PUBLIC HEARING AGENDA REQUEST

Owner/Applicant:

Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Donna Andes

 

April 9, 2009

 

Staff Lead:

Melissa Dargis, Assistant Chief of Planning

Department:
Community Development

 

Magisterial District:
Cedar Run

Service District:
None

 

PIN:
6990-88-0850-000

Topic:

A Resolution to Deny #SPEX08-CR-021: Bethel Lighthouse High School (Formerly Midland Extension School) - A Category 5 Special Exception to Allow for a Private Christian High School

 

Topic Description: 

The applicant requests this Special Exception to create Bethel Lighthouse High School, a four-year high school, on a 14-acre parcel.  The school is proposed to be located within existing agricultural buildings (which would be converted, per the building code requirements, for a school use).  The aesthetic of the school would remain agrarian.  The applicant currently has a residence on the site and intends to remain at that location.  The school proposes classrooms such as a science room, music room, library, gym, offices, and a meeting hall.

Project Update:

On March 12, 2009, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on this item.  The item was postponed for thirty (30) days, with the hearing held open, at the request of Supervisor Graham.  Since that time, no new information has been received and the application is the same request that the Supervisors considered during their March meeting.

Background Information:

The Statement of Justification (Attachment 1) states the school will have up to 180 students and 20 teachers/staff.  According to the applicant’s engineer, the site has septic capacity for up to 200 persons.  In the beginning, the enrollment would be about half this number of students and the same for the classroom teachers.  The enrollment is expected to increase about 10% each year.  The school plans to phase its growth and does not anticipate reaching maximum attendance for several years.  School would be open eleven (11) months of the year, providing a year-round education (no school in August).  The applicant has stated a willingness to reduce her maximum student enrollment.

The regular hours of operation will be from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  After school activities and weekend activities may take place for practice of sports, games, arts, performances, and other school related functions.  These would take place after 3:00 p.m. with the functions concluding by 9:00 p.m.  Adding in time to cleanup and lock doors; the school would be vacated by 10:00 p.m.  All lights would be off except any required security lights. The parking lot lights will be downward directed lights.

Peak hours of traffic will be when students are arriving from 8:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. each morning and when students are leaving from 3:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. each afternoon.  The school hopes to service local students from Midland, Bealeton, Remington, Sumerduck, Opal, Catlett, Calverton, and the Warrenton area.

The existing block structured building on the site has been studied by the applicant’s structural engineer.  It is proposed to be extended on the front right side to within 100 feet of the property boundary line.  The existing building is two stories and building additions would also be two stories.

The applicant anticipates that the school, a registered non-profit organization, will have fund- raising events twice per year.  She would also like to have the gym open on Friday nights for the youth in the community so they would have a safe place to meet, with adult supervision.  On weekends, students may meet at the school for Bible studies or other extracurricular activities such as hearing youth speakers, having a young people’s rally, science or singing contests, and times to congregate for prayer.  (It is not clear if these additional uses have been factored into the septic capacity.) 

Bethel Lighthouse High School will be a member of the Association of Christian Schools International and the Virginia Council for Private Education and strictly abide by the governing policies and regulations of each institution.  These include annual fire and safety and health inspections, staff criminal history and Department of Child Protective Service checks, water testing, and staff ratio requirements.

Location, Zoning, and Current Land Use:

The property is located on the northeast side of Germantown Road (Route 649) east of its intersection with Balls Mill Road (Route 663). The address is 5716 Germantown Road, Midland.  It is zoned Rural Agricultural (RA).  The site is currently used for residential and agricultural purposes.   

             

 

Surrounding Zoning and Current Land Use: 

Surrounding parcels are zoned RA to the north, east and south.  The western boundary is zoned Rural Residential District (RR-2). 

 

Staff Review Agency Comments

Staff and 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. Following each comment is a staff note in italics stating how the comment has been addressed.

Planning Division

5-001 Purpose and Intent (excerpt from section)

There are certain uses, which, by their nature, can have an undue impact upon or be incompatible with other uses of land within a given district.  These uses as described may be allowed to locate within certain designated districts under the controls, limitations, and regulations of an administrative permit, special permit, or special exception. 

5-006 General Standards for Special Permits and Special Exception Uses (excerpts from section)

The proposed use shall be such that it will not adversely affect the use or development of neighboring properties.  The proposed use shall be such that pedestrian and vehicular traffic generated will not be hazardous or conflict with the existing and anticipated traffic in the neighborhood and on the streets serving the site.

Staff is concerned that a high school may not be compatible with the surrounding uses in this predominantly rural area.  The scale and intensity of the proposed school and its traffic generation are not appropriate for this location.

Adequate utility, drainage, parking, loading, and other necessary facilities to serve the proposed use shall be provided. 

