COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

AGENDA TITLE:

SP-2007-00034 First Church of the Nazarene - Church

 

 

SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST:

Request to approve a new church with seating for 374 persons based on modifications submitted in response to the Board of Supervisors’ request that the proposed physical size be reduced

 

 

STAFF CONTACT(S):

Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Cilimberg, Clark

 

 

LEGAL REVIEW:   Yes

 

 

AGENDA DATE:

December 12, 2007

 

 

       ACTION:     X                       INFORMATION:   

 

CONSENT AGENDA:

      ACTION:                               INFORMATION:   

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:   Yes

 

 

REVIEWED BY:

 

 

 

BACKGROUND:

On November 7, 2007, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on this item, which was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission on October 9, 2007 with the following conditions:

 

1)       The church’s improvements and the scale and location of the improvements shall be developed in general accord with the conceptual plan entitled “Conceptual Master Plan, Charlottesville First Church of the Nazarene”, prepared by TCS Engineering Co., LLC, and dated “15AUG07.”, provided that:

a)       Entrance improvements shall be approved by VDOT prior to final site plan approval, and shall include a right-turn lane at the entrance.

b)       All parking setbacks and undisturbed buffers required by Zoning Ordinance section 21.7, Minimum Yard Requirements, shall apply; and

c)       The number of parking spaces shall not exceed 150 without amendment of this special use permit.  Relegated parking should be used to the greatest extent possible.

2)       The area of assembly shall be limited to a maximum 374-seat sanctuary.

3)       Facilities on the site shall be used for church activities and shall not be rented or used for separate commercial uses available to the public.

4)       All outdoor lighting shall be arranged or shielded to reflect light away from the abutting properties.

5)       Virginia Department of Health approval of well and septic systems before final site plan approval.

 

The proposed site design considered by the Board (see Attachment A) included a church building of 18,811 square feet. The Board expressed a concern that the building’s size was out of scale for the Rural Areas and requested that the applicant consider revising the plan to show a smaller church building.

 

The Board’s discussion included this project’s relationship to the Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District. This portion of the subject parcel is not included in that district, which begins on the north side of Interstate 64 (the church site is located south of the Interstate), beyond the wooded right-of-way. The immediate surroundings of the proposed church currently includes commercial and highway-related uses, a railroad, a fuel depot, and the Luck Stone quarry. The character of the area changes significantly on the north side of Interstate 64, where the Historic District includes large rural estates. The position of the church south of I-64 and the design requirements to be established by the Architectural Review Board in order to protect the adjacent Entrance Corridors (US 250, Route 22, and I-64) would also serve to limit visual impacts on the Historic District.

 

STRATEGIC PLAN:

Goal 4:  Effectively Manage Growth and Development

 

 

DISCUSSION:

To address the Board’s concerns, the applicant has submitted a revised conceptual plan which removes 4,326 square feet from the rear of the building resulting in a reduced building size of 14,485 square feet (see Attachment B).  An outdoor play area would be created in that area.

 

The applicants are not proposing to reduce the scale or character of indoor activities. The size reduction has been accomplished by reducing the size of the informal gathering areas and of the multipurpose room used for worship and other activities. The applicants have stated that the smaller building would accommodate the same level of activity through using rooms for multiple purposes on any given day.

 

The proposed congregation size (374) has not changed; consequently the number of parking spaces (150) is also unchanged. No other elements of the site design have changed.

 

For comparison, staff has attached a list of Rural Area churches with seating of 250 or more that have been approved or are now under review by the County (see Attachment C). This church would be larger than the majority of the approved churches listed. However, there are three approved churches of similar (First Christian Church) or larger (Grace Community, Maple Grove) size. (Maple Grove was not held to a particular size by its special use permit approval.)

 

Staff had previously noted that this church would be suitable in this location because it could be built on the site without negative impacts to public health and safety, most particularly public roads and wastewater management, and because it would be located in an area already characterized by commercial and extractive uses. The proposed size reduction would reduce the physical impacts of the building on the site and reduce the visual scale of the facility. Other staff findings remain unchanged.

 

This application is subject to the First Amendment's Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA").  One key provision of RLUIPA states:

 

No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly, or institution – (A) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (B) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest. (italics added) 

 

42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(a)(1).  RLUIPA also requires that land use regulations: (1) treat a religious assembly or institution on equal terms with nonreligious assemblies and institutions; (2) not discriminate against any assembly or institution on the basis of religion or religious denomination; and (3) not totally exclude religious assemblies, or unreasonably limit religious assemblies, institutions or structures, from the locality. 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(b).   

 

BUDGET IMPACT:

No budget impact is anticipated.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Staff and the Planning Commission have previously recommended approval of SP 2007-00034 for a larger church. Staff finds that impacts of the church on the site, surroundings, and supporting infrastructure are acceptable as proposed. Should the Board agree, staff recommends the following modified conditions of approval:

                                                                                                              

1)       The church’s improvements and the scale and location of the improvements shall be developed in general accord with the conceptual plan entitled “Conceptual Master Plan, Charlottesville First Church of the Nazarene”, prepared by TCS Engineering Co., LLC, The McKnight Group, and dated “15AUG07” November 20, 2007, provided that:

a)       Entrance improvements shall be approved by VDOT prior to final site plan approval, and shall include a right-turn lane at the entrance.

b)       All parking setbacks and undisturbed buffers required by Zoning Ordinance § 21.7, Minimum Yard Requirements, shall apply; and

c)       The number of parking spaces shall not exceed 150 without amendment of this special use permit.  Relegated parking should be used to the greatest extent possible.

2)       The area of assembly shall be limited to a maximum 374-seat sanctuary.

3)       Facilities on the site shall be used for church activities and shall not be rented or used for separate commercial uses available to the public.

4)       All outdoor lighting shall be arranged or shielded to reflect light away from the abutting properties.

5)       Virginia Department of Health approval of well and septic systems before final site plan approval.

6)   If the use, structure, or activity for which this special use permit is issued is not commenced within the meaning of Zoning Ordinance § 31.2.4.4 by December 12, 2012, the permit shall be deemed abandoned and the authority granted thereunder shall thereupon terminate.

 

ATTACHMENTS

  1. SP 2007-00034 Proposed Conceptual Plan, November 7, 2007
  2. SP 2007-00034 Proposed Conceptual Plan, November 20, 2007
  3. List of RA Churches seating 250 or more
    View PC minutes of October 9, 2007
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