what the school’s parking requirements would be during operation.

 

Mr. Burnett replied that the capacity would be about 8 cars during the day for the teachers plus the bus.  Otherwise, he envisioned parents dropping off the children and leaving.  Most of the children will be taking the shuttle bus.  He has noted about 60 to 100 cars at the park in the evening.  They might add a few cars to that, but not many.

 

Ms. Joseph invited public comment.

 

Emil Groth, resident of Crozet, said that the Commissioner’s questions are relevant and important to approving this.  He was retired and moved to the Parkside Village home, which is directly across from the park area for recreational use.  He has young children and likes to go to the park.  The Charlottesville Field School might be a good school and might be a good idea, but not here.  He has nothing against the school.  The problem is that it is not a good recreational or park use.  The park is intended for the recreation use.  There is an existing deed that places restricted covenant on the land in perpetuity.  That means forever and not to be necessarily written off.  If the covenant restrictions can be negated like that, then other portions of the County are questionable.  Even our homeowner’s association has a property that was deeded over to the park with a restricted covenant.  Therefore, that also may be in question.   In the report there was a traffic study that was done, which indicates certain numbers.  But, that traffic study was done 5 years ago in 2005.  Parkside Village was not there.  West Hall, which is a new development, will definitely increase the use of those roads.  There is only one road that comes in from Tabor Street.  There is just that one exit through Tabor Street.  In terms of the water and sewer lines needing to be dedicated, he was not sure what that involves.  But, if it needs to come into compliance and it needs to be worked on, then who is going to pay for that.  Is the county going to pay for that again?  The County has contributed a lot of money to the park already and maintains the park essentially.  Or is it going to be the Park Board? That is something to think about.  The use of the Park building for the school is not a recreational use.  The suggestion that they will be able to break down class room walls to make the building available for other activities he has a bit of a problem dealing with that suggestion.  There is a possibility for using the building for senior citizens, games, exercise and play gym for pre-school.  These are more in line with what the Park is suppose to be used for.  If the Park grounds are used there is some discouragement to use the park by the young children.  If the green way opens up they are looking at running and bicycling with hopefully more people using the park for recreational use.  The question is would the Planning Commission allow a private boy school in the County park.  If not, why.  It would reduce the accessibility for recreational use.  He asked that the Commission consider all of the things mentioned.  He asked that the Commission not approve this because this is the only recreational area in the Crozet area that is available to his neighborhood.

 

Kelly Strickland, a member of the Board of Directors of Claudius Crozet Park, said that he was present to speak as a resident of Crozet and as a neighbor.  He respects Mr. Groth’s comments.  They have had a lot of conversations and discussions among the park board along the same lines. 

 

·         He asked to give a brief history of Crozet Park.  The Crozet began in 1960.  It was originally part of the Rosengrant’s property.  They still have members of the Rosengrant’s family on the Board of Directors.  When the pool, which was built in 1965, got very old in 1995 and needed to be replaced they raised around $200,000 in Crozet to replace it.  They did not have enough money and the county came in and helped them out to pay for the remainder of that.  In exchange that is when the covenant came to be in keeping the park in perpetuity. 

 

·         The Park Board is represented by members from the local schools, the churches, White Hall Puritans, the Community Association, the Crozet Lion’s Club, the volunteer Fire Department, Crozet Women’s Club, the Crozet Advisory Council, Rescue Squad and Albemarle County Parks and Recreation.  The activities hosted in the park include Peach Tree Baseball League, SOCCA, the Crozet Gators Swim Team, etc.  They have 22 acres of open space in the park, including a fishing pond.

 

·         Events they host are twice a year their annual fund raiser is the Crozet Arts and Crafts Festival.  It is on May 11 and 12 this year.  The Firemen’s Fourth of July carnival has always been hosted in Crozet Park.  This year the Crozet Fire Department is not actually doing a carnival.  They are in the progress of making plans to have a big party in the park that the firemen will host.  They are trying to get the fireworks to stay there with it as well.   That is in the planning stage.  The City Parks and Recreation hosts a summer camp for 2 weeks every summer.  They use the community building for the summer camp.  They rent the building and the entire park to groups and organizations among other things.  They have lots of projects on their schedule that they would love to get to.  Next week they are going to start on renovations to the Arts and Crafts Festival grounds.  They have a new director for the festival.  The last 2 falls they have been rained out, which hurts the revenue for the Park Board.  That is a big project of about $35,000.  They want to improve the basketball courts and turn them back into basketball courts.  Right now it is functioning as a parking lot, which is literally never used. 

