SP-2007-061 Western Albemarle High School Rowing Club Dock (Sign # 20)

PROPOSED:  Public boat dock on the Beaver Creek 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

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


LOCTION:  Dock to be placed at east side of the Reservoir adjacent to the Beaver Creek Park entrance road, off of Browns Gap Turnpike (Route 680).



(Tamara Ambler)


Ms. Ambler noted that because it was spring break the Parks and Rec Department nor the actual school officials could be present to speak.  But, they do have a parent of one of the rowers, Ms. Cox, who has been kind enough to provide her time tonight to answer questions.


A special use permit is being requested in accordance with Section of the Zoning Ordinance to allow a boat dock in the Flood Hazard Overlay zoning district.  The boat dock will be placed within the public access area of Beaver Creek Park, and will be utilized by the Western Albemarle High School Rowing Club and the public.  The applicant has coordinated with the County’s Parks and Recreation Department to select a suitable location for the dock within the park.  The dock will be located approximately 350 feet upstream of the dam, close to the entrance of the park and easily accessible by foot.  The WAHS rowing club currently has permission to launch into the Reservoir through the private property of the Gerard Brikkenaarvandijk at 1714 Browns Gap Turnpike. 


The applicant would like to construct a small boat house to house their shells or boats.  That would be close to the entrance road where the little bait shop was located in the past.  There is currently an existing fixed pier or boat ramp further upstream. 


Mr. Edgerton asked what is going to happen to the existing dock.


Ms. Ambler replied that it is proposed to remain.  She noted that it may be a question of activity around the ramp that might preclude launching there.  The existing dock is owned by the county. 


Ms. Ambler noted that there use to be a floating dock further upstream.  That was taken out by some big storms.  They have a desire to replace the dock that was there.  From her conversations with Parks and Rec there is enough demand for two boat docks.  The replacement of the dock would not lead to a proliferation of docks on the reservoir because this is managed differently and is county owned.  The same safeguards for gasoline, pathogens and evasive species that protect the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir are in effect here for the Beaver Creek Reservoir.


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 County Parks and Recreation Department


Staff has not identified any factors which are unfavorable to this request.


Staff recommends approval of the request with the following conditions:

1.    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 approximated to be Elevation 545 (North American Vertical Datum of 1988). 

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


Mr. Morris asked if there were any questions for staff.  He noted that staff mentioned putting in a future facility to store their boat.  He asked if that has nothing to do with this.


Ms. Ambler replied that has nothing to do with this because it will be well outside the floodplain.  The reason this is before the Commission is that it is in the floodplain.


Mr. Loach asked if the county would own this dock.


Ms. Ambler replied that the dock would be county owned.  What is proposed to happen is that the club has raised funds and they are handling all of the expenses and maintenance.  They will be purchasing the dock and maintaining it.  The property would be county property and become part of the public park.


Mr. Edgerton asked if the drawing in the packet has option one and two.  Those were their two choices and staff has decided that option one is the preferred.


Ms. Ambler replied that either one of those options would be acceptable.  The applicant preferred the location closer to where the boat house would be constructed.  Provided that it was outside of the emergency spill way, staff was able to say that they could locate it in the location proposed in option one.  That is what staff decided to present to the Commission as to where the proposed dock would go.


Mr. Edgerton asked where they are currently accessing there is no boat dock, and Ms. Ambler replied that there is not.


Mr. Edgerton asked if option 2 has nothing to do with this application.


Ms. Ambler replied yes, that is correct.


Mr. Edgerton asked if the conditions should specify the location.


Ms. Ambler noted that attachment C references the proposed location, which could be added to the condition.


Mr. Edgerton said that would be appropriate.


Ms. Porterfield noted that the access getting down to the sites is very steep.  What is going to happen is the people who are going to try to access these docks are going to start making inroads into this steep hill.  That is a concern with this dock because it is going to be hard to access.  She was not against the dock, but the location and the way it was being built.  On the website it did not indicate the depth from the top of the dock down to the bottom of the floaters.  She asked that they make sure that the dock was safe and secure for all public use by possibly attaching it to the right hand side of the dock with a gangway. 


