SP-2007-00047 Graceworks Expansion (Sign # 1 & 56)

PROPOSED: Amend SP 2001-24 to expand after school care from 2-days/week to 4-days/week; increase enrollment (max. 10 per day); on three parcels with total of 58.469 acres

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

SECTION: 10.2.2.(5) Private Schools

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


LOCATION:  1040 Ownesville Road (Route 678), west of Andrew Lane

TAX MAP/PARCEL: TMP 58-82; TMP 58-76B; TMP 58-77


(Joan McDowell)


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






Factors Favorable:

1.          The proposed additional children enrolled in the after school care program would provide a service to the community.

2.          The proposed additional days of operation from two days per week to four days per week would not compromise the integrity of the community or the Rural Area.

3.          No additional structures would result from the proposed expansion.


Factor Unfavorable:

1.         Land disturbing that is related to activities for the children has resulted in stream sedimentation.


Staff recommends approval with the conditions listed in staff report.



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


Ms. Joseph noted some concerns about condition 6.  What happens if they want to do some sort of agricultural activity and they are disturbing more than 10,000 square feet?  Agricultural activity is one of the things that they allow people in the rural areas to do.  She asked if condition 6 is directly related to the activities for the children.  They want to encourage people to put in orchards.


Ms. McDowell said that this would be all earth disturbing activities of 10,000 square feet or greater.  The excavation of a pond and construction of a dam was all done with the agricultural exemption.  This would allow them to continue to grade if they need to, but would require an E and S permit.


Ms. Joseph asked if this was specific to the pond itself and not anything else out there.


Ms. McDowell replied that it was not just for the pond.


Mr. Kamptner noted that the condition is specific to the use.  So if they desired to engage in agricultural activities that are independent of the use and the children are not taken to the orchards to engage in some kind of educational activities, this condition would not apply.  This only applies to the use.  For example, if the orchard is being established to provide a learning experience for the children who come to the site under this use.  Then he felt that this condition applies because really the orchard was being established as part of this use.  If it is being created completely independent and it is purely an agricultural use and has no relationship to this educational experience, then this condition would not apply.


Mr. Morris asked if that would preclude the owners from taking the children out to the orchard eventually.


Mr. Kamptner said that is going to be a tough call.  In this case they have the experience.  They have seen how this site has operated up until now.  That is why this condition was put into place. 


Mr. Edgerton said that his read was that a neighbor complained about some of the erosion issues.


Ms. McDowell asked Glenn Brooks to address that issue.


Glenn Brooks said they have had several complaints for the last year and a half.  He said that Sally Thomas has been involved personally.  When he took the job in February he was told to go out and look at this site because it had been a problem for 6 months to a year.  Therefore, he visited the site.  Speaking to the agricultural exemption, they can always do an agricultural use.  What this does is say that they will provide erosion measures.  What they have seen in the past is that their agricultural uses are not being good stewards of the land or not providing protection for the streams.  That is all that they were asking.  They were not saying that they canít do agricultural activity or they canít take their children to it.  They can do all of those things, but please provide erosion control measures, too.  In the past they have been unsuccessful in getting them on this site and others.  So they placed the condition on it that they will do an erosion control plan for the site.  They can still do their orchard, the pasture and whatever, but provide some protection measures. 


Ms. Joseph pointed out that they donít have an application plan.  She asked how will staff know what is going on.


Mr. Brooks replied that usually what happens is that staff gets a complaint.  Then one of the inspectors goes out and sees the disturbance and determines if it is over 10,000 square feet.  Then they inquire of the owner is this an agricultural use or not.  He noted that most of the time the owners say they are doing pasture. Staff then asks where the cows and horses are.  It goes on like this.  A few years ago staff started asking people to write down what they are doing and sign it.  That has had mixed success.  They have a screening form for this site that was done a year ago that said that it is agricultural use.  A month ago he went out to the site and saw no agricultural uses and a whole lot of disturbance.  Therefore, being in it a year or more he just does not believe it anymore. 


Ms. Joseph asked if they have a plan that said that they are going to build a pond, put it in orchard and are going to do this and that or something else for the children if it would work.


Mr. Brooks said that it might be denied in this case because this is a water supply protection area.  They donít want people disturbing the stream buffers and putting ponds in for uses that are not bona fide agricultural uses. 


Ms. Joseph said that it sounds like maybe a condition that keeps those sorts of uses out of those sensitive areas might be helpful.


Mr. Brooks said that it is too late for that.  They are just asking for it to please stop or to do it right.


