Albemarle County Planning Commission

April 8, 2008



The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and public hearing on Tuesday, April 8, 2008, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Lane Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia.


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


Other officials present were Wayne Cilimberg, Planning Director; Joan McDowell, Principal Planner; Tamara Ambler, Natural Resources Manager; Judy Wiegand, Senior Planner; Claudette Grant, Senior Planner; Megan Yaniglos, Planner;  Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development; Patrick Lawrence, Planner; Amelia McCulley, Director of Current Development & Zoning 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:


SP-2007-00059 John Cann Boat Dock (Sign # 2)

PROPOSED: Private boat dock on the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: RA -- Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre); FH--Flood Hazard: overlay to provide safety and protection from flooding

SECTION: Water Related Uses within the Floodway

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY:  Rural Area 1 - preserve and protect agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources/density (.5 unit/acre)


LOCATION: Dock to be placed at west side of the Reservoir, approximately 1.3 miles upstream of the Earlysville Road (Route 743) bridge crossing.  Dock to serve Cann property (TMP 45-3A1)



(Tamara Ambler)


Ms. Ambler presented a Power-point presentation and summarized the staff report.  (See Staff Report)


This is a request for a water related use in the floodway in accordance with Section of the zoning ordinance, which allows such things as docks.  The applicant is proposing to install a floating dock on the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to serve his private property, which is tax map 45, parcel 3A1.  The South Fork Rivanna Reservoir is owned by the City of Charlottesville, who is a co-applicant to the special use permit request.  Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, who manages the reservoir, granted a boat dock permit, which basically deals with the construction of the dock itself.


There have been very few requests for private boat docks on the reservoir in the past few years.  Two were approved in 2006.  Prior to that 1999 was the most recent boat dock request.  Currently there are about 19 boat docks on the reservoir.  An example of the recently approved floating docks occurred on Mr. Newmanís and Mr. Kaplanís property last year. 


As detailed in the report, county staff has reviewed the issues that surround installing boat docks in a drinking water reservoir.  One concern is the proliferation of docks that could be detrimental to the primary use of the reservoir.  While the addition of this one dock would certainly not undermine the primary use county staff expects to address this more overarching issue in the upcoming Comprehensive Plan update.  There is a strategy in the Comprehensive Plan that actually asks staff to develop a policy for recreational use on the reservoir. 


Another concern by staff was the removal of buffer vegetation.  Review of the reservoir properties in 2006 and 2004 did not show a correlation between the removal of beneficial vegetation and the existence of a boat dock.  In some cases the granting of a special use permit for a boat dock had provided an opportunity for the county to require additional plantings.  So it actually improved the buffer vegetation.  So there was not a direct correlation there.


Other issues are contamination from gasoline and the introduction of pathogens.  These do not pose a problem because our current ordinances already restrict gasoline powered engines and prohibit swimming.  The introduction of invasive species still does not pose a risk for Virginia currently.


The Cann property is very sloped and wooded.  It actually has a problem with invasive vines. The Cannís have been coordinating with the county in removing invasive vines.  That is one of the provisions that are allowed within the buffer to remove invasive vines in an area that does not contribute to erosion.  They are coordinating with the county to install new appropriate ground cover plants to replace where vines were.  The Cannís have installed a low impact walking path, which is the extent of a path that is allowed in a buffer.  Decking or stairs are not allowed in the buffer. The dock would be installed at the bottom of the walkway.  The pathway conforms to the existing topography and is filled with mulch or pervious materials.


Staff has identified the following factors which are favorable to this request:


1.    No direct impact to the water supply or neighboring properties is expected as a result of this special use permit

2.    No increase in flood levels will result from installation of a dock.

3.    The proposed dock is supported by the Charlottesville, and meets the requirements of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority for residential boat docks. 


Staff has identified the following factors which are unfavorable to this request.

1.    The applicant has proposed a fixed deck attached to the boat dock.  (Note:  But, during the coordination staff recommended that the fixed deck not be attached.  It would be just the ramp and the dock as approved before.  The applicant agreed with the suggestion.)

2.    If a significant number of these requests are approved, the resulting proliferation of boat docks could impair the primary function of the Reservoir as a drinking water supply


Staff recommends approval of the request with the following conditions:

1.    There shall be no lighting within 25 horizontal feet of the Reservoir, measured from the elevation of normal pool, which is Elevation 382 (North American Vertical Datum of 1988).

2.    There shall be no removal of vegetation or earth disturbance with the 200-foot stream buffer associated with the installation of the boat dock.  The stream buffer is measured from the edge of the floodplain, which is Elevation 391.

3.    There shall be no other structures, such as decking or stairs, constructed in the 200-foot stream buffer.


Mr. Morris invited questions for staff.


Mr. Loach said that there were now 19 boat docks.  The concern is that at some point this would become problematic.  He asked is there going to be a threshold set and at point does it become problematic.  He asked how they determine that.


Ms. Ambler replied that they donít have that, but is what staff will be looking to determine.  Staff does not have that policy yet.  In her research across the United States, some localities have established a number or threshold based upon whatever factors they chose.  In some instances it was based on a number of lots to evaluate the potential number of docks to establish a threshold. But, currently there is no scientific basis for establishing that threshold.


Ms. Porterfield suggested that staff put something in about the docks that fall into disrepair.  Staff noted that there were 19 boat docks, but that some of them were not in very good shape.  There should definitely be some teeth in the ordinance that if someone does not keep their dock in good repair that it has to be removed or otherwise if they donít do it that it will removed at county expense and the owner would be billed. 


