COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

PLANNING STAFF REPORT SUMMARY

 

Project Name: SP2007-16 Mt. Alto Church Addition

Staff: Amy Ransom Arnold

Planning Commission Public Hearing:

June 12, 2007

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing:

July 11, 2007

Owner: Mt. Alto Church c/o Nanny Washington

Applicant: Mt. Alto Church c/o Nanny Washington

Acreage: approximately 2.00 acres

Special Use Permit: 

TMP: Tax Map 133 Parcel 16 

Location: The parcel is located at 4330 Mt. Alto Road, off Wolf Mountain Lane, from Howardsville Turnpike, Esmont

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

Magisterial District: Scottsville

Conditions: Yes

DA (Development Area):  

RA (Rural Areas): X

Requested # of Dwelling Units:  NA                           

Proposal: Expansion of church alter area to provide additional area for the choir to stand

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

Character of Property: The property includes a clearing on the top of a promontory with views spanning from the east, north and west.  Tree groupings frame the southern edges of the property.  The primary church building, a frame building with vinyl siding, is located at the high point on the property and dates to 1882.  An accessory structure and small cemetery are located near-by to the north and east of the church.  

Use of Surrounding Properties: The surrounding properties are included in the Rural Areas Zoning District and consist of large forestal and agricultural tracts with minimal residential uses. A large forested parcel located to the south/east is under conservation easement.  The Totier Creek Agricultural and Forestal District is located near-by and to the north/east.   

Factors Favorable:

1.   No impacts on adjacent property resulting from the proposed addition.

2.   The addition to the church supports the continuing use of an historic building, encouraging its long term protection. 

3.   The addition will help sustain the continuing presence of a vibrant community church, enhancing the quality of life of its rural congregation. 

4.   The church addition addresses the needs of rural residents.

5.   The addition will minimally impact the existing character of the church building.            

Factors Unfavorable:

Staff has not identified any factors unfavorable to this application.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends approval of this Special Use Permit with conditions.

    

      STAFF PERSON: Amy Ransom Arnold                

PLANNING COMMISSION: June 12, 2007                                            

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: July 11, 2007

 

SP 2007-16 Mt. Alto Church Addition

 

Petition: 

PROJECT: SP 2007-16 Mt. Alto Baptist Church Building Addition

PROPOSED: Expansion of church alter area, additional choir space

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

SECTION: 10.2.2.35 Church building and adjunct cemetery

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY:  Rural Areas - preserve and protect agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources/ density (.5 unit/ acre)

ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: Yes____No__x_

LOCATION: 4330 Mt. Alto Road, off Howardsville Turnpike, Esmont

TAX MAP/PARCEL: Tax Map 133, Parcel 16

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Scottsville

 

Character of the Area:

The surrounding context is comprised of heavily forested ridge lines including a primarily deciduous matrix, a few scattered evergreen stands, and one large evergreen tree farm protected under conservation easement.  Residences and agricultural fields create a few open patches in what would otherwise be contiguous forest.  Located near-by and to the north/east is the Totier Creek Agricultural and Forestal District.  Lying to the west is a sharp bend in the Rockfish River at the Nelson County line, which turns again to flow south/east, eventually joining the James River.  The church is located where Wolf Mountain Lane becomes Mt. Alto Road at a 90 degree curve in the road.  Both byways are narrow, rising and falling as they move across the landscape; both are surfaced with compacted gravel.  The village of Mt. Alto lies to the south/west at the intersection of Wolf Mountain Lane and Howardsville Turnpike approximately one mile north of the town of Howardsville at the fork of the Rockfish and James rivers.

 

Located within the proposed Southern Albemarle Historic District, Mt. Alto is within .5 miles of four sites surveyed by the Department of Historic Resources (Mt. Zion Church; Mt. Alto House, ca. 1830; residence, ca. 1830; cemetery, 1872), and within 1.5 miles of three additional sites recorded by DHR (Ramsay Farm, ca. 1825; Payne Store, ca. 1856; Locust Hill, ca. 1760).  

            

Specifics of the Proposal:

The church has requested the expansion of church alter area to provide additional area totaling 16’ x 20’ for the choir to stand during services as well as extra space for a choir room and study for the pastor. 

 

      Planning and Zoning History:

Mt. Alto Church is legally non-conforming; this special use permit request is the first planning and zoning action for this property since the adoption of the Zoning Ordinance.  

 

Conformity with the Comprehensive Plan:

The Comprehensive Plan designates the subject properties as Rural Areas emphasizing the preservation and protection of agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources as land use options.   Under the Rural Areas Section of the Comprehensive Plan allowing an addition to this rural community church supports the following Guiding Principles:

 “Protect the Rural Area’s historic, archeological, and cultural resources.”

 

“Protect and enhance rural quality of life for present and future Rural Area residents.”

 

“Address the needs of existing rural residents without fostering growth and further suburbanization of the Rural Areas.”

 

“Implement the applicable objectives of the Natural Resources and Cultural Assets Plan.”