 

·         The community building is their big gray elephant in the middle of the park.  They have spent money on the building and have been looking for a good use for the last 5 years.  They have been trying to find a year round use to include the winter months when there is no one in there.  They are existed about the opportunity to use the building at least temporarily as a school while they keep exploring ideas for other uses of that building that would be consistent. 

 

·         A recent project came before the Commission last year in the Lewis and Clark Observatory Center in Darden Towe Park.  That is a similar example.  The difference is that this proposal does not have a site plan, a new building and everything associated with it.  This is just using an existing building, which needs to be used in a park.  They are very concerned that the use of that building does not cause any detriment to any of the existing uses in the park.  They are confident that the conditions recommended will provide for that. 

 

Brian Campbell, a member of the Park Board, said that he was also a member of the Pool Committee.  He has 3 daughters and lives about a quarter of a mile away from the park.  In fact, his daughter used the park building for her birthday party this year.  If the school was here they would still be able to use it.  One of his primary functions with the Park Board is the rental facility.  The rental facility is virtually unused.  It has been one of things that they have been looking for something to bring some activity to the park.  When the summer is here it is flowing with activity.  When the off season comes it just dies.  They are looking for something to do.  In 2006 they had 7 rentals.  As Mr. Strickland said for the past few years they have been trying to find something else that they can do in this building.  They have talked with the YMCA who is doing a study right now to see if it would be feasible to bring in a remote facility there.  The County has told us that they will not be ready to help us out there until 2012 when it is in their plans.  The bottom line is that this is a win/win situation.  They have a facility that is not used.  As the Park Board they are not going to sacrifice any uses just to force this through.  This school is a great plan.  This facility is not utilized at all.  The building closes down from December to May.  They turn off the water, heat and lock the doors because of the lack of use.  The fields don’t get used during the winter time.  This is going to be something on a temporary basis that is actually going to bring people.   If there is a use on a week day evening the building will be cleared and it will be available for use.  That will be true for any weekend use.  The Park Board has to approve any use of the facilities.  He asked that the Commission approve the request.

 

Kelly Hunt, resident of Crozet, said that she was a mom of preschool children that uses Claudius Crozet Park.   She could not think of a better use for this space.  If ever there was a population of children that needed another opportunity for some kind of education it is fifth and sixth grade boys.  As a resident of Albemarle County she was excited about the possibility that there was just one more place that boys can get an education.  This will give parents another option for educating their young boys.  She liked what Mr. Burnett had to say.  As the mother of a 6 year old boy she was pleased to think that possibility might exist for him some day. 

 

Stephanie Saderly stated that her 11 year old son would attend Field Stone School next year.  They were very excited about the school and what it offers to these young boys. Basically she wanted to reiterate what everyone else has said.  She felt that Albemarle County needs a single sex day school for boys.  It is affordable and it caters to their special needs.  They need to be outside, active and to be moving.  This building seems to provide Field School with what they need to provide the type of environment that boys will thrive in.  This is a small school that will provide transportation with a bus that will bring in most of the students.  There will be about 20 students to start off with.  The bus will provide for less traffic on the grounds.  They will be using the bus that will be coming in from Charlottesville.  She asked that the Commission approve the request.

 

Mr. Saderly thanked Mr. Burnett for bringing this opportunity to the community for those who need it. He supported the school’s mission.   He asked that the Commission approve the request.

 

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

 

Mr. Edgerton asked Mr. Kamptner for assistance. There have been several representations through emails and letters that this would not be legal to change the use.  Mr. Kamptner read some of the covenant language earlier.  If he heard it correctly the description of all the activities that could occur in the park could be adjusted by mutual agreement by the county and the Park Board.  He asked if that was correct.

