-Albemarle County Planning Commission

February 17, 2009


The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a public hearing, meeting and work session on Tuesday, February 17, 2009, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Lane Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia.


Members attending were Marcia Joseph, Calvin Morris, Bill Edgerton, Linda Porterfield, Thomas Loach, Vice Chair and Eric Strucko, Chairman.  Julia Monteith, AICP, non-voting representative for the University of Virginia was absent. 


Other officials present were Juan Wade, Transportation Planner; Megan Yaniglos, Senior Planner; Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning; Rebecca Ragsdale, Senior Planner; Elaine Echols, Principal Planner, Joan McDowell, Principal Planner; Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney. 


Call to Order and Establish Quorum:


Mr. Strucko called the regular meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. and established a quorum.


            Public Hearing Items:


SP-2009-00001 Montessori Community School-Pantops Mountain (Signs # 105 & 106)

PROPOSED: Special Use Permit (SP) request to extend approval for an existing special use permit (SP 06-038) for a private school to allow for replacement of modular trailers with permanent buildings for 40,700 square feet of total building area on a 6.71 acre site. ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: CO Commercial Office - offices, supporting commercial and service uses; and residential use by special use permit (15 units/ acre). SECTION: Private School. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY: Urban Density Residential - residential (6.01-34 units/acre) and supporting uses such as religious institutions, schools, commercial, office and service uses in Neighborhood 3 (Pantops) Development Area. ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: Yes. LOCATION: 305 Rolkin Road, adjacent to the NW of the intersection of Rolkin Road and Richmond Road (Route 250). TAX MAP/PARCEL: TMP 78-12A and 12A1. MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Rivanna. (Rebecca Ragsdale)


Ms. Ragsdale summarized the staff report and presented a PowerPoint presentation. (See Staff Report SP-2009-1)

·         This is a request to extend the time period allowed to establish a special use permit for the Montessori Community School of Charlottesville on Pantops.  A special use permit (SP 06-038) for new buildings and campus improvements at the Montessori School was before the Commission in February and approved by the Board on March 14, 2007. That special use permit was for an updated campus plan or master plan for the property. The campus improvements include a phased plan to replace temporary modules with permanent classrooms and to develop the site with features such as an amphitheatre, ball field and ball court, playgrounds, gardens, lawns, and other associated site improvements like parking. There was no increase in enrollment; staffing or change in operating hours associated with SP#2006-038 and it was approved with conditions.

·         Since the last time the special use permit was reviewed the school acquired the American Legion property to the west. 

·         The property is zoned Commercial Office, which requires a special use permit for private schools.  It is surrounded to the west by Highway Commercial.  The school is a by-right use on the American Legion property.  There is residential in the back with the Pavilions’ development and more commercial on the other sides with the Eckerd and the Giant across the road.


Mr. Strucko invited questions for staff.


Mr. Loach asked if the Commission can add a time frame into the fencing condition since this was a problem in 2007 and it is now 2009.


Ms. Ragsdale replied that condition 3 states that the fencing be resolved by September 1, 2009, which was the action and recommendation of the Architectural Review Board.  There is already a time period in the condition.


Mr. Morris asked where the 4’ fence is suppose to be in accordance with the Architectural Review Board.


Ms. Ragsdale noted that the fence was constructed without any site plan or ARB approval. In the site plan under review the fence will addressed.  The existing fence is part board and chain link.  It is visible from the Entrance Corridor. She did not have a copy of the site plan that shows where it will be removed, but the applicant is working with the ARB on that.


Mr. Cilimberg said that the fence as is right now is not approved.  So it is not shown on the plan.


Mr. Morris said that from reading the staff report it seems that the 4’ fence is around a playground area for young children.


Ms. Ragsdale said that the school did construct the existing fence for safety purposes.  Staff will ensure that their reviewers look at the slopes and suggest where fencing should go, that it meets ARB requirements and the recommended safety guidelines for the safety of the children.


Ms. Porterfield asked if there have been other extension requests in the past for this length of time.


Ms. Ragsdale replied that the length of time varies.


Mr. Cilimberg replied that there have been a few, but not typically.  Actually the Commission needs to hear from the applicant in terms of their reasoning.  If they get a site plan approved, as an example, a site plan of itself has five year duration of the final site plan to get started on the work.  So it literally would be 60 months from that site plan’s approval.


Ms. Porterfield asked if there was any logic in saying that if there are any ordinance changes that would affect this between now and when they get to the site plan approval that they would have to meet those changes if they want the extension.


Mr. Cilimberg deferred the question to Mr. Kamptner.


Mr. Kamptner said that both in the approval of the special use permit and probably more directly in this case the approval of the final site plan is the first step in establishing vested rights anyway. So once they get those approvals they are probably well on their way to having their rights vest in the regulations at the time of the approval.


Ms. Porterfield said that they would have to meet anything up to the point that they vest.  Therefore, it would be a moot point in putting anything in.


Mr. Kamptner replied yes because that was controlled by State law.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that one of the reasons that the two years is in the ordinance as it is now is to protect in the event that a special use permit is granted and then certain ordinance changes occur in the two year period so that it could be reevaluated based on that.  That is why they have the two years in the ordinance.  They have had a lot of requests recently for a longer period.  They have seen some up to five years. The Board of Supervisors not too long ago gave a ten year allowance for a special use permit.  It can be modified.    


Ms. Joseph asked if they have a site plan that comes in that vests this special permit, the site plan she is assuming is one of the phases in this, that with each phase that comes in and a new site plan is submitted they have to meet whatever the current ordinance regulations are for that site plan.


