Owner/Applicants:                                            Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Wiltse, STBI-Warrenton, LLC.                                                   August 18, 2003

Academy Hill Developers, LLC.

M. Williams/ Toll Bros., STBI-Warrenton, LLC.

Staff Lead:                                                                                   Department:

Elizabeth A. Cook                                                                Community Development

Magisterial District: Center                                                      PIN:

Service District: Warrenton                                                6994-02-8294-000, 6994-13-8021-000
6984-92-6454-000, 6984-93-2775-000
6984-83-4176-000, 6994-03-2688-000

Topic: An Appeal of the Planning Commission Determination With Respect to the Designation of Open Space for the Warrenton Chase Subdivision, Toll Brothers, Applicant

Topic Description:

The Applicant is seeking approval of a preliminary subdivision plat to divide ± 244.5 acres zoned Residential-1 (R-1) into one hundred fifty (150) single-family residential lots, two non-residential lots, and approximately 125.79 acres (± 51.44%) in open space.  The Applicant has agreed to dedicate a ±3-acre parcel for a future library or other public facility site.  The property is on the north side of Duhollow Road   (Route 672) at its intersection with Frytown Road (Route 674).

The Board of Supervisors has previously approved several Special Exception requests for this proposed development, including a community wastewater treatment facility, which was approved with the limitation that the system is to be owned and operated by the Fauquier County Water and Sanitation Authority.

The proposed clustered development requires the provision of a minimum of 50% open space.  The County’s practice has been that such open space requirements are met by the provision of common open space.  The Applicant has proposed the use of "dedicated" open space to meet approximately half of the open space requirements.  As proposed, this dedicated open space would encompass the 67.6 acres of land upon which the community package treatment plant's mass drainfields are to be located.  The Applicant sought a Planning Commission determination that this dedicated drainfield and reserve area can be used to fulfill the development’s open space requirements.   

Planning Commission Action:

On July 31, 2003 , the Planning Commission made a determination that the 67.6 acres of land upon which the community package treatment plant, including mass drainfields, does not qualify as open space for the following reasons:

1.      Community package treatment plants with mass drainfields are not expressly identified as qualifying for open space under Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance §2-309.1, et seq;

2.      The aforesaid property does not constitute dedicated open space under the Zoning Ordinance as no governmental entity, including but not limited to, Fauquier County, Fauquier County Water and Sanitation Authority, the Town of Warrenton, or any other public agency or body, has accepted or agreed to ownership of the system;

3.      The 67.6 acres constitute more than 50% of the required open space for the subdivision and it is not good planning or policy to permit more than 50% of open space for any subdivision to be land upon which a mass drainfield sewage system is to be established.

The Planning Commission has postponed action on the Preliminary Plat to afford the Applicant time to appeal the Commission's open space determination.  The Applicant has taken that action pursuant to Zoning Ordinance Section 2-406.6, which states: "Any person aggrieved by a decision of the Commission with respect to a cluster subdivision may file an appeal with the Board of Supervisors within thirty (30) days of such decision."

Action Requested of the Board of Supervisors:

Consider adoption of the attached resolution.

Staff Analysis:

The proposed development of 150 residential building lots in a clustered subdivision is required to provide open space equal to but not less than 50% of the developed land area.  It has been the County’s practice that such open space requirements are met by the provision of common open space.  As defined by the Zoning Ordinance, common open space is designed and set aside for use and enjoyment by all residents or occupants of the development or by the residents or occupants of a designated portion of the development.  Common open space represents those areas not to be dedicated as public lands, and remains in the ownership of a homeowners association.

The Warrenton Chase development consists of 244.52 acres.  The Applicant proposes to provide 125.79 acres of open space, or 51.44% of the total development area.  However, less than half (58.8 acres) of the proposed open space is to be designated as common open space.  The balance (67.60 acres) is proposed as “dedicated” open space and includes the proposed mass drainfield and reserve locations.  It should be noted that the Applicant has not accounted for the future library site in its open space calculations, which would add three (3) acres that would be classified as dedicated open space versus common open space.  In addition, another small open area appears to not be included in the open space calculations. 

As defined by the Zoning Ordinance, dedicated open space is that open space within the boundaries of a given lot, which is to be dedicated or conveyed to the County or an appropriate public agency, board or body for public use as open space.  If accepted, such land shall be given full credit in satisfying the open space requirements for a given district.  However, a decision to accept such a dedication is usually predicated on a County need.  Typically, school sites, parks, recreational areas or stream valleys are the types of uses for which dedicated open space is accepted, assuming that such land is suitable in location, size, shape, condition and topography for the proposed purposes.

The Zoning Ordinance Section 2-309.6 further stipulates that the Planning Commission shall have the authority to determine whether or not lands qualify as open space, as well as the authority to determine whether such lands are dedicated open space, common open space or non-common open space.

The Warrenton Chase development proposes to employ a community wastewater treatment system, which will use land application to dispose of treated effluent.  The community drainfields that will be used for this purpose comprise most of the 67.6-acre area that the Applicant has proposed as dedicated open space.  With the original proposal, the homeowners association would have owned these drainfield areas.  The Zoning Administrator has previously determined that the open space used for the common drainfield areas, if owned by the homeowners association, would be credited toward the open space requirements. 

As directed by the Board of Supervisors, the Applicant has agreed to design and implement the system in accordance with WSA standards.  Currently, WSA draft standards for community wastewater systems call for its fee simple ownership of all system facilities, including drainfields and drainfield reserve areas.  The Board has conditioned the approval of the community wastewater treatment system to require the ownership and operation by WSA.  The ownership issue has raised the question of whether or not the application meets the open space requirements.

Unlike most cases involving dedicated open space, the Warrenton Chase proposal is not tied to meeting a particular County need or function.  It does, however, provide more than 67 acres of permanent open space, and it is specifically responsive to community concerns about public ownership of the proposed wastewater treatment system. 

In accordance with the provisions of Section 2-309.6 of the Zoning Ordinance, the Planning Commission is required to determine whether the proposed dedication of open space meets the open space requirements for a clustered subdivision.  On July 31, 2003 , the Planning Commission made a determination that the open space area set aside for the wastewater treatment system does not qualify as dedicated open space for reasons previously cited.

Upon receipt of the Applicant's appeal of the Planning Commission's determination, the Board of Supervisors has two options:

  • Uphold the Planning Commission determination that the proposed dedicated open space shall not be accepted and not be given credit toward satisfying the open space requirements of the proposed development.  If the open space determination is upheld, the Applicant will be providing only 58.18 acres of common open space (less than 24% of the total land area) and will not meet the open space requirements for this proposed development.  By upholding the determination, the Applicant will be required to redesign the subdivision layout and cannot construct the community wastewater system as previously approved by the Board of Supervisors. 
  • Overturn the Planning Commission determination.  Such action would support the Applicant's position that the proposed dedication of open space is responsive to community needs by providing both the permanent retention of open space and addressing concerns about public control of the wastewater treatment system.  As such, it should be accepted by an appropriate public entity and given full credit toward satisfying the open space requirements of the proposed development.  If the dedicated open space is determined to meet the open space requirements, the Applicant will exceed the open space requirements for this clustered subdivision. 


1.      Planning Commission Resolution

2.      Applicant's Response Letter, Exhibit A, Exhibit B

3.      Open Space & Trail Location Exhibit