COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

PLANNING STAFF REPORT SUMMARY

 

Project Name:  SP2007-044 SPCA Amendment 

Waiver of Section 5.1.11a. that requires a 500-foot setback for animal confinements and solid fencing.

Waiver of the Residential District 20-foot setback requirement for the area adjacent to the property owned by Foundations LLC.

Staff: Judith C. Wiegand, AICP

Planning Commission Public Hearing:

December 11, 2007

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing:

January 9, 2008

Owners: The Albemarle Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“SPCA”)

Applicant:  Susanne Kogut, Executive Director, SPCA.

Acreage:  6.35 acres

Special Use Permit:  to construct  outdoor fenced-in exercise areas for dogs.

TMP: TMP 45-86

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

Existing Zoning and By-right Use:  C-1 Commercial, which allows retail sales and service uses; and residential use by special use permit (15 units/ acre).

The SPCA operates by special use permit, section 22.2.2.13. Animal Shelter.  

Magisterial District:  Rio

Conditions: Yes

DA (Development Area):  Neighborhood 1.

Requested # of Dwelling Units:  NA              

Proposal:  Applicant requests a special use permit to allow construction of some new and some replacement outside fenced  exercise areas for dogs. Volunteers would exercise and play with the dogs in these enclosures. The areas will also be used by potential adopters to allow them to get acquainted with an animal.

Comprehensive Plan Designation:  Transitional—neighborhood-scale commercial uses, offices, townhouses and apartments (6.01-34 units/acre).

Character of Property:  The property is currently serving as an animal shelter. The current building was completed in 2005.    

Use of Surrounding Properties:  The SPCA is surrounded by residentially zoned properties, except for a commercial parcel adjacent to the southeast corner.

Factors Favorable:

1.      The proposed Dog Exercise Areas are an appropriate addition to the current facility. They are a means of enhancing the lives of the dogs at the facility and improving their chances of being adopted.

2.      The proposed Dog Exercise Areas and the paths will provide a safer and more comfortable environment for staff, volunteers, and potential adopters to take care of and interact with the dogs.

3.      The Dog Exercise Areas have been designed with the surrounding community in mind.

Factors Unfavorable:

Staff has found no factors unfavorable to this special use permit.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends approval of this Special Use Permit, with conditions. Staff also recommends approval of waivers to the 500-foot setback and solid fencing regulations and to the 20-foot residential setback requirement.


 

STAFF PERSON:                                                                  JUDITH C. WIEGAND, AICP

PLANNING COMMISSION:                                                  DECEMBER 11, 2007

                                               

SP 2007-044  SPCA AMENDMENT

Waiver of Section 5.1.11 of the Zoning Ordinance, which requires a 500-foot setback for animal confinements and a solid 6-foot high fence around non-soundproofed animal confinements.

 

Petition: 

PROJECT: SP-2007-044 SPCA Amendment

PROPOSED: special use permit for an outside fenced dog exercise area, 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: 22.2.2.13. 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.

ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: Yes____No  X

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

TAX MAP/PARCEL: TMP 45-86

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Rio

 

Applicant’s Proposal:

The applicant wishes to construct fenced outside exercise areas to provide a place where the dogs could exercise and play to improve their overall health and well-being. In addition, the fenced areas will be used by potential adopters to socialize and play with the dogs, and to interact with the dogs to see if they would be a good addition to their family. The hours of use for potential adopters would be 12 noon to 6:00 pm seven days per week. The hours when volunteers exercise the dogs and play with them would be from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm, Monday through Thursday, and 8:00 am to 6:00 pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

 

Character of the Area:

The current SPCA facility is surrounded by various commercial and office uses, along with a few residential and vacant properties. The SPCA has been in operation for over two years in its current facility. A portion of the right-of-way (ROW) for the proposed Western Bypass abuts the northern edge of the property.

 

Planning and Zoning History:

Prior to adoption of the County’s current Zoning Ordinance, this parcel was zoned R-2, Residential. When the current Zoning Ordinance was adopted in December 1980, the parcel was zoned R-6, Residential.