Adequate sewer and water is required for all Special Exception uses.  It is still not clear whether there is adequate septic capacity on the site based on the information submitted.   However, the applicant would have to expend more funds in order to obtain that information.  That is a financial risk for the applicant; she has been advised to first consider the Planning Commission’s recommendation as well as the input from the public hearing prior to making that decision.

5-501 Standards for All Category 5 Uses

All off-street parking and loading areas, swimming pools and tennis courts and similar facilities shall be effectively screened and shall not be located in any required yard in all Residential and Rural District.

(Applicant will address this standard at Site Plan phase.)

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

1.      No structure used for or in conjunction with the use shall be located within 100 feet of any adjoining property which is in a Residential or Rural District.

(Applicant will address this standard at Site Plan phase.)

2.      The site shall have minimum road frontage, as required for the site's zoning district, on a road designated as a major collector in the Comprehensive Plan, unless the Board of Supervisors or the Board of Zoning Appeals find that the type and amount of traffic generated by the facility is such that it will not cause an undue impact on the neighbors or adversely affect safety of road usage.

The Board of Supervisors can waive the requirement for frontage on a major collector, but only if it finds that the traffic generated will not cause undue impact to the neighbors or affect the safety of road usage. Since Germantown Road (Route 649) is not classified as a major collector in the Comprehensive Plan, the Board must make such a finding in order to approve this application. The applicant indicates there will be 252 vehicle trips in the AM peak and 252 vehicle trips in the PM peak which would result in 504 daily trips to the school.  The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has noted that the ITE Manual indicates 446 daily trips for a 180 student private school with 142 trips during the AM peak.  Germantown Road currently has approximately 550 vehicle trips per day.  The 446 trips indicated by the ITE Manual would represent an 81% increase in traffic at full capacity.  The Statement of Justification estimates approximately 90 students when the school opens, which would represent 223 vehicle trips based on the ITE Manual.  That would be a 40% increase in traffic on Route 649 (Germantown Road) when the school opens.  At full capacity, the amount of traffic generated by this school on this rural road is a significant increase. 

The proposed school location is almost 2 miles from the intersection of Route 649 (Germantown Road) with Route 28, the closest rural minor arterial.  This will pose a challenge for young drivers traversing the rural local road. Route 649 does not have a designated speed limit and thus, is 55 mph. 

The applicant has indicated to staff that VDOT will allow her to use the public parking area (commuter lot) in Midland for the students to pool rides to the school.  It is located on Route 28, near Old Carolina Road, and is about 2¼ miles from the proposed school.  The applicant is seeking to obtain a similar agreement from a church near Warrenton to use their parking lot to pool rides as well. 

3.      All off-street parking and loading spaces, swimming pools and tennis courts and similar facilities shall be effectively screened and shall not be located in any required yard in all Residential and Rural Districts.

(Applicant will address this standard at Site Plan phase.)

5-504 Additional Standards for Primary School, Secondary/Advanced

Schools and Technical Schools (Indoor)

1.      In addition to complying with the minimum lot size requirements of the zoning district in which located, the minimum lot area for a private school of general education shall be of such size that:

A.    200 square feet of usable outdoor recreation area shall be provided for each child in grades kindergarten through three (3) that may use the space at any one time, and

B.     430 square feet of usable outdoor recreation area shall be provided for each child in grades four (4) through twelve (12) that may use the space at any one time. Such usable outdoor recreation shall be delineated on a plat submitted at the time the application is filed. For the purpose of this provision, usable outdoor recreation area shall be limited in the same manner as paragraph 503.1.

 (The proposed new recreation area is 79,200 square feet in size so it could accommodate all 180 students at once, although it is unlikely that they would all recreate at the same time).

2.      All outdoor recreation areas shall be fully fenced.

(Comment for Site Plan phase.)

3.      The following standards shall apply to primary and secondary/advanced schools in residential zoning districts:

A.    Minimum lot size shall be 5 acres.

(The project site is 14 acres.)

B.     All exterior lighting shall be designed and installed so that all direct rays are confined to the site and adjacent properties are protected from glare

(Special Exception conditions have been drafted to this effect.)

Zoning Office

  1. The following Zoning Ordinance standards are applicable:

a.       5-006 General Standards;

b.      5-501 Standards for All Category 5 Uses;

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

d.      5-504 Additional Standards for Primary School, Secondary/Advanced Schools, and Technical Schools (Indoor).

Zoning Staff defers to Planning Staff the assessment of standard compliance. However, it is noted that Paragraph 2 of Section 5-502 requires that road frontage shall be provided on a major collector, unless the Board finds that the type and amount of traffic generated by the facility is such that it will not cause an undue impact on the neighbors or adversely affect safety of road usage. Since Germantown Road is not classified as a major collector in the Comprehensive Plan, then the Board must make this finding when considering this specific application.

