Albemarle County Planning Commission

April 29, 2008

 

 

 

            Work Sessions:

 

SP-2007-00053 St. Anne's Belfield-New Academic Bldg

PROPOSED: to increase the number of students from 300 to 550 by adding new buildings and demolishing some existing buildings. No residential units are proposed.

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: R-1 Residential (1 unit/acre).

SECTION: 13.2.2.5, which allows private schools by Special Use Permit.

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY:  Institutional - schools, universities and colleges and ancillary facilities and public facilities and utilities in Neighborhood 7.

ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: Yes X 

LOCATION: 720 Faulconer Drive (Rt.855), Charlottesville, VA  22903, approximately 1620 feet from the intersection of Faulconer Drive and the Ivy Road/Rt 250 off ramp from the 250 Bypass.

TAX MAP/PARCEL: TM 60 Parcels 57, 57A, 57B, 57C.

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Jack Jouett

 

In summary, the Planning Commission held a work session on SP-2007-00053, St. Anne’s-Belfield – New Academic Building for staff to receive guidance on the historic structure (the Head Master’s Dwelling), on possible offsite road improvements to offset impacts on the transportation system, and any other expectations before the public hearing was set. 

 

Ms. Wiegand presented a power-point presentation and reviewed the proposal.  (Attachment – power-point presentation)  She pointed out the following:

 

·         Yesterday afternoon, which was after the preparation of the staff report, staff found that the applicant has contacted an architectural historian and has had a report prepared on the Head Master’s dwelling.  Staff received the report at tonight’s meeting and has not reviewed the report.  Staff will include the results of the study in the analysis of the staff report for the public hearing.

·         The traffic impact analysis that was done analyzed five intersections to determine the impact of the increased traffic on those intersections.  There is still some missing information.  Some of the traffic report information was basically percentages and estimates.  Staff has not yet obtained from the school the information containing the real numbers needed to do the analysis.  The County Engineer is present and can explain in detail what information staff is looking for.  If the finalized traffic impact analysis shows that expansion of the school will increase traffic at intersections in the area should the school be requested to make improvements to one or more of these intersections as recommended by the County Engineer and VDOT.  She noted that these intersections in 2010, which is the year that the expansion of the school is projected to open, the background traffic before adding the school’s traffic these intersections are already struggling.  The school will add something to that, but will not be the entire cause of the problem.  But, at the same time they are adding traffic to an existing bad situation.  That is why VDOT and County staff would like to see them make an improvement.  She asked if the Planning Commission feels that is appropriate.  She invited the County Engineer, Glenn Brooks, to address the issue.

 

Glenn Brooks, County Engineer, noted that there are three other intersections in that vicinity that deal with the on and off ramps for 29.  VDOT has asked for those three intersections to be studied.  He noted that the merge lanes are very short and mostly inadequate.  It is not real clear as to what improvements could take place at these intersections.  If he was doing it he might move Faulconer Drive and not have an intersection in the middle of an interstate ramp. 

 

Mr. Strucko asked where he would relocate the ramp.

 

Mr. Brooks replied that the ramp might be placed down on Garth Road.  That would reduce the conflicts considerably.  There are things that could be done to the intersections themselves, too, to improve things.  But, the studies received from the applicant basically said that they don’t want to do anything since they don’t feel that they are responsible for that.  A few of those intersections have very large volumes and they are a small percentage.  But, that is a decision that has to be made.  The other thing that affected the traffic numbers received was some very large assumptions.  Usually when looking at a traffic study staff sees assumptions for different modes of transit or car pooling, etc. in the range of five percent.  This study used 30 percent as a reduction number.  They were citing the basic experience of the staff about the number of people that carpool and perhaps on the number of students and how many siblings are at the school.  The study needs to have real data taken from a traffic count. Staff raised a red flag when they saw a number as high as 30 percent.  Those are the main concerns with the traffic study.   Staff’s recommendation is that they study the intersections suggested by VDOT and decide on what improvements, if any, the school is willing to do based on the working of the intersections to come to some agreement.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that he was curious about the 300 students at the pre-school versus taking it up to 550 students.  When they have an athletic event in the afternoon and most of the children are coming down from the existing middle school or upper school to this campus that is a tremendous traffic impact already.  He was curious whether that is being factored in on this study.

 

Mr. Brooks replied that it was not included in this study.

 

Mr. Edgerton asked if the 300 was based on the number of students that are currently going to class on the lower school campus or does that 300 include the additional serge of traffic that is already using Faulconer Drive.