There being no further questions, Mr. Morris opened the public hearing and invited public comment.


Roberta Mixad, property owner on Beaver Creek Reservoir, supported high school sports. Beaver Creek is utilized a lot by fishermen and families.  She voiced three concerns being the speed, noise and numbers.  The purpose of going in a shell is going fast.  She asked they were going to make sure it was safe for the fishermen who want it to be quiet and slow and families and canoeists. The number issue is who would get to use this for shells.  She asked if private clubs and Waynesboro High School could use it.  She asked how many shells would be out there at once and how would they regulate the number.  The third point is noise.  The way the coach communicates with the kids is through a mega phone.  Across water a mega phone would carry.  She asked if they could restrict the noise in some manner.  She supported Ms. Porterfield’s idea of attaching to the current dock for two additional reasons.  One is that when coming across the dam it is just a magnificent view of unspoiled water.  The dock cannot be seen coming across the bridge.  But, the dock in the new proposed area would be visible.  For other users this dock is close to the parking lot. People park on the grass up at the proposed site.  She asked why they would want to encourage that. 


Julie Cox, parent of a member of the rowing club members, said that she had been asked to provide the information that if necessary this dock can be removed within 20 minutes.  If need be the dock would be placed in the dock house during the winter and off-season so there would not be a lot of traffic going up and down from this dock.  The students do practice from Monday through Thursday.  Fridays they are loading the docks getting ready for a Saturday event. 


Mr. Strucko asked if she knew if the high school is planning to hold competitions here.


Ms. Cox replied that her understanding was not at this moment.   They just need it for practice.  The practice starts at 4:30 p.m. and end at 6:00 p.m.  On the weekends they would just unload and put their boats from the trailer to the boat house.  The season starts at the end of March and goes through the end of the school year. 


Brian Wheeler, Chairman of the Albemarle County School Board, said that the Albemarle County School Board as the applicant is supporting this request.  They considered this last fall and the School Board supported it.  Obviously, in cooperation with Parks and Rec they had a good conversation with Bob Crickenberger in Parks and Rec on how this facility would come into being and how it would be maintained.  There were lots of questions by the School Board about ownership and why they needed to be involved.  But, it turns out that they were involved because it is a public park and because the school division was the interested party with their club of students and that Beaver Creek is in the back yard of western Albemarle It was more convenient than South Fork, which had other issues as far as scheduling.  They felt that it was a win/win situation.  They had parents and boosters coming forth and saying that they would pay for this facility. It would become a public facility.  Parks and Rec was supporting it.  There would be no tax payer expense.  They talked about having a memorandum of understanding between the club at the school and the county to ensure that any details that Parks and Rec were concerned about or the school division was concerned about in the future could be covered in that memorandum of understanding.  As seen in the pictures, they are using this facility.  So this was about improving public safety and making it more convenience for them.  Staff identified a number of favorable factors.  This is a low dock, as pointed out, and it is easier to get into the water. He has been to this site and the existing dock would not be suitable for the rowers.  If they keep it separate that would allow the school division in the memorandum of understanding to set certain access requirements. He believed that Mr. Davis, County Attorney, pointed out that the school division could regulate access to that facility like any other school facility.  So if there was a concern about other entities using by keeping this in a public park that by keeping it separate from that existing dock it would make that a little easier to put up the appropriate signage or bar there to discourage other users if that was a concern.   He would be happy to answer questions.  Again, the School supports this request and hopes the Commission will support us.


John Cann said that 15 years ago he took up rowing and could speak to some of the questions about portable docks.  The reason they can’t use the other dock is that a shell is a vessel with large outriggers.  When it is brought down and put on a dock it has to be very low in the water.  This particular floating dock is designed to accommodate this sort of boat.   A typical eight man shell is 57’ in length and weighs about 250 to 300 pounds.  When it goes out on the floating dock the dock has to be about 15” to 18” floatation to support this type of water weight onto it.  Attaching to it to a dock similar to this it might work, but he had not seen the dock or been to the facility.   As seen in the diagrams it goes straight out into the water.  That is probably the easiest way for the youngsters to launch it.  They have been walking it into the water and climb into it, which is messy.  The coach tends to use a bull horn so to be heard.  The speed can go up to 20 miles per hour, but with a high school team it would be 10 miles per hour at most.  It is a wonderful recreational opportunity for them.  As a citizen he would certainly support it.


