Albemarle County Planning Commission

February 5, 2008

 

 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and public hearing on Tuesday, February 5, 2008, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Lane Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

Members attending were Thomas Loach; Jon Cannon, Vice Chairman; Linda Porterfield; Bill Edgerton and Calvin Morris, Chairman.  Commissioners absent were Eric Strucko and Marcia Joseph.  Julia Monteith, AICP, non-voting representative for the University of Virginia was absent. 

 

Other officials present were Amelia McCulley, Director of Zoning and Current Development; David Benish, Chief of Planning; Gerald Gatobu, Senior Planner; Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development; Megan Yaniglos, Planner; Joan McDowell, Principal Planner and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney. 

 

Call to Order and Establish Quorum:

 

Mr. Morris called the regular meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. and established a quorum.

 

 

            Public Hearing Items:

 

ZMA-2007-00021 Cavalier Mini Storage (Sign # 102)

PROPOSAL:  Rezone 2.169 acres from RA Rural Areas zoning district which allows agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre) to HC Highway Commercial zoning district which allows commercial and service uses; and residential use by special use permit (15 units/ acre)

PROFFERS:  Yes__x__

EXISTING 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__X__

LOCATION: North side of Route 250 East and approximately 1/10 mile east of I64

TAX MAP/PARCEL: TMP 78-36

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Scottsville

(Joan McDowell)

 

Ms. McDowell presented a power point presentation and summarized the staff report.

 

o        The proposal is to change the zoning district from Rural Areas (RA) to Highway Commercial (HC), to allow a mini-storage development on the property. There is a proffer that would eliminate some of the by right uses in the HC District.  The property is located on the north side of Route 250 East approximately 1/10 mile east of I-64.

o        There are several issues with this rezoning request. 

         The proposed zoning classification is inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

         The proposed zoning classification would generate traffic above that normally anticipated in the Rural Areas.  North Hill Road and Route 250 will be a U-turn for the Gazebo Plaza, which is the shopping center that has been approved in the Development Area just north of I-64 just off Route 250. 

         There is no identified public need for additional Highway Commercial in this area. 

         The property is located at the gateway to the Southern Albemarle Historic District and is across the street from properties that have been placed under easement and are also important historic resources.

         The proffered eliminations of by-right uses in the Highway Commercial District do not mitigate the potential negative impacts of this rezoning.

o        Staff recommends denial of this application.

 

Mr. Morris asked if there were any questions for staff.

 

Mr. Loach asked under the Rural Areas what would be allowable number of homes that could be built on the 2.169 acres.

 

Ms. McDowell pointed out that it has a house on it already.

 

There being no further questions for staff, Mr. Morris opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to address the Commission.

 

John Grady said that he was present to assist the applicant, Mr. Chavan.  He felt that they all agree on the importance of the Comp Plan and the long range planning.  He believes that staff does an excellent job in trying to map out the direction of growth within the County.  But, unfortunately there will always be a situation that is not considered or covered by the Comp Plan or the Zoning Ordinance.  However good the Comp Plan may appear to be it is not perfect.  There will always be a parcel of land or a situation that will require a waiver, modification or a special ruling from the Commission or the Board of Supervisors.  The parcel owned by Mr. Chavan and several parcels around this area are examples of exactly that.  They are not covered by the Comp Plan and are certainly not considered to be Rural Areas.  Living in the Rural Areas as do some of the Commissioners he did not think anyone here would consider buying any one of these parcels between the hotel and the industrial park and building their home and raising their children here.  Mr. Chavan property and several other parcels are surrounded by major highways, I-64 to the north and Route 250 to the south.  There is Highway Commercial property on the west side and Highway Commercial and Industrial property on the east and directly across the road.  The commercial property will never be down zoned to Rural Area or Residential.  So that leaves them with what really needs to be done with this property trapped in the middle.  The property does not have good rural character.  Mr. Chavan is proposing an excellent use of the property if rezoned for a mini storage requiring minimal water and sewer, which are both supplied by existing well and septic.  The traffic will be light as a mini storage has always been a minimal traffic generator.  In researching these parcels in this area they have found that the majority or 90 percent of the owners donít live on these parcels.  Some are rentals and others are vacant or not built on.  Even the couple of property owners still living in the area agree with them in a rezoning request.  They agree that others may come forward to rezone and they hope that they do.  They hope that they are successful in their attempt.  If others in this area can be creative and continue to come up with low impact uses, as they are attempting to do, hopefully the Commission will agree that it is long overdue for rezoning.  Mr. Chavan and other adjacent property owners are not major developers or builders.  They will need help from the Commission, the staff and the Board of Supervisors in order to rezone this property.  They ask the Commission to look at this parcel for it really is as a parcel left out.  He asked the Commission to rezone Mr. Chavanís parcel and allow him a reasonable use of it.  He requested that the Commission review his map that showed what was really going on the property.

