Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Arlington Outdoor Education Association


June 14, 2007


Staff Lead:
Melissa Dargis, Assistant Chief of Planning

Community Development


Magisterial District:
Scott District




A Resolution to Approve Arlington Outdoor Education Association SPEX07-SC-012: A Special Exception Request to Allow for the Indoor/Outdoor Technical School and Expansion of the Learning Lab


Topic Description: 

The applicant seeks to expand the learning lab at its 194 acre indoor/outdoor technical school site.  The Arlington Outdoor Education Association (AOEA) has been in existence since 1967, prior to the Zoning Ordinance.  Its primary purpose is to provide school children, who live in Arlington, an opportunity to learn science, outdoor skills, arts, and humanities.  Staff notes that the proposed building expansion and use require Special Exception approval.  The applicant indicates there are no changes to the number of participants or type of activities that have historically occurred.

Project Background:

The primary activities that takes place at the Arlington Outdoor Education Association (AOEA) are daily science programs for outdoor nature exploration.  The AOEA is a non-profit volunteer organization.  Membership fees and donations help fund maintenance of the site.  Costs associated with educational programs are funded by Arlington County Public Schools.  The AOEA is responsible for maintaining the site and provides “camperships” to needy students who otherwise could not afford the fees.

The facility is used primarily for Arlington County Public School children.  The day generally starts with in the learning lab (building) with an orientation and some demonstrations before going outside.  During inclement weather the children have to stay within the building, thus, the need for additional interior space.

The site improvements associated with the Learning Lab expansion include provision of an ADA accessible parking space adjacent to the building.  The increase in the building represents a 22% increase in size from the current 3,565 square feet to 4,571 square feet.

Programs are offered every school day during the year from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  The number of participants ranges from twenty (20) to sixty (60) students and six (6) to twenty (20) adults (AOEA staff, teachers, and parents).

The AOEA also offers accessory activities that include an overnight science program for Arlington County School children during the school year and in the summer months.  These activities are two (2) days and one (1) overnight during the school year and five (5) days and four (4) overnights during the summer.  The frequency is approximately twenty-five (25) times during the school year and three (3) events during the summer.  In addition, some groups such as scouts, arrange for overnight camping.  There are also a few community open houses each year, scheduled on weekend days.  The open houses typically have about 150 guests and eight (8) AOEA staff.

School children are transported to the site by school bus.  Parents, instructors or other visitors may also attend.  The overall estimate of total daily trips is no more than thirty (30) trips per day.


Land Area, Location and Zoning:  

The property is located at the eastern end of Biscuit Mountain Road (Route 792).  It is zoned Rural Agricultural (RA) and Rural Conservation (RC).  A map of the property is shown below.



Neighboring Zoning/Land Use:

The subject property is currently zoned RA and RC and is in VOF easement.  It is bounded on the north, south and west by RC zoned property; and to the east by RA property.


Action Requested of the Board of Supervisors:

Consider adoption of the attached resolution.


Planning Commission Recommendation:

On May 31, 2007, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of this item to the Board of Supervisors, subject to a series of Special Exception conditions.


 Summary and Recommendations:

Staff asks the Board of Supervisors to consider the Planning Commission’s recommendation of approval for this application.  In addition, the applicant has also agreed to place construction signage and utilize flagmen, on Biscuit Mountain Road, as appropriate, during construction of the addition to the learning lab.

Staff has heard positive comments from adjacent property owners regarding the operation of this facility.  For additional information on the AOEA please visit its webpage


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

Department of Community Development
Virginia Department of Health


1. Statement of Justification

2. Special Exception Plat


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