Albemarle County Planning Commission

August 8, 2006


The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and a public hearing on Tuesday, August 8, 2006, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Room 241, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Members attending were Eric Strucko, Calvin Morris, Vice-Chairman; Jon Cannon and Pete Craddock.  Absent were Marcia Joseph, Chairman; Jo Higgins and Bill Edgerton. Julia Monteith, Senior Land Use Planner for the University of Virginia, representative for David J. Neuman, FAIA, Architect for University of Virginia was absent. 


Other officials present were Wayne Cilimberg, Planning Director; Amy Arnold, Planner; Scott Clark, Senior Planner; Joan McDowell, Principal Planner; Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development; David Pennock, Principal Planner; Amy Arnold, Planner; Glenn Brooks, Senior Engineer and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney.


Call to Order and Establish Quorum:


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


SP-2006-013 Little Keswick School Dorm Amendment (Signs #23,24)

PROPOSED: Construct building for dorm; use existing dorm for offices.

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: Rural Areas - preserve and protect agricultural, forestal, open space, and natural, historic and scenic resources/ density (.5 unit/ acre). SECTION: 10.2.2(5) Private School.

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY:  RA -- Rural Areas: agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre).


LOCATION: 500 Little Keswick Lane; Rt. 731 1/20th of a mile south of Rt. 22.

TAX MAP/PARCEL: TM 80 Parcels 110A, 110A2, 112, 117A, 118, 119.


STAFF:  Joan McDowell


Ms. McDowell summarized the staff report. 


·         This is a special use permit for dorm relocation for Little Keswick School.  It is located at 500 Little Keswick Lane in the Rivanna Magisterial District.  It has both rural area zoning designation as well as the Comprehensive Plan designation.  The Little Keswick School was established in 1963 prior to the adoption of the Zoning Ordinance.  The dorm itself that the children are using now has been grandfathered in.  She spoke at length with the State representative and they are very anxious to have the old dorm replaced with the new dorm.  The applicant proposes to change the old dorm into offices and recreational and storage type uses. 

·         There were a couple of issues with previous special use permit conditions of approval that staff would like to note.  One was that they would not increase enrollment.  The other was that if there was an increase in enrollment, then the Virginia Department of Transportation would want a commercial entrance permit.  She spoke at length with the zoning department and their concern was that no increase in enrollment, but not tying it to an actual number.  So there is a condition of approval in this special use permit that would tie it to 31, which is what the State license is and what they have.  The applicant does not intend to increase the enrollment.  Staff also spoke with VDOT and the County Engineer and they both agree because there is no increase in enrollment anticipated and that the enrollment is 31 that there would not be any commercial entrance requirement.  Therefore, the new conditions of approval would remove that requirement because they don’t believe it is necessary. 

·         There are no other issues that staff found with this application.  The new dorm would be located in an area a little recess down an embankment.  Although it has some visibility to the neighbor, it is not much.  So staff recommends approval with the conditions as listed in the report. 


Mr. Morris asked if there were any questions for staff.  There being none, he opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to address the Commission.


Mark Columbus, Head Master of Little Keswick School, said that this school has been in school for 44 years.  They have boys that have been diagnosed as emotionally disturbed learning disabled.  They are not court advocated boys, but are between the ages of 9 and 15 upon admission.  They have had boys in the past from Egypt, Peru, Louisiana, Texas and California. They still have the sort of catch man area that is nation wide.  The vision of the founders of the school certainly in keeping with improving the quality and enhancing the experience of these boys with our national reputation is to envision this existing dorm and now locating it away from the CSX Railroad track, which is pretty noisy.  They plan to put the dorm in the bank, which aesthetically keeps the view very low from the adjoining properties.  The only thing that they would ask is a modification on the 60’ setback.  Under construction if they were to come across any bed red or under ground spring areas that they would have the ability to move it within that area, but certainly not to violate the 25’ setback.  They were not changing the number of staff or number of students.  They are licensed by the Department of Education to have 31 students.  The owner of the school, Mr. Wilson, met with Gloria Dalton, their educational representative.  They have long applauded the work that the school does.  The school is the only school in VASES history to have an unblemished review or audit within the VASES, Virginia Association for Special Education Schools, who is one of their crediting agencies.  So they want to just keep growing in quality and this dorm expansion will allow us to do that.  There will be no change in the number of cars parked on site.  They have ample parking spaces around the campus.  The total number of day time staff is only 31.  The night time staff, since it is residential, is 8.  They have a total number of parking spaces of 72.  Access has been made to the road for emergency purposed.  They were able to purchase the old Keswick train depot and use it for their dining facility.  They have access to the back railroad bed or the road to the existing dorm as it does now when they built the gymnasium in 1990.  So there are really no changes at all.


