Albemarle County Planning Commission

December 11, 2007


            Public Hearing Items:



SP-2007-00044 Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA (Sign # 74)

PROPOSED: special use permit for outside fenced dog exercise areas, also for potential adopters to socialize with dogs. No residential units proposed.

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: C-1 Commercial--retail sales and service uses; and residential use by special use permit (15 units/ acre).

SECTION: Animal Shelter, uses permitted by special use permit in Commercial district.

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY:  Transitional- neighborhood-scale commercial uses, offices, townhouses and apartments (6.01-34 units/acre) in Neighborhood 1.


LOCATION: 3355 Berkmar Drive, Charlottesville, VA, approximately 1100 feet north of intersection with Woodbrook Drive.



(Judy Wiegand)


Ms. Wiegand presented a power point presentation and summarized the staff report.  (See Staff Report)


·         The purpose of this special use permit is to allow construction of outside fenced exercise areas for dogs at the SPCA’s current facility on Berkmar Drive.  It is a 6.5 acre site that fronts on Berkmar Drive.

·         The Comprehensive Plan designates the land use in this area as being transitional.  The project is in compliance with the Comprehensive Plan land use designation for this area. 

·         Staff reviewed the plan and pointed out the location of the exercise areas along the sides.  The special use permit is for permission to put in the fenced exercise areas that are shown in blue on the plan.  The fencing is part of the proposal.

·         Staff has analyzed the proposal as shown in the staff report.

·         The applicant is requesting 2 waivers: 

o        Section 5.1.11.a requires that any structure that is an animal confinement that is not sound proofed be at least 500’ from the lot line of any residential district.  Since most of the SPCA’s property is surrounded by an R-6 District this requirement would apply. 

o        The second part requires a 6’ high solid fence be constructed around any non-sound proof confinements, which would include these fenced areas.

o        It is staff’s opinion that the 500’ requirement would basically prohibit any construction of these areas outside these exercise areas because there is no place to put them.  There are already some fenced areas out there, which have not been a problem since the original special use permit was adopted and this facility was built.  There is a condition in the current special use permit that would be maintained in this one that no animals would be outside between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

o        The second part of this waiver for the 6’ high fence is that the applicant is planning on a black chain link because it is easy to clean and easy to see through.  The solid fence would be cost prohibitive.  This is being funded by a donor.  For safety reasons the staff and volunteers need to be able to see what is happening in these exercise areas.  Staff and volunteers will be walking animals there.  There is also a place where people who are looking to adopt a dog can go out to one of these areas with the dog and their family can see how they interact with the dog.  If there ever were any problems, then the staff would like to be able to see through into the fenced area.  The SPCA also noted that it improves the character of the surrounding community to see the activities with the dogs in the fenced areas and the care that is given to them.

o        The second waiver requested is a waiver from the residential district 20’ setback.  The applicant is requesting the waiver to accommodate the fencing along the right side of the property that is adjacent to the property owned by Foundations, LLC.  The path comes right out to the fence.  It is the intent of the SPCA to keep the path inside the fence so that the dogs that are walked on the path would be inside the fence.  That is why they have requested a waiver from that setback requirement. 


·                     Factors favorable:


o     The proposed dog exercise areas are an appropriate addition to the current facility.  They are means of enhancing the lives of the dogs and improving their chances of adoption.


o     The proposed exercise areas will provide a safer and more comfortable environment for staff, volunteers and potential adopters to take care of and interact with the dogs. 


o     The dog exercise areas have been designed with the surrounding community.


·         Unfavorable favorable:


·         Staff has identified no factors unfavorable to this application.  Therefore, staff recommends approval of the request with the 6 conditions as stated in the staff report with an amendment.  Staff has revised the wording that was in the staff report for the second condition after discussing it with zoning.  The original condition refers to the Department of Building and Zoning, which has been changed.  The language suggested was “fund raising activities and other special events shall not occur unless a zoning clearance has been issued by the Department of Community Development.”  A zoning clearance is the method used for any kind of annual fund raising event held by the SPCA.  That would essentially have the same impact as the condition in the staff report, but it is worded a little bit differently here. 


