ZTA-2008-00001 Pole Lighting

Athletic field lighting – Amend Sections 4.10.3.2 (Exceptions – limited) and 4.17.5 (Modification or waiver) of the Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 18 of the Albemarle County Code).  This ordinance would amend (1) section 4.10.3.2 by adding poles that support outdoor luminaires for lighting athletic facilities as a class of structures exempt from the zoning district height regulations, provided that a modification is approved by the Planning Commission and (2) section 4.17.5 to establish procedural and substantive requirements for the commission to modify the height of such poles.  A copy of the full text of the ordinance is on file in the office of the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors and in the Department of Community Development, County Office Building, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. (John Shepherd)

 

Mr. Shepherd presented a power-point presentation and summarized the staff report.  (Attachment E – Power-point presentation)

 

·         This is a zoning text amendment to provide a waiver process for the height of athletic poles providing lighting.  The proposal is to provide an amendment to two sections in the Zoning Ordinance.  One is Section 4.10.3.2, which adds athletic light poles as a class of structures that would be exempt from district height regulations.  The other is the lighting regulations in Section 4.17.5 that will give the procedural and subjective requirements that the Commission would have to account for to modify the height of such poles. 

·         Structures in the Rural Areas, Village Residential and lower residential districts are limited to 35’.  Structures in the other districts and commercial districts and higher residential districts are limited to 65’.  Athletic pole heights for the class of play on county fields and also soccer fields that SOCCA and others range from 40’ to 80’.  Appropriately sized poles can’t fit into these districts as it is now.

·         On June 9, 2006 the Zoning Division made a determination that poles were structures whose height can only be modified by variance.   This is a small technical point, but it causes a real problem in this situation.  It means that while the Planning Commission can modify the fixture of an athletic lighting luminaire it would take the action on the part of the Board of Zoning Appeals to provide a variance for the height regulation.  For the Board of Zoning Appeals to approve a variance they have to find three criteria that includes hardship among others.  It would be very hard for them to find that one did not have lack of property due to lack of tall light poles.  It would be assumed that a variance could not be approved under that process.  The reason this is before the Planning Commission is to basically take care of that problem.  In the past there have been other athletic sites that have been approved with modification that the Planning Commission assumed that the light poles, as well as the light fixture were all part of the same thing and they were modified.

·         The purpose of lighting is to provide safe and effective approximately athletic lighting that is the function of the design of the entire system.  They are looking at this in getting enough light on the field, which is accomplished by the height of the pole, the angle and the intensity of the entire system.  It also includes the number of poles and their location.  Staffs feels these should all be reviewed together and not have the Board of Zoning Appeals be ruling on the appropriateness of the height and Planning Commission ruling on the appropriateness of the angle of the fixture and the amount of cutoff.  The proposed ordinance would add the same standards for the waiver approval that are applied to the fixture now that are found in the Illuminating Engineering Society of North American Standards that deal with virtually all of the levels of play of different sports so that they will know that a modifications that they are granting would be limited to the lowest appropriate level.  The Commission, of course, could also consider the impact of the lighting on neighboring properties and the district as a whole.  If the Commission has further questions about exactly how these standards would work with the lighting Tim Hughes from the Parks and Recreation Department is present to address those technical issues.

·         There are four amendments being proposed.  One is from Section 4.10.3.2 that exempts the pole height from the district regulations.  Then there are three revisions to the lighting regulations in Section 4.17.  Section 4.17.5.a would be amended to add the height of the pole supporting an outdoor luminaire lighting and athletic facility to the standards that may be modified or waived by the Planning Commission.  Section 4.17.5.a to be further amended to direct the Commission to base the waivers for light pole height for athletic facilities on the recommended practices adopted by the Illuminating Society of North America. That section is further amended to provide that the Commission may impose conditions on such a modification which it deems appropriate to further the purposes of the outdoor regulations.

·         Staff recommends the Planning Commission recommend to the Board of Supervisors that this amendment request for ZTA-2008-1 be passed.

 

Mr. Morris asked if there were any questions for staff.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if staff has talked to any of the expert lighting people who have been working on lighting issues for years, such as Phil Ianna.  She asked if they had any part in coming up with this concept.

 

Mr. Shepherd replied that he did not.

 

Mr. Strucko asked how do these proposed standards differ from what is currently at the high schools and other facilities that are currently under light.

 

Mr. Shepherd replied that facilities that the Commission has reviewed those standards were reviewed against the Engineering Society’s standards so that they were sized to the lowest level that would provide safe lighting.  Those same standards would be applied in the future.  The only difference is explicitly adding the pole height to the standards that the Commission can look at.

 

Ms. Porterfield asked if the Planning Commission could impose condition on when the lighting could be used to include specific hours.

