SUB 2006-375 Ashcroft West Private Street Waiver Appeal




Applicant Appeals Planning Commission Action (Denial)




Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Graham, McCulley, Pennock







June 13, 2007


ACTION:     X                      INFORMATION: 



     ACTION:                         INFORMATION: 











Ashcroft West is a proposed 28-lot subdivision to be located on an 89-acre portion of a larger parcel that is zoned Planned Residential District (PRD).  Vehicular access to the subdivision is through the existing Ashcroft Subdivision.  The applicant requested a waiver to allow a private street (“private street waiver”) to serve the proposed subdivision, and this request was denied by the Planning Commission on May 1, 2007.  The reasons for the Planning Commission’s decision are summarized in the Commission’s Action Memo (Attachment C) and Draft Minutes (Attachment D).  The applicant has appealed the Planning Commission’s decision to the Board.  



Goal Four:  Effectively Manage Growth and Development



The land proposed for subdivision has been zoned for planned residential development since 1979 (ZMA 79-027).  The 1979 approval allowed 28 lots to be served by a private street running generally along a ridge line, with access through Ashcroft Subdivision.  In 1988, the conditions of approval were amended to allow the use of public water and to change the access to the proposed subdivision by extending Bache Lane in the existing Franklin subdivision (ZMA 88-04).  In 1995, the access condition was amended to allow access to the proposed subdivision not only by extending Bache Lane, but also to restore the access through Ashcroft subdivision (ZMA 94-091) allowed in the original rezoning.  The staff report for ZMA 94-091 explained that Ashcroft subdivision “anticipated the development of this property with access through Ashcroft” and that staff opinion was that “access through Ashcroft is the most logical location for access due to terrain.”  The applicant for ZMA 94-091 explained that the proposed subdivision “lies along a ridge which connects naturally with Ashcroft at a basically constant elevation.”  Without access through Ashcroft, the applicant explained, its property was “effectively landlocked.”   


A preliminary subdivision plat for Ashcroft West subdivision, together with a private street waiver, was approved by the Planning Commission on July 26, 2005 (SUB 04-091).  SUB 04-091 was nearly identical to the current preliminary plat, but it expired.  Staff has not identified any change of circumstances regarding the proposed subdivision since the prior approval.   


Albemarle County Code § 14-232(A)(3) authorizes a private street waiver “if the general welfare, as opposed to the proprietary interest of the subdivider, would be better served by the construction of one or more private streets than by the construction of public streets.”   There are several reasons why the general welfare would be better served by the construction of a private street in this case.


1.                   The street providing access to the proposed subdivision is a private street. This waiver request presents a very unusual situation because the access to this proposed subdivision is provided by Summit Ridge Trail, a private street in the Ashcroft Subdivision.  Summit Ridge Trail connects to Lego Drive, another private street in the Ashcroft Subdivision.  These two private streets extend for approximately one and one-half miles.  Staff believes that there is no reason to require the proposed private street to be treated differently from the existing private streets to which it would connect.


2.                   A public street would require the applicant to improve existing off-site streets to a public street standard.   If the private street waiver is not approved and a public street is required, staff believes that at least one-half mile of the existing private streets would need to be rebuilt to public street standards in order for the Virginia Department of Transportation to accept the existing private streets and the proposed extension of Summit Ridge Trail into the state-maintained system.  Given the existing easement width and the significant grade of these existing street segments, it would be very difficult to reconstruct the street to an acceptable public standard without substantially impacting the existing residents in Ashcroft.  Unless the County exercised the power of eminent domain, the applicant would have to persuade the owners of Summit Ridge Trail and the adjoining lots with land in the prospective right-of-way to dedicate the land to public use and to grant all necessary easements.  Any owner along the way could thwart the conversion of Summit Ridge Trail to a public street by not conveying required property interests and thereby prohibit Ashcroft West subdivision from being developed.  In addition, the County Attorney has determined that the County may not require the applicant to improve existing off-site streets as a condition of preliminary subdivision plat approval, and the Planning Commission’s denial of the waiver to allow a private street effectively imposed such an obligation. 


3.         A private street requires less earthwork than a public street.  Albemarle County Code § 14-232(A)(1) recognizes that private streets may have an environmental benefit where they are found to alleviate a clearly demonstrable likelihood of significant degradation to the environment.  Although section 14-232(A)(1) applies only to lands zoned Rural Areas (RA) or Village Residential (VR), it reflects a public policy to reduce environmental degradation.  In this case, staff found that a private street would alleviate significant degradation to the environment as compared to a private street.  The applicant’s calculations indicated that the volume of earthwork necessary to construct a public street would be 93% greater than that necessary to construct a private street in the same alignment.  The Subdivision Ordinance defines “significant degradation” in these circumstances as a volume at least 30% more.  While the engineering analysis by staff questioned some of the applicant’s methodology, staff concluded that a private street would indeed substantially reduce the volume of earthwork necessary. 


Staff believes that these reasons demonstrate that the general welfare, rather than the proprietary interests of the applicant, would be better served by a private street rather than by a public street.


In addition, staff believes that the findings set forth in Albemarle County Code § 14-234 (as set out in Attachment A, pages 4 and 5), which are necessary to approve a waiver to allow a private street, are satisfied.  






Staff recommends the Board approve the waiver to allow a private street for SUB 2006-375 for the reasons stated herein, and based on the findings set forth in Albemarle County Code § 14-234. 



A-      Staff Report to Planning Commission

B-      Planning Commission Action Letter

C-      Action Memo – May 1, 2007 Planning Commission Meeting

D-      Draft Minutes – May 1, 2007 Planning Commission Meeting

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