Albemarle County Planning Commission

May 5, 2009


The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a public hearing and meeting on Tuesday, May 5, 2009, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Lane Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia.


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


Other officials present were Scott Clark, Senior Planner; Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning; Mark Graham, Director of Community Development; Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development, Rob Heide, Zoning Enforcement Manager; Lisa Green, Code Enforcement Officer, Ron Higgins, Chief of Zoning; Amy Pflaum, Senior Engineer, Glenn Brooks, County Engineer; Rebecca Ragsdale, Senior Planner; Summer Frederick, Senior Planner; Joan McDowell, Principal Planner and Andy Herrick, Senior Assistant County Attorney. 


Call to Order and Establish Quorum:


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


SP-2009-00004 Old Crozet School Arts

PROPOSED: Request to amend SP 91-10 to allow for the existing Old Crozet School building and grounds to be used for both a private school for arts instruction and also the Field School, a private middle school for boys.

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

SECTION: Private Schools

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY: Designated CT 1 Development Area Preserve for Parks and Greenways in the Crozet Master Plan and limited residential at densities of 1 dwelling unit per 20 acres.


LOCATION: 1408 Crozet Avenue

TAX MAP/PARCEL: 56, Parcels 61 and 62


(Rebecca Ragsdale)


Ms. Ragsdale presented a PowerPoint Presentation and summarized the staff report.  (See PowerPoint Presentation and Staff Report)


Proposal:  This is a request to amend the special use permit for a private school on the Old Crozet School property. (SP 91-10)  The two existing conditions that run with the property include the maximum enrollment up to 271 students for a private school and no students shall drive to school.  That condition is problematic for the arts school proposed which would have students, or parents of students, driving to the site for classes.  The request is to remove that condition that prohibits student driving. The County will lease the Old School building to two tenants: Old Crozet School Arts (OCSA) and the Field School.


OCSA is a non-profit organization that would offer classes to the community in dance, visual arts, music, theater, and other art forms to all ages. Additional information from OCSA is in the staff report. The Field School of Charlottesville is a private middle school for boys that is currently located in the community building at Crozet Park and has a need for more space. The Field School will have an estimated maximum enrollment of 100 students and OCSA will have an estimated maximum of 84 students attending classes at one time or concurrent with Field School classes; however there may be more students total enrolled in OCSA. The recommended condition of approval addresses the maximum number of students and not total enrollment.


The property is zoned R-2 Residential and private schools require a special use permit.  Public schools are allowed by-right.  The property is within walking distance of Crozet Downtown.  The Crozet Master Plan has the property designated as CT-1 and 2, which was the designation given to public property such as parks and schools in the Master Plan.  The Master Plan encourages public reuse of the property.


There was a county study done by staff in the spring and summer of 2008 for reuse of the building, which a consultant assisted with.  It was a public school until 1991 and then a special use permit was approved for a private school.  The Waldorf School occupied the building.  After the building became vacant there was interest in finding out what the community desires were for reuse of the building.  That study was completed and presented to the Board last fall in September, 2008 with the preferred community concept being a community center that would be fairly multi-purpose.  There was an emphasis during the process and interest from the community in having art instruction.  That is something that was noted in that study, which the Old Crozet School Arts would be providing in terms of those programs. 


When the proposal went to the Board the community center option would involve rehab of the building for these multi-use purposes.  Being that there was no budget and it was not in the CIP the interim recommendation and the plan for the building is that the county would lease it for a tenant.  The General Services Department of the county is the lead in terms of maintenance and working to get these tenants.  The two tenants are Old Crozet School Arts and the Field School, which staff reviewed in terms of potential impacts.  There are two private schools going in.  One would have hours that are staggered throughout the day versus the conventional day time school hours.  There were not issues raised with the reviewers in terms of traffic impacts.  The condition that students were not allowed to drive to school with the 1991 special use permit was intended to address traffic impacts as noted in the staff report.  There have been improvements to the roadway since that time.


Staff recommends approval of the Special Use Permit subject to the conditions noted in the staff report with the finding that it is consistent with the Master Plan and meets some of the goals of the Reuse Study and would get tenants in the building that would provide some revenue and help with the maintenance of the building.  The recommended conditions of approval state that the maximum number of students shall not exceed 185 students.  It addresses the maximum number of students and not total enrollment.  Condition 2 is no longer recommended.  It was intended for Field School that they provide a shuttle bus or bus service and was a carry over from the Crozet Park location, which has a different road situation and access to the site.  In this review there were no traffic issues raised by the reviewers.  Therefore, staff is no longer recommending that as a condition.


Mr. Loach invited questions for staff from the Commission.


Mr. Morris noted that in the staff report it lists the maximum number of students as 271, which was dropped by 86 students to 185. He asked if that was strictly the 185 for the private school or total students in that building at any one time.


Ms. Ragsdale replied that the 185 would be the total number of students in the building at any one time.   It breaks down for 100 students for Field School and 85 students for Old Crozet School Arts.  Staff is trying to provide conditions that are flexible enough since the tenants are on a one year lease with the county so that General Services would have flexibility to find similar tenants.  It is 185 students for both schools for any one time.


Ms. Porterfield asked if there is any reason why if the school was able to handle 271 prior that they necessarily need to bring the number down.


Ms. Ragsdale replied that the 271 was at its maximum usage when it was a public school.  When the special use permit for Waldorf private school was approved it was approved at 271 maximum enrollments.  The 185 was presented in the application and what would result in leasing the main floor of the building and what existing parking can handle.  Therefore it was 185 on site rather than the enrollment. 


