Albemarle County Planning Commission

July 18, 2006


The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and a public hearing on Tuesday, July 18, 2006, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Room 241, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Members attending were Bill Edgerton, Eric Strucko, Calvin Morris, Vice-Chairman; Pete Craddock, Jo Higgins, Jon Cannon and Marcia Joseph, Chairman. Julia Monteith, Senior Land Use Planner for the University of Virginia, representative for David J. Neuman, FAIA, Architect of University of Virginia was absent. 


Other officials present were David Benish, Chief of Planning; Elaine Echols, Principal Planner; Joan McDowell, Principal Planner; Claudette Grant, Senior Planner; Sean Dougherty, Senior Planner; Amy Arnold, Planner and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney.


Call to Order and Establish Quorum:


Ms. Joseph called the regular meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. and established a quorum.


Other Matters Not Listed on the Agenda from the Public:


Ms. Joseph invited comment from the public on other matters not listed on the agenda. There being none, the meeting moved on to the next item.


Review of Board of Supervisors Meeting – July 12, 2006.


Mr. Benish summarized the actions taken by the Board of Supervisors on July 12, 2006.


            Consent Agenda:


a.    Approval of Planning Commission Minutes – May 30, 2006.


b.    ZMA 2004-002 Cascadia – Request Waiver of Section 4.15.11 of the Zoning Ordinance in conjunction with requested NMD Neighborhood Model District.  (Sean Dougherty)


Ms. Joseph asked if any Commissioner would like to pull an item from the consent agenda for discussion. She asked that ZMA-2004-002, Cascadia be pulled for a short discussion on the signs.  She pointed out that her concern was that this was sort of open ended.  It was for a 24 square foot sign pretty much anywhere on the site as close as it can get to the property.   In addition, they have already approved off-site signs.  It just seems that there is not a real sign package that had been submitted for this.  If they are thinking about things like the downtown mall, the downtown mall allows a 10’ projecting sign.  There is nothing in the Neighborhood Model sign allowances. For something like this it just seemed too open ended without any real specificity in to what exactly it is that they were hoping to achieve by just getting rid of that setback.  Therefore, she could not support this request.  It is just too big and too close and too many.  There will be both on site and off site signs.  Unless the applicant is willing to come back with some sort of comprehensive sign package she cannot support the request. 


Ms. Higgins asked if she understood the waiver in that all of the standards apply except for they were talking about measuring to the property line that the closest point was 5’. 


Mr. Dougherty replied that it would be measured 5’ to the edge of the right-of-way.


Ms. Higgins noted that was the only thing that they were waiving. All of the others are according to the existing ordinance.


Mr. Dougherty noted that there were a couple of other things associated with signs.  But, in terms of Section 4.15.11 it is just the dimension and not anything else.  


Ms. Higgins noted that it was only in regard that when locating the property line that the closest point was 5’.  But, sometimes the sign has to be further because the site distance or whatever.


Mr. Dougherty said what is generating this is the areas where they plan to have more of neo-traditional development where the buildings would be very close to the street that there will not be a lot of room for placing these signs 5’ from the right-of-way.  It is going to be in a setting where things are very tight and not in a suburban setting, which is what the sign standards really govern.  He did not disagreed with Ms. Joseph at all.  The size is not something that staff really discussed.  But, the applicant did say that they did not want to put together a full signage package.  They just wanted a waiver of the three things that are listed on page 24 for the Code of Development.


Ms. Joseph said that it seems that the Commission was dealing with a pedestrian setting and the buildings are so close to the street that she did not know why the applicant would need a freestanding sign right on the property line.  She worried that a lot of cluttering was going to be happening right on the property line.


Mr. Dougherty noted that this also governs the sign that would project out or be hung out on a chandelier or somehow held up.  That would technically be considered in the right-of-way in some places. But, what the Code says is that it needs to be 7’ above where someone would walk and then it would be okay. 


Ms. Joseph felt that sounds reasonable.  But, it was the freestanding signs that she was having problems with.


Mr. Dougherty said that he understands her concern.  In the places that this was going to be happening was in the non-residential area where they have got the tight sidewalks and those sorts of things.   He felt that partially that would be governed by the constraints, but there is a chance that the applicant will want to put the largest sign possible between the sidewalk and the building.  If that were the case some of these might be a little out of scale. 


Mr. Edgerton asked if there was a way to tighten it up.


Ms. Higgins asked if what they were saying was that to get closer than 5’ they would have to decrease the size of the sign.


Ms. Joseph replied that was not necessarily the case. It just seems as if they were putting the buildings forward and putting the signs forward.  Then they would have everything in their face going down the roadway.  The whole idea with the 5’ setback is that the building is setback 30’ so that there would be some space in between it.  It just seems that it is just opening up something that she could not support.