 

Ed Bain, attorney for Mr. and Mrs. Chavan, said that he had a letter that was in their packet that Mr. Grady has on, which he will try not to duplicate what he said. It really does makes the Commission look at the big picture of what is happening. 

         The Commission has reviewed the Pantops Neighborhood and that sort of thing.  This property is just beyond I-64.  It is clearly not Rural Areas along there, which he felt that they have to look at.  Staff talked with us about possibly coming in with a Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the whole area.  But, as Mr. Grady said, they are not big developers and have one small piece of property that they would like to put to this particular use. 

         There are some rezonings that have taken place in this area since the 1980 County wide down zoning.  In 1986 the Hunterís Hall was rezoned, which was behind a commercial property on Route 250 East.  In 1988 the parcels immediately adjoining their property was added to the motel property and rezoned.  The objection that came in via email was from someone that one of their parcels is already zoned Highway Commercial. Since that parcel is immediately adjacent they donít have an issue of spot zoning.  There is substantial commercial area across the road and down the road. 

         As indicated in the letter, there are churches and other uses.  Staff talks about vehicle trips and vehicle counts, but their study shows approximately 25 to 30 vehicle trips per day on this property with 325 units.  They have 40,000 vehicle trips a day on this property now according to VDOT.  When they are looking at the churches that have been rezoned with a special use permit it is clear that the one done in December at the intersection of Routes 22, 231 and 250 was a 373 capacity church.  They are talking about traffic far more than what they have.  As a land use he would ask that they treat them equally.  They have no where near with this particular use that kind of traffic.  In the staff report from that hearing the factors that were favorable were that the church would be located in an area already characterized by Highway related commercial and resource extraction uses.  That would be heavy uses in other words.  That is where they are.  This property is about 1 mile west of that.  They are 1 to 1.5 miles east of the City limits. So they are not Rural Areas even though it is shown on the plan that way.  Clearly this is not that.

         In the staff report for the church, again which is just a mile east of this property, the character of the surrounding area is unusual as it contains LI, HC and Natural Resource Overlay zoning within areas designated as Rural Areas in the Comp Plan.  Here it is not Rural Area.  He asked the Commission to take a strong look at that and support their rezoning application.

 

John Chevan said that his family has been living in Albemarle County for approximately 10 years.  Both he and his wife are registered nurses and work at the University of Virginia.  They chose Albemarle County to be their home due to its rich heritage, the beauty and for the opportunity it provides to grow.  Most of all they love the people that they have come across from all walks of life.  He wants to rezone his property from Rural Areas to Highway Commercial so that he can own and operate a self storage business there.  He has chosen this particular business because it has a low impact on traffic, it utilizes the least of County resources and it will be local consumer friendly.  It will have a positive tax impact.  In addition, his goal is to own it, operate it and pass it on to his children.  The storage business will provide income so they can raise and educate their children without relying on anybody.  The decisions that the Commission makes will have a ripple and echoing effect on his family not only today but for many years to come.  He hoped that the decision the Commission makes will be in a manner that will encourage citizens of Albemarle County to enjoy continuing living here, working here, investing here and raising their families here.  He asked for support of the request.

 

Mr. Morris invited other public comment. There being none, he closed the public hearing to bring the matter back to the Commission.

