The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and a public hearing on Tuesday, December 11, 2007, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Lane Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Members attending were Marcia Joseph, Chairman; Duane Zobrist, Jon Cannon; Bill Edgerton; Pete Craddock; Eric Strucko and Calvin Morris, Vice-Chairman. Mr. Strucko arrived at 6:03 p.m. Mr. Cannon arrived at 6:05 p.m. Mr. Zobrist arrived at 6:08 p.m. Julia Monteith, AICP, Senior Land Use Planner for the University of Virginia was absent.
Other officials present were Bill Fritz, Chief of Community Development; David E. Pennock, Principal Planner; Joan McDowell, Principal Planner; John Shepherd, Manager of Current Development & Zoning; Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning; Scott Clark, Senior Planner; Judith Wiegand, Senior Planner; Jonathan Sharp, Engineer; Gerald Gatobu, Planner; Rebecca Ragsdale, Senior Planner and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney.
Ms. Joseph called the meeting to order at 6:02 p.m. and established a quorum.
The Planning Commission took a break at 9:06 p.m.
The meeting reconvened at 9:17 p.m.
ZMA-2007-00016 Watkins Route 250 Rezoning (Sign # 95)
PROPOSAL: Rezone 3.0 acres from R1 - Residential (1 unit/acre)
to HC Highway Commercial which allows commercial and service uses; and residential use by special use permit (15 units/ acre) for a Landscape Contracting business
EXISTING COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY: Community of Crozet; CT-3 Urban Edge: single family residential (net 3.5-6.5 units/acre) supporting uses such as religious institutions and schools and other small-scale non-residential uses
ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: Yes
LOCATION: 5168 Rockfish Gap Turnpike/Route 250 West, east of Radford Lane & adjacent to Clover Lawn
TAX MAP/PARCEL: Tax Map 56, Parcels 107C & 98D
MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: White Hall
APPLICANT REQUESTS DEFERRAL TO A DATE TO BE DETERMINED
Ms. Ragsdale presented a Power Point presentation and summarized the staff report. Originally staff thought that it would be an item requesting deferral. But, there is a request from the applicant that the public hearing be held and there is a lot of public interest in commenting on this proposal.
· This rezoning request was heard on October 30, 2007 as a work session. The request was for 3 acres to be rezoned in the Crozet development area for a landscape contracting business, which is currently located on Route 20 South in the Rural Areas. The use is not allowed in the Rural Areas zoning district. Staff presented some photographs of the current visit on Route 20.
· Staff summarized some of the issues that were discussed at the 10/30/07 work session discussion. Staff posed a question to the Commission in order to have a discussion about the Crozet Master Plan designation for the property. There was a request for non-residential uses at this site because it is designated CT-3. Those areas in the Master Plan were anticipated to have some non-residential uses. Staff has not had any requests in Crozet for non-residential uses. That discussion was held last time and there were some mixed opinions within the Commission. But, they agreed that the applicant should refine their concept. The Planning Commission’s guidance was to pay particular attention to traffic impacts and scenic impacts to Route 250 as well as the adjoining residential uses at Clover Lawn. One of the key considerations as staff brought forward for discussion last time was what would be the allowable and appropriate uses on the site.
· Since Mr. Watkins’ proposed business does require Highway Commercial zoning they have approached this project and discussed with him that there would be very few uses within that actual zoning district that staff felt would be appropriate for the site. Mr. Watkins has been indicating a willingness to submit proffers to commit to only those uses that they thought would be appropriate.
· Staff mentioned the traffic impacts, other Commissioner comments and public concerns. There were various opinions expressed. It was staff’s opinion that it was a transitional use between the mixed use CT-4 area of where Clover Lawn is located and the Rural Area.
· The parcel in back has some steep slopes and a stream buffer. They talked last time about the applicant providing assurances in the concept plan that those areas would not be disturbed and environmental features would be protected. They also talked about interconnections and the recommendation for the buffer along Route 250. Again, this is the development area boundary.
· They talked about the CT-3 designation last time. There are some recommendations for limited non-residential uses from the table from the Master Plan, which indicates uses like retail, retail with residential above, child care centers, green houses and places an importance on protection of the Route 250 Corridor. It also provides the broader perspective for providing for non-residential uses in Crozet so that it is self sufficient. That was one of the themes of the Master Plan.
