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Town Planning Commission Approves Sprawl
On Tuesday the Town Planning Commission
approved a 30-lot subdivision on property called
Redwood Lakes, the first phase of what is
expected to be a 250-house subdivision on the
south side of Route 522 on the western edge of
This potential density of 250 houses had been
limited to about 140 houses prior to May when
the Town Council adopted a new
pro-development watershed ordinance. Much of
the subdivision is planned to be built in the
town's Watershed Overlay District.
Also on Tuesday, the commission approved a
site plan for the planned new middle school and
school administration offices at the Floyd T.
Binns site, and approved -- contingent upon the
Board of Zoning Appeals granting a waiver of
height restrictions -- an addition to Culpeper
Regional Hospital. (Granting approval prior to
such a waiver being obtained is a new policy, and
much discussion preceded it.)
The commission also discussed proposed
changes to the town's Subdivision Ordinance and
Facilities Standards Manual, and decided to
advertise the new versions for public hearing
Aug. 15, although alterations may still be made
before or even after that date.
Prior to addressing the first item on its
regular agenda, the commissioners consulted with
Angela Barlow, assistant to Town Attorney Bob
Yeaman, on the question of whether they can and
should approve site plans subject to the
applicants' obtaining zoning variances from the
Board of Zoning Appeals.
Barlow said her interpretation of a number of
court rulings suggested this was probably legal.
She warned that the policy should be consistent.
"Don't approve a permit subject to a variance and
next week not approve one subject to a variance."
Chairman Win Carithers brought up the
concerns that moving ahead might be seen as
putting pressure on the BZA to approve a zoning
variance, and that someone might spend a lot of
money on a site plan and then not get a needed
Town Councilman Jeff Burke, who sits on the
commission as well, said rather than a policy
statement, he would like to see the town's staff
explain to applicants up front what steps they
need to follow. Commissioner Joe Copp-edge
made a motion, which was approved, to write the
town manager a letter asking that staff inform
people that zoning variances need to be taken
care of before seeking approval from the
Nonetheless, the commission's actions later in
the meeting declared that exceptions to this
policy will now be made.
Written comments from the town's staff on
the proposed phase 1 of what may be the last
development of its size in the town of Culpeper
included this: "Add note, 'The developer agrees
to install and pay all costs associated with
installing a traffic signal at the intersection of
Redwood Parkway and Sperryville Pike at such
time as a signal-warrant study conducted by the
town of Culpeper warrants a signal at that
Town Engineer Chuck Stephenson said the
developer has given this commitment, but that
another developer along Route 522 (Sperryville
Pike) has as well, and that he expects the town to
request at most one traffic signal in that area.
Stephenson said the 250 houses could be
expected to generate approximately 2,500 car
trips per day in and out of the development.
Coppedge pointed out that the plan already calls
for widening Route 522 and adding turn lanes as
part of phase 1.
Written staff comments also included:
"Provide concrete sidewalk along Sperryville
Pike to property limits." Town Zoning
Administrator Maxie Davis said sidewalks would
be built on that road and on Redwood Parkway.
(The latter is the main road in the subdivision as
indicated on plans. Its name, Coppage said, has
been changed to Virginia Avenue because it will
eventually form a loop with the existing Virginia
Davis said VDOT had approved the plans with
reduced road widths (24 feet for the main road
and 20 feet for others). Davis said this was a way
of using less pavement in the town's Watershed
She also said the developer, F&M Bank, had
deeded a 12,600-square-foot recreation area to
the town, and that in addition to the sidewalks,
paths would be built in later phases of the
On a motion by Nancy Broman, the
commission voted unanimously -- with Coppedge
abstaining -- to approve the plan, with the
stipulation that the staff's comments be
Floyd T. Binns
A conditional-use permit was approved last
September for a new middle school and
administration offices. On Tuesday the
commission unanimously approved the site plan.
Jack Ellinwood of Engineer-ing Concepts Inc.
answered questions about a trail included in the
plan. The town staff's written comments
included: "Provide record document dedicating
public trail easement and Grandview Avenue
The trail, Ellinwood said, "would be fully
open to the public and connect to the future bike
trail on [Route] 229, and to the dirt trail that
connects to the [Hidden Fields] subdivision
behind the site."
Coppedge asked that a public easement be
created now to include that dirt trail and connect
to the subdivision. Ellin-wood said he believed
the school administration "would find that
"I move," said Coppedge, "we approve the
plan conditional upon the applicant meeting the
requirements set forth in the staff report, plus
curb and gutter along Grandview Avenue and the
public sidewalk easement be extended to the
subdivision." The motion carried by unanimous
Ambulatory surgery unit
Culpeper Regional Hospital requested
approval to construct a 33,724-square-foot
ambulatory surgery unit as an addition to the
hospital. Coppedge suggested a new
conditional-use permit might be needed if the
number of beds in the hospital were to exceed
Lou Hudson, facilities director for the
hospital, explained the new money-making
philosophy of hospitals in the 21st century. He
predicted that the number of beds would drop
over the next 10 to 15 years to something less
than its current number (70).
"We're moving more to ambulatory," he said,
which means what it sounds like -- people walk
into the hospital, have surgery done on them, and
walk back out.
The current use permit will be sufficient, and
recently approved parking expansion is more
than what is required. However, the addition's
height exceeds the 35-foot limit of the zoning.
Staff's written comments state: "Building
additions must comply with this requirement or
obtain a variance from the Joint Board of Zoning
Appeals. Site plan may be approved subject to
obtaining a variance."
Broman moved that this be done, and the
motion passed unanimously. The BZA is
scheduled to hear the matter Aug. 17. Hudson
said he expects to have bids on the work by Aug.
9 and to break ground in mid-October.
Amendments to Subdivision Ordinance and
Facilities Standards Manual
Various members of the commission asked
questions and registered complaints with details
of the proposed new versions of the Subdivision
Ordinance and the Facilities Standards Manual.
All agreed that the most important matter to
be looked into was a paragraph near the
beginning of the FSM stating that an applicant
can request a waiver of requirements in the
Barlow said there might be problems with
this. For example, if the Subdivision Ordi-nance
referred to the FSM, then waiving something in
the latter would mean waiving something in the
former. Carithers asked that she look into it
Another altered section that created some
debate was one related to requiring residents to
hook up to town water and sewer lines, an issue
recently raised by County Supervisor Carolyn
Smith with regard to her house in town.
Coppedge interpreted the new section as
requiring the resident to pay for upgrading the
town's services when they are insufficient.
Carithers read it as allowing the resident to
simply not hook up.
Burke objected to some wording that would
allow the town to vacate plats by town ordinance.
"This seems to be very involuntary," he said.
Barlow said state law gives the town that power
whether or not the ordinance states it.
Burke made a motion to strike the relevant
sentences, but it failed. Carithers said he
preferred to leave it up to Town Council.
Meeting with County
County Planning Director John Egertson
wrote to Town Planner John Lassiter July 17 in
response to a July 10 letter from him about the
two planning commissions meeting.