 

Mr. Kamptner replied that the covenants would need to be amended to allow this use. The county’s primary concern back in 1970 that would continue would be that the park as a whole would have a public benefit.  Ultimately that will be for the Board of Supervisors to decide when they are considering both the special use permit and the declaration.  As it is worded right now it would not allow the school use.  It clearly does not fit within the park recreational or entertainment uses that were envisioned when the declaration was entered into.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that if the Commission were inclined to recommend approval would they have to add a condition of the approval that would cover the legal need to amend the covenant.

 

Mr. Kamptner noted that condition 8 was added after the staff report was written.  That is an additional recommended condition.  Part of it is to be clear that the consideration of the special use permit needs to be independent of the agreement and the declaration.

 

Mr. Cannon asked what the process is if there is a separation process by which the covenant would be amended.

 

Mr. Kamptner replied that it is really negotiated between the county and the Park Board. It is presented to both the Park Board and to the Board of Supervisors for approval.  The Board’s approval would authorize the County Executive to sign the amendment on behalf of the county.

 

Mr. Cannon asked at whose instance those negotiations would begin.

 

Mr. Kamptner said that it would be the Park Board since they are the ones who are seeking the change essentially.

 

Mr. Strucko said that legal issues aside he was having several thoughts about this proposal.  He knows the intended use of Crozet Park in the Crozet Master Plan and given its location in the middle of the residential area not too far from the downtown Crozet area, given its history and use by local residents of Crozet, whether they be the people coming in for the Firefighter’s Festival, the Arts and Crafts Festival it draws not only people from Crozet but other areas as well, but he did know that it serves as the hub of Peach Tree Little League Baseball, which is 300 children from ages 5 to 12 that go to the local elementary schools.  It has been intended for use as a park and recreational facilities for this particular segment of our community.  He also knows that cinder block building that is very raw and its interior/exterior appearance does get under utilized.  From personal experience he knew that a 70 student school is an intensive use.  He sat on the board of the Free Union Country School, which had 70 to 80 students.  From his 5 years in that capacity that active recreational space is necessary.  That does offer wear and tear to these facilities if they are indeed going to use the baseball and soccer field.  County funds are going to maintain these fields.  This is a private school use.  He was trying to piece together the virtues of maintaining this as a park for the immediate area of the community of Crozet and allowing it to continue in that capacity while permitting a use of an under utilized asset, which is this building.  But, is this the right use for 70 students of this age group.  That equates to 12 baseball teams.  It may restrict the use of these residents to have access to these facilities during the day of the school year.  Crozet is a changing community.  Some of the decisions they have made on this board have instigated those changes.  So whereas the use today may be one thing, it may be something very different once West Hall Phase V goes in.  With all due respect to the Field School, he felt that it was quite virtuous but saw the proposal coming in and potentially conflicting with public access to this very pivotal park inside the Crozet community.  It does not help him with this use when he knows that 20 to 30 students are being bused in from the City of Charlottesville.  It is not being used by Crozet residents.  So right now his disposition is to deny this request.

 

Mr. Craddock said that his church use to use that property years ago.  They were in the city and came out to Crozet Park.  During the school years his children had gone out there when the Indians had their POW for learning experiences.  The County Fair was there for a short time period.  The Crozet parade winds up at the park at the end.  So he has been out there a number of times as well as for swim meets at night.  He was in favor of this use. It is a good use for the property if it is something that the Park Board and county can work out.  The mention that the Park Board and the Field Stone School would revisit the issue every year up to 5 years helped sway him.  So at any time by mutual agreement the school could be vacated.  He has no problem with the school since it appears that they will be out of there when the heaviest use occurs at the park during the summer, in the afternoons and the evenings.  It would be a good security issue having people there during the winter time to keep potential vandalism down.  Therefore he was in favor of the request.

 

Mr. Morris echoed what Mr. Craddock said, particularly that this is going to be revisited each year.  Also, they had Park Board members say that after due deliberation they were in favor of it and backed it.  Those are the people who have to live with it and govern it.  They should know.

 

Mr. Cannon asked Mr. Kamptner when they grant a special use permit that is forever. 

 

Mr. Kamptner replied that typically special use permits run with the land. The Commission has occasionally recommended that a time limitation be placed on the permit.