Ms. Joseph said that they donít know what kind of ideas may happen in the future as far as expansion is concerned. 


Mr. Brooks said that even if they take that condition off if there is any disturbance in the future and staff receives more complaints from the neighbors he would have to make a determination whether it is a bona fide agricultural exemption or not.  He may or may not make that determination in this case. 


Mr. Edgerton said that if the applicant wanted to do something and it was legalistically for agricultural purposes that they are adding a condition saying that they want them to address the erosion.


Mr. Brooks replied that was correct.


Mr. Edgerton said that was all that was happening.  They were not prohibiting any agricultural activity. Just based on their track record, which has not been good here, they are saying that they want to stop the kind of activity that has occurred.  They want to stop the earth moving without any erosion control measures being followed.  That was his understanding of what this condition is trying to address. 


Mr. Brooks agreed.


Mr. Strucko asked what is happening out there.


Mr. Brooks replied that it was best to direct that to the applicant.


Mr. Morris opened the public hearing and asked the applicant if they would like to address the Commission.


Julie Baker, Director of Graceworks, said that Graceworks has been in existence for 7 years.  She felt that the turn that this discussion has taken with the engineer is a bit misleading and she needed to clarify some things.  She hoped that the Commission had a received a letter from the guidance counselor at Agnor Hurt by the name of Sue Tansey.  That letter was submitted a couple of weeks ago. 


Mr. Morris noted that he did not recall seeing that letter.


Ms. Baker said that if they donít have that letter that she felt that this was not a proper hearing.  What that letter addresses is that affordable housing in this community is greater for low income families. What happens is that the children in these families are forced to live in poor areas.  The children that they serve have little opportunity for afterschool activities.  Their parents are often working.  They donít have transportation.  They donít get the chance to take advantage of the beauty of the county that they are all trying to preserve.  She lives on a family property that has been in her husbandís family since the 30ís. They are trying to preserve the beauty of that land.  This does not look very beautiful in the pictures, but they have done a lot of work.  In the spring if they come and take pictures it will be a very different looking place.  But, the point is that they are trying to serve this community.  It is all volunteer work.  She has spent a lot of money building the facility for these children.  She has spent a lot of personal time doing these things.  They are trying to do something good for these children.  In the letter Sue Tansey speaks to this need.  The children that they hope to serve come from the trailer parks around Rio Hill and behind the Rock Store.  They serve other children from Greer Elementary School.  They have been doing this for 6 years.  She just wanted to speak to the need. 


Ms. Baker continued that she also submitted the brochure for Graceworks. What this is really about is serving these children and giving them opportunities.  She did not see any pictures of the children being shown.  They have a web site entitled BakerGraceworks.org, which she asked staff to bring up.  She felt that it was unfair to talk about this whole program without showing the Commission what they do and showing them the children that they serve.  She was disappointed that none of the Commissioners have the brochure, letter or petition that they submitted.  The petition was from a number of their neighbors who are very supportive and volunteer and serve on their Board. 


They have owned the property for about 15 years. They bought it from her husbandís family. They bought it to preserve it.  They built a pond. They followed the Countyís advice by asking the County to come out to look at what they had done.  They made a couple of recommendations on erosion and sediment control.  They followed those on the day that they were recommended.  But, they still got a lot of complaints.  She thought that most of those complaints were about the noise.  There was a lot of noise and a lot of trees coming down.  A lot of the trees were dead, but there was some grinding of mulch and that created a lot of noise. She understands that it in the backyards of a lot of people.  There are neighborhoods very close to it.  Her heartbreak was that what they did personally upset people. Therefore, she would be happy to pay any penalties that they owe.  But, if they look at the statistics and the facts they donít really owe any penalties because they did not violate any ordinances.  She did not want the children in the County who have no resources and no place to play to be penalized because of what they did personally.  They have 5 children that have many friends.  The beach shown in the photograph is right behind their grandpaís house, which is for her children to play on.  There has been 100 hours that they have invested this fall with a group of children.  Out of those 100 hours the Graceworks children have been on this property 1.5 hours fishing in the pond.  This is not about this land disturbance.  Graceworks is not about this land disturbance.  They will probably take a hike maybe a couple days this spring.  They might fish again.  The reality is that most of their work does not involve this land at all. They hope to have a garden, but it is not in this particular area of the land.  They hope to plant some trees and some day those kids can come pick and pick some fruit from those trees. But, really that is the extent of it. 