 

Ms. Wiegand replied that staff is not sure what they are counting in the 300 student number or if the athletic events were considered.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that the school use to have buses running to carry the students from the upper school campus to the lower school campus.  That would affect dramatically the amount of traffic.  The athletic events are when so much of the extended family of these students is using these same intersections and roads.  He wondered if by moving the middle school that they are certainly going to have a little more traffic.  He wondered if it would be as dramatic a change as from 300 to 500 students.

 

Mr. Brooks said that they have suggested that moving the middle school campus will perhaps improve some of the movements and the ramp intersections that currently go to the lower school in the city and would now go the other direction to the lower school in the county.  But, that is a hypothesis.  He said that he did not know whether the school would continue to use the other property.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if there were any dormitories on this particular campus.

 

Ms. Wiegand noted that they would have to ask the applicant.

 

Mr. Strucko assumed that the additional 120 students would be commuters and will be dropped off in the morning and picked up at night.

 

Ms. Wiegand replied yes, that is what staff was told.  The car pooling idea is that parents of students in the upper and lower school would bring both students at the same time.  The applicant has also talked about trying to avoid all of the traffic coming in at the same time by staggering the opening and dismissal hours for the school.   Staff’s concern is that if they have a middle school student who is suppose to arrive at 8:00 and an elementary school student that is suppose to arrive at 8:30 are the parents really going to drop them off at the same time.  Again, there are a lot of questions staff has not been able to get answered in the traffic study yet.

 

Mr. Loach asked what the level of service is on these intersections on 250 right now.  He noted that in the morning coming in to town traffic is backed up all the way past Broomley Road on 250 going up to the nursery and further back.  He questioned if there are any expectations.  The Board has approved over 3,000 homes in Crozet. 

 

Mr. Brooks said that it depends on which year chosen.  He asked what the build out year was.

 

Ms. Wiegand noted that the school was scheduled to open in 2010, which was being used as the background.

 

Mr. Brooks said that he would have to look it up.  But, typically the intersections on Old Ivy Road are operating around a level “C” or “D” and that kind of projected build out.  He did not know the particulars and suggested that their traffic engineer could answer that.

 

Mr. Loach agreed that 30 percent car pooling is asking a lot to believe because the current traffic is horrendous.

 

Mr. Edgerton asked what the status was of the traffic study.

 

Ms. Wiegand replied that the traffic study is not final.

 

Mr. Loach asked what the conclusions on the study received.

 

Mr. Brooks said that looking at the background traffic for 2010, which are the movements he is probably referencing, and the left turns off of 250 are already failing.  The question in a study like this is how much is the delay increasing that is attributed to the increase they would be authorizing with the additional students.  Regarding the conclusion, the school has basically not proposed any improvements.  The school recognizes that some of these intersections are having problems, but it is not completely contributable to the school.  Therefore, they don’t feel they should do improvements.

 

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

 

David Laurie, Head of St. Anne’s Belfield School, introduced the members of their team as Hulbert Bowie, lead architect; Scott Dunn, who has conducted the traffic study; Kurt Gloeckner, the engineer; Mike Wayland, Assistant Head of St. Anne’s Belfield School.  Their plan is construct a kindergarten through eighth grade academic complex on the lower campus.  They have their preschoolers through fourth graders on that campus in a building almost 60 years old.  This replacement has been in their master plan for years.  They are not increasing their overall student enrollment.  The lower school will stay the same number.  The middle school moving to this campus will stay the same number. The upper school will also stay the same number.  All of the boarding students are on the upper campus.  So there will be no boarding students on the lower campus.  They commissioned a study on the Head Master’s house.  The top three points is that it is not architecturally distinguished or unusual.  It does not meet any criteria for a listing on the national historic register of historic places.  It is not in a historic district.  

 

Hulbert Bowie, of Bowie Gridley Architects, said that they are the master planners working with the school to prepare the long range master plan for the facilities looking at both campuses.  He presented a power-point presentation to explain the proposal.  He noted that all of the traffic that comes to this campus comes from Faulconer Drive.  As a planner for a facility like this the most important thing is that there are lots of options.  They can manage this site in a number of ways because of the amount of roads and the ring road that circles the whole property.