 

Mr. Cannon asked if the Commission was able to do that as a legal matter, and Mr. Kamptner replied yes.

 

Mr. Cannon said that his initial instincts coming in were consistent with Mr. Strucko’s, but he has heard the folks who are on the Park Board speak as well as the folks who are representing the school and was  sympathetic to the need to use the building and to make optimal use of the park.  He was concerned, however, for the following reasons.  They have seen this happen frequently that school that start expand and they tend to expand where they start because it is very difficult to find space elsewhere to develop these schools and to expand them.  So he was imagining that in five years that they will be looking at a request to expand the school in place and make a more intensive use of this area for a school that may have already been in existence for five years and be flourishing.  At that time it will be very difficult to say no.  He would be interested in putting a time limit on this, which felt would be consistent with the representation they heard from the school and the Park Board that this is a transitional moment, a short term temporary use of the building while some permanent use is found and for the school a short term use of the building while some more permanent site is found.  Maybe that allows us to have the best of several worlds here.  He would be interested to entertain that if others thought it was useful.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that was an excellent idea.  He was curious whether there was some way to condition the special use permit so that the county could participate in the determination.  Since the county has contributed significant funds to the park the county does maintain the athletic field, which the school will benefit from. The county does not maintain the building, which is not an issue.  But, if a year down the road the determination by the county was that this was a negative experience he would like to figure out a way to allow the county to be sitting at the table to make that decision. He questioned whether they could condition the special use permit with that kind of review.  He agreed with Mr. Cannon about putting a specific time limit on the special use permit because there is a real possibility that 3 to 5 years down the road, regardless of how the school feels now, they might find it to be more advantageous to stay where they are.  They have had several schools within recent months that have come back and asked to expand.  He was a little threatened by the number of 70 students because it sounds like a lot.  Mr. Strucko’s point is well taken that is a large group of children.  He felt that 20 students sounded like it would work with the space that they are asking for that is being under utilized. He felt that the private school children have the same rights to use the park as public school students.

 

Mr. Strucko felt that Mr. Craddock’s comment about the school being in use during the winter months when the intensity of use was low and being absent during the summer high usage period was very compelling.  He agreed with Mr. Cannon’s concern that once a use like this gets started for a temporary space that the need to continue to search for more permanent space dies down and they may be faced with a permanent resident here, which may not be a bad thing for a building that gets used very rarely throughout the year anyway.  If the time was more restrictive and if the access to some of these public facilities was a little more restrictive he may accept it.  But, he was thinking that the public utilizes this space most intensively during the very months that this school would not be there. 

 

Mr. Edgerton asked if there is overlap with the normal school schedule.  He heard Mr. Hughes comment that the school would not have access to the athletic facilities after 4:00 p.m. even though the special use permit was requesting to be there until 6:00 p.m.  But, they would only be in the building to 6:00 p.m.  There would be no conflict with the scheduled use.  He asked if the parking would be an issue if there was an overlap period in the spring and the fall.

 

Mr. Strucko pointed out that starting in March through July he has to take his son to the park for baseball practice by 5:30 p.m. twice a week.  The parking does overflow.  The depiction in Attachment C is a little inaccurate.  The parking overflows into the open space that is to the left of the main entrance.  The parking in the area down past the pavilions fills up quite quickly.  There are only 2 fields that are used for practices.  Only 2 teams can practice at one time.  The practices do spread out through the week.  It is the schedule for particular teams is twice a week.  So the practices start at approximately 5:30 p.m. 
That brings in about 24 cars.  The school operation until 6:00 p.m. may overlap here.  But, that will only be in the months of March, April, May and part of June.  He felt that it was workable particularly if 70 students are transported by a single vehicle like a bus and the parking was restricted to 22 daily parent car trips.  That is not prohibited.  If 70 students were rolling in and a significant portion of them were coming in with their parents in individual vehicles he foresees a bottle neck a problem.  The park gets it most intense use on the weekend from sun up to sunset.  Of course, the school would not be in operation then.  He was sensitive to the Park Board’s concerns and the financial considerations regarding the under utilized facility. Again, his concern was access for the immediate public around this park in the designated growth area that is Crozet that was master planned and used this particular facility that receives public funds as the active recreational area within walking distance from a lot of homes. He questioned if the proposed school use could work and if there would be a proposed expansion past the requested amount of 70 students. 