This is a private project.  The neighbors are upset and so they are using Graceworks as leverage to stop what they are doing personally.  She finds that personally a little bit offensive.  This should be about the kids and what they are doing here.  It should not be about what she is personally doing on the property.    If they are doing something inappropriate, personally they are happy to fix it.  They have fixed things that were not done properly in the past.  They fixed them the day they were told to fix them.   They will continue to address that personally. She did not think that it was appropriate to really link so heavily these together without telling you what we really do. She did not know where the oversight was in why the Commission does not have a petition from the neighbors, the brochure or the letter from the guidance counselor.


Mr. Morris noted that those items are going around right now.  He asked if there were any questions for Ms. Baker.


Mr. Cannon said that he hoped that she did not take any comments that have been made as suggesting that what she was doing was not highly valuable.  This is a wonderful service from everything he could gather from the report.  He questioned whether she would agree to the condition that is proposed as part of the approval that they would make here to have an erosion and sedimentation control plan for earth disturbing activities of more than 10,000 square feet. He asked if that would be an acceptable condition. 


Ms. Baker assumed that it would be an acceptable condition.  They are willing to do it, but think that the condition is unfair.  It unfairly ties that condition to Graceworks, which really is not what that is about.  They have the right as private landowners in Albemarle County to do agriculture uses on their land.  Mr. Brooks said that he did not see any agricultural activities.  She was not sure if he saw much of the land.  They do have horses, a donkey, a herd of sheep and chickens.  They use their land by taking hay off of it.  She felt that he went to the one area where they were working, but they have other acreage there. It is within their right to use the land appropriately.  They care about the environment, too.  They care about this land, which is why they are preserving it and not developing it. They want to do right by their neighbors.  If erosion control is necessary absolutely they want to do it.  If it is not necessary she felt that it was an unfair burden to label on them just because she runs an afterschool program.  She felt that is what happened here.    


Mr. Morris said that counsel had noted that this stipulation is only related to those things that relate to Graceworks and what happens with their agricultural use of her property does not apply.  He asked if that was correct. 


Mr. Kamptner replied that is correct.  The Countyís Program Authority, Mr. Brooks, will need to make a determination when he learns about what the activity is as to whether or not it is an exempt activity.  That will have to be made on a case by case basis.


Ms. Baker said that it is a little challenging because they plan to plant some trees.  It is one of these things that they want to do these things personally.  If the children can benefit, that is great.  They are not doing it for the children, but the children benefit from their work.  She asked how they decide.  They have on order some Asian pears and blueberries.  If they take the children to pick blueberries does that mean that anything that the children have touched they have to do something?  It just gets a little bit tricky.  She wanted to do right by the County and her neighbors.  If that means the erosion control, then she would do that.  But, if it is more than what is necessary and more than what is asked of other farmers in the area, then she thinks that is not necessary and unfair. 


Julie Baker how do we decide or deed Asian pear and blueberry. Anything kids have touched do we have to do.  Want to do what is right by county and neighbors and if means so I will do.  If ask more than other farmers in the area donít think it is fair.


Mr. Loach asked the age of the children.


Ms. Baker replied that they start with fourth grade and work with the children for 2 years.  The children are picked by family support workers at their school as children that donít have other opportunities.  They get referrals.


Mr. Loach asked the age of the children.


Ms. Baker replied that they were fourth graders.  They work with the children for 2 years. They are picked by family support workers at their schools as children that donít have other opportunities.


Mr. Loach asked with the increase what would be the number of vehicle trips that might occur.


Ms. Baker replied that it will stay the same per day, but will increase 2 days a week to 4 days per week.  They will still have the 10 children.  They have a 15 passenger van.  She has 2 staff members.  There will be 2 other cars and a van. So that stays the same every day.


Mr. Loach asked what the certifying agency to run the school is.


Ms. Baker replied that she did not have certifying agent because they operate under a certain number of hours.  The Health Department came out early on when they started the program and waived them as being exempt because they are under a certain amount of hours.


Mr. Loach asked why the Health Department condition was crossed off on number 6.


Ms. McDowell said that the comments received when staff sent this out for review from the Health Department was that they had issues or no objections.


Mr. Loach said that the only other concern that he would have in regards to agriculture is just the health and safety of the children around an agriculture enterprise.  That is why he asked those questions.


Ms. Baker said that was their concern as well.  They have tried to follow all insurance and fire recommendations.  The children are not around any heavy equipment or anything like that. 


Ms. Joseph asked what she was planning for the future for the children.  She asked if her expectations for the site just pretty much stay the same except for other agricultural activities that they might do.