·         Staff recommends approval of the 2 waivers.


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


Mr. Strucko asked if any of the adjacent landowners have been notified.


Ms. Wiegand replied that the normal adjacent landowner letter was mailed.


Ms. Joseph asked if all of the fencing was chain link.


Ms. Wiegand replied that the fence along the Berkmar Drive frontage is proposed to be a nicer looking 4’ high aluminum nicer looking fence, but still something that can be seen through.  The rest of the fence would be chain link.


Ms. Joseph asked if staff has a graphic that shows what the nice fence looks like, and Ms. Wiegand replied no.


Mr. Strucko said that the ordinance requires a 6’ high solid fence 360 degrees around the area.


Ms. Wiegand replied that the fence would have to go all the way around the exercise areas.  It requires that these areas have a 6’ high solid fence, which is why they have requested a waiver so that they can turn it into a chain link that they could see through.


Mr. Strucko said that it is possible for them to achieve their means asides from letting the community see the dogs interact with each other and potential owners by having a solid fence on the property line and the other 3 sides being chain link.


Ms. Wiegand replied that it could be, but pointed out that the property is surrounded by basic residential zoning.  The uses in this area, as stated in the staff report, are a mixture of commercial and office primarily.  There are no homes adjacent to this.


Ms. Joseph noted that homes could be adjacent to this.


Ms. Wiegand replied yes if the property redeveloped.


Ms. Joseph asked if staff has discussed with the applicant the potential of using vegetation to help soften the chain link fencing.


Ms. Wiegand noted that the tree conservation area would be outside the fence.  Therefore, the fence would be hidden by it along one portion and around the back.  It is staff’s understanding that the chain link fencing will blend into the green.


Mr. Strucko asked what kinds of uses are immediately adjacent to this parcel.


Ms. Wiegand replied that the Foundation, LLC is a day care.  There are a couple vacant properties along the edges.  There are a couple properties listed as industrial.  There is some property owned by VDOT for the proposed western by pass along the edge.  There is nothing there except a couple VDOT trailers.  Basically there are only a couple residences in the larger area around it.


Mr. Craddock said that to the left of the property is some commercial property, Print source.


Ms. Joseph opened the public hearing and asked the applicant to address the Commission.


Susanne Cogan, Executive Director of the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA, said that others present today are Susan Slanger, landscape designer and Beth Markus.  Elizabeth Markus is the donor of this project.  She approached the SPCA about a year ago and said that she would like to make a donation to the SPCA for the purpose of enhancing the overall well being of the dogs at the SPCA.  She wanted to do this in memory of her husband who had recently passed away and was a dog lover.  They are currently on the SPCA property.  They have volunteers walking dogs all the time out there. The real purpose of the project is to actually make that safer for the dog walkers and the community around us.  Right now they have no fencing on the project.  The fencing along the front is going to be the decorative fencing.  The chain link fence is for the smaller dog walking pens.  There is currently a buffer on the back side already of trees that they had put up.  There are some evergreens to protect the property next to it from the view of those already.  The fencing would be consistent with the property across the street at Planet Fun.  It is the same type of fencing except theirs would be 4’.  It is intended to help make the dog paths safer.  The area will be helpful to exercise the dogs and make it safer for the community. They have some pens right now that are chain link.   They want to enhance the overall well being of the dogs.  They are planning to put in some really nice leveled out walking paths to make it safer for everyone.  It would be cost prohibitive to put a concrete block all the way around the property.  This project would enhance the overall community.  They intend to do this so it blends in with the rest of the community and make it very aesthetically pleasing. 


Mr. Zobrist asked if the dog would not be put out by themselves without a handler.


Ms. Cogan replied no, that the dog would only go out with volunteers and staff.  They may put a couple dogs out there to play with each other, but they will be watched.  They will never be left overnight out there unless some one drives on the property and dumps a dog.


