COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

PLANNING STAFF REPORT SUMMARY

Project Name:  SP 2007-59 John Cann boat dock

Staff:  Tamara Jo Ambler

Planning Commission Public Hearing: 

April 8, 2008

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing:

May 14, 2008

Owners:  City of Charlottesville

Applicant: John Cann and the City of Charlottesville

Acreage: 47.94  total acres

Special Use Permit for:  To install a private dock on the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir in accordance with Section 30.3.05.2.1(2) of the Zoning ordinance

TMP:   44-12V

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 the Cann property (TMP 45-3A1)

Conditions:  Yes

Existing Zoning and By-right use: RA -- Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre); FH--Flood Hazard: agricultural, recreational, and utility location uses which will not pose a danger to life or property in the event of a flood.

Magisterial District:  Rio

Requested # of Dwelling Units:  N/A

 

DA (Development Area):

RA (Rural Area):   X

Proposal: To install a private boat dock on the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

Comprehensive Plan Designation:  Rural Area 3 - preserve and protect agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources/density (.5 unit/acre)

Character of Property:   Steeply sloped and wooded

Use of Surrounding Properties:   Nearby and surrounding uses are the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, low density single family residential development, and open space

Factors Favorable:  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 City of Charlottesville and meets the requirements of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

 

Factors Unfavorable:  1. The applicant has proposed a fixed deck attached to the boat dock; 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.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends approval with conditions.


 
 

PETITION:

PROJECT: SP 2007-59 John Cann boat dock

PROPOSED:  To install a 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: agricultural, recreational, and utility location uses which will not pose a danger to life or property in the event of a flood.

SECTION: Section 30.3.05.2.1(2) of the Zoning ordinance

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY:  Rural Area 3 - preserve and protect agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources/density (.5 unit/acre).

ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: Yes___No__X__   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 the Cann property (TMP 45-3A1).

TAX MAP/PARCEL:   44-12V

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT:  Rio

 

CHARACTER OF THE AREA:  The site is steeply sloped and wooded.

 

SPECIFICS OF THE PROPOSAL:  A special use permit is being requested in accordance with Section 30.3.05.2.1(2) of the Zoning Ordinance to allow a boat dock in the Flood Hazard Overlay zoning district.  The boat dock will serve the adjacent John Cann property at TMP 45-3A1.

 

PLANNING AND ZONING HISTORY:

The property on which the private boat dock is proposed is owned by the City of Charlottesville.  The dock will serve the adjacent Cann property.  On January 4, 2006 the Board of Supervisors approved two private boat docks on the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to serve the Bart Neumann property (SP 2005-10) and the Michael Caplin property (SP 2005-30) with conditions pertaining to preservation of buffer vegetation, prohibition of decks or other structures, and lighting issues.  Prior to these approvals there were very few requests for boat docks on the Reservoir in recent years.  Based upon a field survey of the Reservoir in October 2006 by staff from the County and the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority there are currently a total of 19 boat docks (some older ones in disrepair) on the Reservoir.  Prior to the Neumann and Caplin approvals, the last documented request was made in 1999 by Mr. James Ogg for a new private residential boat dock (SP 1999-28) and also involved the unauthorized construction of a freestanding deck.  The special use permit was approved by both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors with the stipulation that mitigation be provided for disturbance to the 200-foot vegetative stream buffer, and that lighting issues be addressed.  In 1997 a request from Rivanna Rowing (SP 1997-23) to construct a new floating dock in conjunction with establishing a new private rowing facility was approved by the Planning Commission, but denied by the Board of Supervisors.  The denial was based on the proposal’s size, location, safety concerns, and a determination that it would change the character of the Reservoir from a water supply facility to a recreational facility.  In 1994, Virginia Rowing received approval from both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors (SP 1994-08) to relocate an existing boat dock associated with an existing boating athletic facility. 

 

Conformity with the Comprehensive Plan: 

The Comprehensive Plan recognizes the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir as a surface drinking water supply.  The Natural Resources and Cultural Assets chapter of the Comprehensive Plan contains the following objective for the recreational use of water supply areas:

 

“Allow and manage recreational uses of drinking water reservoirs and adjacent public land only as incidental uses to the primary function of water supply and in such a manner as to prevent cumulative impacts that may impair the primary function.”

 

The Comprehensive Plan recognizes that recreational use of water supply reservoirs has the potential to threaten water quality and water supply functions, and calls for specific consideration of this issue in the following strategy:

 

“The County should take a lead role in developing a recreation and water supply protection plan for each reservoir to address incidental recreational uses of drinking water reservoirs and adjacent public land.  This effort should be coordinated with the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, the City of Charlottesville, Shenandoah National Park and other relevant agencies.”

 

 

STAFF COMMENT: 

Staff will address each provision of Section 31.2.4.1 of the Zoning Ordinance

 

31.2.4.1: Special Use Permits provided for in this ordinance may be issued upon a finding by the Board of Supervisors that such use will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property,

The addition of one floating boat dock will not be detrimental to either the Reservoir or nearby surrounding properties.  As stated above, there are a number of boat docks for private recreational use already in place on the Reservoir.

