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-2008-00058 Harris Garage – Amendment 

PROPOSED:  Amend SP 00-49 Thomas Harris Garage to expand the public garage on approximately a .60 acre portion of a 3.17 acre property

ZONING CATEGORY/GENERAL USAGE: RA Rural Areas - agricultural, forestal, and fishery uses; residential density (0.5 unit/acre in development lots)

SECTION: 10.2.2 (37) Public Garage

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:   6929 Markwood Road, approx. one-half mile north of Davis Shop Road

TAX MAP/PARCEL: 008000000035A0


(Joan McDowell)


Ms. McDowell presented a PowerPoint Presentation and summarized the staff report.


This an amendment to an existing staff report for SP-2001-49 to allow an expansion of the auto repair garage that was approved in 2002 for Harris Auto.  It is an existing garage located in the rural areas.  There is a lot of history which is included in the staff report.  The approval of SP-2001-49 corrected some violations and brought Harris Auto into compliance with the Zoning Ordinance and Building Code.  In 2004 zoning determined that a garage addition to enclose an outside lift and to provide some storage space would not constitute an expansion of the special use permits and that building was built.  In December, 2008 new violations were recorded and the notice of violation was mailed to the applicant.  Consequently SP-2008-58 was submitted as a request to amend the earlier special use permit in order to correct the violations and make the plan current. 


To give an idea of the changes on the site staff presented side by side aerials of the site. The earlier aerial in 2002 provides an idea of the site differences between the application then and what has taken place now.  She noted the changes to the garage in 2001 and how it looked now with the addition.  The proposal is for two carports, the paint mixing building, additional parking for 15 spaces, paved parking and access (which has already been done),  an outside car lift, relocated trash dumpster to area of critical slopes disturbance and to incorporate the building expansion into the special use permit.  Additionally there is a storage unit and specifically to designate the garage area from the residential or the personal space.  This has been a very big issue.  It was discussed in the staff report to designate a specific area only for the garage.  If the applicant decides to park in the garage area and use those spaces, then those spaces are used.  This was determined to be the best solution by not only the applicant but staff in feeling like if they could separate these two uses it would better serve the applicant and the zoning enforcement.  


Staff reviewed the concept plan noting that the driveway was relocated with the special use permit in 2002.  She noted the expanded garage, the new storage garage, the existing dumpster, two carports (a 2-space and 3-space carport) existing and private parking behind the residence.  She also noted the two areas of critical slopes. 


Staff has identified the following factors favorable to this application:

  1. The public garage is an existing operation that provides a service to the surrounding community.
  2. The applicant has made improvements to the garage and the parking area.
  3. The use is consistent with the Rural Area, if all impacts of this use are mitigated.


Staff has identified the following factor unfavorable to this application:

  1. The garage, if conditions are not implemented, compromises the character of the Rural Areas district.


Based on the findings contained in this staff report, staff recommends approval of SP2008-58 JR Harris Garage Amendment, subject to the conditions of approval as listed in the staff report. 


There is also a request for a critical slopes waiver.  The applicant has applied for critical slope waivers for disturbances that already have been made on two areas of the property:  generally between the garage and the adjacent neighbor on the north and between the garage and the Beaver Dam Creek on the east.  The County Engineer, Glenn Brooks, is present to answer any questions specific to this portion of the application. She reviewed photographs of the disturbance of the slopes with area below the slopes, which had some evergreens planted.  The applicant has graveled behind the garage.  The staff report discusses the critical slopes and the engineering analysis.  There are three conditions recommended if the critical slopes waiver is approved.


Mr. Loach invited questions for staff.


Mr. Morris asked how many violations are currently in effect.


Ms. McDowell replied that several people from zoning, Lisa Green and Rob Heide are present to answer questions about zoning issues.


Rob Heide, Manager of Zoning Enforcement, said that there is one notice of zoning violation that outlines several different conditions, which is included in the staff report.


Mr. Herrick noted that the notice of zoning violation is a letter dated August 22, 2008. 


Mr. Heide pointed out that there are three different conditions within that notice of violation that have been outlined. 


Ms. Porterfield asked if the special use permit approval would clean up those violations.


Mr. Heide replied that it won’t prevent future violations.  They still have the ones that were pending before they got to today, but it will bring the site into compliance.  The violations that exist as a result of this notice of violation have yet to be adjudicated.  They are pending in court.  It would prevent the site from being in violation in the future.  He said that perhaps Mr. Herrick could explain that.


