Albemarle County Planning Commission

April 5, 2005 Minutes

ZTA-2004-006 Historic Center and Community Center


The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and a public hearing on Tuesday, April 5, 2005 at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Room 241, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Members attending were William Rieley, Rodney Thomas, Marcia Joseph, Vice-Chair, Jo Higgins, Pete Craddock and Bill Edgerton, Chairman. David J. Neuman, FAIA, Architect for University of Virginia and Calvin Morris were absent.


Other officials present were David Benish, Chief of Planning & Community Development; Stephen Waller, Senior Planner; Juandiago Wade, Transportation Planner; Rebecca Ragsdale, Planner; and Greg Kamptner, Assistant County Attorney.



ZTA 2004-006 Historic Center and Community Center:   Amend Section 3.1, Definitions; add Section 5.1.42 Historical centers; and amend Section 10.2.2, By special use permit, Section 12.2.2, By special use permit, Section 13.2.2, By special use permit, Section 14.2.2, By special use permit, Section 15.2.2, By special use permit, Section 16.2.2, By special use permit, Section 17.2.2, By special use permit, Section 18.2.2, By special use permit, and Section 19.3.2, By special use permit; of Chapter 18, Zoning, of the Albemarle County Code.  This ordinance would amend Section 3.1, Definitions, by amending the definition of “community center” and by adding a definition of “historical center”; add Section 5.1.42, Historical centers, to establish supplementary regulations pertaining to the prerequisites for and the operation of historical centers including regulations concerning the size of new historical center structures and the rehabilitation of, or construction on, historic structures used for historical centers, minimum side yards and rear yards, requirements for site plans, items for display, primary and accessory uses, daily operations, special events and festivals; and amend Section 10.2.2, By special use permit (Rural Areas-RA), Section 12.2.2, By special use permit (Village Residential-VR), Section 13.2.2, By special use permit (Residential-R-1), Section 14.2.2, By special use permit (Residential-R-2), Section 15.2.2, By special use permit (Residential-R-4), Section 16.2.2, By special use permit (Residential-R-6), Section 17.2.2, By special use permit (Residential-R-10), Section 18.2.2, By special use permit (Residential-R-15), and Section 19.3.2, By special use permit (Planned Residential Development-PRD) to allow historical centers, historical center special events, and historical center festivals within such zoning districts by special use permit.  (Rebecca Ragsdale)


Ms. Ragsdale stated that this was a zoning text amendment that the Commission passed a resolution on back in June, which originated with the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center’s request for a historical center type of use.  In reviewing that it was found that the Zoning Ordinance was somewhat inadequate in allowing such a use.  Therefore, this zoning text amendment is to improve the definition of community center and allow for historical center uses to interpret the many historical resources in the County, which right now museums are allowed in commercial zoning districts, but residential and rural areas zoning districts are left out as far as allowing historical resources interpretation.  The Commission has been reviewing this item since June.  The Commission held a work session in September and then also in January to discuss the proposed ordinance amendment.  They received comments from the Lewis and Clark applicants for the special use permit where this request originated, the Historic Committee and some others, which has resulted in the drafted ordinance language which allows for historical centers in the rural area and also in the residential zoning districts.  This was drafted in a way that these would most likely be in the rural areas where the majority of the historical resources are located, but there also may be cases where you have rural area zoning be it in the development area or residential zoning districts that also have sites where they may want to have a historical center. This would be allowed in the supplemental regulations, which could be modified as you discussed at the last work session to 1,500 square feet total for building interpretative space and then 10 percent of that in accessory uses.  A floor plan would be submitted detailing the uses with the special use permit application.  Accessory uses may include but are not limited to administrative office uses and shop facilities, such as gift shops, book stores, and accessory food sales such as luncheonettes, snack bars, or refreshment stands.  They had discussions at the last work session about what to call these since they did not envision a full scale restaurant.  But, that comes from the ordinance language for restaurants.


The supplementary regulations specify that the items for display will have historical significance.  It is a very conservative approach with the supplemental regulations.  The definition for historical center itself includes what is defined as a historic resource instead of having that in the supplemental regulations and having the historic preservation committee interpreting that.  Also, this allows for applicants for these historical centers to request by special use permit the ability to have special events, which would be something that is less than 150 people and by invitation only, such as a conference or reception of some sort that is intended to be supportive of the historical center’s mission.  It also allows them the ability to request at the special use permit stage to have festivals which may be multi-day and open to the public for events which provide additional exhibits or things related to the historical period or the historical center use.  Those are the highlights. The ordinance has tried to address all of the comments that staff has got and take the conservative approach that these would most of the time be located in the rural areas, but since they are supplemental regulations that there may be flexibility through the special use permit process to modify them. 


Mr. Edgerton asked if any Commissioners have any questions for Ms. Ragsdale.


Mr. Rieley stated that the definition of historic center seems to have changed since their last discussion.


