Albemarle County Planning Commission

October 11, 2005


The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting, work session and a public hearing on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Room 241, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Members attending were Bill Edgerton, Chairman; Rodney Thomas, Calvin Morris, Jo Higgins, Pete Craddock and Marcia Joseph, Vice-Chair.  Absent was William Rieley and David J. Neuman, FAIA, Architect for University of Virginia. 


Other officials present were Wayne Cilimberg, Planning Director; David Benish, Chief of Planning; Margaret Maliszewski, Design Planner; Juan Wade, Transportation Planner; Ron White, Housing Director and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney.


Call to Order and Establish Quorum:


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


            Public Hearing Items:


ZTA-2005-008 Entrance Corridor - Amend Section 30.6.2, Application, of Chapter 18, Zoning, of the Albemarle County Code, to add that segment of State Route 631 (East Rio Road) from US Route 29 North easterly to the Norfolk Southern Railway tracks, as a highway upon and along which an entrance corridor overlay district is established. 


ZMA 2005-016 Entrance Corridor - Amendment to Chapter 18, Zoning, of the Albemarle County Code to amend the zoning map to establish an entrance corridor overlay district upon each parcel of land contiguous to that segment of State Route 631 (East Rio Road) from US Route 29 North easterly to the Norfolk Southern Railway tracks, from the edge of the State Route 631 right-of-way to the greater of either: (1) the full depth of each parcel, as that parcel existed on October 3, 1990; or (2) to a depth of 500 feet.  This proposed amendment would not affect the general usage and density range authorized by the applicable underlying zoning district regulations for each parcel.  (Margaret Maliszewski)


Ms. Maliszewski summarized the staff report. 


         This is a proposal to amend the Entrance Corridor Overlay Zoning District Section of the Ordinance by adding a segment of East Rio Road from Route 29 North to Norfolk Southern Railway Tracks.  This request originated with the Architectural Review Board back in May, 2005.  The ARB asked the Board of Supervisors to request a reclassification of East Rio Road to an arterial highway and to establish it as an Entrance Corridor District.

         The Board of Supervisors supported that request.  In July, VDOT notified the County that the segment of East Rio Road had been changed to an urban minor arterial.  The Board of Supervisors approved a resolution of intent in August to establish that segment as an Entrance Corridor and to change the zoning map accordingly. 

         The State enabling legislation identifies two criteria for Entrance Corridor roadways: 

1.       Arterial designation, and

2.       The roadway must be a route of tourist access to historic areas or historic buildings.  That proposed segment meets that criteria as well.

         Establishment of this section of Rio Road as an Entrance Corridor would apply the EC regulations and ARB review to new development along the corridor, but that new development does not include the review of single-family residential development. 

         The properties included within the Overlay District are those parcels that are adjacent to the road for the full depth of the parcel and any portion of a non-adjacent parcel that falls within 500 feet of the right-of-way.  Those criteria apply to the parcels as they existed in 1990 when the first Entrance Corridor Districts were established in the County. 

         An attachment was included as part of the staff report and it was also included in the notification letters that went out to the property owners.  It provides more detail on that ARB review process. 

         The map of the affected area is on display.


Staff has received a number of phone calls after the notification letters went out.  Those were primarily questions for additional information and clarification on the proposal. Yesterday, staff received one letter on the proposal.  Copies of that letter were distributed to the Commissioners this evening.  That letter expresses a lack of support for the proposal.  (Attachment:  Letter dated 10/6/05 addressed to V. Wayne Cilimberg from Andrew Boninti, President of Rivanna Realty & Investment.)


Mr. Edgerton asked if the Commission recommends approval of this proposal if the regulation would apply to projects already in the review process as Mr. Boninti asked in his letter. 


Ms. Maliszewski stated the two proposals that Mr. Boninti was talking about in his letter was a special use permit amendment that was under review for a veterinary office, which was across Rio East Court from the Alltel Building.  The request is for an enlargement to an existing building.  The other item that is under review is on the parcel adjacent to that, which is a subdivision.  The subdivision is really not an issue because the ARB does not review subdivisions at this point. 


Ms. Higgins stated that there might be other items under review such as site plans or building permits.  She asked when the proposals would become subject to the new regulations if adopted by the Board.  She asked if that means that something already submitted is excluded.


Mr. Cilimberg pointed out that part of that would be the effective date that the Board might apply to it.


Mr. Kamptner stated that right now the way the ordinance is written it would apply on the date that the Board adopts it.  Therefore, any pending applications that have not yet been approved yet would be subject to the new regulations.  So if the Commission and the Board do not wish the ordinance to apply to those projects, then the ordinance could be amended to either delay the effective date or insert a grandfathering clause, which would allow any existing applications to come in under the old regulations.  There are two ways to address it if that is an issue.


