COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

PLANNING STAFF REPORT SUMMARY

 

 

Project Name:

SP 2007-00052 Nortonsville Church of God

Staff: Scott Clark

Planning Commission Public Hearing:

April 21, 2009

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing:

June 10, 2009

Owner/s:  Nortonsville Church Of God; Renchler N Shifflett Trs et al

Applicants: Nortonsville Church Of God; Renchler N Shifflett Trs et al

Acreage: 5.943 acres

Special Use Permit: 10.2.2.35 Church building and adjunct cemetery

TMP:  Tax Map 9 Parcel 4

Location:  1550 Simmons Gap Road (Route 663), 0.67 miles southeast of the intersection with Route 810

Existing Zoning and By-right use:  RA -- Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre in development lots);

Magisterial District:  White Hall

Conditions: Yes

RA (Rural Areas

Requested # of Dwelling Units: n/a

Proposal:  Addition of 14,000 square foot Family Life and Music Center for up to 500 attendees 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: The property is open, with only slight slopes.

Use of Surrounding Properties:  Most adjacent properties are small residential parcels. A larger farm parcel lies across Simmons Gap Road

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

 

1.        Factors Unfavorable: The scale of the new building is large for a rural church. However, it is intended to accommodate the church’s existing activities, for which they currently do not have enough space.

 

 

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

 

 


 

Petition: 

PROPOSED: Addition of 14,000 square foot Family Life and Music Center for up to 500 attendees to existing church.

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: RA -- Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre)

SECTION: 10.2.2.35 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)

ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: No

LOCATION: 1550 Simmons Gap Road (Route 663), 0.67 miles southeast of the intersection with Route 810

TAX MAP/PARCEL: Tax Map 9 Parcel 4

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: White Hall

 

Character of the Area:

The site is located in a rural area characterized by a mixture of woods and pastures, with smaller residential parcels lined along the roads.

 

Planning and Zoning History:

SP 95-28: On October 11, 1995, the Board of Supervisors approved this special use permit, which allowed an expansion of the existing church on the site. The original church became a fellowship hall, and the new building provided a larger sanctuary area, classrooms, and a kitchen.

 

Specifics of the Proposal:

Nortonsville Church of God is proposing to add a building with a 14,000-square-foot footprint (28,000 square feet total interior area, including the basement) to their 5.9-acre parcel (see Attachment C for the proposed conceptual plan) in order to provide additional space for church and community activities (on the first floor), as well as additional storage (in the basement). The new building would be used for church activities that include musical events, meetings and activities for the congregation, church camps, and education. The original church, now used as a fellowship hall, does not provide enough space for the church’s existing activities.

 

The applicants estimate that peak attendance on the site, either for evening services or special events in the new building, would be 500 people. Attachment D includes the application information and tables showing the estimated levels of use on the site.

 

The site currently includes a parsonage that would be removed before construction of the new building. The applicants have proposed to include the replacement parsonage inside the new building. The County Attorney’s office and the Zoning division have determined that a parsonage is accessory to a church and can be permitted in the building. In this case, there is no change is the number of parsonages, only the location.

 

SP 95-28 applied to the 1.6-acre parcel immediately surrounding the church. That parcel has since been combined with the adjacent church property, and the current proposal would apply to the entire 5.943-acre property.

 

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).

 

Conformity With The Comprehensive Plan

 

The Rural Areas Plan calls for “community meeting places, a basic level of services,

and rural organizations and other cultural institutions at traditional rural scales….” This facility would include a 14,000-square-foot building (28,000 square feet total including the basement storage area) and approximately 76 new parking spaces, in addition to the existing 10,473-square-foot facility (original church, church addition, and parsonage, with 79 parking spaces). While this is new structure is larger than most rural churches, it is needed for the activities held by an active congregation.

 

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,

 

As the new facility is intended to provide more space for the existing church’s ongoing activities, it is not expected to create a substantial detriment to adjacent properties. Staff is recommending a condition of approval requiring that structures adhere to commercial setbacks from the adjacent properties.

 

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.

 

and with the public health, safety and general welfare.

 

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has stated that the proposed entrances to the site can be approved.

 

The County Engineer has stated that the site layout shown on the conceptual plan suggests that this plan, in more detailed form, will meet the County’s requirement for site development plans. However, he states that some parking spaces near the entrances may not meet the County’s standards for safe and convenient access. Therefore staff is recommending language in proposed condition of approval #1 that would permit the applicant to vary the parking design from that shown on their proposed plan in order to meet the County standards during site-plan review.

 

Emergency access for a facility of this scale located at a significant distance from fire stations is a concern. This site would be served by the Earlysville Volunteer Fire Department station. VDOT records indicate that there are no bridges with weight limits that are too low for fire equipment along Simmons Gap Road between Earlysville and the church. Estimated fire response time to the site is approximately 14 minutes, or one minute more than the County’s goal for response times.

 

As the applicants have not yet provided a detailed plan for a water supply for fire suppression, staff recommends a condition requiring Fire/Rescue approval of such a water supply before site-plan approval. As the building is over 12,000 square feet, the Building Code will require that a fire-suppression sprinkler system be installed.

 

SUMMARY:

 

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 scale of the new building is large for a rural church. However, it is intended to accommodate the church’s existing activities, for which they currently do not have enough space.

 

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 development of the site shall be in general accord with the “Conceptual Site Plan” prepared for Nortonsville Church of God by TCS Engineering Co., LLC, dated April 3, 2009 (hereinafter, the "Conceptual Plan"), provided that the maximum building size shall be governed by Condition 2 rather than the Conceptual Plan. Minor variations from the Conceptual Plan may be approved by the Zoning Administrator in conjunction with site plan review to ensure compliance with the Zoning Ordinance.

2.       The footprint of the building identified on the Conceptual Plan as “Proposed Multi-Purpose Building” shall not exceed 15,500 square feet.

3.       A dwelling used by the church's staff, located within the church, may be permitted as an accessory use.

4.       All structures shall meet commercial setback standards as set forth in Section 21.7(b) of the Albemarle County Zoning Ordinance. The tot lot is not subject to this condition.

5.       A fire-suppression water supply meeting the approval of the Albemarle County Fire/Rescue Department shall be required before approval of the preliminary site plan for this use.

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

7.       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.

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

9.       If the use, structure, or activity for which this special use permit is issued is not commenced within sixty (60) months after the permit is issued, the permit shall be deemed abandoned and the authority granted thereunder shall thereupon terminate.

 

 

ATTACHMENTS

Attachment A – Area Map

Attachment B – Detail Map

Attachment C – Nortonsville Church of God conceptual plan

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