COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

STAFF REPORT SUMMARY

 

Project Name:  SP200800029 South Plains Presbyterian Church

Staff: Scott Clark

Planning Commission Public Hearing:

March 24, 2009

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing:

May 13, 2009

Owner/s:  South Plains Church

Applicant: South Plains Church

Acreage:  4.95 acres

Special Use Permit: 10.2.2.35, 35, church building and adjunct cemetery

TMP:  Tax Map 80 Parcel 116

Location:  410 Black Cat Road, at the intersection of Black Cat Road (Route 616) and Louisa Road (Route 22)

Existing Zoning and By-right use:   

RA -- Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre in development lots); EC Entrance Corridor - Overlay to protect properties of historic, architectural or cultural significance from visual impacts of development along routes of tourist access

 

Magisterial District:  Rivanna

Conditions or Proffers: Yes

RA (Rural Areas)  

Requested # of Dwelling Units: n/a

Proposal:  Addition of new fellowship hall and sanctuary to existing church

Comprehensive Plan Designation: Rural Areas - preserve and protect agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources/ density ( .5  unit/ acre in development lots)

Character of Property: Historic church site on rural highway.

Use of Surrounding Properties: 

Factors Favorable:

1.               There are no known significant physical limitations that would prevent this expansion.

Factors Unfavorable:

1.            The proposed design has significant impacts on the historic character of the existing church and site, as well as the Entrance Corridor.

RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends approval of this Special Use Permit with conditions.

 

 
 

Petition: 

 

PROPOSED: Addition of new fellowship hall and sanctuary to existing church.

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: RA -- Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre in development lots); EC Entrance Corridor - Overlay to protect properties of historic, architectural or cultural significance from visual impacts of development along routes of tourist access

SECTION: 10.2.2.35, 35, church building and adjunct cemetery

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY:  Rural Areas - preserve and protect agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources/ density ( .5 unit/ acre in development lots)

ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: Yes

LOCATION: 410 Black Cat Road, at the intersection of Black Cat Road (Route 616) and Louisa Road (Route 22)

 

Character of the Area:

 

The area is characterized by large farms on the east side of the Southwest Mountains, as well as some smaller residential parcels. The church site is included in the Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District. The surrounding land is largely open, with scattered patches of woods.

 

The church is located on Route 22, which is in the Entrance Corridor zoning overlay and is designated a Virginia Byway. Union Grove Church is located approximately 600 feet away to the east.

 

The church’s date of construction cannot be verified—some sources say it was built in the early 19th century, while others say it was built in the 1870s. The church is a good example of vernacular Gothic Revival architecture. The rectory was built in the 1870s to replace the original rectory, which had burned. Both structures contribute to the Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District. See Attachment C for an aerial view of the site.

 

The historic church has a footprint of 1,230 square feet and seats up to 80 people. The church is currently holding two services each Sunday in order to accommodate its membership.

 

Specifics of the Proposal:

 

The applicants are proposing to expand the church use by adding a fellowship hall with offices and Sunday school classrooms (5,218 square feet with 126 seats) and a connected larger sanctuary (3,200 square feet with 225 seats). The existing church and the rectory (or manse) would be retained at their current size. Neither of the new structures would connect to the existing church, but the manse would be attached to the rear of the new fellowship hall. See Attachment D for the proposed plan for the site, and Attachment E for an elevation.

 

Planning and Zoning History:

 

South Plains Presbyterian Church is an existing nonconforming church, as it was constructed prior to the adoption of zoning in Albemarle County.

 

Conformity with the Comprehensive Plan:

The Comprehensive Plan designates the site as Rural Areas, emphasizing the preservation and protection of agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources.

 

The Comprehensive Plan’s “Vision for Rural Albemarle County” says that two important features of the Rural Areas are:

 

·               Protected historic structures, archaeological sites, and other cultural resources;

·               Rural citizens supported by community meeting places, a basic level of services, and rural organizations and other cultural institutions at

          traditional rural scales, with opportunities to take part in community life and decisions;

 

The Guiding Principles of the Rural Area chapter also state that historic resources and scenic resources are among the defining components of the Rural Areas.

 

While this church currently provides a cultural institution and meeting place at a traditional rural scale, the proposed expansion would provide the same benefits at a more suburban scale (but one intended to support the church’s larger and growing congregation). The proposed plan would retain the historic chapel (separate fro, but in close proximity to, the larger new buildings) but largely efface the historic manse by attaching it to the rear of a new structure.

 

Regulatory Context:

 

This application is subject to the First Amendment's Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA").  One key provision of RLUIPA states:

 

No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly, or institution – (A) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (B) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest. (italics added) 

 

42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(a)(1). RLUIPA also requires that land use regulations: (1) treat a religious assembly or institution on equal terms with nonreligious assemblies and institutions; (2) not discriminate against any assembly or institution on the basis of religion or religious denomination; and (3) not totally exclude religious assemblies, or unreasonably limit religious assemblies, institutions or structures, from the locality. 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(b).

 

STAFF COMMENT:

 

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

 

31.2.4.1: Special Use Permits provided for 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,

 

Neighbors have expressed concerns over the visibility of the parking and structures from adjacent properties (see Attachment H). The applicants have moved the proposed parking from the rear of the property to the front. (Please note that this design change conflicts with staff design review comments discussed below.) However, the new buildings would be visible from the adjacent property to the southeast.  Staff recommends a condition (#5) to create a vegetated buffer on the 0.38-acre open area at the southeast side of the church property (see Attachment C) to reduce the visual impacts.