· The Business Development Facilitator is present if the Commission has any questions about the economic development policy or some of that perspective regarding this rezoning. That was a major theme in the public comment that the Commission received in the packet and what staff has heard from Mr. Watkins.
· Staff did not have time to provide a full staff report for this evening. An update was given about where they were within the review process, which gave an indication of why they had let Mr. Watkins know that staff felt that a deferral was appropriate.
· Since the work session a revised concept plan was submitted on the 13th. Coming out of that review staff realized there were a number of items that need to be worked out and addressed that staff felt would be better served doing that before a public hearing. On the revised there are areas shown for plantings adjacent to Clover Lawn, provisions for the buffer against the Rural Area property that requires a buffer and outdoor storage in the front of the parcel of nursery stocks, compost and top soil, etc. Then all of the parking and service vehicles or landscape contracting vehicles would be parked in the back with the existing house preserved.
· Based by further review by the Zoning Administrator it was determined that this type of outdoor storage since it was located in the Entrance Corridor required an additional action or application for review of a special use permit. That was one of the outstanding items noted. Since the determination was made the applicant was able to get the special use permit application in. The special use permit would require full Architectural Review Board review, which is scheduled for December 17, 2008. The staff report is available for the ARB. The Design Planner has not indicated any objection to the special use permit. Staff wanted to make sure that the ARB comments or recommendations were provided for in any plan revisions.
· The applicant has submitted a waiver request. There are some additional items that staff has requested for the plan. Some of these are review comments and things they had discussed previously with the applicant. Some of it was in response to new information. It includes things like clarifying where the preservation areas area and what would be provided in the outdoor storage areas. Two more major things related to the items that are outstanding were making sure that they do provide for storm water on the plan and where that would be located so that they know it would be workable plan that would be approved with the rezoning. Also, staff needs to know where the Route 250 right-of-way is or having an idea of whether or not the applicant could accommodate required improvements on Route 250. There are 2 reviewers that provide comments on transportation being VDOT and the County Engineer. VDOT has not indicated that a turn lane was needed, but the County Engineer had recommended that they consider requiring that as part of this rezoning. That was one of the outstanding items from last time. The County Engineer still feels that it is an appropriate safety improvement for this rezoning and provided some additional information as to how VDOT’s criteria is more limited. They have the same review criteria essentially as they would for their own projects that they would expend public funds. They make their decisions on whether to require those types of improvements based on warrants or incident reports. The County Engineer indicated that they had an opportunity as a County in taking a more proactive approach with these legislative decisions in getting additional improvements that VDOT was not able to.
· At the time staff sent the status report via email they did not have proffers that addressed the use limitations on the site. Since the time they do have proffers. But, staff has not had time to review them. They are generally consistent with the suggestions that had been given to the applicant in terms of what uses would be permitted on the site. But, again staff has not had time to review them. There is an additional proffer related to buffering around the property. Staff’s recommendation was for deferral, but the applicant would like to hold the public hearing.
Ms. Joseph asked if there were any questions for Ms. Ragsdale.
Mr. Morris asked if the entrance shown on the drawing indicate the VDOT recommendation or the County Engineer’s.
Ms. Ragsdale replied that this plan reflects the 100’ taper and entrance the VDOT suggested had suggested would be sufficient to accommodate the use and not providing for the turn lane.
Ms. Joseph noted that it looked like a lot of the landscaping is off site.
Ms. Ragsdale replied that is correct. Prior to making these revisions showing these things to the concept plan they did talk about the applicant getting permission and the flexibility they had in working with the Clover Lawn owner. That is something staff would follow up on in terms of making sure that they have an agreement with Clover Lawn to provide that as well. It is an outstanding issue.
Mr. Cilimberg noted that it needs to be clarified that on the western side or the Clover Lawn side they would have the opportunity and permission to do landscaping off site. That is still an outstanding issue and one of those things that they hoped to take care of before the public hearing. That is one of the reasons for the recommended deferral.