 

Ms. Joseph said that one thing they could do is limit the time.  The thing that bothered her was that these children were not coming from the neighborhood. If it was a neighborhood school it would make more sense that there would not be much traffic.  But, if they were busing them in that was a little bit of a concern.  If they could limit the number of students to start out with for less than 70 she felt that would alleviate some of her concerns at this point.  Also, they could limit the approval to a year.  If they are going to renegotiate every year then they could come back at least after the first year and they could hear from the neighbors.  That way they could see whether it is working.  She had concerns that they were spending some county money on that for maintenance purposes.  It is not what was intended. It is obvious when reading the language it says in perpetuity that they expected it to be a park.  That was not the intent when the county invested the money for this to become something like this.  She could support the request if they limited the students and the time.  She asked staff if the county has an agreement to allow the Waldorf School to operate in one of the county schools out in Crozet.

 

Mr. Benish replied that it was in the old Crozet Elementary School.  But they are constructing a new facility in town. He believed that they will be vacating that.  It created a viable use for that building to keep it inhabited and functional.

 

Mr. Benish noted that if they do put a time limit it will bring the county involved in the decision making to continue the use once it reaches that expiration date.  If there were any other role or involvement that they saw on the county it would be helpful to clarify that.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that if the county is not part of that decision making process there may be other motivations that the school and the Park Board might have interest that might not necessarily represent the county’s interest.  He suggested that the county be a party to that discussion.  He suggested that they try it for a year and see how it goes.  If the school is only interested in starting with 20 to 25 children, then let’s go ahead and approve it for that.  If they come back next year and want to do it for a few more and there has not been a problem, then that could be considered.  There are some good things going on here, but he thought that they need to be a little careful because this is a community facility and a very important one.

 

Mr. Strucko noted that his concerns were speculating on the impact.  If they could come back and have the explicit data on what the impact is, then they could make a more informed decision.  Therefore, he agreed with Mr. Edgerton.

 

Ms. Joseph said that she could agree to 35 children.  It would allow the school to have a good start.

 

Mr. Benish said that there may be a few issues to think about when the clock starts for the reviewing planner.  It needs to be clear.

 

Mr. Kamptner suggested that it be a date certain and that it not be one year from the date of approval because that year will end during the school year. 

 

Ms. Joseph said that they wanted them to be able to start in 2008 if everything is acceptable.  That is the part that gets a little sticky.

 

Mr. Kamptner said that the Commission would want to look what happens over one full school year.  He suggested that they have the special use permit come back to amend that condition by June 30, 2008.  That would allow time to get the new one in place before the fall semester.

 

Ms. Joseph said that sounded good.

 

Mr. Benish said that if staff has that general direction they could make a recommendation so council and staff can work on the exact language for the Board of Supervisors meeting.

 

Mr. Cannon said that he was comfortable with some limitation, but wanted to make sure it is consistent with what the school’s expectations were for the first year. 

 

Ms. Joseph invited Mr. Burnett to come forward to address the question.

 

Mr. Burnett said that 32 students would be acceptable.  They will not have more than 32 students next year.  He felt that it would be less and did not anticipate that will be a problem.  If the Commission says that they will let him know again whether they have the facility in 2008/2009 in June or July of 2008 then he is going to start searching for something else.  He cannot wait until that date to find that he does not have the facility for the following year.  He realized that he was not going to be there for a full year for the Commission to have the opportunity to review a full year.  He was completely comfortable with that.  He knows that they will pass with flying colors.  He has had the camp in Free Union for the past 8 years and they do not go past the number of children that they can fit on the bus.  There is a huge temptation to grow bigger, but he did not want to grow bigger because he liked teaching in a small school.  Actually the limitation to 5 years was attractive because they do want to have their own space.    

 

Mr. Edgerton agreed that his point was well taken that if he did not find out until June that he was going to have to make other plans before that.  He asked how early he would have to be making other plans.