 

On August 9, 2000, the Board of Supervisors approved ZMA 2000-005 to rezone the parcel to C-1 Commercial so the SPCA could construct and operate an animal shelter on the property. At the same time, the Board approved SP 2000-022, with six conditions, to permit operation of an animal shelter on the property. (See Attachment B)

 

Since approval of the ZMA and SP, preliminary and final site development plans have been approved and the new building has been constructed.

 

Conformity with the Comprehensive Plan:

The Comprehensive Plan designates this parcel and the surrounding property as Transitional, which allows neighborhood-scale commercial uses, offices, townhouses and apartments (6.01-34 units/acre) in Neighborhood 1. The C-1 Commercial district is appropriate in a transitional area, and the operation of an animal shelter in a C-1 district is allowed by special use permit.  

 

Neighborhood Model:

The special use permit is for fenced outside exercise areas. The main building has already been approved and is in use, and no significant site development changes are proposed. For these reasons, staff has not undertaken an analysis of the site in relation to the 12 Principles of the Neighborhood Model. Staff notes that the path that is internal to the parcel provides a walking loop that will enable people and animals to move around within the site. The loop passes through existing “Tree Preservation Areas”—landscaped areas that will be enhanced with additional plantings, as funds become available. This landscaping will offer welcome respite, especially on hot days, for people and animals as they walk around the site.

 

Staff Comment:

Staff will address each provision of Section 31.2.4.1 of the Zoning Ordinance as follows:

 

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,

 

Staff believes that the fenced outside exercise areas will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property because similar facilities are already in use and have not created problems. Staff also does not believe that there will be a significant increase in the amount of noise since the animals are now walked and exercised outside. (See further discussion in the Waiver Analysis section below.)

 

Staff is also recommending that several of the conditions that apply to the current operation of the facility remain in force and a new condition be added to regulate the type of fencing for the exercise areas.  

 

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

The surrounding properties are all zoned R-6 Residential (except for one that is zoned R-15 Residential). These properties have a mixture of primarily commercial and office uses with a few residences and vacant properties. In other words, the SPCA is a commercial district surrounded by a residential district, but the districts do not reflect the uses in the area.

 

The facility is currently operating as an animal shelter under a rezoning and a special use permit approved by the Board of Supervisors. The changes that will result from the special use permit amendment are minor and not likely to result in any changes in the character of the district.

 

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

Animal shelters are allowed by special use permit in Commercial districts. The approval of a special use permit (SP 2000-022) for the SPCA by the Board of Supervisors on April 17, 2000 reflected a finding that this use would be in harmony with the ordinance’s purpose and intent. The current request for an amendment to the special use permit will simply  further the approved use of this property.

       

with uses permitted by right in the district,

Uses permitted by right in a Commercial district include retail sales and service uses. The animal shelter is consistent with these uses, and has functioned well with the surrounding uses and should continue to do so.

 

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

Section 5.1.11 Commercial Kennel, Veterinary Service, Office or Hospital, Animal Hospital, Animal Shelter lists several regulations some of which apply to the SPCA facility:

 

a.  Except where animals are confined in soundproofed, air-conditioned buildings, no structure or area occupied by animals shall be closer than five hundred (500) feet to any agricultural or residential lot line. For non-soundproofed animal confinements, an external solid fence no less than six (6) feet in height shall be located within fifty (50) feet of the animal confinement and shall be composed of concrete block, brick, or other material approved by the zoning administrator; (Amended 11-15-89)

 

The applicant has applied for a waiver of these two requirements. See the waiver request and staff’s analysis below.

 

b.  For soundproofed confinements, no such structure shall be located closer than two hundred (200) feet to any agricultural or residential lot line. For soundproofed confinements, noise measured at the nearest agricultural or residential property line shall no exceed fifty-five (55) decibels; (Amended 11-15-89; 6-14-00)

 

This requirement was met when the current building was constructed.

 

c.  In all cases, animals shall be confined in an enclosed building from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am.(Amended 11-15-89; 6-14-00)

 

This requirement has been met through a condition of the first special use permit. The same condition is recommended for the amendment now under consideration.

 

d.  In areas where such uses may be in proximity to other uses involving intensive activity such as shopping centers or other urban density locations, special attention is required to protect the public health and welfare. To these ends the commission and board may require among other things: (Amended 11-15-89)

 

           -Separate building entrance and exit to avoid animal conflicts; (Added 11-15-89)

-Areas for outside exercise to be exclusive from access by the public by fencing or other means. (Added 11-15-89)

 

The SPCA facility is not located in proximity to such shopping centers or other urban density locations, so these requirements do not apply.