Mr. Cilimberg stated that one thing to note, too, is that there are a couple of places where a project could be under ARB review.  The site plan process is one area that requires ARB review.  Ms. Maliszewski referred to a special use permit for this one development, which will then turn into a site plan after the special use permit approval.  But, that special use permit is going to set certain elements of the development, such as building location.  Therefore, there are things that wonít really be subject to an ARB change if that happens.  Ultimately, there can also be building permit aspects that could be subject to ARB review.  That is at another point in time.


Mr. Edgerton stated that the special use permit, which is actually an amendment to a previously approved special use permit, would be subject to ARB review if this is passed.


Mr. Cilimberg pointed out that special use permits are not subject to the review of the ARB, except as an advisory body.


Ms. Higgins questioned the map because it starts at the railroad, but it does not clearly follow the 500 feet.  She asked how it would affect Belvedere since during that review the Commission did talk about the commercial area being more towards Rio Road as opposed to inside the development.  If she was reading the map correctly, the railroad tracks seem to be a demarcation and did not go back 500 feet back.  She asked if that was on purpose.  In other words, if you took a segment of road and went 500 feet back on either side is there a reason that it is excluded.  She felt that it was kind of glaring.  When the future Meadow Creek Parkway is tied into Rio Road where it ties into McIntire Road it would be more of what she would envision as an Entrance Corridor and would actually tie in at the entrance of Dunlora.  But, this stops at the railroad tracks.  She was not expressing a problem with it, but felt that when it was originally explained to the Commission it was kind of that thought of Meadow Creek Parkway.


Mr. Cilimberg stated that was an ultimate arterial designation that could occur, but it is not a designation that it currently exists.


Ms. Higgins asked what the designation for Meadow Creek Parkway was as proposed.


Mr. Cilimberg stated that he was talking about the ability to use it in the Entrance Corridor provisions as a designated route.  Right now according to VDOTís input, they have only designated it as arterial at this point to the Norfolk Southern Railroad.


Ms. Higgins stated that the reason that she brought this up was to meet the criteria for tourist access to historic buildings it would be from point A to where those historic buildings are or the City/County line. But, they are not taking it to the City/County line like the other Entrance Corridors, such as Rio Road West.  She felt that they were doing something to just take a chunk to go from point A to point B and it does not clearly meet this intent because it does not take you to the historic building. 


Mr. Kamptner stated that it takes it as far as VDOTís arterial designation allows it to go.  At the bridge the road does narrow down to two lanes.  He assumed that was a factor in VDOTís analysis.


Mr. Cilimberg stated that he would anticipate that when Meadow Creek Parkway is built the arterial designation will extend beyond the bridge on Rio Road to the point where Meadow Creek Parkway takes off.  It will go down to the by-pass along Meadow Creek Parkway.


Ms. Higgins asked what Meadow Creek Parkwayís designation is as proposed.


Mr. Cilimberg stated that he believed that it was considered a minor arterial, but he could not verify that.  He pointed out that these roads are not finally categorized until they are complete.  He felt that was anticipated.


Ms. Higgins felt that they were premature because that piece is such an important link to what the justification seems to involve. 


Mr. Cilimberg stated that it went as far as it could go, but it does not get you to the ultimate designation.


Mr. Edgerton asked if there were other questions for staff.


Mr. Cilimberg asked to pick up on one thing that Ms. Maliszewski included in the staff report that he felt was important type of information to include, which is the budget impact.  There is the implication of the addition here having additional staffing requirements that our fees donít really cover right now.  So he felt that it was worth noting that there is additional time that staff will have to spend.  Our staff is fixed, but there are new reviews that will result from this particular EC Overlay.  It is a number of which staff does not know, but certainly that is a factor ultimately in what they might have to ask the Board for.  He felt that it was more of a matter for the Board to decide upon.  In our administration and review process, the ARBís Entrance Corridor review of site plans is an additional element in site plan review.  Staff has tried over time to talk about any impact of housing affordability that might result from a zoning text amendment.  As mentioned, single-family development is not subject to the EC Overlay.  But, any multi-family development would be.  Staff is not aware of any specific effort on housing affordability that results the EC Overlay District and the process with the ARB that is part of the site plan review.  Those are things that they typically try to address with zoning text amendments.


Mr. Edgerton stated that if the Commission recommends approval of this should they make some mention of the additional staff needs or the staff impact.


Mr. Cilimberg stated that it was left up to the Commission, but staff just tries to make the Commission and Board aware of the issue.  That is something that is going to be part of what the Board has before them.


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


Mr. Cilimberg stated that it was actually a resolution of intent of the Board that was in response to an ARB request.  Therefore, the Commission does not need to open the public hearing for the applicant because staff has represented them. 


Mr. Edgerton invited public comment from other members of the public. 