Mr. Herrick noted that Mr. Heide summarized it well that this site was in violation of the site plan that existed as of August 28, 2008.  If these conditions are met the current condition of the site presumably will not continue to be in violation going forward.


Ms. Porterfield reiterated that the answer to her question was yes it would clean up any violations that are on the books.


Mr. Herrick pointed out that it would not take care of violations that have already occurred.  It would prevent future violations if the same use continued. 


Mr. Morris said that the conditions must be met. 


Mr. Herrick replied that was correct because if the conditions are changed then it will no longer be in violation going forward.


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


Dave Wyant, representative for the Harris family, said that he put together the plan.  He appreciated staff working with them on this request and made the following comments. 


·         He had met a number of times with staff in the office and on the site since the violation was issued at the end of last year.  The applicant has been asked not to do anything on the site until they got it corrected and meets this plan as the counsel has said.  The other thing is that they have been advised by staff that if they want to do something that is in addition to what is out there to please show it on the plan.  So the storage building has been indicated as a new building.  Also, they had gotten building permits and got the carports in.  That was not on the previous site plan.  Staff issued the building permits not knowing that they should have gotten a site plan amendment just to build those.  This is a commercial operation and they have lived there all of their lives.  The garage operation has been going on since the late ‘70’s.  So this has been a family operation since their dad’s operation of the garage since the late ‘70’s.  The boys work in the garage.  There are a total of five employees. 

·         He has advised the Harris’ several times not to do anything until they get this thing through the process.  Every time staff says something like plant another tree the Harris’ are ready to do it the next day. But that is what has gotten them into some of this.  They are ready to correct.  The back slope which was shown as being seeded is a critical slope.  He met with staff and the back slope was unstable.  The small stream is down off of their property and was not in good condition.  Being involved with erosion control all of his life he did not like it and advised them to go in and get it at a 2:1 slope and seed it.  That is what they did one weekend when he was not around.  Therefore, he was not available to shoot the grades.  It is a little bit off from a 2:1, but it is fairly close and is stable.  His recommendation has been not to disturb it and to over seed it more to get a more permanent establishment on that slope.  They got that on. From that point on he told them to leave it alone. 

·         The other problem they ran into with zoning was what cars are on this parcel of land that belongs in the garage operation and what are personal.  Back on the first plan in 2001 he got involved and the boys were living at home.  The boys had four antique cars a piece to show and staff did not know who owned the cars.  Each boy titled three or four cars.  It has been a very difficult situation.  So through the years acknowledging what they have been going through they said let’s define the boundaries of this garage area and keep the personal vehicles separate just like the rest of us that don’t have a business on their property.  In working with staff they came up with 15 cars and decided to have marked parking spaces.  What folks have done in Greene and other places that take vehicles up there is just park them anywhere at night when they are not there at night.  They park the cars in front of the door waiting for somebody to come in the next day to start working on them.  They do run a paint operation. They have a paint booth inside and restore cars.  They take fenders off of the cars to pain in a slow process.   A question is how they keep these parts from being out there in view of the public.  It is not just screening.  They started out with the carports, but it would not keep it out of site.  Therefore, they need the storage building to keep the parts in.  The cars proposed on the carport are the ones they have repaired that need to stay out of the sun and weather that they have sanded waiting to go in the paint booth.   

·         The last sentence in condition 6 says any vehicles parked outside the area marked parking for personal vehicles shall be considered to be associated with the public garage and are counted in the 15 vehicle maximum.  What he has been trying to do is that the personal vehicle place that they have for these extra cars is marked with a sign.  As well at the entrance into the garage area they have two signs that indicate park the vehicles in a parking space.  He is reading this as being just to say that he has a vehicle parked somewhere else on the personal part of the property it is not part of the garage.  He thought that sentence was problematic and something that staff should consider before the request gets to the Board. 

·         The other condition he had problems with was condition 3 regarding the critical slopes.  Glenn Brooks wrote condition 3 that said canopy trees at 6’.  It is about 170’ across the back of the property.  If they took that at 6’ that is almost 30 trees across there.  That is not what they table says.  It says for every 400 square feet across a buffer you need to have 1 canopy tree. When you have to put more than 1 it needs 6’ spacing.  He did not want zoning to come out and say they are suppose to have trees every 6’ all the way across here when really as he figured it was actually about 1,800 square feet and ought to have about 5 trees across there.  If a buffer is bigger that then the numbers goes up. But he was figuring a smaller buffer across the whole back.   He thought that they need to be very clear about the last statement on the recommendation 3.