Ms. Baker replied that for the site itself yes.  They would like to do some more farming on the land.  She hoped that they would have some cows at some point.  They would also like to do some small scale farming on some of those terraces.  They have some Asian pears and blueberries and possibly might want some peaches and pears.  They have a person from UVA come out to do some organic farming.  They do a number of things with the children. Right now she was writing a grant for swim lessons.  They play YMCA basketball.  They are raising chickens.  They do all kinds of activities.  It is not all about farming.


Mr. Morris invited other public comment.  There being none, the public hearing was closed and the matter before the Commission.  He pointed out that the question was whether to expand afterschool care to 4 days a week from 2 days a week.


Mr. Edgerton felt that there was some confusion.  The staff report is very clear.  Personally he was very clear about the good work that is being done here and had no difficulty with the request for adding a couple more days.  One of the things that was troubling him about this is that they were in a water protection area and erosion is a real issue.  Our ordinance and the State Code, which mandates a lot of what is in our ordinance, has two different sets of rules.  For legitimate agricultural practices they are exempt from a lot of good practice such as soil erosion measures. This has been used by this particular applicant to do some work that if it was done just for personal enjoyment would not be allowed.  The current ordinance requires that any dirt disturbance over 10,000 square feet for non-agricultural use requires an erosion permit. Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest pieces of the ordinance to enforce.  What happens is that a lot of earth moving takes place until a neighbor notices it and calls the Inspections Department.  The Inspections Department comes out and looks at it and says that it is over 10,000 square feet and stop work.  Then they go back and get a soil erosion permit.  It would be nice if they did not have to rely on the complaining neighbor to get the enforcement.  He felt that if the Bakers want to fix the place up for their enjoyment he did not think that should be considered the same as the agricultural practices.  He did not think that the agricultural exemption is wise especially in areas where they have water protection issues and erosion is filling up our reservoirs and the siltation is real.


Mr. Strucko said that he was in full support of including that condition 6 to ensure that if no commercial/agricultural use is currently on that property and that earth disturbance has something to do with the school operation that the County and our water sources are protected.  The school can continue its good work.  If the earth disturbance is related to the commercial/agricultural use, then it is fine. But, letís ensure that this happens.


Mr. Edgerton said that if there was no school there at all and it was just related to the residential component they would be required if they moved more than 10,000 square feet of dirt.


Ms. Joseph asked for a clarification on that from staff.


Mr. Brooks felt that they were correct that the connection was tenuous.  He wanted to inform the Commission that this was happening because they were having complaints from the neighbors and one of the Board of Supervisors members was involved.  So for staff not to inform the Commission about what was going on with an application like this he felt would have been negligent on their part even though the connection is fairly tenuous. 


Ms. Joseph said that the question is if you are zoned rural areas and you are disturbing 10,000 square feet do you need an erosion and sediment control plan.


Mr. Brooks replied that it depends on the purpose of that disturbance.


Ms. Joseph asked if you were tilling a fill do you need an erosion and sediment control plan, and Mr. Brooks replied no.


Ms. Joseph asked if you are grading an area level so that you could play bocce ball.


Mr. Brooks replied that you do.  He noted that he has received mixed reasons for this grading activity.  Some of it has been for ornamental ponds.  He was told at one point that it was going to be soccer fields.  Now he was told it was an orchard. It has been various things.  Personally, he has been working at these kinds of sites for some time and this amount of grading activity is really not necessary to establish an orchard, a pasture of any of these things.  He had a lot of questions about it when he first saw it, which was in December. 


Ms. Joseph asked that they have a plan that shows designated activities it would be a lot easier to determine whether or not 10,000 square feet was going to be disturbed and whether or not it was related to the activity proposed by the special use permit.   


Ms. Porterfield asked if they could table it and ask for a plan.


Mr. Kamptner asked Ms. McDowell where they were in the calendar.  Assuming that they are running out of time or close the Commission can include in its recommendation a condition to the Board that a plan be required.


Ms. McDowell said that it has not been deferred and they are right on schedule for a Board to hear it on February 13.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that the schedule was set up so that the issue is coming to the Commission pretty close to the 90 days without a deferral.  The other thing is that if there is an expectation that there be a plan before the Board meeting, they were not going to make February 13.  It would have to be delayed at the Board.  But, they could certainly express that.  The applicant then has the responsibility of providing that and getting it reviewed by staff to determine how it advises the Board in making their decision.


Mr. Kamptner pointed out that the Board has 12 months to act.  So the Board can release this February 13 date until they have what they want in front of them.


