By Brent Wilson, Field Officer
The Greene County Planning Commission recommended approval of special use permit for a new tennis facility in the Ruckersville District.
Contrary to the current Comprehensive Plan discussion in Albemarle County (which is seeking to ban golf, swim and tennis clubs from the rural areas), Greene Planning staff cited economic development positives related to this special use permit in the designated rural areas as part of their reasons for recommending approval.
Mourad Fahim is a former NCAA Division 1 tennis player for Radford University. He also played on the Moroccan junior national team, coaches on the high school level at Woodberry Forest School and gives lessons [edited for clarity 3/9/14 NW]. He and his wife, Sherrie, live in northern Albemarle County with their two small children and he is teaching them to play tennis. In order to find affordable court time he is currently traveling north to Culpeper to play.
As the Culpeper facility is now up for sale with an uncertain future, the Fahims came to the Greene County Planning Commission requesting for a special use permit to build an indoor & outdoor tennis facility on Carpenters Mill Road (east of Route 29 at the Sheetz/Food Lion intersection south of Ruckersville – parcel 67-A-2A) .
The 28+ acre parcel is zoned A-1 and that is why a special use permit is required to allow the county to review extraordinary uses and place conditions on the permit to mitigate negative impacts.
As Planning Director Bart Svoboda mentioned to the Planning Commission, while a race track with large volumes of traffic/parking would not qualify for a SUP, a tennis facility with low volumes of traffic/parking and no large crowds is very appealing to this property. The Health Dept. indicated that a well permit would need to be applied for and the septic system will be reviewed as part of the permitting process.
Svoboda stated that the Comprehensive Plan supports this project as it is low impact and enhances the image as a business friendly community.
Staff recommended approval of the SUP with the following conditions:
1. A 30 foot screening yard.
2. Lighting shall not be illuminated between 10 pm and 7 am.
3. Outdoor facility to be used for court sports such as tennis, basketball, volleyball, paddle tennis and other racquet sports are allowed.
4. Indoor facility to be used only for the same sports as #3.
5. A site plan will need to be submitted and approved prior to construction.
There were no comments from the public. Mourad Fahim spoke about the request. He said the project, if approved, would be started in early summer of 2015 and be completed in time for the winter tennis season. The cost for the indoor facility would be approximately $1.5 million. He would start with four indoor courts with the space to add two more later and it will also have four outdoor red clay courts with the possibility of adding four more later. Greene County currently has no tennis courts available to the public.
He further outlined the offering of programs for all ages and playing abilities. He hopes to create a solid junior development program and also offer leagues and lessons with a monthly membership or renting court time by the hour. He further discussed the possibility of offering the courts to William Monroe High School (Greene County Schools Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh was in attendance for another issue) to be able to field a school tennis team.
As the Planning Commission opened their discussion, Chairman Jay Willer appreciated the clay courts as they are not as hard on knees as other courts. Commissioner John McCloskey believed it is a nice project and an improvement to the Ruckersville area. Willer asked about the clubhouse identified in the drawing. Svoboda said that a snack bar for players using the facility would be included in the SUP. However, a restaurant for non-players would not be included in the SUP. McCloskey suggested that pickle ball – a smaller court – might be attractive with our 55 and over community.
With no further discussion, the SUP with the five conditions presented by staff was unanimously approved 4-0. (Vic Schaff was absent from the meeting) The request will proceed on to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision on the SUP.
When asked about the demand for tennis in Greene County, northern Albemarle, Madison and Orange counties Sherrie Fahim explained that they believe there is enough demand to support the facility. She hopes after getting approval from the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors to then begin marketing the facility later this year.
**Background and experience edited for clarity – 3/9/2015 NW
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Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
Photo Credits: Greene County, Woodberry Forest