Mr. Loach invited questions for the applicant.


Ms. Porterfield asked if this business ever has more than 15 cars on this property.


Mr. Wyant replied that it was their responsibility which was why he felt that the marked parking spaces in there and the signs say if there is no parking space they can’t leave that car here to be worked on.  That is the responsibility of the Harris’ to let people know that.  Right now they just drop cars off.  The way they came up with 15 cars is the 5 spaces for the employees to park at the garage, the 4 lifts and paint booth that hold 2 cars is 10 which is how they came up with the 15 number.  Having lived in the rural area for years he did not think that they want to get much larger than that.  He has a garage coming before the Commission in two weeks and the number of spaces is really getting up in size.  They used the bay numbers and employees in that request to get a total.


Ms. Porterfield noted that this number is 5 more than was allowed previously.


Mr. Wyant replied yes because the other count made it difficult for staff.  The calculation and increase would make it much easier for staff to enforce.  The applicant understands building permits now, but not so much the site plan.  A lot of people in the rural area do not understand site plan regulations.  That is his assessment of what he has been running into out in the rural areas.


Mr. Franco asked what wording he would you propose for #6.


Mr. Wyant said that he was not sure that added a lot to it.  He suggested that they strike #6.  They have to park the personal vehicles in the area designated as personal vehicles.  If they go across that marked line they are going into the garage area and have to park there.  He thought that the condition makes it ambiguous.  For example if he was not in that personal parking space and he was parking on the side of the driveway going back there by this wording he would take it to be part of that garage.   When they wrote this staff may have had another reason, but he had not gotten to staff to get a clarification on that.  It was something that he noticed when he read through the staff report.


Mr. Loach asked if he would rather have a total number of parking be it personal or private.


Mr. Wyant replied no, but just being totally in the boundary of the garage the total be 15.  Mr. Harris works for the fire company and he brings that company vehicle home.  If he goes into the garage area it is considered part of the garage operation even though he is not doing work on it.  If he takes his personal vehicles and drives it into the garage area he had to park it in a parking place and it is part of the garage.  Keep the personal cars outside and keep the business vehicles inside.  He thought that would make it cleanly cut. 


Mr. Loach noted that he would leave it no more than 15 vehicles associated and strike the only personal vehicles may be parked in the area marked parking for personal vehicles.


Mr. Wyant replied yes.  That is on the conceptual plan that only for personal vehicles.  They don’t want to allow those people coming in with a vehicle for the garage parking out there because that has been the problem.  They park anywhere they can find a spot to leave one.  He thought that it really clarifies this. That is why they put the boundary around this area. 


Mr. Morris asked if that also applies to item 3 in critical slopes.


Mr. Franco asked if in recommendation #3 he would propose changing that to say instead of the 6’ on center it state one tree for every 400’.


Mr. Wyant replied yes.  He believed for anything less than one-quarter of an acre for a buffer that they use table A out of this guidance manual.  It has all those 6’ spaces and the understory are 4’. He assumed that Glenn Brooks wrote the manual.  The shrubs would be up to 18”.  Therefore, he would just refer to table out of the guide and not have the specific.  Then that way they just follow this guideline.  He was afraid that condition might cause them a problem.


Mr. Morris asked Glenn Brooks to come forward and address this.


Glenn Brooks agreed with striking whatever is in the parentheses there.  He was just trying to give an example of one of the scenarios that is possible out of that manual.  It has a number of them.  Therefore, that is fine because he did not have to give an example.


Mr. Loach invited public comment.  There being none, the public hearing was closed and the matter before the Planning Commission.


Ms. Joseph asked Mr. Brooks to come back up and address condition 2 that talks about the retaining wall.  She asked if that is that the same garage building that the Commission was shown photographs of. 


Mr. Brooks asked if she was referring to the back of the building where the travel way has been installed.


Ms. Joseph replied that was correct.


Mr. Brooks replied yes.


Ms. Joseph asked if his expectations are that there is a 3’ wall there and then it will feather back somehow.


Mr. Brooks replied that they asked the applicant if they would like to finish the slope and they said no that they wanted some area in the back of the building.  So the alternative is a retaining wall.  That is why he put the condition.  He did not see another way to keep that slope the way it is.


Ms. Joseph said that the other slope they were talking about was the other photo that they were shown. It looks like they are starting to establish something back there.