Wren Adler stated that he had some comments and clarifications.  He owned property on East Rio Road and went through the approval process in the early 1990ís, which quite frankly was a very trying thing.  For what it is worth, he would like it to be noticed that to put a burden like this on an average citizen is really inappropriate.  He bought a property for $80,000 at the time and then spent $30,000 just to get it through the approval process.   He felt that there was something off some where.  He pointed out that there was nothing unusual about his lot, such as drainage issues or anything.  Basically, what he was asking for was their consideration in the future for people that live here and would like to get into business. His analysis after he went through this process would have been that they wanted to discourage as much as possible that somebody from the community could develop business roots.  That is just for the history of the area.  He noted that this was the first notification that he has received about the Entrance Corridor proposal.  He agreed with Ms. Higgins comments in that he did not understand why it was limited to the railroad and that since it does not go anywhere that it does not make sense to do this at this time.  The second thing is that there is property beyond that which is very substantial in size that is probably going to be redeveloped in the near future.  He felt that it should fall in the Entrance Corridor regulation if that was something that is adopted for the front end.  The other thing is that in the 1990ís there was a staff member that had an incredible amount of power and the Planning board basically submitted to that personís opinion.  It just created an incredible amount of trouble. He felt that development has to be balanced with what the public wants.  He opposed requiring a certificate of appropriateness for this area because it gives too much power to the County.


Mr. Edgerton asked if there were other members of the public that would like to address the Commission.


Neil Williamson, representative with the Free Enterprise Forum, stated that he counts 21 Entrance Corridors, and with this proposal 22.  He would love to have the sense of the Planning Commission on how many road lead in.  Where do we stop?  If it is every road leads in, then why are we not putting these Entrance Corridor regulations on everyone.  It seems as though the application of these regulations continues to expand.  They have heard the discussion that it will likely expand staff and the demands on staff.  It will likely elongate the approval process for anything that is in that Entrance Corridor.  The Entrance Corridor program began somewhere in the late 1970ís and was to make it nice for when you were coming in and going out of the area.  There is something to be said for that, but there is something to be said when there are two signs next to each other from different businesses that are being argued by what color red they are allowed to use and the ARB is dictating that one has to use the same as the other.  Somewhere things have gone a little out of the way.  He really would like to know what the Planning Commission believes is the right number of Entrance Corridors and the right level of scrutiny to these applications.  He thanked the Architectural Review Board members because he has sat through some of their meetings and anyone that sits on that board has the tip of his hat. They look at a lot of stuff and do the best job they can in applying it, but he felt that the push was towards more detail and more scrutiny where it may be easier to lay off the scrutiny and allow some of this occur in a nice manner, but without the government telling you exactly what it should look like. 


Mr. Edgerton asked if there was anyone else present to speak on this matter.  There being none, he closed the public hearing to bring the matter before the Commission for discussion and a possible action.


Mr. Morris agreed with Ms. Higgins in that this is premature because the road goes to nothing historic right now and he did not think that it applies. 


Ms. Higgins stated that she drove up and down the road about six times today.  There are a couple of significant developments that recently came to the Planning Commission, such as Kenwood Stations.  The style and architecture of Kenwood Station almost suggests that obviously an architect was involved and she did not think it was unattractive.  There is the Real Estate 3 building that was redeveloped.  The market has made this area become something that architects design and try to achieve to attract people.  After driving up and down she looked at some of the harder ones that donít blend with the neighborhood and felt that they are older and will come in for redevelopment. Based on the demands of staff and the demands of the tax dollars for people who might want to put business roots into the community, the way it is inconsistent with other Entrance Corridor designations in that it is a piece of a road, even though she did not know it was Entrance Corridor number 22, there has been a recent staff report about reducing time in process, the overlay that staff has and personally she has many things that are of a level of importance compared with what is going on being the number one, cluster development in the rural area, and if any staff is added and they have a choice to make that she felt that the component would be better served when Meadow Creek Parkway is its development stage and is actually going to be built.  Then, she felt that Countyís priority should weigh it in as a priority.  What is going on there now is functioning well.  Sometimes she felt that the ARB as a goal does a very good job of aesthetics, but she has expressed her concern about aesthetics above function.  Sometimes the time in process ends up being excessive and subjective and it ends up being expensive as a result.  That valued engineering is not considered as maybe when you weigh in paved areas and landscaping that would conflict with utilities and things like that you sometimes see things twisted around in trying to satisfy some conflicting rules.  But, the bottom line is that costs are increasing almost weekly right now with the state of economy and it is a burden for development to bear, which how that affects on affordable housing is that as prices of development increases, the people who have to shop there will have to pay increased prices.  So she was just not willing to support something that might add staff in an area where she thinks that staff does an excellent job with what they have.  But, she knew they were stretched.  If she had to make that decision she would not apply that towards this particular road at this particular time.  If they were to consider it, she felt that some level of grandfathering for things in process probably should be considered.  She felt that an effective date that was dropped on someone that might be almost at site plan approval or almost at special use permit would leave staff in a real catch-22.  ARB input sometimes affects a whole layout regarding the location of the building on the site. It is always a struggle to come up with the best design. It is a shame to say that it applies to someone and require a certificate of appropriateness when maybe they did not have that input from the beginning. Time in process, costs and these other facts make her not support this particular section as Entrance Corridor #22 on the list.


