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.


            Public Hearing Items:


SP-2008-00061 Slingluff Dock

PROPOSED: Construction of a private floating dock on the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: RA Rural Areas - agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre in development lots); FH Flood Hazard - Overlay to provide safety and protection from flooding

SECTION: Water related uses such as boat docks, canoe liveries, bridges, ferries, culverts and river crossings of transmission lines of all types.

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)


LOCATION: 256 Woodlands Road (Route 676), approximately 0.3 miles north of the intersection with Earlysville Road (Route 743)

TAX MAP/PARCEL: TMP 45-6D1 and TMP 45-67A


(Scott Clark)


Scott Clark presented a PowerPoint Presentation and summarized the staff report.


This is a special use permit request for a private floating dock on the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.


In response to Mr. Franco’s question by email on why this is being allowed on a neighboring property that actually is owned by the city for the reservoir, Mr. Clark stated that parcel 45-67A is a portion of the reservoir and the city has signed on this application as the owner of that parcel.  Therefore, the city has agreed to allow this to happen in this place.  The special use permit actually applies to Dr. Slingluff’s property and to the reservoir’s property and is signed off by both owners. 


The drawing of the dock shows it 21’ long and 8’ wide.  It is a floating dock and is not anchored by piers into the bottom of the reservoir.  The side view shows how the dock is on floats and then anchored with weights that will keep it from leaving the site.  It is a fairly minimal floating decking dock for the use of launching wind power boats.


The recommendation is based on the following favorable and unfavorable factors:


Factors Favorable:

1.       No direct impact to the water supply or neighboring properties is expected as a result of this special use permit.

2.       No increase in flood levels will result from installation of a dock.

3.       The proposed dock is supported by the City of Charlottesville Department of Public Works, and meets the requirements of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority for residential boat docks.


Factor Unfavorable:

1.       If a significant number of these requests are approved, the resulting proliferation of boat docks could impair the primary function of the Reservoir as a drinking water supply.  This is an issue that staff expects to address in the next update of the Comprehensive Plan.


RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends approval of this Special Use Permit, with the standard three conditions recommended in the staff report that have been applied in the past to floating docks in the reservoir.


Mr. Loach invited questions for staff.


Mr. Morris thanked staff for stating in the report that there are about 20 of these docks existing.  Understanding that the city is involved in this he asked if it has ever been indicated what number is the magic number that they hit when the city would say no more. 


Mr. Clark replied that they have never heard that from the city.  As he mentioned that is an issue they would directly address during the next Comp Plan update.


Ms. Porterfield asked if all 20 of the docks were legal.  In other words, does staff have applications for all 20 docks?


Mr. Clark replied no that quite a few of the docks have been there for a very long time.  The estimate of 20 docks is taken from review of the aerial photos.


Mr. Cilimberg pointed out that it does not make the docks illegal, but potentially nonconforming.


Ms. Porterfield noted that she had seen three dock requests since she came on the Commission, which is why she was curious how the docks got there.  She asked if staff has any idea when this section of the Comprehensive Plan would be reviewed.


Mr. Cilimberg replied that actually it was in the work program to begin in 2010.


Ms. Joseph noted that the design is approved by the city and Rivanna on all dock requests.  They review the request to make sure that the water supply is safe.  There are no motor powered boats allowed.


Mr. Clark noted except for staff maintenance activities motorized boats are not even allowed on the reservoir.  Also swimming is not allowed.  Therefore, the dock is only for the launching of man powered vehicles.


Ms. Porterfield noted that the staff report says no stairs and the actual drawing for this dock shows stairs.


Mr. Clark noted that there is no condition referring to this drawing. 


Ms. Porterfield said depending on the elevation change to get down to a dock they could end up with quite a set of stairs.  She would assume that there would be elevations like that as you go around the reservoir.


Ms. Joseph said that this drawing or schematic could be changed before the request goes to the Board.


Mr. Clark agreed that it could, but that the conditions of approval don’t even refer to this drawing.  The drawing is just for the Commission’s information.


Ms. Porterfield asked if this is the dock that the applicant plans to put in.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that the drawing was not part of the conditions.


Ms. Porterfield suggested that they could condition it on the drawing without the steps.


Mr. Cilimberg suggested that the Commission might not want to do that.


Ms. Porterfield said that in other words the applicant would have approval of a dock that could be built a different way.


Mr. Cilimberg said that the dock was pretty much set by the conditions. 


Mr. Franco suggested that they allow the applicant to address the issue.


Ms. Porterfield agreed that was a good idea.  She asked if all of the property around the reservoir is owned by the city.  


Mr. Cilimberg replied that the pool level of the reservoir is actually within the ownership of land by the city. Decking and stairs are referred to in the condition as structures.  There can be steps. They could literally use the grade to create steps going down and that is not a structure.  That is probably what the applicant would be anticipating.  There has to be some way to step down to the dock.