 

Ms. Porterfield said that she visited the property and it certainly was not what she would term rural property.   She knows that it is still in the Comprehensive Plan, but for realism sake it is not.  . It is a corner that they are going to have to figure out what to do about. She did not know if this was absolutely the best thing to do with it because it is to a certain extent spot rezoning.  There is a lot of other property that sits there.  But, they really need to talk about it and see if there is something that they can do.  There is public water that could come to site.  But, there is no sewer. She was assuming that most of the properties there are currently running on wells and septic tanks.  She suggested that the applicant attach to the public water if this was to be rezoned in some way.  There is an awful lot of commercial very near by.  Currently this area is an Entrance Corridor into the City and it is not doing too well.  She felt that this was a corner that needs work.  They need to figure out if what is in the Comprehensive Plan is realistic in 2008.

 

Mr. Morris agreed that if one had gone by that area that they have the hotel, the little stretch of Rural Area and then it starts commercial again.  It is a strange site.  However, there are existing homes in that entire strip going up the hill.  He asked if they have gotten comments from the residents.

 

Ms. McDowell replied that there was just the one letter that was attached.  She received one call for information that she did not get any indication whether they felt it was a good or bad idea.

 

Mr. Morris asked if staff has received any input from Monticello as far as the Monticello view shed.

 

Ms. McDowell said that she sent plans and discussed it with them and because they have an outstanding application they felt like they did not want to say anything about this one right now.

 

Mr. Edgerton agreed with all of the statements that have been made, but this is not the way to rethink this whole area.  He thought that there may be good arguments for rethinking this as a rural zone in the Comp Plan and the Land Use Plan.  But, to do it one lot at a time with really is not good planning.  That is going to be problematic.  As Mr. Morris pointed out there are other folks that live there who are relying on the Commission to honor and respect the Comp Plan.  To grant a rezoning for a particular 2 acre parcel is going to set a very dangerous precedent.  It truly will be spot zoning.  He was uncomfortable doing that.  He was struggling with the request.  If the entire infill area needs to be rethought he would like to invite all of the folks that have ownership interests in there to participate in that discussion and not just one individual property owner.   

 

Mr. Morris agreed.

 

Mr. Loach said that to raise a difference between this and what they did with the Watkins, although it went from Residential/Rural Areas to Highway Commercial, it was already in the Master Plan.  It was already in the Neighborhood Center.  Mr. Watkins also stripped out all of the uses except for the one he was using it for.  As far as looking at precedent, that would be the one that he would chose.  The big difference is that it is not in a planned area as of yet. 

 

Mr. Cannon felt that was fair.  He was moved by Mr. Chevanís statement.  He has no doubt that he would develop and use the site responsibly.  But, there is the question of equity and balance to the area as a whole.  He did not know enough about the area to know exactly how this would fit in with the other uses that are being made or planned and how other folks would respond to a broader set of changes in this area.  To rezone this is a real commitment and it would not be a commitment that he would be comfortable taking at this point.  But, maybe there is a way that they can accelerate a review of this area or an integrated review of this area and other planning efforts that are going forward so that they can not delay this indefinitely, but get some resolution on a more comprehensive basis.

 

Mr. Morris asked Mr. Benish if he had any thoughts on taking a look at the entire area.

 

Mr. Benish said that the question was raised as part of the discussion in the Pantops Master Plan looking at the fringe area.  The result of that deliberation in the Pantops Plan was to look at areas to reduce the boundaries of the development area mainly along Route 20 North.  There was a pretty clear consensus from the community not to intensify development along the 250 Corridor.  They did not look at site by site or parcel by parcel areas, but that was the sentiment.  The only other thing he would add is that if they are going to do a hard edge planning with designated development areas and rural areas they are always going to have the other side of the road.  It does not mean that there could not be good planning for the other side of the road.  But, our method of planning creates a hard edge.  There are a variety of rural uses under special use permit that help provide for some transition for those type of uses that they think are consistent with the Rural Areas by special use permit.  Things like churches that were raised certainly are intensive activities but they are seen within the preview of the Rural Areas as having some acceptability there and providing certain services of need.  So those are possibly uses that are there.  He thought that it has always been a troublesome area for a number of years because of all of the existing development that has taken place.  Most of the zoning out there was kept in place to reflect existing development that was out there.