Ms. Joseph stated that she did not have a problem with it.  She felt that it makes some sense going from Route 29 out on to Rio because it is the corridor that people travel to get into the city and to approach some of the historic properties.  She pointed out that the Entrance Corridor was first adopted in 1990 because they had to wait until there was enabling legislation from the state to be able to do that.  The state talks about this being tourist routes and they lead you to different important historic properties. She disagreed with staff about needing more staffing because this is not that long of a segment and she did not know if there that many more properties that would justify another staff person to take care of just this one segment.  Across the railroad tracks she was not that concerned about Belvedere because Belvedere was coming in as a Neighborhood Model.  If it wants that area commercial, then it will be covered by a Code of Development.  She supported the request.  She felt that what was going on in this area reflects some good decent architecture.   In the past she has responded to the level of detail that is involved with some of the review, and that is not anything that they can do anything about.  That is something that only the Board of Supervisors can do something about.  Therefore, she could support the proposal.


Mr. Edgerton supported the approval of the request, but recommended adding some sort of grandfather clause that would projects that are already in process to continue on as if this did not exist.  But, with that caveat he would support the approval of the proposal.


Mr. Craddock agreed with a lot of things brought out by Ms. Higgins and Ms. Joseph, but felt that it would be prudent to have some type of grandfather clause added in the approval.  He felt that East Rio Road is a moving target and that now is the time to designate it as an Entrance Corridor.


Mr. Thomas agreed with Mr. Morris in that it was premature and not necessary to have it at all right now.


Ms. Higgins felt that architects do a good job in designing buildings without governmental control.


Mr. Edgerton stated that sometimes some coordination is necessary.


Action on ZTA-2005-008:


Motion:  Ms. Higgins moved, Mr. Morris seconded, that ZTA-2005-008, Entrance Corridor Amendment, be deferred until Meadow Creek Parkway has been built from the end of the arterial designation to the City/County line and then it be considered at that time.


The motion failed by a vote of 3:3.  (Commissioner Rieley was absent.)  (Commissioners Thomas, Morris and Higgins voted aye) (Commissioners Joseph, Edgerton and Craddock voted no.)


Mr. Kamptner stated that another motion was needed.


Motion:  Mr. Craddock moved, Ms. Joseph seconded, that ZTA-2005-008, Entrance Corridor Amendment, be recommended for approval.


The motion failed by a vote of 3:3. (Commissioner Rieley was absent.)  (Commissioners Joseph, Edgerton and Craddock voted aye.)   (Commissioners Thomas, Morris and Higgins voted no.)


Action on ZMA-2005-016:


Motion: Ms. Joseph moved, Mr. Craddock seconded, that ZMA-2005-016, Entrance Corridor, be recommended for approval.


The motion failed by a vote of 3:3. (Commissioner Rieley was absent.)  (Commissioners Joseph, Edgerton and Craddock voted aye.)   (Commissioners Thomas, Morris and Higgins voted no.)


Mr. Edgerton stated that the tie votes were a defeat of the motions to recommend approval of ZTA-2005-008 and ZMA-2005-016, Entrance Corridor, which would go to the Board of Supervisors on November 2 with no recommendation.


Ms. Higgins noted that some of the Commissioners felt that there were reasons not to add this section of East Rio Rd to the EC overlay district as follows: 

  1. Based upon a review of the current development along this section of road, the appearance is as if ARB standards have been used. Architects & developers are doing a good job as the market dictates. If it's not broken, why fix it?
  2. This section is inconsistent with the other (21 EC's) in that it does not connect through, but stops at the RR.
  3. It does not meet the criteria for tourist access to historical buildings possibly until Meadowcreek Pkwy is constructed. 
  4. There is staff impact. There are so many demands for staff involvement that it doesn't seem that adding governmental controls for this purpose is beneficial. 
  5. The Board recently tasked staff to identify ways to reduce time in process and ways to streamline this. This is adverse to that goal.  ARB review adds time to many reviews including site plans for layout, landscaping, lighting, building exterior elevations and   signage.  In addition, there is time added in process for rezonings and special use permits.
  6. Timing of the new requirements - If this is adopted and imposed; there was consensus that a clause should be added to cover this.  Considering that plans may be under design and/or in process, a date that the new requirements will be imposed on applications received after a specific date.  (I suggest  July 1, 2006)

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