 

Scott Dunn, with Timmons Group, said that he did the traffic study. He asked to address the 30 percent reduction. It is not hypothetical.  Information was provided from the school headmaster based on the number of children attending both schools and the overlap between siblings.  There are 199 families in the lower and 182 in the relocating middle school. Of those sects there are 53 families that have kids in both schools. Those numbers are based on real numbers and current population.  The school is making accommodations to take students that arrive early to accommodate them for one-half an hour until their school starts. There is a half hour difference between middle school and lower school.  He said that people are going to make one trip and minimize the impact to their time and wallet.  When they did the study the school, if one looks at total numbers of 250 students, they generate 220 a.m. peak hour trips based on the private school trip generation.  That number does not meet VDOT’s current standards for a traffic study, which the county is currently following.  So the study should not have been done or under the guidance of VDOT.  Beyond that a study was performed up the road for the White Gables and they looked at their intersection/entrance and nothing else.  There was the same amount of trips in the a.m. and p.m.  There were no additional intersections reviewed for that.  All of this said there are problems out there that he would not deny.  The reason that improvements were not recommended was that there are right-of-way constraints and topography constraints.   He felt that those were beyond the means of the school to have to burden or shoulder. 

 

Mr. Strucko asked how many additional daily vehicle trips are the additional 250 students going to create.

 

Mr. Dunn replied that unfortunately the IT Manual they use does not provide daily trips. It just provides peak hour. If they look at straight numbers during peak hours, it is 220 in the morning total and 150 in the afternoon total.  With the reduction of the 30 percent it took them down to 150 in the morning and 110 in the afternoon.  The numbers include the staff and faculty.

 

Mr. Strucko said that there were 260 additional daily vehicle trips with the 30 percent reduction.

 

Mr. Dunn replied yes, that the two peak hours with a school account for about 80 percent of their daily traffic.  It would be about 500 trips or so a day.  The existing middle school is located to the east in the city and it is moving to the west.  Again, these trips are not new on this road.  Obviously, some are shifting to Old Ivy Road.  He said that he would not portray that the traffic will instantly get better on 29 because of this.  But, the impacts are minimal to this school.

 

Mr. Strucko said that the impacts will be on Faulconer Drive. 

 

Mr. Dunn agreed that the impacts would be on Faulconer Drive.  In the study they identified that on the 29 off ramp there should be a left and right turn lane southbound on the ramp itself at Old Garth Road.  He noted that currently traffic backs up on that ramp waiting for cars to turn left on to Old Ivy Road.  That is an existing condition.  That condition is going to get worse with or without their school. 

 

Mr. Strucko said that it will certainly get worse with the addition of these.

 

Mr. Dunn agreed, but mentioned that the p.m. peak is worse in that area and does not overlap with the p.m. peak of the existing road.  The p.m. peak of the existing road is between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m.  The school will be letting out at 3:30 p.m.  So there is some separation between the peaks.  The a.m. is worse because schools let in when people are going to work.  There are needed intersection improvements at Old Garth and the ramp.  They identified that there should be a turn lane on Faulconer Drive exiting the site on to the ramp to accommodate right turning traffic.  The reason they did not recommend that is the site distance issue.  People fly off the interchange ramp and he thought that it was an unsafe condition to add an additional turn lane and block right turning vehicles point of view of that ramp and the other car in front of it.  It is just an accident waiting to happen.  That was one of the recommendations.  The other improvement related to the school was a right turn tamper on Old Ivy Road heading west bound on Faulconer Drive.  That warrant was minimally met by VDOT standard normal graphs.  The level of service does not change if that improvement is added in.  The reason they did not include it was that in the field that is a drainage inlet in that corner.  If a turn taper was put in it would likely affect the drainage system that is there, which could be a huge expense for an improvement that would not make any difference in the level of service. 

 

Mr. Edgerton asked if all the land between the school and Old Garth Road is owned by the University. 

 

Ms. Wiegand said that it was owned by the University Foundation.

 

Mr. Edgerton asked if there has been any discussion with them about trying to relocate Faulconer Drive across any of that land. 

 

Dave Laurie noted that they have not had conversations about Faulconer Drive, but they don’t seem willing to part with their land.

 

Mr. Dunn said that the county engineer has requested that the additional work, which may or may not be outstanding depending on what is decided tonight, is the study of the 250 by pass interchange for the school.  VDOT and the county have indicated that they wanted the school to collect data and look at the intersections and the interchange for impacts related to the school both on 250/Ivy Road and Old Ivy Road at the 29 north on ramp.  He questioned whether the Commission felt it was necessary to undertake.  Given the trip generation they are looking at they have prepared the numbers for the school versus what is out there and it is 2 to 2.5 percent of the existing traffic that they are adding to it if they look at straight numbers.  Basically, it was less than 30 vehicles they were adding to the interchange. He was not sure what kind of improvements would be extracted and necessary through an interchange to accommodate 30 vehicles.   It is an already failing situation.  The intersection at the on ramp at Old Ivy Road was requested to be studied.  They looked at the numbers they collected at the intersection of Old Ivy Road and Faulconer Drive.  There are no intersections between those two locations.  They looked at the number of cars coming into and exiting the intersection to get an idea of the through traffic on Old Ivy road.  Based on those calculations the existing background traffic in 2010 will warrant a 100’ left turn lane on to the on ramp.  That being said, given the overpass there today there is no room to put one in short of doing a major bridge improvement over the interstate.