Ms. Ragsdale stated that the definition has been made more concise and consolidated. Historical center defines what the use is and what an historic resource is.  This was taken from the definition that the Commission saw from the Historic Preservation Committee.  It was a one page sheet, which she did not provide.  The definition was tightened. The second portion of the definition describes what themes there might be in the history of Albemarle County. Therefore, that was not included. Mr. Kamptner did a lot of work on tightening this definition.


Mr. Kamptner stated that the reason that they did it was because it relied too heavily on the input of the Historic Preservation Committee. Ultimately, this will have to be a determination made by the zoning administrator.  Once she does that she can, of course, consult with committee members or anyone else who can provide expertise.  Therefore, they recognized that and tried to make sure that what they have here is concise in terms of the process.


Mr. Rieley stated that under the definition of historical center the word “feeling” and “yielding” should be deleted.  He suggested that the definition not be so mushy.


Mr. Kamptner stated that hopefully the definition will not come up too often. But, when Ms. McCulley makes determinations she relies on a lot of different resources.  With some of these terms in here they can fully expect that members of the committee may be consulted.


Ms. Higgins stated that on item, instead of saying that, “the owner shall” that it should say, “the application shall describe the nature of the special events.” She suggested deleting
”. . , and when applicable, how they would promote the mission of the historical center.”   She felt that suggested that some type of judgment was going to be made. 


Ms. Joseph stated that she was curious as to how a wedding could promote a mission.


Ms. Ragsdale stated that this request had gotten farther along than they had gotten with the other special events request.  Where this special event definition and the examples originate is with what is included with farm wineries.  When they talk about special events they do reference weddings.  In this case, and with farm wineries, weddings are accessory.  Whereas, with Ms. Randolph’s case they are looking at it and evaluating what it is going to be tied to as far as being a use that is permitted in the RA zone without being tied to these other things directly.  She pointed out that it is the use.


Mr. Rieley stated that there were places all over the County where this could apply.  Because it is attractive to have weddings to raise money, he did not think it should be an automatic thing.  In looking at provisions to allow weddings he felt that it should be a separate special use permit process.


Ms. Joseph suggested that the wording from the winery section might not fit in this because it is a whole different animal from a vineyard.  It is a historical center.


There being no further questions for staff, Mr. Edgerton opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to address the Commission on this zoning text amendment.


Ms. Joseph pointed out that the County is the applicant.


Fran Lawrence stated that he was here with Jane Henley, who is the President of the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center, who is here in support of the zoning text amendment.  This has been a long process and they appreciate the Commission allowing them to have some input.  They did not have input in the last definition.  What staff did on that was to basically make it more restrictive and not less restrictive.  He stated that as he reads it that the difference between a festival and a special event is that the festival seems clearly to be tied directly to the mission of the center.  It seems like the special event is a little less closely tied.  Wineries were all located in the rural area and were an agricultural use.  But, to really work they had to have some festivals, i.e. wine festivals, and also they need to have some special events to make it work.  He felt that was where it came from.  The thinking would be that the special event would be only twelve times a year.  What other people tell us who are trying to make this kind of thing work is that they need the income from that.  So he recognized their concern about that, but as he sees it the special events would be less directly connected to the mission perhaps than the festivals would be. They are told that the kind of thing that they are that is helpful for us to survive.  Their most critical concern is the language that they understand is going to be part of the supplement regulation that says newly constructed structures for historical centers shall be limited to 1,500 square feet.  This room is about 22’ X 46’. He noted that 1,500 square feet would be 30’ X 50’.  They recognize the concern.  At one point the draft came to them at 2,000 square feet in the rural area as identified in the Comprehensive Plan.  Everybody realized that would not work.  When they come back to the Commission for a special use permit, they will tell them that they are actually in the rural area, but in the Comprehensive Plan they are in the development area, which they will argue makes them somewhat different.  But, their thought was that you have 2,000 structures and houses and 400 sites that are archaeological otherwise. This includes battlefields, river sites, and potential Native American burial sites on which no structures are located.    It seems to us that the 1,500 square feet contemplated a Pine Knot situation where they have an important historical structure and you did not want to overwhelm it with new buildings.  For example, the Lewis and Clark proposed as their tentative plan which actually has their building almost underground with a sod roof.  Therefore, you would not be able to hardly see it.  The second part about what they plan is that Lewis and Clark were big.  There were big grizzly bears and big pier boats.  Although they will be asking for more space then maybe they think is appropriate, they will be telling them that it is not going to be that intense because one-fourth of their building is going to be filled up with the keel boat that they are building.  So it seems that some better language with respect to the building size would be to talk in terms that newly constructed structures for historical centers shall be limited in size so as to be appropriate in scale to the historical resource or so as to be appropriate in scale and intensity to the historical resource.  Therefore, you could look at that both in terms of what it looks like from the outside and how much open space is there inside.  If they have a 10,000 square foot building that is filled up with an 8,000 square foot boat, you are not dealing with space that you could fill with people.  He pointed out their boat was not going to be that big.  That was their concern.  They recognize that the 1,500 square feet can be modified as part of their process.  But, it seemed that it might be better started out with language that addresses the object of the 1,500 square feet.  If there are any questions, he would be happy to answer them. 