Ms. Joseph noted that Field School received the special use permit for Crozet Park.  That special use permit stays with the land and will be there forever. Other people could come in and do a school at the park and just comply with the conditions of that special use permit.


Ms. Ragsdale noted that there was an expiration date of that special use permit.


Mr. Cilimberg pointed out that the special use permit was reapproved with a time frame.


Ms. Porterfield asked if there would be a time frame on this, and Mr. Cilimberg replied no that the special use permit would remain effective.


Ms. Joseph pointed out that it was a very unique situation to have a private school conducted in a public park.


Ms. Porterfield said she did not want these people to have to come back every year.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that if the schools decided not to renew their lease that other schools could come in and fall under this permit as long as they stay within the 185 total at any one time on site.


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


George Shadman, Director of General Services for Albemarle County, said that the packages were put together very well and Ms. Ragsdale did a very good job of presenting it.  Mr. Michael Freitas, Chief of Public Works, was also present to answer questions.


Sharon Tolchek, Artistic Director of Old Crozet School Arts, introduced Molly Washburn, School Administrator. She reiterated that the idea for Old Crozet Schools Arts grew out of last June’s reuse workshop in response to the community’s interest in having arts instruction in Crozet.  They hope that the Commission will support their endeavor to bring arts to Crozet in an extensive way and are very excited about occupying the old school to do this. 


Mr. Loach invited public comment.


Barbara Westbrook, resident of Crozet, said she was born in Crozet over 60 years ago.  She went to Crozet School for 7 years and always had a love for that building.  She made the following comments:

·        She was not opposed to having these two private organizations lease the building.  Her main concern was that most everyone in Crozet wants to have a community center and the reason they cannot is that the county does not have the money right now.  She knew that the county needed to lease the building to make enough money to be able to redo the school. 

·        She was on the Old Crozet School Reuse Committee in 2008.  The committee picked a consultant that did a very good job in getting the feedback from the people.  The result of the committee is in the table that she passed out before and the one Ms. Ragsdale referred to that showed that the majority of the people wanted a cultural arts/community center.  Almost everything that is listed under that could be included in a community center.  (Attachment – The Old Crozet School Re-use Study – Table 1 Results from the Ideas Workshop – June 19th, 2008)

·        Once it is a community center the county could still make money by renting it out.  An example is the Green Olive Tree, which is a thrift store in Crozet that would love to rent some space.  There would still be room for classes for dance, arts and exercises, etc.  Some other ideas expressed by the public were satellite police station, community market, ball fields and possibly a local theater.  One of the major concerns in Crozet currently is that there is no recycling center.  They have been going around and around on the recycling issue.  She thought this would be a great location for it.

·        She felt that there are three problems with the school, but not against this proposal.  Her understanding is that the school has asbestos, lead paint and no handicap access to the 12 entrances, which she understands that the county does not have to do anything about because they were leasing the building.  She felt that morally the county should do some correction of these problems.

·        She noted that the Rockfish County Community Center was done entirely by the volunteers because the county did not have enough money to turn their old school into a community center.  She disagreed with the budget that the consultant gave.  For example, the historic preservation consultant would be between $8,000 and $10,000.  There were several items that she felt were over the reasonable amount.  She suggested that the proposal have something included that it was on a year to year basis so that it was not forever.


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


Mr. Loach asked staff to address Ms. Westbrook’s questions about the asbestos, lead paint and handicap access.


Mr. Shaffner replied that General Services has a complete inventory of the lead paint and asbestos that is in there.  They are all contained and there are no dangers to the tenants that are going to be in there.  Our environmental compliance manager monitors it regularly and they have had testing done by third parties to verify this.  As far as the ADA compliance the county is renting this as is.


Mr. Herrick noted that some of the issues that have been raised could be addressed in the county’s lease to these tenants rather than a land use decision for the Commission.


Mr. Loach asked with the issue of lead if there should be a limitation on the minimum age so that they don’t have children with the potential exposure to lead.  He asked if age should be a factor in the lease as far as what minimum age child would be enrolled in the building.


Mr. Shadman noted that this has consistently been an elementary school and the previous tenant, Waldorf School, was K through 5.  It will be continuing on that same pattern that they have.  They have an excellent environmental compliance manager that stays right on top of this.


Mr. Loach noted that one other issue raised by Ms. Westbrook was about other entities using the building. He asked if the two schools will use the entire building or is there room for additional entities to use the school and enter in as part of this lease. 


Mr. Shadman replied that county advertised widely for tenants and only received five responses.  Two of responses were suggestions of what the county could do with the building and another one was for a light industrial purpose.  There were only two legitimate ones that would fit in with their zoning at that time.  The two schools will be occupying about three-quarters of the available space.


Motion:  Ms. Porterfield moved and Mr. Morris seconded for approval of SP-2009-00004, Old Crozet School Arts with condition #1 recommended by staff.


1.       Maximum number of students on-site attending private school use(s) shall not exceed 185 students.


The vote carried by a vote of 5:0.


Mr. Loach noted that SP-2009-00004 Old Crozet School Arts would go to the Board of Supervisors on June 10, 2009 with a recommendation for approval.


Ms. Joseph asked to address Ms. Westbrook’s comments a little bit.  She understood what the committee went through and what the community would like to see there.  But the flip side is that it is horrible to have a vacant building site and deteriorate.  With this proposal at least they can get the building occupied with some good uses and still have a quarter of the building left.  She suggested that three quarters of the building could possibly become a nucleus for some sort of community center.  She felt that this is an old building and would like to see it used.


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