 

Mr. Burnett noted that the sooner the better.  He has parents in the room that are dependent on them having a school building next year.  The experience of the Village School was that when they did not lock things down quickly enough they started losing students.  Losing students meant losing precious funds for next year.  He would think that a half way through the year would be a good time.  He would love to investigate the Waldorf School’s location that was wrapped up at least through the end of June and they have a 6 months extension through the winter.  Their school year goes from September 4 through June 6.

 

Mr. Strucko said that if they were to access the impact of this park they would be able to do it just for the fall and winter period.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that from what he told them most of the activity happens in the spring.

 

Mr. Strucko agreed that from his experience in the park that it would be March through June.

 

Mr. Benish said that the applicant had indicated that he needed about 6 months advance notice.  If they put the time limit at 2 years the applicant would probably come back and seek an extension before that second year because he will be in the same situation. So the Commission might want to reconsider that.  He suggested that the applicant come back after 1 year so that he could make plans for the third year.

.

Mr. Cannon noted that the number might need to be changed for that proposal.

 

Ms. Joseph asked the applicant to comment on the 2 year proposal at which time he could amend it to allow more students at that time.

 

Mr. Burnett replied that he wanted to go from 32 students this year to 48 students the second year.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that the applicant was asking for 48 students for 2 years.

 

Mr. Morris encouraged the applicant to request a deferral so these things can get hammered out right now since it was very confusing for everyone.

 

Mr. Kamptner said that the concept of the 2 year special use permit life would allow the applicant to file an application approximately in September of 2008.  They would go through the process and get a decision from the Planning Commission and the Board by February of 2009, which would give the school enough time to find another site by September, 2009. 

 

Mr. Strucko said that would not allow the Commission to assess the impact of the school during the spring months.

 

Mr. Kamptner replied that it would because they would have the entire first school year to evaluate the impacts.

 

Mr. Cannon felt that would be a reasonable review cycle.

 

Mr. Burnett agreed with the time line with a maximum of 32 students next year with 48 students the second year.

 

Mr. Kamptner noted the following changes should be made to staff’s recommended conditions.

 

·         The special use permit shall end on June 30, 2009.

·         In condition 2, the hours of operation should be limited from Monday through Friday based on the representations that have been made and the possible conflicts.

·         In condition 7, that last clause that it should be prescheduled conflicting public use, etc. should be changed to “or any other scheduled uses authorized by the Department of Parks and Recreation.”

·         The school year should be defined September through June.

·         There was a representation that a number of students will be coming in by shuttle, but there was nothing in the special use permit conditions that address that.  Staff will work out the language of a condition with zoning staff that says that some kind of shuttle service will be provided as represented by the applicant.

 

Mr. Cannon agreed to all of the suggested changes.

 

Motion:  Mr. Cannon moved, Mr. Craddock seconded, to approve SP-2006-043, Field School, subject to the conditions recommended by staff, as amended.

1.       Maximum enrollment shall be 48 students.

2.       Hours of operation for the school shall be from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

3.       The school is limited to existing buildings and park grounds as indicated on the concept plan (Attachment C).  Any additional building or site changes for the school use will require an amendment to this Special Use Permit (SP-2006-043).

4.       Prior to issuance of a Zoning Clearance for the private school use, water line dedications to the satisfaction of the Albemarle County Service Authority are required.

5.       The playgrounds and the park grounds, with the exception of the Community Building, will remain open and available for public use during the hours of school operation.

6.       The athletic fields at the park shall not be available for the school’s use after 4 p.m. on weekdays and shall not be available on weekends.

  1. The athletic fields shall not be available for school use when closed by the Department of Parks and Recreation for inclement weather, overuse, fields restoration, or when any other scheduled use is authorized by the Department of Parks and Recreation.
  2. The school use may begin and continue only if the Crozet Park covenants and restrictions expressly allow the use.
  3. Special Use Permit 2006-043 shall be valid until June 30, 2009.
  4. Shuttle bus service for students to and from school shall be provided each school day.       

 

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

 

Ms. Joseph stated that SP-2006-043, Field School was approved and would go before the Board of Supervisors on May 2. 

 

 

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