Mr. Strucko questioned the proffer statement in Attachment G concerning the proposed uses. He asked if any of the proposed uses require public water and sewer, require a turn lane and require the property to meet certain standards. He was assuming that some of the business opportunities that will remain require customers moving in and off of this site such as a farmer’s market or a business and professional office.
Ms. Ragsdale said that another outstanding item is whether the application plan would be proffered. They discussed that issue with the applicant. So they have reviewed this with an assumption that the applicant would be proffering this application plan and that they would preserve these uses for in the future, but that it would be rezoned to allow the landscaping business.
There being no further questions, Ms. Joseph opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to address the Commission.
Scott Watkins, owner of the landscape business and the parcel on Route 250, said that he was present tonight to try to seek an accord that will help keep their business in the County. Approximately 2 years ago he was cited by the County zoning administrators for operating their business in the rural area where they have had it for the past 18 years. The reason was that their landscaping business was deemed not to be agricultural; and, thus cannot be in the rural area. He was further informed that the only 2 classes of land that were suitable for the business was either Light Industrial or Highway Commercial. He was also informed that he needed to vacate their present location. He appealed to the Board of Zoning Appeals and lost by a 3:2 vote. Since that time he has been served to appear in Circuit Court even as they have worked to find a new location. The County has extended grace to them as their rezoning request moves along. Should the request be denied he was not sure how much additional grace will be given. In accordance with the County’s guidelines they are trying to move their business from the rural area to the growth area where the County says it should be. Industrial property is in short supply in Albemarle County and is priced beyond his reach and most other small businesses. Therefore, they are trying to rezone a parcel in the growth area which is affordable and one that is contiguous to and visually dominated by other commercial parcels.
Mr. Watkins continued that they are aware of the concerns associated with this rezoning request. There are issues of precedent for possible future use of the land and the unsightliness along the Route 250 Corridor. He offered a measure of assurance that they would do their part as good neighbors and work to protect and enhance the view shed along Route 250. They will respect the desires of the various community groups to keep Route 250 as rural as possible. After the work session they prepared a list of proffers that eliminate most of the uses that would normally be associated with Highway Commercial. In addition, he would like to strike 3 more tonight being Section 24.2.1, 31, 33 and 43, which are retail nurseries and greenhouses, wayside stands and farmer’s markets. While all these uses are compatible with the CT-3 urban edge he wants to eliminate these to address the concerns of the Commissioners expressed at the work session that they eliminate uses that would generate more traffic than could be expected under the current zoning. They would like to ensure the Commission that their intention is to limit to the use to that which they need for their business and only those additional uses recommended by staff to preserve some reasonable flexibility for the long term use of the property and allow for future public facilities. They believe that requiring a turn lane, for example, when VDOT does not recommend it, and a water and sewer hookup when the use will not increase or justify it would actually put additional pressure for a more intense use of the property in the future. Not building an unnecessary turn lane will preserve the character of the 250 Corridor much better and would be an impediment to more intensive development of the site in the future.
Mr. Watkins said they appreciate Ms. Ragsdale’s hard work and staff’s recommendation for denial because certain pieces of this proposal are not in place at the current time. Most of these seem rather incidental to what he thought was the core issue, which is whether or not the use of this site is appropriate. Although it is recommended that they defer they would like to push on for a number of reasons, mostly because this process is creating a financial hardship. They cannot move off the current property until they can move onto another property. Also, they have invested a great deal of time and energy up to this point. They have addressed staff’s concerns for adjustments in the proffer plan, which he put on everyone’s desk. Mr. Rieley is present tonight and would be happy to discuss these adjustments to the plan. There are many members of the public that are in support of their plan. He asked the Commission to allow their business to continue in on this property by moving their request forward.
Ms. Joseph pointed out that her frustration was that they all thought that this was going to be deferred, which includes members of the public that wanted to get a staff report. It was not a staff report. They normally don’t receive information the night of the meeting either for something as important as a rezoning. She felt that it puts the public at a disadvantage also because they all thought that it was being deferred, too. So people were scrambling to find out what was going on. She was just voicing her frustration for what happened.
