COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

PLANNING STAFF REPORT SUMMARY

 

Project Name:  SP 2007-053 St. Anne’s-Belfield New Academic Building Project

Staff:  Judith C. Wiegand, AICP

Planning Commission Public Hearing:

July 8, 2008

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing:  

Not Scheduled

Owners:  St. Anne’s-Belfield

Applicant:  St. Anne’s-Belfield, represented by Kurt Gloeckner, Gloeckner Engineering/ Surveying, Inc.

Acreage:  28.05 acres

Special Use Permit:  to increase the number of students from 300 to 550, by adding new buildings and demolishing others. Section 13.2.2.5 of the Zoning Ordinance applies to this proposal. 

TMP:  TM 60, Parcels 57, 57A, 57B, and 57C.

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

Existing Zoning and By-right use:  R1 Residential, which allows private schools by special use permit.  

Entrance Corridor Overlay District (US Route 29/250 Bypass (Monacan Trail/ Richmond Road)

Magisterial District:  Jack Jouett

Conditions:  Yes

Proposal:  Approval to construct new academic buildings on the existing lower campus for students in Pre-School through 8th grade to result in a total enrollment of 550 students.

Comprehensive Plan Designation: Institutional – schools, universities and colleges and ancillary facilities and public facilities and utilities, in Neighborhood 7.

Requested # of Dwelling Units:  NA

DA (Development Area): Neighborhood 7

Character of Property:  The St. Anne’s-Belfield Lower School campus includes one building complex, several playing fields (including tennis courts), and surface parking areas. There is some open space on the site and several areas of steep slopes, some of which may have been created when the ground was leveled for construction of the existing playing fields and parking lots.

Use of Surrounding Properties:  To the northeast, the subject property is adjacent to property owned by the University of Virginia Foundation (currently vacant). To the northwest and southwest, the property is bounded by large residential parcels and the Rural Areas. To the southeast, the subject property adjoins the 250 Bypass.

Factors Favorable: 

1.       Providing a private school in the County enables parents to choose the type of education facility they prefer for their children.

2.       Expanding the number of grade levels at the Belfield campus will mean more siblings will be able to attend school on the same campus, thereby reducing the additional trips parents now need to take siblings to two campuses.

3.       Because this campus is located at the edge of the Development Areas and is surrounded by low-density residential areas, vacant property, and the Rural Areas, the potential noise impact to adjacent properties from a large number of children will be less.

Factors Unfavorable: 

1.        Traffic in the general vicinity of the campus is congested and this expansion will increase traffic in the area. While completion of the two road improvements recommended as a condition of this Special Use Permit will mitigate some of this congestion at two of the most affected intersections, congestion will remain at other intersections in the area.

RECOMMENDATION:  Staff recommends approval with conditions.

 


 

STAFF PERSON:                                                                               JUDITH C. WIEGAND, AICP  

PLANNING COMMISSION:                                                                        JULY 8, 2008                        

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:                                                                        Not scheduled

 

SP 2007-053 St. Anne’s-Belfield New Academic Building Project

 

PETITION 

PROJECT: SP 2007-053 St. Anne's-Belfield New Academic Building Project

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   No____

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

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

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Jack Jouett

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AREA

The St. Anne’s-Belfield Lower School campus currently includes one building complex, several playing fields (including tennis courts), and surface parking areas. There is some open space on the site and several areas of steep slopes, some of which may have been created when the ground was leveled for construction of the existing playing fields and parking lots.

 

The area around the campus is bounded by the 250 Bypass, property owned by the University of Virginia Foundation (as yet undeveloped), and several large residential lots with structures on them. The property is also adjacent to the County’s Rural Areas. (See Attachment A. Location Map)

 

SPECIFICS OF THE PROPOSAL

The applicant is seeking approval to construct new academic buildings on the existing lower campus in Albemarle County. Currently, 300 students in Pre-School through 4th grade attend classes on this site between 8:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. An after care program continues until 5:30 p.m. The new academic buildings will accommodate students in Pre-School through 8th grade, resulting in a total enrollment of 550 students. To mitigate increased traffic both on and off campus, staggered arrival and dismissal times will be used for Lower and Middle School students.