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


Dr. Slingluff said he used the reservoir for kayaking and rowing primarily.  In that location there is a step down.  The grassy level slopes down gradually and it is easy to walk down.  About 5’ from the edge there is a cliff.  When he moved in he attached three steps to prevent eroding the land.  He felt it was better for the reservoir as well as being safer.  One of the advantages of having a dock is that it enables him to take a boat in and out of the water without dragging it across the edge of the land.  He felt that the dock would be beneficial to the reservoir and he has followed all of the requirements there.  His intension is to use the steps that are already there and put the dock out from that following the requirements of the county.  If the requirement is to not have the steps then he could put in a ramp or build into the land without being a separate structure.


Ms. Porterfield asked if the diagram is what he intended to put in.


Dr. Slingluff replied that was the dock he intends to put in.  He submitted the diagram to two other groups and followed the requirements stated.  He has made some adjustments to make it narrower from the original plan, but this diagram fits what he has been told to do so far.  He said that he would be willing to do what is appropriate.


Ms. Joseph noted that the city has requirements for the dock.


Dr. Slingluff said that he had followed the city’s and Rivanna Authority’s requirements for anchoring and used appropriate materials so it would not be toxic.


Mr. Loach invited public comment.


Jeff Werner, speaking solely as a city resident, added that this is not just the city’s water supply, but it is also the county’s urban growth area water supply.  The staff report says that there are a number of boat docks for private recreational use already in place on the reservoir.  It also says a proliferation of residential boat docks could impact the reservoir.  He had nothing against this applicant, but he thought that they have a larger issue to answer here.  The question is what the tipping point is, which has already been raised.  He understands that this issue will be part of a pending Comp Plan review, but what happens in the interim.  By his rough count from the map in the staff report there are roughly no less than 60 parcels similarly abutting this publicly held 301 acre parcel.  They can only stipulate how many additional development rights are out there that also get additional lots added.  So how many private docks on public land constitute a proliferation.  Even if the dock itself is not an issue, regardless of stated conditions, how much clearing will they see for each new dock?  It was stated by staff that the person needs to access the dock.  So how much disturbance of grade on public land are they going to see since many of these properties have steep terrain going down to the reservoir.  The big question is who monitors the land clearing and the dock construction, how frequently and what information is recorded and in what manner to establish the baseline condition of the existing vegetative buffer and the existing terrain.  How often is Greg Harper going out there in a boat and checking things and against what information?  This is a private amenity on a public property and who has responsibility for the maintenance, repair or removal of the dock at some point in the future.  If the private property is transferred how will the next owner know that they have this responsibility to this dock?   He asked if there is going to be a note on the plat.   He felt that a fee should be associated for monitoring these activities by a water shed manager.  The conditions need to be far more substantial and rigid until they establish some threshold for the tipping point.  He questioned how they would be able to say no in the future because it is one big parcel and there are 60 others out there.  He did not know at what point it is legally defensible to start saying no.


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


Mr. Morris asked if the Commission can clarify condition 3 so that the existing stairs that have been there for some time are not required to be removed and become conforming.


Mr. Loach said that should be part of the overall design. 


Mr. Morris noted that Ms. Porterfield’s point is well taken since it has been there and is for the good of the property.  He recommended that the Commission remove that.


Mr. Cilimberg said that if the Commission decides to recommend approval with that comment, then as part of the condition it could be amended before it goes to the Board to reflect that the existing stairs or steps can be retained.  Staff will make sure that the condition language is correct.


Mr. Porterfield said the approval was for access to the dock that has been shown in the drawing.  So the approval would be based on the drawing that has submitted for the dock.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that they would not want to get into the dock itself because that is a permitting process by the Rivanna Authority. The access to the dock is good to address but the actual dock construction is something that they work out between the applicant and the Authority.  He thought that was why the Commission has never had the full dock plan as a condition of their approval.


Mr. Herrick suggested rather than approving the specific design perhaps the condition could be added to say, “For the purposes of this condition the existing steps shall not be considered a structure.”


Mr. Cilimberg noted that staff wants to make sure to get that right and that Mr. Herrick had a good approach they could take if the Commission decides to recommend approval.


Ms. Porterfield understood what he was saying, but was surprised that the Commission was looking at docks.  She grew up on the shores of Lake Erie in the summer time and it required approved by the Corps of Engineers.  There are a whole bunch of hoops to go through to even get close to putting a dock in.  A dock is like any other structure there and has to be approved.  She would hate to approve docks and allow them to be built in any way, shape or form.  She would like it to be based at least on what the applicant has said that he has taken this to the other authorities and that they like this design.  They would be saying that the dock should at least be similar to the design.