Mr. Kamptner said if they have an approved preliminary for the entire site and they are going to final with each phase the approved preliminary site plan is also considered a significant governmental act for purposes of determined vested right.  That preliminary site plan for the entire site may establish the vested rights.  Each phase is really just there diligently pursuing that approval.


Ms. Joseph said that each phase as it comes in will have to meet whatever the current ordinance requirements are for that site.


Mr. Kamptner said that if it is found that it is vested by virtue of the preliminary site plan the regulations in effect at that point for a phased development may establish the vested rights at the time of approval of the preliminary site plan.


Ms. Joseph asked if they vest tomorrow the current ordinance will cover any subsequent site plans that are submitted on that site.


Mr. Kamptner said that if the special use permit or whatever site plan is approved may vest their rights.


Ms. Joseph said that if they come in for a site plan for phase 2 three years from now and the ordinance has changed a little bit they have to meet whatever standards are in the ordinance three years from now for any subsequent site plans that come in or the current ordinance.


Mr. Kamptner said that they would have to look at everything. It may be that the special use permit that authorized this use may create vested rights independent of and in addition to any site plan that follows as well.  When they do a vested right analysis with zoning it is very fact specific.  But it is possible for a developer to develop in phases and to have rights vest with the initial phase.


Ms. Joseph asked how they could word something then that worked for what Ms. Porterfield was talking about that as the site plans comes in throughout the years that they have to comply with whatever the current standards are for site plans.


Mr. Kamptner said that the State vested rights statute prohibits localities from altering the vested rights statute.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that in other words they can’t do that.


Mr. Kamptner said that when they are looking at the 24 month period or in this case the 48 or 72 months, if their rights are vested under State law they vest.  The 24 month commencement period is a hold over from the old days before the vested rights law was put into a statute.


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


Wendy Fisher, Head of School of Montessori Community School, said that the Commission has all of the information in front of them.  She highlighted that the reason they are asking for the extension is for a number of reasons, but mainly because they were quite pleased to have the opportunity last year to buy the adjacent property.  That was a once in a life time opportunity for the school.  The school pulled all of their resources in order to take advantage of that.  Thus it delayed their ability to begin construction on new buildings.  They plan to go into a fund raising phase once the economy finds itself in a more attractive situation.  So they just want to make sure they have enough time in order to do things in a responsible manner.


Ms. Porterfield asked for an explanation of the fence problem


Ms. Fisher replied that the fence was constructed during a period when they were having a change in leadership. They simply did not follow the process.  They have been through a lot of meetings with the county.  In retrospect they realized they made a terrible error and are working to make sure that they correct it. Either they will screen the fence now according to ARB guidelines or they will replace it with a fence that provides a safe campus for their students but complies with ARB guidelines by September 1.  The issue will go away by September 1.  It is planned for a summer time project.


Mr. Morris asked what the length of time is that they are requesting this to be extended to.


Ms. Fisher replied that the request is for 72 months, which is two more years beyond what staff has recommended.


Mr. Strucko invited other public comment.  There being none, he closed the public hearing to bring the matter before the Planning Commission.


Mr. Morris said that the request to extend this time frame to 72 month is very realistic especially due to the economic situation that we are in right now.  Everyone is in a fund raising campaign right now.  Therefore, he was in favor of granting the request.


Motion:  Mr. Morris moved and Ms. Porterfield seconded to approve SP-2009-00001 Montessori Community School-Pantops Mountain with the conditions recommended by staff, as modified, to extend the time period to establish the special use permit to 72 months.

  1. Maximum enrollment shall be three hundred (300) students.
  2. Development of the use shall be in conformity with the  “Montessori Pantops Mountain Community School Sheets SP01-SP-03”, prepared by Neal R. Deputy, Architecture & Master Planning, last revised January 16, 2007, as determined by the Director of Planning and the Zoning Administrator. To be in conformity with the plan, development shall reflect the general size, arrangement, and location of proposed Buildings A, B, C, D, and E, Central Lawn, Amphitheatre, playgrounds and ball fields, wooded natural area, and parking areas.  Minor modifications to the plan which do not conflict with the elements above may be made to ensure compliance with the Zoning Ordinance.
  3. Fencing shall be provided at a minimum around the perimeter of the Central Lawn, Lower Elementary Playground, and Children’s House Playground, or at other locations as required by the County to ensure safety of children adjacent to Route 250 and Rolkin Road. Final design of the fence shall be subject to review and approval by the Architectural Review Board. However, to address safety concerns, the fence details shall include:

a.        At least forty-eight (48) inches tall;

b.        No more than a two (2) inch gap under the fence;

c.        Openings shall be small enough that a four (4) inch sphere will not pass through;

d.        No ornamental indentations that can be used as a ladder;

e.        Maximum mesh size for chain link fences is two and one-quarter (2-1/4) inches; and

f.         Maximum mesh size for diagonal lattice fences is one and three-quarter (1-3/4) inches.

4.   The existing chain link fence shall be replaced with a new fence that satisfies the requirements of the Architectural Review Board by September 1, 2009. Alternately, planting shall be installed by September 1, 2009 that will screen the fence from the Entrance Corridor. That planting shall be in accord with an approved landscape plan that satisfies the requirements of the Architectural Review Board.

5.   Construction of proposed buildings as shown on the concept plan shall commence on or before March 11, 2015 or this special use permit shall expire.


The motion carried by a vote of 6:0.


Mr. Strucko noted that SP-2009-0001 Montessori Community School-Pantops Mountain will go to the Board of Supervisors on March 11, 2009 with a recommendation for approval.


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