Ms. Higgins said that if she understands some of the sections the Commission is talking about. They are talking about a 6’ planting strip between the sidewalk and the back of the curve.  If they have a 5’ setback to a sign, and the applicant’s intention is to put the sign between the sidewalk and the road, then there is only 1’ left. 


Mr. Dougherty said that with these the right-of-way would end behind the sidewalk.  So putting in a planting strip on a public street would not even be an option.


Ms. Higgins asked if that would never happen.


Mr. Dougherty replied not on a public street.  It would have to be a sign in the right-of-way.


Ms. Higgins noted that was a different issue than this one.  So then they were talking about 0 to 5’ back from the sidewalk, which was separated by the planting strip and the sidewalk. So they were already further back than a typical sign is under the ordinance now. 


Mr. Dougherty said no, if they have a sidewalk in another development and it was the right-of-way where a public street has a sidewalk on it that it would be from that.  That could apply to anything. 


Ms. Higgins said that she did not have a problem with it because if they measure from the back of the curve, which was where the right-of-way was in a lot of cases, it was 5’ back.  Now they are talking about a 6’ planting strip, a 4’ to 5’ sidewalk and then 0 from that.  She took it as just some flexibility to work with the frontages of the building.


Mr. Cannon asked if staff would expect a waiver like this in a development of this kind.


Mr. Dougherty replied yes, that any place where they were going to have more neo-traditional approach with on street parking and a 5’ to 8’ sidewalk beyond a 6’ planting strip where they have got shop fronts that line up to what feels more like a street than a travel way or parking lot, then if they want to put any kind of signage in there, even projecting out over the building like a key sign, the Commission would have to waive this section.


Ms. Higgins said since they pulled this from the consent agenda was the applicant going to be asked if anyone wants to bring any pertinent issues forward.


Mr. Dougherty said that he was not sure if the applicant was present.  He notified the applicant late in the day that it was going to be pulled from the consent agenda.


Ms. Echols noted that the reason why this came is because of the Cascadia public hearing and all of the waivers that they were talking about.  Staff did not realize that this was going to be as controversial potentially as it is. Staff thought this was something that the Commission would be looking at as a general consent agenda item. She did not think that the applicant was really alerted to the fact that this could be problematic.  She felt that if the applicant had gotten all of the messages and knew how important it was that he would have been here tonight.  She apologized that staff did not get the applicant here.  They just did not realize that it was that critical.


Mr. Craddock asked if it was pretty much opening ended as far as the number of these types of signs.


Mr. Dougherty pointed out that the second page of the staff report talks about the number of signs and how it applies to the frontage and things like that.  In a situation like Cascadia the frontage would just be literally street frontage.  It might only be 20’.  So with respect to that, for instance, the wall signs would be limited to one square foot per frontage actually on the building.  But, the other ones that would potentially be out in the front of the building or projecting out over as in a key sign or some other sign that hung out over the building those would just be governed by the existing standards in the ordinance, which would be one per establishment.


Ms. Joseph noted that every 100’ they could have a freestanding sign.


Mr. Dougherty agreed that the applicant could have 1 sign per establishment.


Mr. Edgerton pointed out that it would be reviewed by VDOT and the County Engineer.


Mr. Dougherty felt that the intent of the applicant was to not to do what is sort of the worse feared because they want to develop a high quality area in those areas.  There is an illustration in the Code that shows how they plan to treat the sidewalk, the planting strip and the store frontages.  He understands the concern and supposed that in the worse case scenario it could be really bad.  But, he did not think that was the applicant’s intention.


Ms. Higgins said that the Commission was not waiving anything but the setback. She asked if all of the other rules apply. 


Mr. Morris asked if staff feels comfortable with that caveat that it must be approved by VDOT and engineering.


Mr. Dougherty replied that he did. He understands Ms. Joseph’s concern, but felt that just because there will be such a constraint on space between where the right-of-way ends and where the building begins that the applicant will come up with a creative solution.  In the context that they were not trying to announce their business from miles away he felt that they will figure out an appropriate solution.  If not, then VDOT and the County Engineer would have an opportunity to look at it.  But, that would not really be something that would call into play aesthetics.  It would just call into play safety.


Ms. Joseph said that they were making an assumption that this developer is going to own this property forever, and that is not what is going to happen.  She asked if the applicant was here.


Ms. Higgins said that the applicant was not present.


Motion:   Ms. Higgins moved, Mr. Morris seconded, to approve the waiver request of Section 4.15.11 of the Zoning Ordinance regarding the 5’ setback for ZMA-2004-002, Cascadia.


The motion passed by a vote of 6:1.  (Commissioner Joseph voted nay.) 


At the request of the recording secretary, the Commission deferred action on the consent agenda for the approval of the minutes for May 30, 2006.


Return to executive summary