Mr. Watkins said that it was recommended to them late on a Friday afternoon a week ago this past Friday that they defer. He conceded and over the weekend decided to change his mind and gave notice early the following week. It was not as though they had deferred this for a week or two. It was just a matter of one working day.
Ms. Joseph invited other public comment.
Scott Peyton, life long resident of Western Albemarle and President of Scenic 250, asked to make some brief comments about process. As Ms. Joseph observed it has been very challenging. He received a mailed official notice of this meeting Friday that this issue was to be deferred to a time to be determined. The on again off again nature make it very challenging for the public and compromising the opportunity for public input. He did not see how this evening could be considered a legitimate opportunity for public hearing because they have not even seen what some of the proposed items are. So the comments he was making this evening are based on the information that he had most recently available. Scenic 250 is opposed to in principle to any rezonings from Residential to Highway Commercial along the 250 West Scenic Corridor west of Charlottesville because of the negative impact that they feel such rezonings would have on the scenic quality of the Corridor. All that being said they were willing and prepared to look at this rezoning request with an open mind. Scott Watkins met with the Scenic 250 Steering Committee back in the summer. They had a very open and free exchange of ideas. At that time they expressed some legitimate concerns that they had with Mr. Watkins. The process moves on. They additionally this past week meet adjacent to this property to look at some detail as to what types of accommodations and treatments of the property could render this an acceptable proposal and use in their mind. At that time they did not have available proffers or a current site plan. So that is only available to them this evening. The proposed uses are still so broad as to constitute in their mind a spot rezoning. That is a great concern from the issue of precedent. The site plan makes inadequate accommodations for screening with regard to the Scenic Highway. They are sympathetic to Mr. Watkins business situation. They feel that it would be a more appropriate approach for Mr. Watkins to pursue a zoning text amendment because there are needs for service industry uses in the County. It would be a better opportunity for the County to look at a range of uses that would be appropriate in the Rural Area that would allow Mr. Watkins to continue his business at its current location. Perhaps the County could allow a grace period while Mr. Watkins pursues that process.
Kirk Peterson, resident of Crozet, said that he has known Mr. Watkins for 15 years. He rented a house on Mr. Watkins’ property. So he lived on the property and saw all of the activities that went on at the site. Usually the issues in zoning are what would be the visual impact of the proposed use, the traffic impact, the light and sound impact and if it is an appropriate use for the site. Based on his experience quite contrary to the pictures shown the Watkins property was lavishly landscaped and very carefully attended to. His property was well maintained. In terms of traffic there was very little. He saw the crews go out in the morning and come back at night. Most of the deliveries are large bulk deliveries that come in infrequently. So there is very little traffic that moves in and out of the site. There is simply no sound or light pollution because trees don’t give off much light. The site would be filled with plants and greens and was very attractive to look at. He felt that it was a very appropriate use for the site.
Sue Rearious said that she moved to Albemarle County over 10 years ago from northern Virginia. She applauded the master planning process in Crozet to bring the various groups together to really figure out how to grow well. She spoke in support of the nursery business. It is consistent with what she understood the master plan was for being in a growth area. This business does not compete with downtown Crozet.
Warren Byrd, resident of White Hall District, said that personally and professionally as a small business owner as a landscape architect and as one of the many co-authors of the Crozet Master Plan he spoke in full support of the rezoning request. This is a use that is consistent with the CT-3 designation. The site is perfect for this because it was on the edge of this small Neighborhood Center. He spoke with Ken Swartz, his collegiate, about this request and he agreed that in reviewing it that it was an appropriate use given the applicant’s willingness to proffer the many exceptions in terms of what would not be allowed here as Highway Commercial. He hoped that the Planning Commission sees this in a supportive light.
Mike Wheelright, resident of Mill Creek South, said that he was both a planner and a landscape architect and had worked with Mr. Watkins on several projects. He urged the Planning Commission to support the rezoning.
Chris Ross, a teacher at Miller School for he past 10 years, spoke in favor of the rezoning request. He noted that he had known Mr. Watkins for 25 years.