 

and with the public health, safety and general welfare.

Staff believes that the current facility fulfills a community need by providing a home and adoption services for dogs, cats, and other animals. The current proposal for fenced outside exercise areas will only improve the service provided by the SPCA by contributing to improved health and well-being of the animals and providing an opportunity for potential adopters to interact with dogs before adoption takes place.

 

Staff notes that the original special use permit was approved with the understanding that the dogs would be not walked outside between the hours of 10:00 pm and 6:00 am (as prohibited in the conditions), which is proposed to remain in the new conditions. This amendment to the SP would simply provide a safer environment for dogs, volunteers, and prospective adopters by giving them fenced areas where the dogs can run and play off the leash.

 

Waiver of Section 5.1.11a:

The applicant is requesting a waiver of section 5.1.11a of the Zoning Ordinance, which states:

 

Except where animals are confined in soundproofed, air-conditioned buildings, no structure or area occupied by animals shall be closer than five hundred (500) feet to any agricultural or residential lot line. For non-soundproofed animal confinements, an external solid fence no less than six (6) feet in height shall be located within fifty (50) feet of the animal confinement and shall be composed of concrete block, brick, or other material approved by the zoning administrator; (Amended 11-15-89)

 

As described in the applicant’s waiver request (see Attachment D, letter dated November 9, 2007), these confinement areas:

 

….include several fenced in dog exercise areas throughout the property, one larger agility confinement area at the front of the property on Berkmar Drive, and one larger fenced in area located at the back of the property (collectively referred to as “Dog Exercise Areas”). The SPCA proposes that the Dog Exercise Areas will be enclosed with at least 6-foot [high] chain-link fencing for the exercise areas throughout the property and for the large enclosed area at the back of the property, and 6-foot [high] decorative aluminum fencing for the agility area at the front of the property on Berkmar Drive. The SPCA suggests these materials for several reasons: reasonable cost, materials are non-porous and can be cleaned and sanitized, and with respect to the decorative fencing around the agility area, the aesthetics of the surrounding community.

 

The purpose of the Dog Exercise Areas is as a venue for dogs to play and get exercise to improve their overall health and well-being. Dogs will be taken into the Dog Exercise Areas by staff and volunteers to play with and train the dogs, thereby making them more adoptable. Dogs in the Dog Exercise Areas will always be under the supervision of staff and volunteers. Dogs in the agility area at the front of the property will be under the direct supervision and training of staff and volunteers running through the agility course. The Dog Exercise Areas may also be used by potential adopters. Adopters will be able to take dogs into the Dog Exercise areas to play and interact with them to determine whether the dog would make a good addition to their family. On these occasions, the dogs will always be with the potential adopter and may also be accompanied by staff or volunteers.

 

The Dog Exercise Areas are not to be used for permanent confinement but for temporary exercise outings. The kennels inside of the SPCA facility will continue to be where dogs are permanently confined during their stay at the SPCA.

 

The first part of section 5.1.11a requires that any structure not soundproofed be at least 500 feet from the lot line of any residential district. Since most of the SPCA’s property is surrounded by an R-6 Residential district, this requirement applies.

 

The applicant is requesting a waiver of this setback provision because it would effectively prohibit the opportunity to locate any outdoor Dog Exercise Areas on their property. The dogs will only be outside temporarily for exercise; they would not be permanently confined outside. Dogs in a shelter or kennel environment bark primarily to satisfy a need, usually a desire for human interaction. The dogs in the Dog Exercise Areas will be receiving this human companionship, in addition to fulfilling their need for exercise and play. The applicant believes that “these Dog Exercise Areas will, in fact, reduce overall noise levels as dogs that are well exercised and trained will be quieter in their indoor confinement kennels and are generally adopted more quickly.”

 

The second part of section 5.1.11a requires that a solid, 6-foot high fence made of concrete block, brick, or similar materials be constructed around any non-soundproofed confinements.