 

Mr. Cannon asked if the commercial uses grandfathered uses.

 

Mr. Benish replied that he was not sure that grandfathered was the appropriate word.  But, there were uses that existed prior to the 1980 Comp Plan designation.  There were uses that might have pre-existed the zoning that was established in the 60ís.  Some commercial uses came after the 60ís but before the 80ís plan.

 

Mr. Cannon said that the uses were not grandfathered in the sense that they are subject to zoning, which is consistent with the use.

 

Mr. Benish said that what they have is inconsistent zoning.  That is what they are seeing beyond the Rural Areas.  They are reflective of existing uses that have been out there in place.

 

Mr. Cannon asked if they would expect those uses to go away at some point.

 

Mr. Benish said that it would be difficult for them to go away if they give them the zoning.  What they intended to do was to let the zoning set and not encourage intensification of zoning.

 

Mr. Cannon said that they could down zone them and let them wither away over time.

 

Mr. Benish said that is an option.  The other approach to these inconsistencies is to take the more aggressive approach of actually down zoning to be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

 

Ms. Porterfield said that this is a clover leaf off of I-64.  This is major league.  If they all think of clover leaves where they drive they are pretty much heavily commercial in some way, shape or form. She did not think they are going to go away.  She told the applicant when she visited the site that she was not in favor of spot rezoning.  But, she thought that they need to figure out what to do with this clover leaf area.  She asked what they can do.  She asked if they could create a buffer zone.  They need to come up with something.  This needs to be looked at heavily at this point. The amount of traffic for this applicant is small with what is going to come in from farther to the east on 250.  This property should look a lot better than it does since it is in the Entrance Corridor.  The parking lot below Comfort Inn looks awful.  She did not know how to go about it, but hoped that they could encourage changes there in the near future in the area as opposed to little pieces.  She asked if there is a way they can do this to move this along in some way.

 

Mr. Benish felt that the approach that they would need to undertake would be a plan amendment of some sort.  There needs to be a consensus of what is the appropriate use, what are the goals and objectives they are trying to achieve with the change in policy from what the current policy is calling for.  They are in the process where they are close to adoption of the Pantops Plan where this was a fringe area of discussion.  He would hesitate to continue to delay that.  It would be good to have an action on that plan, but perhaps a step could be to engage in an amendment that looks at maybe the 250 Corridor.  The other thing that he wants to be careful about is that they are just getting underway with the Rivanna Master Plan.  They are already beginning to hear a fair amount of comment about concern of the impact of the 250 Corridor.  There is some desire to get that completed in a timely fashion.  They only have a certain amount of man power to get these plans done.  But, perhaps within the context of completing the Pantops Plan and the Rivanna Plan, if the Commission and the Board choose to give staff a priority to undertake looking at this area.  If the Commission wants to undertake an approach to evaluate this area, he would suggest that it be through a Comprehensive Plan Amendment approach.  He was concerned with compromising other planning efforts that have gone through.   

 

Mr. Morris said that it would be well worth while to take a look at it, but outside of the current plans.

 

Ms. McDowell said that one of the things she did not emphasis in the staff report is precedent setting, which the Commission is addressing now.  There are 3 applications in the process now just filed for across the street for Lego and down farther for a car dealership, office buildings and a very large skate park with underground parking.  It is a rezoning and 2 special use permits.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that the appropriate way to approach this without getting into setting a precedent would be to go for a Comprehensive Plan Amendment for this and perhaps all of the property left over between the 2 pieces of at least Highway Commercial on the north side of Richmond Road.

 

Mr. Benish said that what he was hearing is that the issue is that the rural area designation and therefore the intended uses are not appropriate for this area.  They know the negative. But, in order to figure out the best uses they have to understand the affirmative that is considered by the community the appropriate uses for that area.

 

Mr. Edgerton noted that involves a lot more than talking to one landowner.