 (See earlier Planning Division staff analysis.)

  1. A total of 76 parking spaces are proposed, which satisfies the 43 parking spaces required based on a maximum enrollment of 180 students, of which only half would be eligible to drive, and a professional staff of approximately 20 persons. However, staff recommends considering a reduction in the overall number of parking spaces, or possibly relocating the spaces that are located in the drive circle, since the design of this feature and the adjacent drop-off location could present visibility and safety issues for vehicles backing out of the 19 spaces in this area.

Information for the applicant.

  1. One loading space will be required pursuant to Section 7-200 of the Zoning Ordinance, and should be indicated on the Special Exception (SE) plan.

The applicant’s representative contends that one of the three parking spaces labeled “pick up and drop off” is for this purpose.

  1. There is no sidewalk or other proposed means of pedestrian access to the school for visitors that are parking in the 10 spaces located off the main entrance drive.

Information for the applicant for Site Plan phase.

  1. The finished height of the facility should be included on the SE plan to demonstrate that it meets the maximum height requirement of 35 feet for the RA District.

This is a Zoning Ordinance requirement; however, it has been added as a Special Exception condition.

  1. Site plan approval is required for the project, which will require conformance with all landscaping, buffering, and lighting requirements, as well as any other applicable standards such as those for signage. However, the following items are noted:

·         The applicant is proposing parking lot lighting and it would be beneficial to include the general locations of these fixtures on the SE plan.

·         The drive circle area and any parking in this area will require additional screening from Germantown Road.

·         Depending on the height and detail of the fencing proposed to enclose the recreation area, additional screening may be required, especially along the western property line.

Information for the applicant for Site Plan phase; these items are not required for the Special Exception phase.  Special Exception conditions have been drafted to address appropriate types of lighting.

Technical Division

The Technical Division has reviewed the plans for the above referenced project Special Exception (Category 5) for educational use dated October 29, 2008, and has the following comments: 

Soils

Code Compliance

Wells shall not be placed in ground swale areas or floodplains (Fauquier County Code 19-11).

Information for the applicant for Site Plan phase, but has implications for the overall Concept Development Plan.

Findings:

The Level 2 evaluation of the drainfields should be completed as soon as possible.  The drainfields are a major limitation to the proposed land use and any changes to the dainfields could have major impacts on the Concept Development Plan and the Site Plan.

Important information for the applicant:  Staff is concerned that this application may not be possible as currently conceived once further soil information is available.

Future Actions:

The drainfields will have to receive a Level 2 evaluation by the Fauquier County Office of the Virginia Department of Health and the Fauquier County Soil Scientist’s Office prior to approval of the site plan.

Information required for Site Plan phase.

Erosion & Sediment Control

No comments.

Engineering

Future Actions: (Shall be addressed on the final site plan)

1.      A stormwater management plan prepared by a professional in adherence to all minimum standards and requirements pertaining to the practice shall be required with the site plan in accordance with the Northern Virginia BMP Handbook.  Water quality measures shall provide a minimum of 80% site coverage and 40% phosphorus removal using the Occoquan Method. (Fauquier County Design Standards Manual (FCDSM) 201.8 #1.A.2, 203.2 #2, 204.2 #2, and A204.2.2)

Information for the applicant for Site Plan phase.

2.      Where hydric soils have been identified by the soil report within the project site, a jurisdictional determination by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be required with the site plan.  The applicant shall assure that all applicable environmental permits have been acquired for the project prior to approval of the final plan. (FCDSM 201.8 #4)

Information for the applicant for Site Plan phase.

3.      All receiving channels shall be checked for adequacy in accordance with the Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook Minimum Standard #19.  All culverts are to be designed to convey the 10-year storm event. (FCDSM 201.8 #3)

Information for the applicant for Site Plan phase.

VDOT

The Warrenton Residency staff reviewed the above referenced special exception plan dated October 26, 2008, and has the following comments:

  1. Location that sight distance was measured from still does not appear to be in conformance with the Road Design Manual Section B-3 (D3).  Line of sight should be measured 4 feet from the centerline of the entrance and 20 feet from the middle of the nearest travel lane.

The applicant will have to make modifications to the plat to meet VDOT requirements for site distance.  The application should not proceed until this issue is resolved.

  1. Any areas where the line of sight is outside of the right-of-way will need to be in a sight distance easement including areas along their property.  This can be determined at site plan because there will likely need to be additional right-of-way dedicated for the construction of the turn lane.

Comment for Site Plan phase.