 

The applicant requests a waiver of this requirement for several reasons. First, the requirement would be cost prohibitive because the cost of installing a solid masonry wall around all of the Dog Exercise Areas would greatly increase the cost of the project. The SPCA is a nonprofit organization that is dependent primarily on private donations for funding. The SPCA has a donor for the Dog Walking Project, but the requirement for a solid masonry wall greatly exceeds the budget.

 

Further, for safety reasons, it is important that staff and volunteers be able to observe what is going on inside the Dog Exercise Areas. If someone in one of these areas requires assistance with a dog, they are much more likely to receive assistance quickly is staff or volunteers can see them. So, enclosing these areas in a 6-foot high opaque fence would be counterproductive and possibly even dangerous.

 

Lastly, the applicant believes that “it improves the character of the surrounding community to see the activities of the dogs being walked around the property, playing in the agility area and enjoying their temporary stay at the SPCA.”

 

Staff Comment:

According to section 5.1, the Planning Commission may waive such a requirement upon a finding that such a requirement would not forward the purposes of the ordinance or otherwise serve the public health, safety, or welfare. In granting such a waiver, the Commission may impose such conditions as it deems necessary to protect the public health, safety, or welfare.

 

Staff notes that the property was rezoned and the original SP approved in 2000, with the understanding that this was an appropriate location for the SPCA and that the facility would include walking dogs outside. It would be inconsistent with the SPCA’s functions to not allow the SPCA to establish formal outdoor facilities at this location. It should also be noted that while there are adjacent R-6 zoned properties, the actual uses are primarily commercial and office, with a few residences and vacant properties.

 

Staff believes that the applicant’s request is justifiable and appropriate. Staff recommends approval of a waiver for both parts of section 5.1.11a and notes that the original conditions governing the special use permit will still apply.

 

Waiver of Residential District 20-foot Setback:

The applicant is also requesting a waiver of the Residential District 20-foot setback requirement for the fencing that will be along the right front side of the SPCA property adjacent to the property owned by Foundations LLC. The area at this side of the property is very narrow. If the fencing is moved to comply with the setback requirement and to enclose the dog walking paths, the paths would be so narrow that there would be insufficient room for separation of dogs while walking. If the applicant removes the fencing and leaves the paths where they are presently located, then the paths would not be fully enclosed by the fencing. This would leave an open area from which the dogs might escape to the adjacent property and at the front of the property on Berkmar Drive.

 

Staff Comment:

Staff supports this request for a waiver of the 20-foot setback in a limited area as this will allow the paths and the fencing to be designed in the safest manner to avoid conflict for the dogs, the dog walkers, and the surrounding properties.

 

SUMMARY:

Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this application:

1.   The proposed Dog Exercise Areas are an appropriate addition to the current facility. They are a means of enhancing the lives of the dogs at the facility and improving their chances of being adopted.

2.   The proposed Dog Exercise Areas and the paths will provide a safer and more comfortable environment for staff, volunteers, and potential adopters to take care of and interact with the dogs.

3.   The Dog Exercise Areas have been designed with the surrounding community in mind.

 

Staff has identified no factors unfavorable to this application.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Staff recommends approval of SP 2007-044 SPCA Amendment, with the following conditions:

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.      The proposed use shall not accommodate the seasonal “Rummage Sale” or any other fundraising activities without amendment to this special use permit, or appropriate permitting by the Department of Building Codes and Zoning Services.

3.      The site shall be developed in accord with the attached site plan dated May 12, 2000; revised June 12, 2000, and revised [date of SP approval to be inserted].

4.      Animals shall be confined in an enclosed building from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am.

5.      Full frontage improvements as required by VDOT shall be installed.

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

6.      Fencing shall be of the material indicated 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.”

 

VDOT has indicated that the full frontage improvements required under the original Condition #5 have been installed, so that condition can be deleted and the condition that was #6 will now be #5.

 

Waivers:

Staff recommends approval of waivers to both requirements of section 5.1.11a and to the Residential District 20-foot setback requirement in a limited area along the right front side of the property, which abuts the property owned by Foundations LLC.

 

ATTACHMENTS

Attachment A – Location Map

Attachment B – Letter stating approval of SP 2000-022, August 21, 2000

Attachment C – Application Plan, Revised November 6, 2007 (on file in Clerk's office)

Attachment D – Waiver Request Letter, dated November 9, 2007

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