Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:


 Yuri A. Bart & Edwin Lee Robertson,



May 12, 2005


Staff Lead:


Melissa Dargis, Assistant Chief of Planning



Community Development


Magisterial District:


Cedar Run




7931-25-3530-000 & 7931-25-0088-000



A Resolution to Deny Special Exception  SPEX05-CR-016: A Category 20 Special Exception to Allow for the Construction of  Experimental Drainfields for Two (2) Single-Family Dwellings


Topic Description: 


The applicants wish to obtain Special Exception approval under Category 20, Section 3-320.7, which would allow for a sewage treatment system, disposal and/or water purification system.  This request is for two (adjacent) parcels each proposed to have a 2-bedroom single family dwelling.  Due to limitations of soil conditions at both sites and consultation with the Health Department, the applicant has selected the Aquarobic Filter Bed system.  Since this type of system is not approved by the Health Department, it requires a Special Exception as it is considered an “experimental system”.


Project Update:


On February 17, 2005, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on this item and voted unanimously to forward it to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation of denial.  Staff and Supervisor Graham have also met with the applicant to discuss the project.  However staff and Supervisor Graham and Health Department staff are trying to coordinate a meeting to discuss Aquarobic Filter Bed systems.  At the time of this report, a meeting had not yet been scheduled.  Attachment 5 is an interoffice memo regarding the maintenance and monitoring of experimental systems that was prepared based on conversations with Health Department staff.


Staff Report: 


In February, the applicants provided staff with an amended Statement of Justification and Special Exception Plat to reflect project refinements.  The application requests the Aquarobic Filter Bed Systems for two 2-bedroom houses rather than the previous request of two 3-bedroom houses.  Nokesville Design, PLC has engineered the requested systems.  This proposal now shows that it meets the requirement for a 200% drainfield reserve, per Fauquier County Code.  According to the applicants’ soil scientist, the Aquarobic Filter Bed experimental drainfield system is the only type that will work on the marginal soils located on the two parcels.  Although each of the parcels is ±9 acres, no standard drainfield locations were found.  The applicants have indicated that they seek to construct these two (2) homes for themselves. 


Staff has met with the applicants to work out project refinements and has discussed the engineered design and reduced occupancy with the Health Department.  At the time of preparation of this report, the Health Department had not submitted written comments to County staff.  However, Health Department staff noted that according to the applicants’ engineered design, the proposal now appears to meet its requirements.  The Health Department has provided staff with a copy of the “Commonwealth of Virginia Experimental Protocol for Aquarobic Filter Bed Systems”, dated March 5, 1997.  This document advises Health Department staff on how to process applications for these systems.  This document is available upon request.       


It is important to note that the Health Department only records “conditional permits” on deeds.  A regular permit for standard occupancy (per number of bedrooms) and standard gallons per day (75 gallons per person) is not recorded on a deed.  At this time, the application does not represent a conditional permit request.  However, the Special Exception conditions, per Health Department request, would require a lifetime (of the property) maintenance and monitoring agreement of the entire Aquarobic Filter Bed System.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:


Conduct a public hearing and consider postponement of this item, or adoption of the attached resolution.


Planning Commission Recommendation:


On February 17, 2005, the Planning Commission recommended denial of this item.


Financial Impact Analysis:




Land Area, Location and Zoning:    


The property is located on Shenandoah Path (Route 607) at its intersection with Elk Run Road (Route 806).  It is zoned Rural Agricultural (RA).  A map of the property is shown below.






Neighboring Zoning/Land Use:


The subject property is currently zoned RA and is bound on all sides by RA land.


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 by request.  A summary of comments from the January 2005 Planning Commission staff report are included below.




After reviewing the Special Exception Plat stamped by W. Ross Dickerson, LS, on November 30, 2004, the following comments are made:


1.      This office strongly recommends drainfield site approval by the Fauquier County Health Department Office before issuing a Special Exception permit.




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


1.      One of the requirements for a Category 20 Special Exception is a statement from a certified engineer giving the basic reasons for selecting this site location and certifying that the proposed will meet the performance standards.  This should be provided.

Summary and Recommendations:

On February 17, 2005, the Planning Commission closed the public hearing and voted to forward this item to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation of denial.  Since that time, the applicant has met with staff and Supervisor Graham.  However, no new information has been provided to change the application since it was at the Planning Commission meeting.  In addition, the Health Department has not provided its comments in written format; although staff has had numerous discussions with Health Department staff on this item.  Planning staff also notes that the County Soil Scientist advises that the Special Exception, for an experimental septic system, should not be approved without prior Health Department approval of the drainfield sites.


The applicants have met with staff and worked diligently to meet all of the standards in the Fauquier County Code.  In addition, they have provided an engineered design for the Aquarobic Filter Bed system and reduced the number of bedrooms in each house.  Staff recommends that the Board of Supervisors consider the Planning Commission recommendation on this item or that it consider postponement.  If postponed, staff and Supervisor Graham will have adequate time to coordinate a meeting with Health Department staff regarding the Aquarobic Filter Bed System.    


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

Fauquier County Department of Community Development

Virginia Department of Health





  1. Statement of Justification
  2. Special Exception Plat
  3. Comments from the Fauquier County Soil Scientist
  4. Comments from the Fauquier County Engineering Department
  5. Interoffice memo: Aquarobic Filter Beds