  1. The traffic note on sheet 3 is indicating 252 vehicle trips in the AM peak and 252 vehicle trips in the PM peak which would result in 504 daily trips to the school; however, some of the numbers do not appear to add up.  The ITE Manual indicates 446 daily trips for a 180 student private school with 142 trips during the AM peak.  The 504 trips indicated by the applicant would represent a 91.6% increase to the 550 trips on Route 649.  The 446 trips indicated by the ITE Manual would represent an 81% increase in traffic at full capacity.  The Statement of Justification is indicating approximately 90 students when the school opens which would represent 223 vehicle trips based on the ITE Manual.  That would represent a 40.5% increase in traffic when the school opens.

The applicant should resubmit its calculations with corrections. In addition, it appears that the increase to traffic on Germantown Road is significant as it is potentially an 80 to 90% increase when the school is at full capacity.  The applicant is in the process of obtaining permission for park and ride arrangements so that the majority of students would carpool from those locations.    

Board of Supervisors Summary and Action of March 12, 2009:

The Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on this item.  The application was postponed for thirty (30) days, at the request of Supervisor Graham, and the hearing was continued.  Members of the public spoke at the hearing: 2 were opposed and 4 were in favor of the application.

Planning Commission Summary and Action of January 29, 2009:

The Planning Commission discussed this item at its work session.  A public hearing was held at which two members of the public spoke against the project and four members spoke in favor of Christian education.  Commissioners agreed the use was not appropriate at this particular location and unanimously recommended denial.  However, the Commission did refine previously drafted Special Exception conditions in order to provide the Board of Supervisors with conditions, should the Board be inclined to approve this application.

Planning Commission Summary and Action of December 10, 2008:

The Planning Commission discussed this item at its work session.  Issues discussed included:  traffic, whether this was an appropriate location for a high school, reducing the size of the school, and septic capacity, including the requirement for an additional Special Exception if the system capacity is 1,000 gallons per day (gpd) or more.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on this item.  Eight members of the public spoke, including the applicant.  Several speakers were not County residents.  Concerns were voiced regarding traffic, privacy for adjacent neighbors and the site not being the right location for a school.  The public hearing was postponed until January 29, 2009.

Planning Commission Summary and Action of May 29, 2008:

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on this item.  Several members of the public spoke at the hearing.  Some members of the public voiced concern regarding an adequate septic and water supply, and traffic concerns.  The applicant requested a postponement in order to conduct technical studies and provide additional information to address the public concerns and referral agency comments.

Summary and Recommendation:

A fundamental question to be considered with this application is whether the proposed high school is an appropriate use in this rural location (Zoning Ordinance 5-006). 

As highlighted in the staff analysis, this site is far from collector or arterial roads.  Germantown Road is not classified as a major collector in the Comprehensive Plan.  The requested use requires road frontage on a major collector, unless the Board of Supervisors finds that the type and amount of traffic generated by the facility is such that it will not cause an undue impact on the neighbors or adversely affect safety of road usage.  The proposal will increase the traffic on Germantown Road by approximately 80 – 90%.  The proposed location is almost 2 miles from Route 28, the closest road eligible for a Category 5 Special Exception.  In addition, Germantown Road does not have a posted speed limit, thus it is 55 mph.

The applicant is willing to consider a condition to require some level of carpooling for the students to reduce traffic to the site.  She has identified a commuter lot on Route 28 (near Old Carolina Road) that is approximately 2¼ miles from the site.  She is also looking into using a church parking lot to carpool students from the Warrenton area.  At this time it is not clear how this would be enforced or whether school vans or buses would be utilized.

Referral agencies have reviewed the revised submittal and indicated that there is still risk associated with the proposed use at this location due to the soils.  It is recommended that the applicant obtain the additional technical information to verify soil suitability.  The applicant will need to include after school and weekend uses in the analysis.  It should be noted that this additional technical information, while not required at the Special Exception phase, would address concerns raised by the County soil scientist.  It is required for the Site Plan phase. 

In particular, the drainfields are a major limitation to the proposed land use and any changes to the drainfields could have a major impact on the concept development plan and the site plan.  The County soil scientist recommends that the Level 2 evaluation of the drainfields be completed as soon as possible.  Due to the cost of this study, the applicant was advised to first consider the Planning Commission recommendation, Board of Supervisors’ input, as well as the input from the public hearing prior to commissioning the study.  A Category 20 Special Exception would also be required if the septic system uses 1,000 gpd or more (i.e., 1000 gpd equates to 100 total people or more on this particular site).

Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

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

 

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

Department of Community Development

Department of Parks and Recreation

ATTACHMENTS:

1.         Statement of Justification Dated October 29, 2008

2.         AOSE Drainfield Letter

3.         Preliminary Engineering Report Letter Dated September 30, 2008

4.         Special Exception Plat Dated October 26, 2008

5.         Proposed Building Layout

 

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