 

APPLICANT’S JUSTIFICATION FOR THE REQUEST

St. Anne’s-Belfield would like to shift the Middle School from its campus in the City of Charlottesville to the campus in the County. This will allow more families with children from Pre-school age through 8th grade to be on the same campus.

 

PLANNING AND ZONING HISTORY

St. Anne’s-Belfield is currently operating under SP 1994-017, which was approved on August 10, 1994. The one condition on SP 1994-017 is “Enrollment at this campus shall not exceed 330 students.”

 

All four of the parcels that are part of this application are owned by St. Anne’s-Belfield and have been zoned R1-Residential since the County adopted the current zoning ordinance in 1980. Private schools are permitted in R1- Residential districts by special use permit approved by the Board of Supervisors.

 

These four parcels have been the subject of 11 site plans and subdivisions from 1995 through 2003, relating to a new gym, tennis courts and baseball fields, athletic field revitalization, addition of a storage building, field lighting, parking lots, football/lacrosse fields, play field bio-retention, and addition of classrooms.

 

BACKGROUND

On April 29, 2008, the Planning Commission held a worksession on the request for a Special Use Permit to provide input to the applicant and staff on two major issues: 1) the historic structure (the Head Master’s Dwelling) and 2) possible offsite road improvements to offset impacts on the transportation system The Commission provided the following comments and suggestions (taken from the Action Letter):

 

·         Should the school conduct an evaluation of the historic structure before the Commission and Board act on the special use permit to determine which option is preferable?  Before this worksession, but after staff prepared its report, the applicant submitted a report on the Head Master’s dwelling which addressed the staff’s first question. The Commission agreed at its worksession to review the staff’s findings regarding this report as part of the public hearing on this special use permit.

 

Further staff comments on this issue are given in the Staff Comment section below.

 

·         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 traffic to the existing congestion 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 further 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.

     

      Further staff comments on this issue are given in the Staff Comment section below.

 

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN

The Comprehensive Plan designates the subject property as Institutional, which includes schools, universities and colleges and ancillary facilities and public facilities and utilities. The requested Special Use Permit is consistent with this designation.

 

The Comprehensive Plan also recommends to:

Maintain or establish a buffer [along] the Route 250 bypass to protect the visual quality and character of the area as seen from the roadway. (page 76)

 

This buffer is also shown on the Open Space Plan map.

 

The Neighborhood Model:

This special use permit request is for an expansion in the number of students permitted to attend a private school and includes an application plan showing significant changes in the campus. Because of the nature of this request, staff believes that four of the twelve principles of the Neighborhood Model are relevant to this proposal.

 

Interconnected Streets and Transportation Networks. Access to the site is via Faulconer Drive. Because of the existing access conditions at the school and the nature of the surrounding area, there are no other existing or planned interconnections to adjacent parcels. However, even under these conditions, St. Anne’s needs an adequate connection to the local transportation network in order for parents to drop off and pick up their children, as well as to accommodate traffic to/from special events held at the school.

 

A Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) is required by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) as part of this SP. Staff has reviewed both the draft of the TIA and additional information provided by the applicant at the County’s and VDOT’s request. A discussion of the traffic impacts of this expansion is included under Staff Comments below. If the two road improvements listed in the conditions for this Special Use Permit are provided, this principle will be met.

 

Parks and Open Space. The plan shows a number of fields and open space on the campus. This principle is met.

 

Redevelopment. This plan shows that the applicant is using an existing site more intensively. Several of the existing buildings on the campus are to be demolished and new ones constructed. The applicant has obtained an evaluation of the potentially historic building (see discussion under Staff Comments below). This principle is met.

 

Site Planning that Respects Terrain. The applicant has provided a conceptual grading plan, which the County Engineer considers adequate. The application plan shows extensive grading, including possible disturbance of critical slopes. These slopes, however, are manmade and not shown on the Open Space Plan. The applicant will need to provide a plan showing the critical slopes on the site and apply for a critical slopes waiver at the time of site plan approval.  