Ms. Ambler said that Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority as part of their boat dock permitting is trying to beef up their review and maintenance inspection of those docks.  There is a time when docks were installed and not much follow up was done on those docks. As a result of the 2006 boat docks the Rivanna Water and Sewer Watershed Manager sort of revamped the process and now require permits.  They are now requiring an inspection fee whenever they approve a boat dock to try to get a better handle on what is out there and make sure that everything that is out there is safe and not a detriment to the water supply. 


Ms. Porterfield asked if there was an annual fee to have a boat dock in the water, and Ms. Ambler replied yes, that fee is paid to the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.


Ms. Porterfield noted that it says no lighting within 25 horizontal feet of the reservoir, which is well inside the buffer.  She asked if someone has put in lights.


Ms. Ambler replied that there was an issue with the 1999 approval for Mr. James Ogg.  That dock was put in without a permit and then came back for permission.  He was able to get an approval, but there were issues of lighting.  That was the condition that they placed on that permit.  Certainly a one pole structure is not something that would be prevented in a buffer.  In terms of what it specifically would look like she could not say. 


Ms. Porterfield asked if there was a reason to have lighting go all the way down into this buffer.  Since it is a 200í buffer they were talking about 175í of light potentially.


Ms. Ambler noted that what was happening before is that there was no prevention for people to go all the way down to the water and put lights on their dock.  So this is actually pulling the lights further off the water.  There was no ability to do that before. 


Ms. Porterfield asked if she wanted to leave it within 25í of the dock as done in the past.


Ms. Ambler said that was certainly at the Commissionís discretion, but she was just going by what was done before.


Mr. Edgerton said that in the buffer standards it sounds like there is a quite a bit of flexibility in what can or canít happen within the 200í of buffer.  If it is a totally undisturbed buffer he was trying to figure out how they get from the yard to the dock.


Ms. Ambler replied they are allowed to have reasonable access through a buffer.  They donít want to prevent people from accessing the water resource that actually provides a benefit through education for them to be able to do that.  Actual structures, such as a deck or a set of stairs, are not allowed.


Mr. Edgerton asked if the path shown in the slide is acceptable.


Ms. Ambler replied yes, that path is allowed.  The board path actually conforms to the topography with no grading or disturbance of the actual grade being done to actually put that there.  It is pervious stepping stones.  Staff talked to zoning about that and said that was the most extent of what could be done for a walking path.


Mr. Edgerton said that it was reviewed on an individual case by case basis that was decided by zoning, and Ms. Ambler replied yes.


Mr. Edgerton noted that staff does not want a deck connection, and Ms. Amber replied yes.


Mr. Edgerton asked if that should be placed in a condition.


Ms. Amber assumed that could be covered in condition three.  Staff can make that condition clearer if the Commission wants.


Mr. Edgerton said that he had trouble seeing a significant difference between building a walkway down there and having a deck.  But, he liked the pervious surface.


Ms. Amber said that what she considered a deck would be the actual structure that is affixed. The difference between the walkway is that it is pervious with mulch between the steps.  In the past staff allowed a couple of posts for a rack for a boat, but they could not have a roof on it to make a little boat house.  That would be addition of impervious area within the buffer.  Past staff made a distinct difference between actually adding some sort of impervious type area within the area, which was not allowed.  But, pervious steps or stepping stones would be allowed.  Also, two-four by fours could be used to hook a boat to.


Mr. Loach said that it seems reasonable if they allow a dock that there should be a way to get down there safely.


Mr. Edgerton said that the 200í buffer to the water sounds like a pretty liberal buffer.


Mr. Morris opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to address the Commission.


Jack Cann, applicant, said that he was present to answer questions.  This is a schematic he drew based on the general parameters of what can be put there.  It can be larger according to the ordinances.  He noted that they donít need a large dock.


Mr. Morris asked if based on the sketch if staff says no deck then how was he going to affix the dock without the deck. 


Mr. Cann replied that there are two 6í X 6í posts.  That is a conceptual path basically, but he called it a deck.  That is probably a bad choice of words.  It is not intended to be a deck, but just a path.  The two posts will anchor the basic gangway that goes to the floating dock.  There is not other way to reach the shore from the dock if they donít have a gangway. 


Ms. Joseph said that in the application he says that the neighbors will be able to use that.


Mr. Cann said that he offered the use of his dock to his two adjoining neighbors. 


Ms. Joseph said that was compelling because one of the things they are considering is how many decks are too many on the reservoir.   So it sounded like that was a good idea to offer that to his neighbors.


Mr. Cann said that is the concept that if they offer to share the dock that it would lower the number of decks on the reservoir.


Mr. Morris invited other public comment.  There being none, the public hearing was closed and the matter before the Commission.


Motion: Mr. Edgerton moved, Mr. Strucko seconded, for approval of SP-2007-00059, John Cann Boat Dock with the conditions as recommended by staff.


1.             There shall be no lighting within 25 horizontal feet of the Reservoir, measured from the elevation of normal pool, which is Elevation 382 (North American Vertical Datum of 1988)

2.             There shall be no removal of vegetation or earth disturbance with the 200-foot stream buffer associated with the installation of the boat dock.  The stream buffer is measured from the edge of the floodplain, which is Elevation 391.

3.             There shall be no other structures, such as decking or stairs, constructed in the 200-foot stream buffer.


The motion passed by a vote of 6:0.  (Mr. Cannon was absent.)


Mr. Morris stated that SP-2007-00059, John Cann Boat Dock will go before the Board of Supervisors on May 14 with a recommendation for approval.


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