STAFF PERSON:      Joan McDowell, Principal Planner, Rural Areas

 

PLANNING COMMISSION WORK SESSION:  January 29, 2008                                             

 

PROJECT:     ZMA 2007-23 Montalto  

                        ZTA 2007-06 Monticello Historic District (MHD) Text Amendment

 

APPLICANT'S PROPOSALRezone 329.68 acres in three parcels on Montalto, the mountain adjoining Monticello to the southwest, from Rural Areas to Monticello Historic District (MHD) and to amend the MHD to include “Scholar Residences” as a by-right use.    The applicants, the TJF Realty, LLC and Thomas Jefferson Foundation are proposing uses that would not be permitted in the Rural Areas zoning district and adding “scholar residences” to the by-right uses in the MHD.

 

The existing house was constructed of native stone in the early 1900’s for J.A. Patterson.  More recently, the house and accessory buildings were used by the University of Virginia as housing for law students. Two of the buildings constructed for student apartments were demolished after the Thomas Jefferson Foundation acquired the property in 2004.

 

The applicants have proposed to renovate the interior of the three remaining structures, the house, the tower, and the barn, in order to provide apartments for visiting scholars of Jefferson, the Jefferson era and Jefferson’s legacy, as well as a conference center for seminars, lectures, meetings and other special programs devoted to Jefferson and Monticello.   Outdoor spaces would include gardens, gathering areas, reception areas, areas for outdoor events, a bowling green, amphitheatre, and parking.  The actual acreages have not been given for the project area, but it is generally the area at the top of the mountain.  Page two of the Summary of Feasibility Study for Montalto July 2007 (Revised October 2007) (Attachment A) contains a summary of the activities to take place on the property and the uses for the interior and exterior spaces.

 

Page three of the Feasibility Study provides the scope of work, as well as the two primary guides for the renovation:  1) the view from Monticello of the northeast slopes must be preserved and is being studied to determine how it would have appeared in Jefferson’s life; 2) rehabilitations to various structures and improvement to the grounds must respect the historic architectural and landscape fabric, as appropriate.  The applicants have not proposed changes to any building’s exterior, except as necessary for general maintenance.

 

Each of the 8 – 10 apartments created would have a kitchen.  Food service for both indoor and outdoor events would be catered.  The house also includes a catering kitchen.

 

A letter from the applicants’ attorney describing the proposed uses is attached (Attachment C).  The letter is accompanied by a letter from William Beiswanger, the Robert H. Smith Director of Restoration.  Mr. Beiswanger has summarized the connection between Thomas Jefferson and Montalto.  In addition, a sampling of information identifying visiting scholars to Monticello has been provided, as well as examples of similar fellowships offering housing at five other historic sites. 

 

PURPOSE OF THE WORK SESSION:  To provide an opportunity for a discussion of issues as the review of these applications progresses.

 

LEGAL DESCRIPTION:

 

PROJECT: ZMA 2007-23 Montalto

PROPOSAL:  Rezone 329.68 acres from RA Rural Areas zoning district which allows RA -- Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre) to MHD Monticello Historic District zoning district, a planned historic district to permit the restoration, preservation, education, programs, research and business activities related to the operation of a historic house museum and historic site at Monticello; residential density (1 unit / 21 acres)

PROFFERS:  Yes____No 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__No____

LOCATION: 1400 Montalto Loop Road, Route 53 at the entrance to Monticello

TAX MAP/PARCEL: TMP 77-31; TMP 77-31B; TMP 78-25A

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Scottsville

 

ZTA 2007-06 – Monticello Historic District (MHD) – Scholar Housing  –  Zoning text amendment to amend the MHD regulations by adding Section 11.3.1(24) to allow “scholar housing” as a use permitted by right.  The existing density for new residential development authorized in the MHD is one dwelling unit per twenty-one acres, and the proposed zoning text amendment would not change that density. 

 

The Monticello Historic District ordinance is included as reference (Attachment D).

 

EXISTING CONDITIONS:

The property currently contains three structures:  the house, the barn, and the tower.

Three buildings used for UVA student housing were removed after acquisition by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Driveway access from Route 53 and the Saunders Bridge connecting the entrances to Monticello and Montalto continues around the buildings and the project site.

The mountaintop was cleared sometime in the past and is mostly lawn now, but some landscaping around the buildings, including large trees, remains. 

 


 

REVIEW COMMENTS:

 

Review comments are included as Attachment E.

Most of the issues related to changes required for the site plan have been given by the reviewers.  No objections to the map amendment or the text amendment have been offered.    The Zoning Division includes concerns regarding parking, as discussed below.