 

The concept plan shows terraced slopes adjacent to one of the playing fields instead of a significant retaining wall that was shown on an earlier plan. The applicant removed the wall at County staff’s request. This principle is met.

 

STAFF COMMENT

 

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

 

31.2.4.1: The Board of Supervisors hereby reserves unto itself the right to issue all special use permits permitted hereunder. Special use permits for uses as provided 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 St. Anne’s-Belfield  campus is surrounded by vacant property, residential neighborhoods developed at a relatively low density, the 250 Bypass, and the Rural Areas. At its current size, the school is compatible with these surrounding uses and has demonstrated its compatibility. Staff believes that, if traffic issues are addressed and sufficient buffering remains around the property, an expanded campus will continue to be an asset to the community and not a detriment to adjacent properties.

 

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

The school is compatible with the R-1 Residential zoning district now and an expanded campus is not expected to change the character of that district at this location. If the expansion requested was for a school within an established residential development, a change in character might occur. Because of the existing and unique location of St. Anne’s, though, no change in character should result from this expansion.

 

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

The intent of the R1-Residential District is to recognize the existence of previously established low density residential districts, to provide incentives for clustering of development along with various types of amenities, and to provide for low density residential development in the urban area. Private schools are allowed in Residential districts by special use permit approved by the Board of Supervisors. Granting this request for St. Anne’s-Belfield will permit an expansion in the number of students and, thereby, further development of the site as a school. Providing schools in residential areas can be a service to the area and an amenity for the surrounding neighborhoods.

 

The school also adjoins the 250 Bypass, one of the County’s Entrance Corridors. So, the proposed development must meet the requirements of the Entrance Corridor Overlay District. The intent of that district is to protect the county’s natural, scenic and historic, architectural and cultural resources. The County’s design planner has indicated several items that may be recommended by the Architectural Review Board (ARB) (further discussion below). The applicant will have to obtain ARB approval prior to site plan approval.

 

The County’s Design Planner has reviewed the architectural historian’s report on the Headmaster’s House provided by the applicant on April 29, 2008. This report addressed the question of whether the Headmaster’s house was historic. The Design Planner states:

 

The applicant has submitted a historical and architectural assessment for the Headmaster’s house. The report indicates that the house is not architecturally or historically distinguished. The historian’s recommendation is that the house is not eligible for listing in the National Register.

 

Although it is disappointing that the applicant is not able to find a way to re-use the resource, particularly given the size of the site and the educational opportunities and environmental benefits the existing building offers, the historic preservation planner’s recommendations on this proposal are satisfied with this submittal.

 

Under these circumstances, staff does not oppose demolition of the structure.

 

with the uses permitted by right in the district,

The primary use in an R-1 district is single-family homes. Schools are permitted in residential neighborhoods, although, as discussed above, the school has its own campus, rather than being part of a surrounding neighborhood. Schools contribute to the moral fabric of the community and are expected in residential districts.

 

with additional regulations provided in Section 5.0 of this ordinance,

There are no supplemental regulations in Section 5.0 that address private schools.

 

and with the public health, safety and general welfare.

The Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) identified six intersections in the general vicinity of St. Anne’s where some type of turn lane or taper will be warranted once the traffic due to the additional students at St. Anne’s is added to the background traffic.

 

County and VDOT staff have met with the applicant and the consultant for the TIA. The applicant has provided additional information about the routes both existing and future students are likely to take to reach the campus. Along with this information, the applicant offered to provide a proportional share of the cost of improvements at the two intersections most affected by traffic to/from St. Anne’s. However, according to the Virginia Dept. of Transportation, the combined traffic (existing or background traffic and traffic due to the expansion) triggers the need for improvements at these two locations. Therefore, staff recommends that St. Anne’s be required to provide: 1) a southbound right turn lane off of the US 29 ramp onto Faulconer Drive, and 2) a westbound right turn taper on Old Ivy Road at the intersection of Faulconer Drive. These two intersections are the closest of those affected to the school. (VDOT comments are included as Attachment E)

 

The consultant for St. Anne’s-Belfield has provided information on the private pump station and potential water and sewer needs. During a telephone call on June 27, Gary Whelan of the Service Authority indicated that sewer capacity will be fine. The only remaining information the Service Authority needs is the plumbing fixture count so that the meter(s) can be sized correctly; unless the meter is the correct size, it doesn’t work. Information on the fixtures will be provided at the site plan approval stage. Two e-mail messages from Mr. Whelan are included as Attachment E.