 

Mr. Shepherd replied yes that the Commission could address that issue and impose conditions.

 

Mr. Loach asked if the county has lighting at the middle school fields.  Right now on Jarman’s Gap Road he can look down across Old Trail and see the glow in the sky when Western Albemarle High School is having a football game. He asked if the lights they are talking about are predominantly at the high school level or are they looking at lighting middle school fields, which would become more problematic with neighbors.

 

Tim Hughes, with Albemarle County Parks and Rec, said that at the present time they don’t have any plans in the capital improvement budget to light athletic fields on middle school property.  That is not to say that would not change.  As they run out of field space to improve the middle schools would become the next stepping stone down from the high schools.  The two fields at Henley that he speaks of now are large rectangular fields that they are in the process of improving with Bermuda grass and irrigation.  If they needed more lighted fields in the Western Albemarle area those two fields would be the most logical.  That being said they don’t have any plans to do it in the next ten years.

 

Mr. Morris asked what about other Parks and Rec areas, such as Darden Towe Park.

 

Mr. Hughes replied that the only project that has been recommended at Darden Towe Park currently is to light the tennis courts.  That came from a citizen recommendation.  The only two fields that they currently have plans to light in the next five years would be another rectangular field at Monticello High School and one at Albemarle High School.

 

Mr. Loach noted that if schools are located in a residential neighborhood the lighting is something that has to be considered.  When Western Albemarle High School’s fields are lighted it lights the sky up around a large portion of the area.

 

Ms. Joseph asked when the lights were put in at Western Albemarle High School

 

Mr. Hughes replied that the baseball field was lighted about seven years ago.  The football field was relit two years ago.  The technology changes daily in the lighting industry as far as the spill light.  Part of the problem they have with a football stadium at a high school level is that they are trying to light the entire stadium with the lights for the football field.  The poles have to be further away and taller so that they are getting more spill-over light.  There are ways to light high school stadiums that they can bring the poles in closer and light the seating with a different auxiliary lighting that would cut down on the amount of sky light.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if this ordinance will help with that.

 

Mr. Hughes said that this ordinance, in his opinion, will help the fact that the next time a high school is built because without the change they will not be able to light the baseball fields, tennis courts, softball fields or football fields without having to go before the Board of Zoning Appeals.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that the Planning Commission would be looking at how this would affect the neighborhood.  It is going to be looking at spill over and how much light goes up into outer space.

 

Mr. Hughes noted that the way this proposal was being presented is that it is going to tie it all together in the lighting ordinance.  The Planning Commission would be looking at the proposal anyway.  It is just not going to be two separate things.  It is going to put the poles in with the lights, which they have to get a waiver for on any project anyway. 

 

Mr. Loach asked what process they had to go through two years ago at Western Albemarle High School to increase that lighting.

 

Mr. Hughes said that they did not do that.  It was the school division that did it.  But, he was sure that since it was a retrofit that probably they had to go get a waiver because the County’s Lighting Ordinance now calls for a full cut-off fixture.  They had to wavier the fixture itself because there is not a full cut-off fixture that will light a football field.

 

Mr. Morris noted that he did not recall it coming before the Planning Commission.

 

Mr. Hughes pointed out that the last project that Parks and Rec lighted was the multi-use field at Western Albemarle that also serves as their practice football/lacrosse field.  They had to get a waiver on the light fixture itself.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that was about six years ago.

 

Ms. Porterfield pointed out regarding the time usage issue that from previous experiences in Arizona it created a major problem because of the light proliferation.   She wondered if there is any way to address that in here so that it becomes a known quantity.  When a request is submitted to light a field the time frame for lighting the field should be addressed and be included as a piece of the action.  

 

Mr. Kamptner noted that the zoning text amendment would give the Planning Commission the authority to impose conditions on the modification or waiver, which it deems appropriate to further the purposes of the ordinance.  The purpose of the ordinance includes not only dark skies, but also spill over, glare and all those other factors.  All of those are related to the length of time that the lights are on.

 

Ms. Porterfield asked if someone made application that staff would tell them right away up front that those things have to be addressed.   It would be easier if the application came in with that information at the beginning.

 

Mr. Shepherd said that he would assume that would be an important part of the review.

 

For staff analysis and through the public review process that would be a primary concern to the neighbors in how it would be seen from their property and the impact from the timing as well.  It would be of prime importance.  They are directed to consider other appropriate conditions.  That is always an issue with these lighting requests.

 

Mr. Loach felt that the language is good.  But, what is missing is that there is no requirement for technical specifications for the things that he just mentioned such as the lighting spill over light, how many luminaire and the technicalities of putting these in so that the neighbors are not adversely affected.