 

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

 

The increasing sizes of rural churches raise concerns over their physical and aesthetic impacts on their surroundings. In this case, the surrounding district would still be rural in character, but this particular property would be more intensely developed. However, given the regulations discussed above under “Regulatory Context,” an increase in a church’s capacity is considered a part of its religious activity.

 

This application has been reviewed by Architectural Review Board staff and design-planning staff, who have concerns about how the proposed plan would impact historic resources on the site and the historic character of the area, views from the Entrance Corridor, and landscaping on the site. (Design issues with special use permits are typically reviewed by staff. The full Architectural Review Board analysis occurs during site-plan review, which occurs after special use permits are approved.) See Attachment F for design-review comments, and Attachment G for historic-preservation comments and a response from the Historic Preservation Committee.

 

In summary, these concerns include:

 

·               Changes in historic character caused by locating the new, larger structures more prominently than the historic church

·               Loss of significant trees due to building construction, and the appropriateness of proposed plantings

·               Loss of the historic character of the manse (or rectory), and resulting incompatibility of building designs, if the manse is attached to the rear of

          the new fellowship hall

·               Visual impacts of the large front parking area on the Entrance Corridor

 

Significant differences remain between the proposed plan and staff recommendations. Although staff had recommended that the applicants discuss these differences with the Commission at a work session, the applicants have decided to go directly to a public hearing with the attached proposal.

 

Staff’s standard practice with special use permits for churches is to only recommend approval in accord with a specific conceptual plan. However, given the extent of outstanding design issues in this case, staff is recommending that the church not be held to the proposed conceptual plan. This would allow the Architectural Review Board to do a full review of the design during the County’s review of the site plan for this use, whereas a specific conceptual plan would severely limit the scope of their review.

 

Therefore staff is recommending that only the size of the expansion be controlled by this special use permit. Proposed condition #1 would allow for a ten percent increase over the proposed building sizes in order to allow minor changes without the need for a special use permit amendment.

 

and with the public health, safety and general welfare.

 

The Virginia Department of Transportation has confirmed that the planned entrance, which is located on Black Cat Road rather than on Route 22, is acceptable.

 

The applicants have stated that 75 parking spaces are needed for the eventual total sanctuary seating capacity of 225 persons. Staff is recommending a condition of approval limiting parking to 75 spaces in order to ensure that traffic and water quality impacts do not increase beyond those expected from the current proposal. The applicants have proposed to use porous pavers in the parking area to reduce runoff, which staff supports. The specific pavers to be used will need to be approved by the County Engineer during site plan review in order to ensure that materials appropriate to the intensity of this use are installed.

 

The submitted conceptual plan does not show stormwater facilities. At the site-plan stage, those facilities will need to be shown and approved by the County Engineer.

 

 

SUMMARY:

 

There are two distinct aspects to this review—the general health, safety, and welfare impact of the use, and the impact of this particular design on historic preservation and the Entrance Corridor. Staff feels that the use as proposed at this location is acceptable in terms of general health, safety, and welfare considerations. However, staff still has significant concerns about the design of the addition, and feels that design review should be carried out by the Architectural Review Board at the site-plan stage without the limitations of a conceptual plan.

 

Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this application:

 

            1.                     There are no known significant physical limitations that would prevent this expansion.

 

Staff has identified the following factors unfavorable to this application:

 

            1.                         The proposed design has significant impacts on the historic character of the existing church and site, as well as the Entrance Corridor.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION: 

Based on the findings contained in this staff report, staff recommends approval of SP 2008-00029 South Plains Presbyterian Church with the following conditions:

 

1.                         The footprint of the new sanctuary shall not exceed 3,550 square feet. The footprint of the new fellowship hall shall not exceed 5,750

                square feet.

2.                         Provided parking shall not exceed 75 spaces.

3.                         Commercial setback standards, as set forth in Section 21.7.2 of the Albemarle Zoning Ordinance, shall be maintained adjacent to

                properties zoned Rural Areas.

4.                         Stormwater facilities and parking lot surface meeting the approval of the County Engineer shall be required before approval of the final site

                plan for this use.

5.                         Staff approval of a landscape plan shall be required before approval of the final site plan for this use. Plantings for screening of the church

               facilities, to consist of a naturalistic pattern of multi-species trees and shrubs, as listed in the brochure titled “Native Plants for

               Conservation, Restoration, and Landscaping: Piedmont Plateau,” published by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation,

                are to fill the open area shown on Attachment C of the staff report . These plantings are to be arranged in a density that would mitigate

                views of the new church facilities, with a spacing allowing the natural form/habit of the plant material to be recognized.

6.                         There shall be no day care center or private school on site without approval of a separate special use permit;

7.                         Health Department approval of well and/or septic systems.

8.                         All outdoor lighting shall be only full cut-off fixtures and shielded to reflect light away from all abutting properties. A lighting plan limiting

               light levels at all property lines to no greater than 0.3 foot candles shall be submitted to the Zoning Administrator or their designee for

               approval.

 

ATTACHMENTS

Attachment A – Area Map

Attachment B – Detail Map

Attachment C – Conceptual Plan

Attachment D – Aerial Photo

Attachment E – Elevation

Attachment F – ARB Staff Comments

Attachment G – Design Planner Comments on Historic Preservation (refers to original submission)

Attachment H – Comment from neighboring landowners

Attachment I – Letter to Planning Commission from Applicants

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