Mr. Cilimberg pointed out that the Authority actually exists and they have to permit the specific design. It is being permitted by an entity that is equivalent to or has the same jurisdiction as the Corps, which is the Rivanna Authority.


Ms. Porterfield asked that it be based on this particular design.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that was the Authority’s decision.


Ms. Joseph said that is not up to the Commission to make that determination.  It would be like the Commission approving a building permit for something and the Commission does not have that authority.


Ms. Porterfield said that it could at least be size wise or something like that.  It just seems strange to not at least have something to base our approval on or our approval would be based on what was submitted by the applicant and adding in what Mr. Morris has said about making sure that the steps become conforming.


Mr. Loach noted that it would be that way because the dock is actually on the city property and the Rivanna Authority has control.


Mr. Morris pointed out that from what he had heard the applicant has already been to the Rivanna Authority and the city and the design now matches their requirements.


Mr. Loach said that it is not to say to Mr. Werner’s comments about when they hit that limit shouldn’t they study where they are going.  He suggested that this should be taken in the same consideration that they have looked at the past three.  From what he has seen it seems that this is compliant.


Ms. Joseph said that they were sort of dealing with the unknown.  They know that maybe it is not such a good thing to have docks on the reservoir, but they don’t know why and what it is doing to the water quality.  They have never had any study to her knowledge.  Therefore her expectations are when they get to the Comp Plan review that they will have some information from the Service Authority to find out what sort of impact these things have on the reservoir.  But right now she was thinking about all of the places she has lived that had water drinking reservoirs that people actually swim, boat and do all kinds of things.  She feels very comfortable at this point since she the city and Rivanna are going to take care of the design impact and will not allow anything that is really incredibly intrusive.


Ms. Porterfield suggested with Mr. Werner’s comments that they add a fourth condition that the applicant will keep the dock in good repair and if not will remove such dock.  It at least puts the burden on the applicant.


Mr. Loach said it was a jurisdictional issue because the dock is in the city.


Mr. Cilimberg said that he did not know how that would work and can’t speak to it very well.  He thought that the Authority in having a permit is probably going to have some requirements.  He wished that they had the permit here to show the Commission.  In future reviews it would be good to have the permit for the Commission.  The Authority has a permit that they are giving these individual owners which includes not only what the plan is they have to construct to but also how they are suppose to maintain it. 


Ms. Porterfield asked if the 25 horizontal feet of the reservoir for the lighting is 25 horizontal feet on the reservoir’s property or the applicant’s property. 


Mr. Cilimberg replied it is measured from the elevation of the normal pool at elevation 382.  So it is 25’ horizontal feet from that point.


Ms. Porterfield asked if this would give some applicants the ability to put lighting on property that is not their own.


Mr. Clark said that if the reservoir property was deeper than that between the resident’s property and the water line elevation it would probably increase that number to make sure the lighting would have to be back on the resident’s property.  The permit only specifies a dock and does not specify permission for lighting.


Ms. Porterfield suggested changing that to indicate that it needed to be on the applicant’s property if the 25’ did not take it off onto the applicant’s property.  Then it had to be 25’ plus whatever it took to get onto the applicant’s property.


Mr. Clark said that he did not specifically measure that out partially because there is no way to know on any given day if it is at 382 or not.  He would tend to guess that there is no problem in this case since he did not think there is 25’ between the water line and the edge of the property.


Ms. Porterfield noted that in condition 2 she felt that staff meant “within”, and Mr. Clark agreed.


Mr. Cilimberg pointed out for the Commission’s information that there is a 14 point board dock use permit and agreement that the applicant has with the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.  It includes construction requirements and an annual inspection fee to be paid to the Authority.  Staff tries to avoid recommending duplicate conditions to the Commission which duplicate or muddies the jurisdiction that is already in another public entity’s control.  For future reference staff will include the permit and agreement so that the Commission will see what it includes.


Motion:  Mr. Morris moved and Mr. Franco seconded for approval of SP-2008-00061, Slingluff Dock with the three conditions recommended by staff, as amended, in condition #2 the word should be “earth disturbance within the 200’ stream buffer” and condition #3 amended in accordance with counsel’s wording.


1.        There shall be no lighting within 25 horizontal feet of the Reservoir, measured from the elevation of normal pool, which is Elevation 382 (North American Vertical Datum of 1988).

2.        There shall be no removal of vegetation or earth disturbance within the 200-foot stream buffer associated with the installation of the boat dock.  The stream buffer is measured from the edge of the floodplain, which is Elevation 391.

3.        There shall be no other structures, such as decking or stairs, constructed in the 200-foot stream buffer.  For the purposes of this condition the existing steps shall not be considered a structure.


The motion passed by a vote of 5:0.


Mr. Loach noted that SP-2008-00061 Slingluff Dock would go to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation for approval on a date to be determined.


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