 

Kirk Gloeckner, of Gloeckner Engineering, said that most of the work he would do would be underground pipes for water and sewer and storm water management.  He talked with a member of VDOT today.  Along the by pass is a chain link fence that belongs to VDOT.  They said that with a permit they can plant that fence as thick as they like with English Ivy or some plant that would completely cut off any vision into this project. That just came about today.  With the demolition of the existing school the impervious area that is there now drains mostly towards the by pass. With the creation of a new play field in that area the run off towards the by pass will be cut to one third of what it is right now.  The other hard cape parking and what have you will all be directed to the back of the school to an existing practice field, which has a sand filter underneath that does the clean up of the storm water.  There is also a huge under ground pipe that takes care of the detention.  The practice field itself also handles some of the detention.  The amount of impervious material that is created between what is demolished and what is built is only .2 of an acre because there is a lot of existing pavement in basketball, etc. on the existing site.  They are connected to public waste and sewer.  There are three existing fire hydrants and there will be four.  With the new construction there will be a sprinkler system and fire pumps in the mechanical room that has a support generation.  So the pump station and the fire pump will have auxiliary power for when they lose it on site.

 

Mr. Morris invited public comment. 

 

Paul Urb said that he was one of the two neighbors on the west side of the property.   He did not think that the damage to the property would be significant with this move.  There is a great deal of traffic in the afternoon.  The base field is often traveled to by people not at the school.  He understood that at one time the University of Virginia had acquired the right to build a tunnel.  If that area going to the John Paul Jones Arena were developed there was some other proposal to clean up that intersection that the University at one time had an interest in.  The Foundation had acquired that property.  Under those conditions it seemed that there was promise for the future and not much damage at the present.

 

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

 

Ms. Joseph asked if Mr. Wade would like to add anything to the discussion.

 

Juan Wade, Transportation Planner, replied no that Mr. Brooks has reflected their comments.  They realize that overall this project is not going to have a tremendous impact on the traffic in the area because of the amount of traffic.  But, they would like to get a fair share of the impact of this project on the roadway network. They realize that whatever that number will be they will work with the county and VDOT to establish that number.  It may be small, but they are in the position now that they don’t have a lot of funds to get transportation projects done.  There have been improvements identified in the traffic study   that are already needed without this project.  They need to start putting some money aside to get those things done.  They will work with the applicant to make sure the numbers are correct and identify their fair share of the impact of their project. 

 

Ms. Joseph asked Mr. Wade if he knew anything about the tunnel Mr. Urb referred to.

 

Mr. Wade replied that every year there is a class at UVA that studies this project.  That is one of their proposals, but he has never heard it was an official project.

 

Ms. Porterfield asked if they ask the applicant to contribute if they are we asking them to study too big of an area.

 

Mr. Wade replied that the reason they asked them to study this area is the close proximity to these ramps. He was comfortable with the scope of the study.  VDOT and the county will take the additional information and review it.

 

The Commission reviewed, discussed and provided comments and suggestions to staff’s questions, as follows:

 

·         Should the school conduct an evaluation before the Commission and Board act on the special use permit to determine which option is preferable? Since preparation of the staff report for this work session the applicant has submitted a report on the Head Master’s dwelling which addresses the staff’s first question.  The Commission agreed to review the staff’s findings regarding this report as part of the public hearing on this special use permit.

·         If the finalized TIA shows the expansion of the school will increase traffic at intersections in the area, should the school be requested to make improvements to one or more of those intersections, as recommended by the County Engineer and VDOT? Regarding traffic impacts, since the school will add to the existing problem at several area intersections, the Commission questioned what the school’s proportional share should be towards improvements that address that impact.  The Commission asked the applicant to provide the missing information in its traffic study so this could be determined.  The Commission asked staff to work with VDOT and the applicant to determine the school’s impact on the intersections and to determine what the applicant’s pro-rata contribution should be to address the impact of this project on the road network.

 

The Planning Commission took a break at 7:37 p.m.

 

The meeting reconvened at 7:49 p.m.

 

Go to next set of minutes

Return to PC actions letter