By Sean Tubbs
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Albemarle County Planning Commission
has recommended approval of a special use permit (SUP) that would allow the Senior Center to relocate into the Four Seasons neighborhood. The non-profit organization would move from Pepsi Place to a building owned by ACAC that is currently rented to the private Charlottesville Day School (CDS). That institution received an SUP in March 2007 allowing it to enroll up to 250 children.
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However, now the owner of ACAC is considering selling the building and two adjoining parcels to the Senior Center, which mean CDS needs to find a new location. Negotiations are ongoing, but the Senior Center sought their SUP now in order to make sure they could operate in the new location should the sale be finalized.
Staff recommended the Commission grant the SUP because it would allow the Senior Center to expand to offer programs for Albemarle’s growing elderly population. Senior Planner Judy Wiegand also said the SUP would “mitigate or eliminate some of the issues with the current private school use.” At least one neighbor has complained about noise made by children at the facility. CDS offers education to two-year-olds through 6th grade.
Mary Reese, the President of the Senior Center’s Board of Trustees, said the organization will plan its 50th anniversary in 2010. She said there is an increasing need to address the region’s senior population.
“We are excited about what the move will mean in terms of our being able to not only continue but to increase our services to the senior population in the community,” Reese said. Peter Thompson, the center’s Executive Director, said the need to expand is crucial.
“We are bursting at the seams, and this is all about meeting a community need,” Thompson said. He said the Senior Center has outgrown its current location. “We don’t have adequate parking, we don’t have enough program space to provide new programs, and we don’t have the right type of program space to make meet the growing demand for lifelong learning and group exercise.”
He said the new location offers twice the space and twice the parking, and is accessible via transit via the
Charlottesville Transit Service’s
Route 5. He said the new neighborhood is also more pedestrian-friendly, and that being next door to ACAC’s aquatic facility would provide a natural partnership. Thompson said the Senior Center would be a better neighbor to nearby residents than CDS because of the presence of loud children.
“Our fun and games tend to be more inside, and we don’t expect a lot of screaming children outside,” Thompson said. He also said that vehicle traffic to the site would be spread out throughout the day, rather than being heavy during peak hours.
However, two CDS representatives appeared before the Commission to make sure their needs were not neglected. Last September,
they appeared before the Commission during a pre-application work session
to determine whether a site in the rural area off of Hydraulic Road would be appropriate for their school. The site in question was not within the Albemarle County Service Authority’s jurisdictional area, and Commissioners were doubtful that they could recommend approval.
CDS School Director Dave Bruns, who has two children enrolled in the school, said he did not oppose the Senior Center moving in to the space. He said the school is in a 5-year lease with the owners of ACAC, but the last two years can be discontinued if ACAC so chooses. Bruns said the situation is filled with uncertainty for the future of the Charlottesville Day School.
“We are not in the position to go around pursuing special use permits and spending donation and tuition dollars on projects that may not be necessary,” Bruns said. “We don’t know if we’re leaving or not.” At the very least, the school knows it can stay put until August 15, 2010.
Bruns said he was concerned that County staff said in their report that the presence of seniors would be more favorable than the presence of children at the site.
“We don’t make nearly the noise that’s going to be permitted under [the Senior Center’s] special use permit,” Bruns said. Bruns said he needed to know where CDS might relocate, as soon as possible.
“We employ 30 people. This year, in our third year as a school, we had 150 kids,” Bruns said. “I think that speaks to the need in this community. We need the support of the County and our fellow non-profits to meet that need, and currently we’re not getting it.”
Dr. Sean Reed said that he also had no issue with the Senior Center, but took issue with the noise concern raised by staff. He said the building had housed two schools previous to the CDS, and said he was nervous about his institution’s future.
(Scottsville) said she was concerned that the existing entrance would not be suitable when the property serves an elderly population rather than school children. Thompson said that engineers with the Virginia Department of Transportation had studied the site, and did not recommend making any adjustments to the entrance.
During their discussion, the Commission did not otherwise address the situation with CDS. However, Linda Porterfield asked the Senior Center to give as much notice as possible to the Charlottesville Day School when they make a decision. The vote to recommend approval of the SUP was 4-0, and it will now go to the Board of Supervisors later this year.
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