 

·         “Continue to identify and recognize the value of buildings, structures, landscapes, sites and districts which have historical, architectural, archaeological or cultural significance.”

·        “Pursue additional protection measures and incentives to preserve Albemarle’s historic and archaeological resources in order to foster pride in the County and maintain the County’s character.”

 

Mt. Alto Church has served and continues to serve the local community in this building since 1956. Allowing for the proposed expansion of choir/study space for the church supports the continuing use of an historic building, encouraging its long term protection.  The addition will help sustain the continuing presence of a vibrant community church, enhancing the quality of life of its rural congregation.  The church addition addresses the needs of rural residents without encouraging suburbanization, contributing to the creation of a defacto growth area, or impacting the character of local historic, scenic, or cultural resources.     

 

STAFF COMMENT:

Staff addresses each provision of Section 31.2.4.1 of the Zoning Ordinance:

 

31.2.4.1: Special Use Permits provided for in this ordinance may be issued upon a finding by the Board of Supervisors that such use will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property,

The proposed addition to an existing church building does not represent an increased intensity of use.  Associated traffic patterns or overall activity on the site will not change as a result of this proposal.  Staff feels there will be no impacts on adjacent property resulting from the proposed 20’ x 16’ addition to the main church building.   

 

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

Virginia Department of Historic Resources records indicate Mt. Alto Church was constructed in 1956, likely on the site of an earlier church, with a history of congregational gatherings dating to 1882.  The white frame church building is sited on the top of a hill, which is part of the southwest to northeast Mount Alto ridge line.  Extensive forest cover characterizes the near-by district with clearings including crossroads, churches, and near-by residences. 

 

The proposed addition to Mt. Alto, totaling 20’ x 16’ (320 square feet), is proposed telescoping from the gable portion of the back of the church building, lengthening the building towards the north/west without extending the addition beyond the face of the sides of the existing church building.  Staff feels the proposed addition is conceived in a manner that will minimally impact the existing character of the church building, the site, and the surrounding district.       

 

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

Section 18, Chapter 10 of the Zoning Ordinance outlines the purpose of Rural Areas zoning: “This district (hereafter referred to as RA) is hereby created and may hereafter be established by amendment of the zoning map for the following purposes:

-Preservation of agricultural and forestal lands and activities;

-Water supply protection;

-Limited service delivery to the rural areas; and

-Conservation of natural, scenic, and historic resources. (Amended 11-8-89)”

 

Allowing for a more convenient and functional place of worship encourages the congregation of Mt Alto Church to continue its active presence within the local community, directly supporting the conservation of both historic and scenic resources in the County. 

 

with uses permitted by right in the district,

The uses permitted by right under RA zoning include the preservation of agricultural and forestal activities, Mt. Alto Church and the adjacent properties are located within the Rural Areas zoning district.  Sustaining the County’s Rural Area zoning district is dependent on including uses that support agricultural and forestal communities, including meeting places, at rural scales, providing the opportunity to take part in community life.  The proposed addition to Mt. Alto will allow the congregation to continue to support agricultural and forestal community life at a rural scale by providing an outdoor community gathering place.      

 

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

There are no regulations in Section 5.0 of the Ordinance that apply to church buildings and adjunct cemeteries. 

 

and with the public health, safety and general welfare.

The Albemarle County Engineer has indicated this proposed addition to the main church building does not appear to be a significant enough to warrant improvements to the parking and vehicular entrances to the site.

 

The Chief of Current Development has indicated since no changes in vehicular entrances or parking areas is proposed site plan review will not be required. 

 

The Virginia Department of Transportation has submitted similar comments and concludes this proposal does not increase the intensity of use or change the vehicular entrance to the site; they have no objection to the proposed addition to the church.

 

Albemarle County Fire and Rescue has requested adequate fire flow at the site be confirmed.           

 

SUMMARY:

Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this application:

1.    The addition to the church supports the continuing use of an historic building, encouraging its long term protection. 

2.       The addition will help sustain the continuing presence of a vibrant community church, enhancing the quality of life of its rural congregation. 

3.       The church addition addresses the needs of rural residents.

4.       No impacts on adjacent property resulting from the proposed addition.

5.       The addition will minimally impact the existing character of the church building.  

        

Staff has not identified any factors unfavorable to this application.

 

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION: 

Based on the findings contained in this staff report, staff recommends approval of Special Use Permit 2007-16 Mt. Alto Church Addition with the following conditions:

 

1.       Special Use Permit 2007-16 shall be developed in general accord with the concept application plan, provided by the applicant and received February 26, 2007 (Attachment A.)  However, the Zoning Administrator may approve revisions to the concept application plan to allow compliance with the Zoning Ordinance. 

2.       The addition shall be limited to 320 square feet.

 

ATTACHMENTS

Attachment A - Concept application plan

Attachment B – Mt. Alto Church aerial detail

Attachment C – Mt. Alto Church aerial context

Attachment D - Site photographs

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