 

SUMMARY:

Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this application:

1.       Providing a private school in the County enables parents to choose the type of education facility they prefer for their children.

2.       Expanding the number of grade levels at the Belfield campus will mean more siblings will be able to attend school on the same campus, thereby making transportation easier for families.

3.       Because this campus is located at the edge of the Development Areas and is surrounded by low-density residential areas, vacant property, and the Rural Areas, the potential noise impact from a large number of children on the adjacent properties will be minimal.

 

Staff has identified the following factors unfavorable to this application:

1.       Traffic in the general vicinity of the campus is congested. While completion of the two road improvements recommended as a condition of this Special Use Permit will mitigate some of this congestion at two of the most affected intersections, congestion will remain at other intersections in the area.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION: 

Based on the findings contained in this staff report, staff recommends approval of Special Use Permit 2007-053, St. Anne’s-Belfield, with the following conditions:

1.       The site shall be developed in substantial accord with the concept plan entitled “St. Anne’s-Belfield Proposed Lower/Middle School Preliminary Site Plan,” dated June 6, 2008, except that changes may be made provided the Zoning Administrator finds that all other special use conditions are met.

2.       The maximum enrollment shall be 550 students.

3.       Arrival and dismissal times for Lower and Middle school students shall be staggered at a minimum 20-minute interval so that all students do not arrive at/depart from the campus at the same time.

4.       In addition to meeting all requirements of the Architectural Review Board (ARB), all new buildings shall be designed and constructed to meet the minimum standards for a  “Silver” rating (37-43 points) under the LEED for Schools Rating System, First Edition, Updated November 2007. Prior to the issuance of a building permit, the Owner shall submit a certification from a LEED certified architect to the Director of Community Development that the plan meets the above-referenced LEED standards. Before the Owner requests a certificate of occupancy for any building for which a licensed architect rendered such a certificate, the Owner shall submit to the County’s Director of Community Development a written statement from the architect that the building was built to the plans on which the certificate was based. In the event of a conflict between the ARB requirements and the LEED for Schools Guidelines, the ARB requirements shall take precedence.

5.       Stormwater management shall be provided in the form of biofilters for any new impervious surfaces. In addition to the requirements of the County’s Water Protection Ordinance, the majority of roof runoff shall be captured in a rainwater collection and reuse system.

6.       Erosion control shall be provided within the property by the use of sediment trapping measures and diversions. Except for the required transportation improvements listed in Condition 7, off-site easements or work, or variations from the standards, shall not be used.

7.       Prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, the Applicant shall complete construction of a southbound right turn lane off of the US 29 ramp onto Faulconer Drive and also complete construction of a westbound right turn taper on Old Ivy Road at the intersection of Faulconer Drive.

8.       A row of 2 ½” caliper shade trees spaced 40 feet on center shall be provided along the east side of the relocated portion of SR 855.

9.       A minimum of 20-foot deep landscape buffers shall be provided, free of utilities, to screen the proposed playing fields and the parking lot located southeast of the existing football field from the US 29/250 Bypass.

10.   Landscaping may be required to be in excess of the minimum requirements of ARB guidelines or the Zoning Ordinance to compensate for the negative visual impact of the playing fields and parking on the Entrance Corridor.

 

 

ATTACHMENTS

Attachment A – Location Map

Attachment B – Concept Plan, dated June 6, 2008, prepared by Gloecker Engineering/Surveying, Inc.,

                          and entitled “St. Anne’s-Belfield Proposed Lower / Middle School Preliminary Site Plan.

Attachment C – Planning Commission Worksession Action Letter, dated May 8, 2008

Attachment D – Virginia Dept. of Transportation comments, dated

Attachment E – Albemarle County Service Authority comments, dated May 5, 2008

 

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