Barbara Westbrook, native of Crozet, supported Mr. Watkins’ landscaping business as long as his vehicles are not visible from the highway. She felt that he would actually improve the appearance of that property. Usually she has been opposed to any more commercial business on Route 250 because of all of the traffic, but she did not think that is going to be a problem here. There should be some requirement if this business is sold that the property will either revert back to its present state or some provision be made that no new commercial moves into that spot. She presented photographs of Clover Lawn that currently has been unsightly for being on a Scenic Highway with all of the banners in the grassy area right along Route 250. Her understanding was that these banners are only allowed 4 times per year for 15 days, but these have been up since September. She questioned why Clover Lawn was allowed in the first place. She felt that Mr. Watkins’ business would be beneficial to the area.
Ellen Waff, an adjoining property owner to the east since 1986, spoke against the rezoning request. With all due respects to Mr. Watkins’ family business, she was not in favor of supporting this rezoning. It would be a precedent setting and total disregard to the promise by the County that there be no additional Highway Commercial other than the existing grandfathered parcels. She was concerned about the water. Many neighbors have wells as she does. She felt that this nursery holding area would use a ton of water.
If that were the case and the request was approved she would strongly suggest that he be made to connect to public water. Also, with respect to the proffers she has not seen all of the proffers. The ones that she has seen she would suggest that the proffer for other uses should be very restrictive if not limited to the applicant’s use as submitted. With respect to the traffic and the discussion on the deceleration lane she felt that they would not want that.
Anita Jacobson, an adjacent property owner, objected to having a commercial business next to her home. She looks out her property right onto the house. Mr. Watkins has suggested that the stand of trees on the east side that he was going to plant some trees on her side. Since it would take many years before the trees would be big enough to screen the house, she did not think that made sense. She did not believe that the traffic would be as minimal as he says. She moved into a residential area and would like for it to be kept as residential.
Mike Marshall, Chairman of the Crozet Advisory Council, asked to repeat what Scott Peyton said about the process. He was contacted today by some members of the Council. He checked the website at 3:30 p.m. and this was shown as a deferred item. He told people that it was a deferred item and not to worry because they could still talk about it. He did not realize that it was going to be talked about until he saw Mr. Peyton. He came for the Crozet Gateway decision. Mr. Watkins did meet with the Council. He felt that the problem was with the County for putting him in this predicament. He operated his business peacefully for 18 years and then discovers that he is in violation of a rule. He felt that it may be the rule that needs to be looked at. At the meeting people were sympathetic to what was happening to Mr. Watkins. They would love to see his business in Crozet. But, he was a little bit worried about the precedent setting this would create in approving this property to Highway Commercial. Given the contacts he had today he felt that a lot more people would have shown up to speak tonight negatively about it had the impression not been created that there was no public hearing. He opposed this property being rezoned to Highway Commercial given the larger context of the Master Plan.
Chris Stewart, resident at Clover Lawn, spoke in opposition to the request because his townhome was adjacent to the property. He opposed the location for he parked vehicles, which was approximately 40’ or less to his house. If this approved, they want to make sure there is some type of mitigation to minimize noise to their townhome. He felt that the turn lane is a bad idea and not needed. He agreed that this property is going to get developed, but should be developed smartly. He felt what Mr. Watkins is proposing is pretty good as long as the proffers are adhered to.
Ms. Joseph closed the public hearing to bring the matter before the Planning Commission.
Mr. Morris said that this was not an easy issue that is before us. But, based upon everything heard he felt that this is the best use of this particular piece of land. It transitions beautifully from the commercial on into the rural area. As presented with the proffers and so on he can support this.
Mr. Edgerton noted that they have received a lot of support for Watkins. He felt that their business as proposed on this site would fit. He was struggling with the fact that rezonings go with the land and not with the individual. He would be comfortable supporting this with a proffer that stated that the Highway Commercial be limited to what Mr. Watkins is proposing on this property. He would only support the deceleration lane only if the Watkins are asking for a full fledged Highway Commercial rezoning. If it was going to be limited to the proposed use, which would have less of an impact than the by right use, that he would support no deceleration lane. He felt that the Waff’s deserve some consideration. He would like to see a greater effort in beefing up the border next to the Waff’s property. If the Watkins wants to do this business he suggested that should be what they proffer, which would not leave the door open for other commercial activities that could set a dangerous precedent.
