Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Charles Leopold, Owner

Indian Pipe Outdoor Technical School, Applicant


January 11, 2007


Staff Lead:
Melissa Dargis, Assistant Chief of Planning

Community Development


Magisterial District:
Marshall District

6011-20-6729-000 and 6011-12-8396-000


A Resolution to Approve Indian Pipe Outdoor School: SPEX02-MA-014 A Special Exception Renewal to Continue Operation of the School and the Addition of a New Parcel


Topic Description:   

The applicant seeks to renew its Special Exception for the Indian Pipe Outdoor School as well as add a new parcel to the permit and refine its conditions.

Project Information: 

The applicant is requesting a renewal of its previously approved Special Exception conditions.  In addition, the following refinements to existing conditions are requested:

a.       To change from 15-passenger vans to microbuses as part of the six vans allowed to visit the site per day.

b.      Extend operation from April to November to all year operation, with the condition that it complies with the Fauquier County School inclement weather road advisory.

c.       Provide for a ten year term of renewal. 

Project Background:

The Indian Pipe Outdoor Technical School provides environmental educational experiences that focus on the lessons of stewardship of our natural resources.  The farm is located adjacent to the Appalachian Trail and is filled with many springs that form the head waters of Goose Creek. Two hundred acres of the farm are in conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and a recent purchase of 60 acres will be put into easement with the Appalachian Trail Trust.  Activities at the school include learning about native flora and fauna that are present in streams, ponds, fields and forest located on the property.  Also, instruction includes learning about organic agriculture with, Piedmont Organics operating on the site, which was USDA Organic certified in 2002. 

The school’s hours of operation are 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Monday through Friday).  No more than one hundred people occupy the site at any given time.  On average the typical size of a field trip is 30 students.  The number of employees on site does not exceed thirty three (33), with a student employee ratio of one to ten, during programs. 

Susan Leopold, Director of the School, has a Bachelors in Botany, a Masters in Environmental Planning, and is currently writing her dissertation on the Environmental History of the Bull Run Mountains, when completed she will have a PhD in Environmental Studies. The Indian Pipe Outdoor School has completed the rigorous process of being accredited through ACA (American Camping Association).  This process included meeting all their safety and health requirements and being inspected while in operation by experts in the day camp industry.

A maximum of six vans per day may visit the site; due to safety considerations, the applicant has requested a slight change in the previously approved condition wording to include microbuses.  The microbus is what the local “Circuit Rider” bus uses in Warrenton and what many churches and smaller schools are now utilizing for transportation.  This is in light of new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommendations regarding the use of 15-seat passenger vans.  Typical programs at the school are very small and usually utilize two vans (or if allowed, microbuses) in one day.  The school has been in operation for seven (7) years and has not had any accidents, or concerns from neighbors over traffic use.

The school serves areas within an hour’s drive of the farm in any one direction.  The main clients have been the Minnieland Day Care Centers and week long summer programs for Fauquier County Parks and Recreation.  Other programs have included several local home school organizations.  Programs have been geared toward elementary and school age children. A typical program group would arrive around 9 to10 am, and leave around 2 to 3 pm.  Students bring a bag lunch.  The school has also conducted educational work shops for adults ranging from learning about organic agriculture to planting and harvesting of native medicinal plants.  These programs typically last a few hours with attendance of 20 to 30 participants.

The current buildings consist of a round outdoor gazebo, which is the main gathering area, as well as another smaller square gazebo, there is also an outdoor cooking–serving area.  Permanent structures are restricted to an existing building on the site and one new building that will not to exceed 5,000 square feet, as per the original approved Special Exception conditions.

The proposed use conforms to the provisions of all applicable conditions outlined in Zoning Ordinance Sections 5 (educational use) and 9 (outdoor recreation). The applicant requests that the facility may be in operation 12 months, with the condition that it complies with Fauquier County School inclement weather road advisory. (The currently approved conditions say it shall be operational from April through November).  The applicant also requests overnight camping not exceed three days, conforming to all Health Department requirements.  The applicant also requests a term of ten years before it requires another renewal.


Land Area, Location and Zoning:      

The properties are located at 3526 Fiery Run Road (Route 726).  They are zoned Rural Agricultural (RA) and Rural Conservation (RC).  A map of the property is shown below.




Neighboring Zoning/Land Use: 

The subject properties are zoned RA and RC.  They are bound on all sides by RC and RA property.  PIN 6011-12-8396 is also bound by some Village (V) zoned property and Route 55.


Action Requested of the Board of Supervisors: 

Hold a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached resolution.


Planning Commission Recommendation: 

On November 30, 2006, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on this item and unanimously recommended approval, subject to a series of Special Exception conditions.


Staff Analysis

Staff and the appropriate referral agencies have reviewed this request for conformance with the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning Ordinance, and other relevant policies and regulations.  Findings, comments, and recommendations are summarized below. The actual responses from referral agencies are available upon request.

Zoning Comments

Changes in conditions requested by the applicant are as follows:

1.                   Go from 15-passenger vans to microbuses as part of the six vans allowed to visit the site per day.

2.                   Extend operation from April to November to all year operation, with the condition that it complies with the Fauquier County School inclement weather road advisory.

3.                   Provide for three (3) year administrative renewal.

Modifications and the rationale for such are included as part of the “Statement of Justification” submitted as part of the renewal and amendment.

A new Site Plan is required per Zoning Ordinance Sec. 3-305.5 and 12-201 for the use because a new parcel is being added. Since no new physical changes to the property are proposed, a site plan waiver is likely to be granted (Zoning Ordinance Sec. 12-301).

This use is subject to the following standards in the Zoning Ordinance:

1.                   5-006 General Standards for All Special Exceptions.

2.                   5-501 Standards for All Category 5 Uses.

3.                   5-502 Additional Standards for All Category 5 Uses Other than Pre-School/Day Care Center/Nursery School.

4.                   5-505 Additional Standards for Technical Schools (Outdoor).


The Engineering Department has reviewed the above referenced plan and has the following comment:           

·                    If the second access point is part of this application it should be shown.


The Warrenton Residency staff reviewed the above referenced Special Exception renewal, and has no comments.

Summary and Recommendations:

Staff notes that the applicant has been an exceptional steward of its permit and operated the school for the past seven (7) years without any violations.  Approval of this item is recommended, including its request to extend the term of the Special Exception.  The intent and content of the originally approved Special Exception conditions are not changing; the applicant has only requested minor refinements.

Addition of the new parcel may require a Site Plan Amendment.  The applicant may request a waiver as no physical changes to the property are proposed.  However, once the road location has been determined, a new Site Plan will be required, per Zoning Ordinance Section 3-305.5 and 12-201.

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

1.                  Fauquier County Department of Community Development

2.                  Virginia Department of Health


1.                  Statement of Justification

2.                  Original SE Plat


Back to Agenda...