Mr. Loach said that he had some safety concerns and wondered if they would have to set up lanes.


Mr. Cann replied not for just practicing.  They might want to set up a couple of buoys or markers on the shore for the 1,000 or 1,500 meters that they would be practicing over as a course.  But, they don’t have to necessarily set up lanes.  It might be a good idea to set up a buoy system for people to stay out of the path of it. 


Mr. Morris closed the public hearing to bring the matter before the Planning Commission.


Ms. Joseph said that this is a great request and it is a wonderful activity for the children in the community.


Mr. Loach agreed.  But, he also agreed with Ms. Porterfield that it is fairly steep getting down to the dock. He was more concerned that they were going to have access to this, not only for the team but for the public, and if there was going to be any erosion of the banks in getting down there. He was more concerned just about the site and questioned if it would be better, as Ms. Porterfield said, to attach the proposed dock onto the other dock in getting access from there. 


Ms. Joseph said that what they were hearing was that the public would only use the one dock.  The proposed dock would give the kids the ability to even pick up that dock within 20 minutes so that they would have complete access when they needed it.  If the practice time was from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. it would only be one hour and a half. 


Mr. Loach noted that if they put that dock there it is going to be there and they are saying that it is open to the public.  So there are going to be other people who are going to be accessing that dock at the times the high school is not using it.  He was concerned about that and questioned what type of traffic that Parks and Rec was anticipating getting down to the dock.


Ms. Ambler noted that Mary Pitts, who was with the high school and also was the rowing coach, made several site visits with Bob Crickenberger. 


Ms. Porterfield asked if the motion could be amended to give Parks and Rec the ability to move this dock to the best location possible for its usage in case this area does not work.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that actually Parks and Rec selected this location.


Ms. Porterfield pointed out that the proposal was not a dock that could be moved in 20 minutes.


Mr. Edgerton said the points raised were well taken.  They need to figure out a way to make this work the best way possible. Mr. Wheeler, who is the Chairman of the School Board, indicated that through the memorandum of understanding that they would be able to control the use of the property.  So they could put up barricades to make it less convenient for the public to use the dock at other times.  He suggested adding a condition that the memorandum of understanding restricts the use of this dock just to the school.  If the school actually has the authority to do that, then that should solve the problem that it won’t become yet again another access to the water.


Mr. Loach agreed, but noted that the staff report says that the boat dock will be placed within the public access area and will be utilized by Western Albemarle High School Rowing Club and the public. 


Mr. Edgerton pointed out that he was suggesting this as an additional condition to the approval.  The other concern was the steepness.  He suggested adding a condition for the installation of the same sort of walkway as shown on the Cann property.  If they added those two conditions that would address the concerns being brought up.


Mr. Morris suggested that they amend it so that under the memorandum of agreement that the school may determine who uses the ramp rather than restrict it. 


Motion: Mr. Strucko moved, Ms. Joseph seconded, for approval of SP-2007-061, Western Albemarle High School Rowing Club Dock, with the conditions recommended by staff, as amended and modified.


1.       There shall be no removal of vegetation or earth disturbance within 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 approximated to be Elevation 545 (North American Vertical Datum of 1988). 

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

3.   There shall be a memorandum of understanding or agreement between the Albemarle County Parks and Recreation Department and the Albemarle County School Board that addresses public use of the boat dock. 

 4.  A stable and pervious pedestrian access reviewed and approved by the Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation shall be constructed and maintained from the closest paved parking area to the new boat dock.


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


Mr. Morris stated that SP-2007-0061, Western Albemarle High School Rowing Club will go before the Board of Supervisors on May 14 with a recommendation for approval.


The Planning Commission took a break at 9:02 p.m.


The meeting reconvened at 9:08 p.m.


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