 

Mr. Shepherd noted that the standards address the appropriate levels of lighting for the different levels of play.  With each application the spill over calculations and the luminance would be part of the application and could be reviewed and commented on with each application.  Spill over calculations are done during the site plan.   The same thing would be applied to this.  He pointed out that he was involved with the lighting out at St. Anne’s Belfield that was visible from the by-pass.  There was a lot of modification to the hoods on the lights to control the spill-over with a very close technical review.  He would expect that with any of these types of requests.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if they would actually be looking at foot-candles and photometric plans.

 

Mr. Shepherd replied yes.

 

Mr. Morris invited public comment.

 

Neil Williamson, with Free Enterprise Forum, said that he was most appreciative that this was coming forward.  It has been a gap for some time.  The one concern he has in reviewing the ordinance very briefly is with regard to the reference to the association and how much guidance the Planning Commission must take whereby there may be opportunities where they need more or less and whether that helps or hurts what they are trying to do with the ordinance.  He just brings that up just clarification.

 

There being no further public comment, Mr. Morris closed the public hearing to bring the matter before the Planning Commission.

 

Mr. Strucko asked Mr. Kamptner what he thought about Mr. Williamson’s comment.

 

Mr. Kamptner said that his question was whether or not this standard gives the Commission sufficient flexibility.   He felt that it does since it focuses on the minimum standard.  He did not think that the Commission is going to approve a lighting system that is below the recommended illumination for a particular sport.  The Commission has the ability to work in an unlimited range once they establish what they are approving is safe.

 

Mr. Cannon said that they are permitted to incorporate by reference standards promulgated by a non governmental association.

 

Mr. Kamptner replied that is what they rely on.  That is the organization that the lighting ordinance has always relied on. 

 

Mr. Canon asked if they are binding themselves to their determinations in some sense.

 

Mr. Kamptner said that in the absence of any other identified expertise they are basing their minimum standard on this organization’s standards.

 

Mr. Shepherd pointed out that they could also consider other evidence if a recommended practice if not applicable.

 

Mr. Canon noted that it would only be if it was not applicable.  That is fine as long as it is an established practice that is consistent with their mandate as a public agency.

 

Ms. Porterfield asked if in section b if five days is the standard notification for something coming before the Planning Commission.  She felt that five days was not much notice.

 

Mr. Kamptner replied yes, that is actually the minimum required notice for special use permits, rezonings, site plans and subdivision plats.   For site plans and subdivisions that is to meet with staff. But, even for rezoning the state law only requires five days written notice.

 

Ms. Porterfield pointed out that neighboring properties for this item would only have been notified at the end of last week.  She asked if that was correct.

 

Mr. Kamptner said that if there was an application coming tonight for a modification or waiver that is correct. A number of applications require published notice.  But, for individual notice five days is pretty much required across the board.

 

Ms. Porterfield said that there was going to be a lot of neighbor comment on some of this.  She asked if there is a way to give a little more notice than that.

 

Mr. Kamptner replied that they could amend the ordinance. But, this is a minimum standard that has to be satisfied.

 

Ms. Porterfield suggested that in this particular case the notification requirements should be longer, published or both.  She felt that the proposed lighting could generate a lot of discussion depending on where it is being proposed.  They certainly want the neighborhoods to be able to be here.

 

Ms. Joseph felt that anything is like that.  She felt if the Commission decided that lighting is more important that they would be making a mistake.  If that is the minimum standard for everything she felt it should be followed.  There have been some massive rezoning and five days is five days.  They would need to change the entire ordinance for that and not just on this.  Rezoning are little different.  She suggested that they wait and see what happens.  If it becomes a problem, then they can change the ordinance.  But, she did not foresee that at this point.

 

Mr. Kamptner noted that rezoning is different.

 

Mr. Shepherd pointed out that there would be some public knowledge of it because for school projects it would be part of the budgeting process. 

 

Mr. Strucko supported this request because it was well written.  The language has a lot of safeguards for the community.

 

Motion:  Mr. Strucko moved, Mr. Loach seconded to recommend approval of ZTA-2008-00001, Pole Lighting as recommended by staff.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that one of the reasons she brought up Phil Ianna is because he is the one responsible for the county’s lighting ordinance.  Lately Mr. Ianna has noted that he wishes that the county would allow taller poles because there would be less lighting.  This would be effective in cutting off light pollution.   She expected to see Mr. Ianna here.

 

Mr. Shepherd noted that he would add that to the comment that goes to the Board.

 

Mr. Strucko pointed out that there is a need for athletic facilities in the community.  While land may be an issue, he thought that lighting can certainly widen the use of existing fields by extending usage hours reasonably. This is why he supported the zoning text amendment.

 

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

 

Mr. Morris said that ZTA-2008-00001, Pole Lighting will go before the Board of Supervisors on July 9 with a recommendation for approval.

 

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