Mr. Edgerton asked if there were any questions for Mr. Lawrence.


Mr. Thomas asked if he was specifically speaking about the application that they were going to submit or just in general in what they were looking at for the ZMA.


Mr. Lawrence stated that what he was addressing in general is the concept that the new buildings on historical structures ought to be scaled in intensity not to overwhelm the historic structure.  If it was a building like Pine Knot or if it was a historical plantation building, then they would not want any structure at all.  They would probably not even need one.  But, if it was a battle field of 50 acres of nothing, then in order to have an interpretative center there you would have to have thousands of square feet and it would not take away from the battle field.  Their thought was that the language would be better if they talked about the scale and intensity.  They think that will help them as Lewis and Clark, but they would say that would make the ordinance better altogether.  Therefore, he was speaking today not only for Lewis and Clark, but that also they were looking at this hopefully to convince the Commission that the ordinance that will help them will also help other people.


Kay Slaughter, a resident of Charlottesville, stated that she agreed with what Mr. Lawrence said.  She stated that she wanted to give the Commission a little reminder that they realize that the Commission was trying to fashion this for more than just their project.  But, since their project sort of brought it forward that she just wanted to remind them again that they have been working on this project since 1997.  It was initiated by the City and the Board of Supervisors asked to be involved.  So they have been working over the years since then to identify the site.  In July, 2003 they signed the lease with the City and the County for this site.  She hoped that they would consider what Mr. Lawrence said about the scale and the intensity in general even when you are talking about the accessory uses and you think about ten percent for other than educational uses for a small office.  Their project is focusing on the historical aspect, but they are very interested in the natural resources aspect and the river.  Certainly there is always the possibility that they might want someone like the Rivanna Conservation Society to share space with them. They are focusing on their project and just thinking ahead on those things. With the 1,500 square foot maximum that would very difficult to do.  She pointed out that she understands that they could come back and request this under the supplemental regulations.  This is something sort of new and she had tried to understand that from talking to the staff.  Staff has been very helpful, but it makes her nervous because these are regulations after all and appear to be the starting place.  Certainly their facility would need to be more sizeable than that for all the obvious reasons, including the keel boat.


Mr. Edgerton asked if there were any other members of the public that would like to address the Commission on this matter. There being none, he closed the public hearing to bring the matter back before the Commission for possible action.


Ms. Higgins stated that things could become historic when they are about 50 years old.  Therefore, there might be something out there that might become historic.


Mr. Kamptner stated that to amend this ordinance now they would have to readvertise it if they were going to have it apply in other zoning districts. 


Mr. Benish suggested that if the Commission was ready to forward this on to the Board that they should do so, but they could continue to discuss this and then bring the information back to the Board.  If the Board feels that it is worth pursuing, then they can decide to do that.


Mr. Edgerton stated that the discussion could be held and an adjustment made between now and the Board meeting.


Mr. Benish stated that they could finish that discussion later. The Commission might look at that and decide that there is nothing to it anyway.


Ms. Higgins stated that this could be adopted.  Then they might find that it worked so well where it is at that it could be adopted by adding it to these other districts.


Mr. Edgerton stated that it sounds like that can be done between now and the Board’s meeting.


Ms. Joseph asked that the Commission go over what they were eliminating.


After discussion, the Commission agreed to make the following revisions to the Draft dated 3/17/05:








Ms. Higgins made a motion to recommend approval of ZTA-2004-006, Historic Center and Community Center, with the following modifications to staff’s recommendations.


The following revisions should be made to the Draft dated 3/17/05:








      Mr. Rieley seconded the motion.


Mr. Edgerton asked if there was any further discussion.


Ms. Joseph asked if the Commission wants to ask staff to bring forward the concept of having this available in other commercial districts.


Mr. Edgerton stated that he was of the opinion that process was going to go on between now and the Board meeting.


Mr. Kamptner pointed out that to add a district it would have to come back to the Planning Commission for a public hearing.  But, the rest of the ordinance could move on.


Mr. Edgerton stated that they would have to readvertise to add a district, but this portion could go forward.


Mr. Benish stated that all that he was going to do was get the Commission a zoning map so that they could get a sense of how many parcels that are out in the rural area.  He felt that most of the Commissioners were seeing this as an opportunity where you might find that there are isolated zoning districts in the rural area.  If the Commission after the review of that information wants to have further discussion, then staff will schedule another work session to see where to go from there.


The motion carried by a vote of (6:0).  (Morris – Absent)


Mr. Edgerton stated that ZTA-2004-006, Community Center/Historical Center was approved and would be heard by the Board of Supervisors on June 8, 2004.


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