Ms. Joseph said that the noise factor was behind the regulations. 


Ms. Cogan said that this would help the overall noise level at the SPCA by allowing the animals to get more exercise.


Mr. Strucko noted that the noise was for adjacent properties and not within the building.  He asked if the day care center was visible from the site.


Ms. Cogan said that the day care center was not visible.  There is nothing that prevents them from walking dogs now. This proposal would enhance the safety to make sure the dogs could not get to the day care center.


Mr. Strucko questioned what would happen if there was a redevelopment on the adjacent property to residential.  Those pens are right along that line.  If they grant the waiver to the setback that noise issue become real short of not having a 6’ high cost effective wooden fence in between the 2 parcels to mitigate the potential noise.


Ms. Cogan said that the problem with the wooden fence is that they need to have a fence that would also be safe for the animals.  Wood is a porous surface and can’t be sanitized.  That is why they don’t want a wooden fence in addition to not being able to see through it.  From an animal shelter’s standpoint they actually may have issues with respect to the State Veterinarian and whether that is an appropriate surface to put on their shelter.


Mr. Strucko noted that the wood fence would mitigate the sight and sound.  Then they would have a chain link fence within the boundary to do their activity.  He was looking at it from the outside in.  He was looking at it as a potential resident in an undeveloped parcel looking into the SPCA piece.  They don’t necessarily have to have a wood fence as part of the dog pen.  But, it certainly would be a sight and sound barrier between their activity and a residential function.  That is the point of the 500’ setback. 


Mr. Zobrist asked if the applicant would be amendable to an additional condition to the special use permit that stated that dogs would not be put outside for storage unsupervised or for extended periods of time.  His concern is that if they don’t have a volunteer one day and there are 10 dogs that get put out there and left for 4 or 5 hours.


Ms. Cogan replied that was fine, but that was not their intention.


Mr. Zobrist suggested the condition that the dogs would not be placed for extended periods of time or unsupervised in the dog areas and that they would be accompanied at all times by staff or volunteers.  He suggested adding during daylight hours.


Ms. Cogan suggested supervised by staff or volunteers.


Ms. Zobrist replied that he was in favor of dog runs, but understands that is that the right type of facility for that.  He had no problem as long as everyone walking a dog is supervised.


Ms. Cogan said that the wording was changed from one of the conditions that dealt with fund raising activities.  They said then “other special events.”  She suggested the wording of “other similar events.”  They have adoption events all of the time. 


Ms. Joseph noted that “special events” references the Zoning Ordinance.  That is where that wording came from.  She felt that they were talking about other fund raising events and that she was probably covered.


Ms. Joseph invited other public comment.


Susan Joiner, landscape designer, said that there was a 20’ buffer area around the entire property.  That area where the dog pens are is located 20’ from the property line.  In addition, there are existing evergreen trees that are going to be transplanted onto or right at the property line, which will buffer and provide the same kind of visualization block as fencing, would do.  She felt that the evergreen trees would work just as well if not better than fencing.  The pens are not right on the property line and there is a shield over them.


Ms. Joseph asked if there was other public comment.  There being none, the public hearing was closed and the matter was before the Commission.


Mr. Strucko said that his concern is the noise mitigation.  What they are proposing here is chain link pens 20’ from a property line that will contain dogs that will be allowed to act freely as they want.  The potential for a possible noise issue is there.


Ms. Wiegand said that there are some pens out there now.  There are 2 in the back and couple pens along the side.  They have not been a problem to the neighborhood as far as staff knows at this time.


Mr. Zobrist asked if they could make it subject to the sound ordinance. So if the noise starts to exceed it that a neighbor could complain and have it investigated.


Ms. Wiegand replied that those regulations are currently in place.


Mr. Kamptner said that the noise ordinance does not pertain to barking dogs.  A barking dog ordinance has been considered by the Board of Supervisors, but has not been adopted at this point.   