 

that the character of the district will not be changed thereby and

In the past, the issue of how lighting associated with these docks may change the character and appearance of the Reservoir has been a significant issue.  To address this concern, the three most recent approvals (Neumann SP 2005-10, Caplin SP 2005-30, and Ogg 1999-28) contained the condition that there shall be no lighting within 25 horizontal feet of the Reservoir.  The same condition of approval is recommended in this case to be consistent with past practice.

 

As stated above, there are currently 19 boat docks already in place on the Reservoir.  These boat docks do not appear to detract from the primary use of the Reservoir as a water supply reservoir because of their size, materials, and periodic usage.  This proposed boat dock would not appear to change the character of the Rural Area zoning district or the character of the use of the Reservoir.  A proliferation of residential boat docks, however, would change the appearance of the Reservoir and potentially provide for a more recreational character than a water supply character.  In recognition of this and the Comprehensive Plan strategy noted earlier in this report, this issue will be addressed as part of the upcoming update of the Natural Resources and Cultural Assets chapter of the Comprehensive Plan.

 

that such use will be in harmony with the purpose and intent of this ordinance,

The purpose and intent of the Rural Areas zoning is to preserve agricultural and forestal lands and activities, to protect water supply, to limit service to the rural areas, and to conserve the natural, scenic, and historic resources of the County.  The Flood Hazard zoning has the purpose and intent of restricting development in the floodplain which may result in danger to life and property, public costs for flood control measures, public costs for rescue and relief efforts, soil erosion and sedimentation, pollution of water resources, and general degradation of the natural and man-made environment. 

 

Regarding protection of the water supply and the preservation of natural resources, a concern for staff is the likelihood that the installation of boat docks along the Reservoir would result in clear cutting and removal of the required 200-foot vegetative buffer.  However, based on staff surveys of the Reservoir in May 2005 and October 2006 no correlation was found between disturbance to the vegetative buffer and the existence of a boat dock.  In addition, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority authorizes specific construction methods, materials, design, and size for boat docks to minimize impacts to the water quality of the Reservoir.

 

The applicant has proposed a fixed deck attached to the boat ramp and dock, which is not supported by staff.  These additional structures have not been authorized by the County in past approvals and are not consistent with the intent of Section 17-317 of the County Water Protection Ordinance, which establishes a two hundred horizontal feet wide vegetative buffer from the floodplain of any water supply impoundment for the purposes of protecting water quality.  In this buffer native vegetation shall be preserved to the maximum extent possible.  The target vegetative cover in the buffer shall be native riparian forest with ground cover, shrub, and tree canopy layers.  Within the buffer, land disturbing activities and the installation of structures are significantly restricted.  Staff recommends that the proposed boat dock not include the fixed deck, which would require the permanent removal of buffer vegetation.  An example of the type of dock most recently approved by the County is shown below, that provides access to the dock via a ramp with minimal impact to the buffer. 

 

 

Regarding the issue of creating a flood hazard, the floating dock will be designed to respond to changes in flood levels and not impede the natural flow of water, unless it were to break loose and travel downstream to the dam.  The dock will be anchored to avoid being broken loose by floods.  The County Engineer has confirmed that there will be no increase in flood elevations by installing a floating dock. 

  

with uses permitted by right in the district,

By-right uses in the Rural Areas include single family and duplex uses, public uses and buildings, agricultural, forestry, boating, and fishery uses.  This use would appear to be in harmony with the other uses permitted by-right.

with the additional regulations provided in section 5.0 of this ordinance,

There are no supplementary regulations relating to boat docks in Section 5.0 of the Zoning Ordinance. 

 

and with the public health, safety and general welfare.

The use of drinking water reservoirs for recreational use creates several risks to water quality and the ability to adequately treat raw water from the reservoir for public consumption.  Swimming and other recreational activities that involve body-contact with the water can significantly increase the occurrence of pathogens, such as Cryptosporidium in the reservoir.  The use of boats poses a threat of contamination from gasoline, and more specifically the additive methyl-t-butyl-ether (MTBE).  Also, the launching of boats raises the risk of introducing invasive species, such as the zebra mussel, which can proliferate and impact the aquatic ecosystem and also damage water treatment facilities.

 

Sections 11-300 through 11-306 of the Albemarle County Code address water supply reservoirs utilized by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority and regulate the use and activity on each reservoir.  Section 11-304 specifically addresses activities on the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.  Authorized activities are fishing, canoeing, boating (no internal combustion engines), hiking, bird watching, and picnicking.  Swimming is specifically prohibited under this section.  An exemption for the use of internal combustion engines is provided for the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries personnel for official purposes.

 

The County has already addressed the threat of pathogens by prohibiting swimming in the Reservoir within Chapter 11 of the County Code.  The threat of contamination from the gasoline additive MTBE has also been addressed through the County’s requirements in Chapter 11 of the Code to restrict the use of internal combustion engines on the Reservoir.  Lastly, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has advised that the introduction of invasive species such as the zebra mussel has yet to present a serious risk to Virginia.  To date there has been only one documented location of zebra mussels in a Prince William County quarry.  This population of zebra mussels was successfully eradicated in 2006. 

 

SUMMARY:

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.

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

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

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.

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:

Attachment A - Location Map

Attachment B – Proposal from applicant

Attachment C – Boat Dock Permit and Agreement with RWSA

Attachment D – Illustration of dock location with elevations

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