 

QUESTIONS FOR THE PLANNING COMMISSION:

 

1.      Issue:  The proposed uses for Montalto should meet the purpose and intent of the Monticello Historic District (copied below):

         

11.1 INTENT AND PURPOSE, WHERE PERMITTED

The intent and purpose of the Monticello Historic District (hereinafter referred to as “MHD”) is to create a planned historic district:

- To permit restoration, preservation, conservation, education, programs, research and business

activities related to the operation of a historic house museum and historic site at Monticello;

- To promote the preservation and enhancement of a unique historical site;

- To preserve significant tracts of agricultural and forestal land;

- To be a district that is unique to those parcels which both belonged to Thomas Jefferson and

contain uses related to the operation of the historic site, in recognition of:

- the importance of Thomas Jefferson to the history of Albemarle County;

- the importance of Monticello to the reputation, education, and economy of Albemarle

County;

- Monticello as a unique element of the historical and architectural legacy of Albemarle

County, the nation, and the world, as recognized by its inclusion on the World Heritage

List administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural

Organization.

Restoration or re-creation of Jefferson-era structures or landscape features, and their subsequent

interpretive use, shall be regulated only to the extent necessary to protect public health and safety.

Discussion:  The functions proposed to be held on Montalto would compliment and further the educational component of the MHD, including the importance of Thomas Jefferson to the County, and the preservation and enhancement of a unique historical site.  The acquisition of the property prevented its division into residential lots and protected the Monticello view shed, as well as the view of the mountain from lower elevations.  Placing this property into the MHD could ensure that its uses would be connected to the purposes and uses contained in the District.  While the Feasibility Study, the plans (Montalto Zoning Map Amendment) and Proposed Uses at Montalto (letter dated October 19, 2007 from Valerie Long of Williams Mullen)  documents details and insights of the proposal,  staff is concerned that while the intention of the applicant is to link the study of the scholars in residence, the subject of the conferences, and other activities on this site to Jefferson, Jefferson’s era, and Jefferson’s legacy, these links could become less clear in the future.  Proffering these documents or providing a statement of intent with the rezoning would provide guidance for the implementation of the proposed uses and rehabilitation of this property.

QuestionDoes the proposed rezoning of Montalto meet the purpose and intent of the Monticello Historic District? If not, what should the applicant offer to make the proposed uses consistent with the purpose and intent of the MHD both now and in the future? If it does, what commitments should be provided to assure the consistency is maintained in the future?

2.      Issue:   The access to the site is from a narrow winding access road and limited on-site parking is available on-site.

Discussion:  Access to the site would be for three primary sources:  the transient scholar residents, the staff (including caterers), and visitors to the seminars and functions.  On-site parking is limited to a total of 28 spaces (12 existing and 16 new), as well as a parking courtyard next to the catering kitchen in the house.  An area south of the Project Area (Figure C2.1, Attachment B) has been labeled “overflow parking”.  The number of spaces for this area and the reason why it is needed has not been provided.  The applicant intends to provide shuttle service from Monticello to the site for those attending seminars and events.  Staff is concerned that the Feasibility Plan does not provide details regarding the shuttle service and the parking accommodations.  For example, is the parking at Monticello adequate to also serve the proposed uses; provisions for the shuttle to pick up and return visitors both at Monticello and Montalto; areas to be designated for allowed parking on Montalto; provisions to restrict vehicular access to Montalto.  Access to the buildings by emergency vehicles has been verified.  However, the Fire Department has concerns regarding clearing of snow and ice on the access road.  The applicant has been requested to provide a written plan giving arrangements for snow and ice removal.

Question:  Does the Planning Commission believe more details, as noted by staff, regarding the shuttle service and parking accommodations should be provided?  Does the Commission believe a written plan giving arrangements for snow and ice removal should be provided?

3.      Issue:  The allowable density in the MHD is 1 house per 21 acres.   The Rural Areas district allows 5 development rights on each lot, with the remainder divided into 21-acre increments.  The proposed scholar residences do not use these development rights.

Discussion:  The applicants have not addressed potential residential density for this property.  The Monticello Historic District would allow 15 divisions to establish residences on the property.  Although the potential for a greater lot yield exists in the RA, staff is concerned that the land in the MHD should be protected from future divisions.

Question:  Should the applicant commit to limit residences to scholar residences only and restrict potential future residential divisions?

4.      Issue:  Little is known about the property outside the project area limits.

Discussion:  A potential vineyard and expansion of the walking trail on the remaining property has been discussed, but future plans for the remaining property have not been finalized.  The MHD would provide basic regulations regarding the uses on the balance of the property.  However, as particulars for the use of the remaining property are not known without future commitments by the applicant, staff’s opinion is that statements of what would and would not occur on the hillsides would be beneficial.

Question:   Would the Planning Commission like additional information and commitments regarding the possible uses on the remainder of the property?

 

 

RECOMMENDATION:   Staff requests that the Planning Commission review the proposed addition to the Monticello Historic District and give guidance regarding issues raised in this report, as well as any additional items the Commission would like to see addressed.

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:

 

            A         Summary of Feasibility Study for Montalto July 2007 (Revised October 2007) (on file in Clerk’s office)

            B         Montalto Zoning Map Amendment Plans, Draper Aden Associates,  October 29, 2007

            C         Letter from Valerie Long, dated October 19, 2007

            D         Monticello Historic District Ordinance

            E          Staff Review Comments

            Return to staff report