Mr. Brooks replied that they are.  When he looks at these he is careful because they always had the comments that it is easier to ask forgiveness than in this county than permission. So he tried to review them like they were not already built.  But as Mr. Wyant says he believes that it is close enough and they can keep it as it is, then he does not object to that.


Ms. Joseph asked if this is something that they expect to be maintained or can they let it rip and let this go back to the trees that were there before.  She asked when he looked at this does he have a no mow zone from the creek itself.


Mr. Brooks replied that the buffer itself is beyond the slope.  It is down in the flat area where they see the downed trees in the picture.  It is actually not much land that is in buffer on this property. It appears as though there was some back there too.  If they look on the aerial photo they can drive farm equipment down through there.  He did not know what they were doing with it.  But it connects to the neighboring property and then goes all the way around back up to the back side of this property.  There was not much clearing in the buffer because the buffer is way close to the property line.  It is not a large area. 


Ms. Joseph said that they were talking about critical slopes rather than buffers in this instance.


Mr. Brooks replied exactly.


Mr. Morris asked on item 6 is staff satisfied with removing the first sentence so it starts that no more than 15 vehicles associated, etc. 


Ms. McDowell said if they don’t lease it then the garage cars can go over the line.  She asked to defer the question to the zoning division since they have to enforce this. 


Mr. Morris asked zoning staff to come forward.  He asked for enforcement purposes how item 6 should be worded.


Mr. Heide said that for zoning enforcement they prefer condition 6 as written.


Mr. Wyant pointed out that he was just talking about the last sentence.  He agreed with the first sentence.  They need to keep the designated personal parking spaces marked with a sign.


Ms. McDowell thought that the last sentence actually addressed what Mr. Wyant was talking about. If the owner uses up some of those 15 spaces designated for the garage then they are used up and the garage has less for public.  She thought that is what that sentence is referring to.


Ms. Joseph asked Mr. Herrick to comment.


Mr. Herrick agreed because he understands Mr. Wyant’s desire for clarity.  He shared that desire.  He used the analogy of crossing the center line and having a different rule.  He thought that is exactly what the final sentence of paragraph 6 is intended to do. It to say when you cross this line rather than having a question of is it or isn’t it a part of the garage, is it or is it not a personal vehicle when you cross that line by definition it is now classified as associated with the garage business. He thought that the last sentence of paragraph 6 actually adds clarity and creates a bright line test that might not otherwise be.


Ms. Joseph acknowledged that they had been in violation, but felt from looking at the photographs it looks pretty spiffy and it looks as if they are really trying to clean it up.  She knew it was frustrating that it seemed that they were sort of doing things as they felt like doing things. She was glad that the staff had worked together to get them to this point so that they can come into compliance.   She thanked the applicant for working with staff to bring it into compliance. 


Mr. Loach noted from the pictures it looks like they have been trying to keep things on the up and up at least to make this a presentable operation in the rural area, which is what they are concerned about.


Mr. Franco asked if item 1 in the recommendation for the critical slopes waiver where it says uniform grade not to exceed 2 to 1 is needed if it has been established to the satisfaction of the county engineer now.


Mr. Brooks said that he was leaving that for the Commission to decide.  It does not meet a 2:1 down at the bottom of the slope.  It will cause more erosion if they disturb it again.  But maybe in the long run it might be better, but they don’t know. There is some clean up required around the area where they are still having some fill in the trees and they have deposited some rebar and things like that.  If the Commission wanted to remove that he was fine with it.  If the Commission wanted him to make the decision, he would suggest removing it.


Ms. Joseph noted the change in #3 within the parenthesis is out.


Ms. McDowell pointed out a typo in the condition for condition 7 which should read that the hours of operation shall not exceed earlier or later. 


Mr. Franco noted that is how it shows up in the staff report.


Ms. Joseph asked if the hours of operation do not prohibit customers from dropping off vehicles before 8:00 a.m., which can be from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.


Ms. McDowell relied that was correct.


Ms. Joseph noted that it says not more than 15 cars in a row.  She noted that the zoning inspector would have to get out to the site before 10:00 a.m. to see what they are doing.


Motion on Special Use Permit:


Motion:   Ms. Joseph moved and Mr. Morris seconded to approve SP-2008-00058, Harris Garage Amendment with the conditions recommended by staff.