Mr. Strucko agreed with the suggestion of limiting it to daylight hours.  The visibility issue goes hand in hand with the noise for the adjacent property owners.  He felt that the 20’ buffer with the evergreens could serve as mitigation.


Ms. Wiegand noted that the situation proposed is for dogs to be outside under controlled circumstances.  The dogs would be inside or outside in acceptable hours.  There has not been a problem within the last 2 years.


Mr. Cannon said that he was comfortable that under these conditions they were allowing a situation that is different from the worse case addressed by the regulations by limiting the hours when dogs can be out there, by requiring that they be attended and by proposing a different purpose that is not to have the dogs live out there but exercise out there.  He agreed that dogs that are moving usually are not barking.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that actually one of the regulations is for the confinement in an enclosed building from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.  That is actually in the ordinance.  That condition really is replicating the ordinance.  Daylight can be before 6:00 a.m.  Therefore, daylight is a subjective judgment.  It would be easier to put it based on hours than daylight because that becomes a subjective judgment.  In relieving certain condition regarding the relationship to a residential property line, if they were to grant the waivers, then conditioning for the confinement to be greater than 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. is an offset to that.


Mr. Zobrist asked how many dogs they expect to have outside at once.


Ms. Cogan said that it would depend if they had the dog walkers to put out there.  But, the dogs would be playing.


Mr. Zobrist asked what time they start walking dogs.


Ms. Cogan said that they are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Then 4 days a week they are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.


Mr. Zobrist said that 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. would be okay to put in the conditions. 


Mr. Kamptner pointed out that dog barking was an exempt sound in the noise ordinance. 


Mr. Zobrist asked what is going to happen 5 to 10 years from now in the area.  He questioned what would happen if the noise problem became a nuisance in the future because of the large number of dogs.


Mr. Edgerton noted that potential problems will be covered by the proposed conditions.  The animals would be supervised in these areas.  Also, the hours of operation will be limited.  He felt that would solve the potential problem of dogs being left outside for indefinite time periods.  With those conditions he felt that they have addressed the major concern. 


Mr. Strucko suggested that they consider adding the condition that trees be planted along the upper right side of this property to mitigate the impacts.  Then he would be comfortable in granting the 2 exemptions.


Motion:  Mr. Strucko moved, Mr. Morris seconded, for approval of SP-2007-00044, Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, with the conditions recommended in the staff report, as amended.


1.       Planning Department approval of a tree conservation plan for the areas located along the Berkmar Drive road frontage in order to preserve existing trees and provide shade and shelter for people and animals.


2.       An evergreen screen consisting of a double row of trees planted 15’ on center, to conform with ordinance requirements, shall be provided between the dog pens and the adjacent residential property. 


3.       Fundraising activities and other special events shall not occur unless a zoning clearance has been issued by the Department of Community Development.


4.       The site shall be developed in accord with the attached site plan entitled “Charlottesville/Albemarle S.P.C.A. ZMA 2000-005, SP 2000-022, Revised November 6, 2007.”


5.       Animals may be walked and/or exercised outside only between the hours of 8:00 am and 7:00 pm. While animals are outside, they must be supervised.


6.       Uses shall be limited to an animal shelter and a veterinary hospital with associated offices only.


7.       Fencing shall be of the material identified and installed in the locations shown on the plan entitled “Charlottesville/Albemarle S.P.C.A. ZMA 2000-005, SP 2000-022, Revised November 6, 2007.”


The motion passed by a vote of 7:0.


Action on the Waivers:


Motion:  Mr. Morris moved, Mr. Edgerton seconded, for approval of the waivers to the 500-foot setback and solid fencing regulations and to the 20-foot residential setback requirement for SP-2007-00044, Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA.


The motion passed by a vote of 7:0.


Ms. Joseph stated that SP-2007-00044, Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, would go before the Board of Supervisors on January 9, 2007 with a recommendation for approval with conditions.


Return to PC actions letter