 

Mr. Cannon noted that this is a sensitive area.  It is an I-64 interchange and they know what happens at interchanges.  It is also next to some very sensitive historic and preservation areas.  So it would not be automatic that it converts to more intensive commercial zone.

 

Mr. Benish pointed out that they have an interstate interchange policy.  The intent of that was to be very clear about which interchanges they did feel like development was appropriate and not appropriate.  There are interchanges where they clearly do not.  This interchange was perceived as a hybrid where it would not necessarily undertake the full level of development on both sides of the boundary.  Again, what intensity of use they want to make at interchanges is a decision that is made based on the land use issue design.  Another factor is that beyond land use they have to have a clear understanding of what they may need to do in terms of the interchange itself.  One minor correction is that it is not actually a clover leaf, but it is an urban diamond interchange.  A clover leaf would require much more land, most of the land that they would be considering changing the land use designation on if that was the plan for that area.  So they have to look at land use as in the context of what sort of transportation needs they have for that area.  Rural Areas is the least intensive land use designation that they have.  If they are intensifying it they need to make sure it matches up to the transportation needs. 

 

Mr. Morris noted that it sounds like a whole lot more work needs to be done.  He called upon the applicant to ask if this is something that they want to defer and wait for or would they prefer taking it to the Board on March 12.  He pointed out that was the applicantís option.

 

Mr. Bain said that they would like the Commission to act tonight.  There are a number of things that they did not anticipate, but they might then ask for a deferral at the Board level.

 

Mr. Grady said that they would like to have something done as a whole out there and get all 15 property owners to agree.  They have talked with them, but the adjacent property owner does not want her property rezoned right now.  It is going to be extremely problematic to try to get 15 people together at one time. 

 

Mr. Loach asked if the applicant would consider a proffer that this will be the only use for the land.

 

Mr. Grady replied yes, they would consider accepting that and doing that as a mini storage as the only use.  If they get something like that built he was not sure where they could go with some other type of use other than demolishing the property.  They understand that they are never going to bore I-64 with sewer.  Whatever is done out there they are either going to have to build plants or live with what they have on the property.  If public water was offered they would take it anytime.  But, sewer he would have to defer that to someone in a development agency that he could say how much land would you have to give to develop a new system in that area.  He did not see this area across the bridge as being something for public sewer.  He felt that the office building was going to be a problem.  But, yes they would proffer it out for this simple use.

 

Mr. Morris noted that the Commission has a plan before them that they have to act on.

 

Motion: Mr. Edgerton moved, Mr. Cannon seconded, for denial of ZMA-2007-00021, Cavalier Mini Storage for the reasons as outlined in the staff report. 

 

1.       The proposed zoning classification is inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

2.       The proposed zoning classification would generate traffic above that normally anticipated in the Rural Areas.

3.       There is no indentified public need for additional Highway Commercial in this area.

4.       The property is located at the gateway to the Southern Albemarle Historic District and is across the street from properties that have been placed under easement and are also important historic resources.

5.       The proffered eliminations of by-right uses in the Highway Commercial District do not mitigate the potential negative impacts of this rezoning.

 

The motion passed by a vote of 4:1. (Mr. Loach voted nay.)  (Mr. Strucko and Ms. Joseph were absent.)

 

Mr. Morris stated that ZMA-2007-00021, Cavalier Mini Storage would go to the Board of Supervisors on March 12, 2008 with a recommendation for denial.

 

Ms. Porterfield noted during the discussion that the northeastern quadrant of the I-64/Rte. 250 interchange presents a challenge due to the location of many businesses under old commercial zoning mixed in with other properties zoned rural.  The sad condition of some of these properties indicates that the current mix is not working.  She suggested that some type of transitional zoning would benefit this area.  She also suggested that the applicant possibly defer since there appear to be four more issues regarding the southwestern quadrant of that intersection working their way to Planning Commission hearing and it might be good to look at them all at one time.  The applicant requested an up or down vote on his current proposal.

 

Mr. Benish said that staff has to figure out how this would fit into other work program priorities that have been established.

 

Ms. Porterfield said that this needs to be moved to the front if there are 4 items coming before the Commission

 

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