Mr. Strucko agreed that was a pivotal point. He supported the Scenic 250 and what they have worked so hard to do. It is very important to the community that the principles of Scenic 250 are kept and met. The pivotal point is attempting to accommodate the use while maintaining the principles of Scenic 250. If they can get the applicant to proffer only one use, Section 24.2.1(17) home and business services such as ground care, cleaning, exterminators, landscaping and other repair and maintenance services. That is the official category. Some people may think that is too broad, but he would suggest that to be considered.
The Planning Commission discussed the outstanding issues and suggested that the applicant defer the request.
Ms. Joseph asked Mr. Rieley if he would like to speak.
Mr. Rieley said that Mr. Watkins is in complete accord with the sediments that have been expressed relative to limiting the use to his proposed use. That is what is objective has always been. There are a couple of items in the list that are not there because Mr. Watkins put them there. They are there because they are provisions for public facilities, such as Sections 126.96.36.199.36 and 188.8.131.52.35. In additional to that the provision for storm water management facilities shown on an approved final site plan, and Tier I and Tier II Wireless Facilities are required. Mr. Watkins would be happy to proffer away everything except the use that he wants and the uses that he has to allow for government facilities or because the FCC requires it.
Mr. Edgerton asked if they would be willing to beef up the buffer.
Mr. Rieley replied yes. In addition, the plan does not show planting in the right-of-way. He believed because there was a guardrail there that they can plant all the way up that slope to the back of the guardrail with a VDOT permit. Mr. Watkins is more than happy to do that if VDOT will agree to it. Therefore, they would be happy to beef up the perimeter planting.
Ms. Joseph asked about the area to the west where there is planting shown off site.
Mr. Rieley replied yes, that Mr. Watkins has an agreement with the adjacent land owner to allow planting in that area. It will allow a lot more buffering than otherwise would be necessary.
Ms. Joseph asked if he had a written agreement.
Mr. Watkins replied that he did not. He noted that Benton Downer is the owner of the commercial section of Clover Lawn. He pointed out that he had a verbal agreement, but nothing in writing.
Ms. Joseph pointed out that on a rezoning that a written agreement would be required. She said that the request is so incomplete and would require the Commission to send a list of items to be changed to the Board.
Mr. Zobrist suggested that they ask the applicant to take the time and get it right. There are a few questions that need to be answered first, such as going to the ARB.
Ms. Joseph noted that he would have to come back to the Commission on the special use permit for outdoor sales and display. The other issue is the water and sewer hook up.
Mr. Edgerton agreed that the water and sewer needs to be addressed. During work session the initial suggestion was that this proposed use would not require enough water to suggest that public water would be level. But if it went up to a certain level it would be mandated.
Ms. Joseph noted that they need to know what his water consumption was going to be.
Mr. Cilimberg said that the special use permit for outdoor storage would be necessary for the Board to act on the rezoning if it was shown on the plan. At some point that special use permit needs to catch up with the rezoning. Staff recommended deferral so all of this could come together so action could be taken by the Board.
Ms. Joseph asked if the applicant would be willing to defer it so the special use permit and rezoning could be heard together.
Mr. Watkins said that he was willing to defer.
Ms. Joseph asked if there was a time frame for the special use permit.
Ms. Ragsdale replied that the date has not been set, but it would probably be at least the end of January.
Mr. Cilimberg noted that the ARB would hear the special use permit next Monday. He would expect that both the special use permit and rezoning could be heard by the Commission on January 22 or 29 and then the Board in March.
Mr. Watkins asked that it move as quickly as possible.
Mr. Zobrist asked if the County could give Mr. Watkins additional time on his violation.
Mr. Kamptner said that the County deferred the zoning enforcement case through late March. He would expect they would continue it again.
Motion: Mr. Strucko moved, Mr. Zobrist seconded, to accept the applicant’s request for indefinite deferral of ZMA-2007-00016, Watkins Route 250 Rezoning.
The motion passed by a vote of 7:0.
Ms. Joseph stated that ZMA-2007-00016, Watkins Route 250 Rezoning, was indefinitely deferred.
(Recorded and transcribed by Sharon Taylor, Clerk to Planning Commission & Planning Boards)
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