  1. Development of the use shall be in accord with the conceptual plan titled “Amended Site Plan Harris’ Garage”, prepared by DW Enterprises, and dated March 16, 2009 (hereinafter, the “Conceptual Plan”), as determined by the Director of Planning and the Zoning Administrator.  To be in accord with the plan, development shall reflect the following major elements within the development essential to the design of the development:  The area designated for the special use (public garage);

·         The size, height and location of the proposed buildings (16’ X 30’/maximum 24’ high);

·         The size, height and location of the existing buildings/structures (original garage – 1,936 square feet/24 feet high/3 vehicle bays; garage expansion – 1,496 square feet/24 feet high/1 vehicle bay; enclosed compressor room; paint mixing room; one outside lift; one dumpster pad/fence enclosure;  3 parking spaces carport; 2 parking spaces carport);

·         The number (maximum spaces public garage) and location of the vehicle parking spaces;

·         The two (2) signage locations at the entrance to the special use permit area.  The signs shall state, “All vehicles beyond this point must be placed in a marked parking space” and be a maximum of four (4) square feet.

·         The sign location at the area designated as “Parking for Private Vehicles.”  The sign shall state, “Parking for only personal vehicles of the Harris Family” and be a maximum of four (4) square feet.  


  1. Gasoline sales are prohibited;
  2. The sale or rental of vehicles or other motorized equipment is prohibited;
  3. All repairing or equipping of vehicles shall take place inside the existing garage, with the exception of vehicles being repaired on the vehicle lift located adjacent to the garage;
  4. The outdoor storage of parts, equipment, machinery and junk is prohibited;
  5. Only personal vehicles may be parked in the area marked “parking for personal vehicles” on the Conceptual Plan. No more than fifteen (15) vehicles associated with the public garage use shall be located outside the garage.  All vehicles associated with the public garage use shall be parked in the spaces shown as “for garage only” on the Conceptual Plan. Any vehicles parked outside the area marked “parking for personal vehicles” shall be considered to be associated with the public garage and are counted in the fifteen (15) vehicle maximum;
  6. The hours of operation shall not exceed (earlier or later) 8 A.M. and 8 P.M., Monday through Saturday.  These hours of operation do not prohibit customers from dropping off vehicles before 8 A.M. on the days of operation;
  7. Within three (3) months following approval of the site plan or site plan waiver, the permittee shall install and thereafter maintain a minimum twenty (20)-foot deep landscape evergreen-screening buffer between the garage and garage parking and Markwood Road; and between the areas designated as parking for personal vehicles and Markwood Road. This landscape screening shall supplement existing landscape approved with SP 2001-49 and consist of Eastern Red Cedar or other material approved by the Planning Director, a minimum feet high at planting, and planted in staggered rows with a maximum of ten (10) feet on center spacing between the landscape materials.   The permittee shall also submit a landscape plan with the site plan application that will be subject to the approval of the Planning Director or the Planning Director’s designee; and
  8. All outdoor lighting shall be only full cut-off fixtures and shielded to reflect light away from all abutting properties.  A lighting plan (for new lighting) limiting light levels at all property lines to no greater than 0.3 foot candles shall be submitted to the Zoning Administrator or their designee for approval.


The motion passed by a vote of 5:0. 


Motion on Critical Slopes Waiver:


Motion:   Ms. Joseph moved and Mr. Morris seconded to approve the critical slopes waiver request with the conditions recommended by staff as amended.

-          Removing the recommended condition 1 and amending condition 3 to remove the language between the parentheses. 


1.       The eastern facing slope above the creak must be reshaped to a uniform grade not steeper than 2H:1V, covered with erosion control matting, and permanently seeded. 

2.       The retaining wall proposed in the rear of the garage building must be at least 3’ high, and topsoil, matting, and permanent seed or mulch and shrubs must be applied to the cut slope for adequate stabilization. 

3.       To provide stormwater management and replenish the buffer, the entire buffer area within the property should be planted in accordance with the Chesapeake Bay Riparian Buffers Modification and Mitigation Guidance Manual no later than three (3) months following the approval of this critical slopes waiver.  (The applicant is referred to the Restoration Establishment Tables in Appendix D, calling for canopy trees at 6’ centers, understory trees at 4’ centers, and shrubs at 18” centers.)  These shall be bonded as a guarantee of survival for a minimum of 5 years.


The motion passed by a vote of 5:0. 


Mr. Loach said SP-2008-00058, Harris Garage Amendment would go to the Board of Supervisors on June 10 with a recommendation for approval.


Mr. Cilimberg pointed out that the critical slopes waiver action was final and did not go to the Board.


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