Mr. Morris said that they could recommend that as part of the packet that goes before the Board, but they send it forward.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that they could ask the applicant to agree to a deferral so that the Commission could see it.  The applicant may or may not agree.


Ms. McDowell asked what the Commission would like to see on the plan.


Ms. Joseph noted that the Commission had Camp Watermarks that came before them to show the kinds of activities they were doing out there.


Mr. Strucko said that the Commission was having trouble discerning whether this land disturbance is part of the school activity or not.


Ms. Joseph said that she did not want to stop anyone from doing an agricultural use.


Mr. Strucko said that the staff report says that there is no evidence to indicate that the ponds and fields have any existing commercial/agricultural use.  So that raises the concern that this activity is related to something else.  He asked if they want to expand the operation of an afterschool program here that may be associated with very disturbing land uses in the water protection area.  They certainly donít want to stop that good work from happening, but they also want to make sure that the County is not assuming additional risks here.  If the applicant can demonstrate that disturbance is indeed related to an existing commercial/agricultural use, then all is well.  But, if that disturbance is related to this activity that they are thinking of expanding, he would like to make sure that they are safeguarded and that there is an erosion and sediment control permit.


Ms. Joseph noted that they would not know unless someone complains because siltation occurs.


Mr. Edgerton felt that the applicant has been very direct that this is not part of the Graceworks operation, but it may enhance it at a later date.  They are providing an enormous service to these disadvantaged children who donít ever get a chance.  He recommended that the Commission take staffís suggestion and recommend approval of this with the conditions as outlined.


Mr. Kamptner asked that condition 6 be revised so that it more closely tracks the language used in the Water Protection Ordinance.  The condition would read, ďPrior to all land disturbing activities of 10,000 square feet or greater and/or for the excavation of a pond and/or for the construction of a dam the owner shall obtain approval of an erosion and sediment control plan by the Countyís Program Authority.Ē 


Ms. Joseph asked that the Commission offer a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors that they look at getting a plan for this so it will be a lot clearer to everybody what is going on.  She supported the proposal, but felt that this would avoid confusion in the future.


Mr. Edgerton asked what sort of plan she was looking for.


Ms. Joseph asked that the plan show the different activities that they expect to be connected with the school. 


Mr. Morris said that an excellent example would be what was done for Camp Water Marks.


Ms. Porterfield suggested that be added as condition 7 and if this is adopted that it cannot go into effect until staff receives that plan.  She felt that staff should know what the Commission was looking for from their discussions and make sure that they have a plan that shows what is happening.


Mr. Cilimberg said that such a condition would say that before the special use permit could be exercised the plan needed to be provided that shows where the agricultural activities versus the activities associated with the school would be located.  That would be in lieu of needing to have a plan before the Board sees it.  He asked Mr. Kamptner if that would be an enforceable condition.


Mr. Kamptner replied yes.  Staff can work on the language between now and February 13.


Motion: Mr. Edgerton moved, Mr. Cannon seconded, for approval of SP-2007-00047, Graceworks Expansion, with the conditions recommended in the staff report, as amended. 


The amendments to the conditions approved with SP 2001-24 Baker After School Care Program are reflected by underlines to identify additional language and strikethroughs to identify deletions. 


1.                   The maximum number of children enrolled in the private school shall not exceed 15 at any time,A maximum of 10 children shall be allowed on the site at any time.

2.                   A minimum of Tthree adults shall supervise the children at all times.

3.                   The children shall be transported to and from the property as a group.  The pick up and drop off of individual children shall not be permitted except for medical, family and weather-related emergencies.

4.                   The days of operation shall be limited to two four days per week, Monday through Thursday, and the hours of operation shall be limited to 2:30 P.M. to 5:30 P.M. on the days of operation.

5.                   Expansion of the facilities for the private school shall require an amendment to this

            special use permit.

6.                   Prior to all land disturbing activities of 10,000 square feet or greater and/or for the excavation of a pond and/or for the construction of a dam the owner shall obtain approval of an erosion and sediment control plan by the Countyís Program Authority.Ē 

7.                   [THE FOLLOWING IS DRAFT LANGUAGE THAT NEEDS TO BE FINALIZED BEFORE THE BOARDíS PUBLIC HEARING] Before the special use permit can be exercised a plan needs to be provided that shows where the agricultural activities versus the activities associated with the school would be located. 


The motion passed by a vote of 7:0.


Mr. Morris stated that SP-2007-00047 Graceworks Expansion, would go before the Board of Supervisors on February 13, 2008 with a recommendation for approval.


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