Mr. Morris asked what the original use of the current dorm was.


Mr. Wilkes replied that back in 1993 it was called the barn dorm. It is a frame building with a tin roof.  They have modified it and put rooms and dorms in up to specs.  The only variances that they have there is that they would like for us to have another bathroom adjoining to it.  They did do an expansion of the bathroom.  They already have approval by the health department for a septic field already approved for this building.  Then if they were to add another bathroom they would have to have the quality of the septic field enhanced.  Right now they do have a variance on that. 


There being no further questions for the applicant, Mr. Morris asked if there was any other members of the public present to speak regarding this request.


John Grady, representative for the applicant, noted that a comment was made about the 60’ setback.  They certainly showed that because it is what they want to do.  But, looking out here if they get back in here and encounter either rock or a spring, which is highly likely, they needed to modify it by 15’ to 20’.  They wanted the Commission to be aware of this because if they go to the zoning administrator the way this is written if it is within the concept plan she needs to hear it from the Commission that it was okay for it to be modified.  If they had to shift something around 15’ the side setbacks from the Zoning Ordinance for the Rural Area are still only 25’.  Therefore, they would be more than what they would be required to be away from that line.  They wanted to play safe.  If they need to move it they don’t want to have to stop and come in and come back just because they lost 15’ some where.


Mr. Morris asked if they moved back if that would then restrict vehicular traffic getting into the gymnasium.


Mr. Grady replied no, because the road is fairly tucked up along the rear property line.  If they were to go back 20’ it would not restrict the traffic going back to the gymnasium.  There would still be a road back there.


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


Mr. Craddock asked if staff has heard any comments from any of the neighbors, and Ms. McDowell replied no.


Regarding the waiver request to extend the time to commence construction, Mr. Kamptner recommended that a condition be added to state: “Construction of the dorms shall commence within five (5) years of the date of approval of the special use permit, SP-2006-013.” 


Mr. Strucko asked if they need to add a condition about the setback.


Mr. Cilimberg said that the wording in condition 1 is that it be located and developed in general accord and the Zoning Administrator may approve revisions to allow compliance.  If the Commission’s intent is that there is a bit of flexibility based on what the Commission heard tonight what staff could do between now and the Board meeting is just check with the Zoning Administrator in seeing if there needs to be any additional language to accomplish that.


Mr. Craddock agreed with Mr. Cilimberg’s proposal.


Motion:  Mr. Craddock moved, Mr. Strucko seconded, to approve SP-2006-013, Little Keswick School Dorm Amendment, with the recommended conditions, as amended by Mr. Kamptner and Mr. Cilimberg, and to approve a waiver from Section 18-31.4.4 to allow five years from the date of approval of this special use permit to commence construction.


1.        Special Use Permit 2006-13 shall be limited to the construction of a maximum two-story 45' by 95' residential facility "New Dorm" for students enrolled in the Little Keswick School and for the conversion of the existing "Barn Dorm" to non-residential uses, such as office, recreational, storage, meeting area, or other similar uses.  The "New Dorm" shall be located and developed in general accord with the concept plan, titled, "Little Keswick School, Concept Plan"  (Attachment A.) and dated June 22, 2006 (last revision date).  However, the Zoning Administrator may approve revisions to the concept plan to allow compliance with the Zoning Ordinance. 

2.        Maximum enrollment of students shall be limited to 31. Any increase in enrollment shall require an amendment to this special use permit and may require entrance improvements subject to Virginia Department of Transportation requirements. 

3.      The existing dorm, labeled "Barn Dorm" on the concept plan (Attachment A) shall be subject to review by the Building Official prior to conversion of the existing use to any other use. 

4.      Construction of the dorms shall commence within five (5) years of the date of approval of the special use permit, SP-2006-013. 


The motion passed by a vote of 4:0.  (Commissioners Higgins, Edgerton and Joseph were absent.)       


Mr. Morris stated that SP-2006-013, Little Keswick School Dorm Amendment would go to the Board of Supervisors on September 6 with a recommendation for approval.


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