SP 2007-024  Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center Extension (originally SP 2004-004)




Request for extension of time allowed by special use permit 2004-004 to establish historical center




Tamara Jo Ambler




 August 14, 2007



September 5, 2007




OWNER/APPLICANT:  Property owners are the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle.  Applicant is Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center of Virginia.



A special use permit allowing the establishment of the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center within a portion of Darden Towe Park was approved by the Board of Supervisors on January 4, 2006, under SP 2004-004.  The planned historical center will consist of a 15,000 square foot structure, including an amphitheater, outdoor interpretive trails, a timber fort, lookout tower, and 83 parking spaces.  The approval letter and the staff report for the original action are attached for reference (see Attachments C and D).  The special use permit will expire in January 2008, and the applicant has requested that it be extended by an additional 12 months.



Section of the Zoning Ordinance specifies that if the use, structure or activity for which a special use permit is issued is not commenced within twenty-four (24) months after the permit is issued, the permit shall be deemed abandoned or expire.  The term “commenced” means “construction of any structure necessary to the use of the permit”.  The board of supervisors may, as a condition of approval, impose an alternative period as a condition of approval. SP 2004-004 was not approved with a condition allowing any additional time to establish the use and the applicant is now requesting an extension of time to allow the use.


The purpose of the time period provision for special use permit approvals in the ordinance is to allow any ordinance changes to be applied at the time the extension is reviewed. It allows the County to consider whether there have been changes in circumstances such that the granting of the special use permit should be revisited. In the case of this request for extension, there is no reason to revisit the special use permit and there have been no ordinance changes since this special use permit was approved in 2006. The applicant has submitted a preliminary site plan in late June 2007 for the historical center, and the plan is currently in the County’s development review process.  The applicant has requesting an additional twelve months to ensure that adequate time exists for the plan to be revised as needed and approved, and for actual construction to commence.



Staff has found no unfavorable factors to this request and recommends approval of SP 2007-024 for the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center, with the following original conditions of approval and a tenth condition added to specify the time extension:


  1. The site shall be developed in general accord with all sheets of the plan entitled “Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center,” revised October 18, 2005 and prepared by Nelson, Byrd, Woltz. Setbacks indicated in the table on sheets L3.1 and L3.2 do not set increased minimum setbacks;
  2. The top of the Lookout Tower, measured in elevation above mean sea level, shall not exceed [AMSL + 35].  The approved height shall at no time be taller than the tallest tree within twenty-five (25) feet of the Lookout Tower, and shall include any base, foundation or grading that raises the tower above the pre-existing natural ground elevation;
  3. A maximum of twelve (12) special events, in accordance with Section 5.1.42.i, are authorized per calendar year;
  4. A maximum of four (4) festivals, in accordance with Section 5.1.42.j, are authorized per calendar year;
  5. A lighting plan and a landscaping plan shall be submitted, reviewed, and approved by the Architectural Review Board prior to final site plan development plan approval;
  6. In accordance with Section, a twenty (20) percent tree canopy shall be required for the site based on the disturbed area for the historical center building, parking, and access road;

7.      Prior to any grading or construction activity, the limits of the one hundred (100)-year flood plain and stream buffers, where adjacent to constructed proposed improvements including the amphitheater, timber fort, lookout tower, entrance road and retaining wall, shall be flagged at ten (10)-foot intervals by a land surveyor to prevent encroachment land disturbing activity, storage of construction equipment or materials, and actual construction of improvements during construction;

8.      Outdoor amplified noise is not allowed on site; and

9.      As stipulated in the lease agreement between the applicant and the City and County, the proposed improvements are to be reviewed by the City and County prior to construction to make sure there are alternative uses available for the improvements should the venture fail.

  1. Special Use Permit 2007-024 shall be valid 12 months from the date of the original approval and shall expire on January 4, 2009.





A.      Location Map

B.     Applicant Request

C.     Approval letter dated January 18, 2006 for SP 2004-004

D.     Staff Report and attachments for SP 2004-04

          A.      Application plan entitled “Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center,” revised October 18, 2005

B.     Schematic Site Plan

C.     Critical Slopes Waiver Request dated November 7, 2005

D.     Letter dated November 8, 2005 from the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center regarding historical information

 Return to PC actions letter