By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
The request for a Special Use Permit (SUP) for a tennis facility in Greene County easily got approved by the Planning Commission, not so much when it came before the Board of Supervisors at their March 24th meeting. Planning Director Bart Svoboda outlined the Special Use Permit request and explained that the property is zoned A1 but very close to a growth area near Ruckersville.
Svoboda cited the 2010 Comprehensive Plan encourages development of businesses – “Goals and Objectives 4. Enhanced image of Greene County as a business-friendly location” – and the alternative is that 8 homes could be built by right on the property. The plan calls for setbacks around the property at a minimum of 200 feet with some parts going up to over 600 feet. The Planning Commission approved the SUP with the following requirements 1) 30 foot screening, 2) lighting not on from 10 pm to 7 am, 3) only sport courts to be to be allowed, 4) indoor court sports only, and 5) a site plan is required. Svoboda also reported that there were no red flags from any agency – i.e. ADA, Health Department, etc.
Next Mourad Fahim, the applicant, addressed the Board of Supervisors stating that Greene County is a growing community and tennis continues to grow in popularity. There are no public courts in Greene County and the high school doesn’t have a tennis team. Tennis is a sport of a lifetime with players from age 4 to those in their 90’s and it develops discipline, teaches hard work and integrity. Fahim finished stating he reserved the right to defer the request after the public hearing.
This time there were plenty of comments from the public, mostly against the project from adjoining land owners. Jeremy Lay brought a petition that all residents of Carpenter Mill Road signed along with others in the area. Lay explained that the site selected is visible from all of the residents on Carpenter Mill Road and the project would change the peaceful nature of the neighborhood and that it would be an atrocity to destroy the charm and beauty of the neighborhood. He further explained that the SUP request was not filled out correctly – no distances were provided and no information on what type of lighting was provided – more information is needed. His final concern was that of the site grading and the significant drop off of over 100 feet on the property. He finished by asking the Board, would you want this in your back yard?
Several others spoke against the SUP. Dan Ratzlaff, however, is an avid tennis player and supports the Fahims in their project. He told the Board that this is a great opportunity for Greene County and he trusted them to make the right decision.
The discussion then shifted to the Board members. Supervisor Jim Frydl told the audience he was glad to see a large turnout for the issue. This SUP fits what has been done in other area of the county in A1 districts. It is similar to the Greene County Recreation Center which is closer to homes off Route 33 than the tennis facility would be. There is a horseback riding facility in an A1 district that has horse trailers and is more impactful. The erosion control issue will be managed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to a state standard. He felt the tennis facility would be a good fit for Greene County and his suggestion was to modify the request to have outside play limited to dawn to dusk with no outside lighting. His other concern was that the SUP as submitted allowed other sports that could attract much more traffic and noise – such as a basketball league. Bart Svoboda told the supervisors that they could modify the SUP to limit the play only to tennis and paddle tennis, or whatever they wanted. If other sports would be wanted in the future they could be requested at that time.
Supervisor Davis Lamb agreed with Frydl that it would be a great addition to Greene County. However, he expressed concern about having the facility in A1 zoning and he was concerned about the runoff on a sloped parcel. Svoboda reconfirmed that VDOT would oversee this part of the process and that storm water runoff would also be regulated. The final issue Lamb expressed concern over was the traffic in this rural area. Svoboda estimated traffic counts at 56 and going up to a peak of 80 per day. Lamb then addressed Mr. Fahim and suggested that he meet with the neighbors to see if they could come to a compromise solution. Mr. Fahim stated that he wants to comply with the county and work together with the residents of Greene to provide the facility.
Supervisor Bill Martin addressed again the storm water issue. He asked Dan Ratzlaff, who had spoken in favor of the issue during the public comment time, to address the board in his capacity as Erosion Administrator in Greene County. Ratcliff confirmed that the development of the lot would require the runoff to be better than it currently is now, both in volume and rate of flow. Ratcliff stated that annual inspections would be requested of the property owner and that every five years an onsite inspection would occur. Also, if there were any calls complaining, an on-site review would occur at that time to see if there is a problem.
Martin expressed concern for the community vs. the rights of the owner of the property. The alternative is that this property has division rights to allow eight homes to be built. That is a lot of rooftops, lights and educating children. He agreed with Mr. Frydl’s suggestion of a dawn to dusk for the outside play. Also he was encouraged by the $1 million expenditure in Greene County that would provide jobs to the county residents and he liked the idea of the developer speaking with the community.
Supervisor Frydl made another comment that he had done some research out of comments from neighbors before the meeting. He found no indication that property values would decline with a tennis facility in the area, in fact, it may add value. The noise level from a lesser distance than is being proposed is very low.
Chairman David Cox spoke last (Supervisor Eddie Deane was absent) and said that he had made three trips to the site. He felt he still had some unanswered questions that weren’t addressed on the application. The hours of operation were not on the application. Mr. Fahim stated that 7 am to 10 pm for indoor play. He suggested 9 or 10 pm for outdoor play or until the end of daylight if no lights were erected. Other questions Cox had were the size of the structure for indoor play and the type of lighting in the parking area.
Supervisor Lamb asked Svoboda if VDOT required either a deceleration lane or a turn lane – they did not at this time. At this time Chairman Cox asked Mr. Fahim if he would like to defer the request and he said yes. The May 12th date was selected to allow time for Mr. Fahim to gather data and meet with the neighbors and the SUP was deferred unanimously. Following the meeting Supervisor Martin was asked if the park would be a good location for the tennis facility. He believed it would be difficult to have a private entity on county property – it sounds easier than it would be to get it done.
The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.