Special Use Permit Requests Presented at March CCAC

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The Crozet Community Advisory Committee met March 11.

At its March 11 meeting, the Crozet Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) heard from two Crozet citizens who will be requesting special use permits from the county to comply with zoning ordinances. The first, from Christy Gillette, was a request for increased enrollment capacity at the Little Explorers Discovery School, a preschool that she owns and runs, housed in Crozet Baptist Church on St. George Avenue. Gillette was granted a special use permit to establish the school in 2018, as early childhood education centers are consistent with the Crozet Master Plan future land use recommendations for neighborhood residential areas.

After a successful launch in January 2019, the school reached its allowed capacity (25 students) within six months and now has a waitlist of 29 families. “Clearly there’s still a need for childcare in the Crozet area,” said Gillette. “The church has the space [for expansion] and we’re hoping to use it.” A large basement room could host 30 school-age children or 20 preschoolers and would allow the school to be open on Mondays as well.

Gillette acknowledged that at her original 2018 presentation neighbors were concerned about potential excess noise from the children playing outside. But a buffer around the outdoor space and a rotating schedule for playtime has minimized any problems, she said, and she’s had no complaints. “We reached out to the neighbors to ask about this new expansion and there seem to be no concerns with this plan either,” she said.

To alleviate the impact of the expansion on traffic on St. George Avenue and to prevent any backups onto the street at drop-off time, the school plans to change the drop-off procedure to one where parents would park and walk their children inside. They would continue a staggered pick-up in the afternoon. Gillette also noted a few other services that may bring increased traffic with the expansion, including a Parents’ Night Out, Summer Camp, and other special events, but said that the 60 parking spaces at the church should be plenty to handle those events.

The second special use permit case was presented by Lori Schweller, a Williams Mullen attorney who represents Verizon Wireless in a request to place a 116-foot Tier III Personal Wireless Service Facility (i.e., cell tower) on a property on Wild Turkey Lane just south of Rt. 250 and east of the Foxchase development. Though the tower meets the definition of a Tier II (or “treetop”) tower, which would not require a special use permit, this one is visible from Rt. 250, which is designated as a Virginia Scenic Byway, which is classified as an “avoidance area,” thus upping the tower to a Tier III classification subject to a review and permit.

There are already two wireless facilities on the property, both painted Sherwin Williams Java Brown, and the new monopole will be used by Verizon to provide wireless service. By regulation, the height of the pole is limited to ten feet taller than the height of a nearby reference tree, so that it blends in with the surroundings, and there would be one antenna array on the pole at an 18” standoff, which is called “flush-mounted.” 

Verizon conducted a balloon test on January 16, raising a large red balloon to the height of the proposed tower, and the balloon was visible only from the Foxchase development, northwest of the site. Several nearby neighbors asked why residents weren’t notified about the balloon test, and Schweller said that notification is not required and Verizon didn’t know the tower would be a Tier III facility until after the test. Ann Mallek, White Hall representative to the Board of Supervisors, noted that she was present by 8:20 a.m. on the morning that the balloon was raised at 8 a.m., and it was already down by the time she arrived. County staff will follow up with Verizon to see if a second balloon test can be done to allow the neighbors to judge the projected visibility of the tower.

One CCAC member asked if this tower would bring 5G to the area, but Schweller said that this service would be state-of-the-art 4G, and that 5G is being rolled out first in urban areas such as Virginia Beach and Richmond. A tower of this type and height should have a service area of about two miles.

The property owner, Bob Cross, also spoke at the meeting, noting that he’s had the other two poles on his property for 10 or 12 years now. “With the last pole, I’ve had only two complaints,” he said. “One was that it was some number of feet too high, and the other is that it wasn’t painted properly. I addressed those with the tower owners, and they were both resolved right away.” 

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