Chapter 18.175
LANDSCAPING AND SCREENING

Sections:

18.175.010    Purpose and intent.

18.175.020    Definitions.

18.175.030    Requirements and applicability.

18.175.040    Procedure and administration.

18.175.050    Plan contents.

18.175.060    Standards.

18.175.070    Exceptions.

18.175.080    Approval period and revisions.

18.175.090    Plans required prior to issuance of building permit.

18.175.100    Occupancy permit.

18.175.010 Purpose and intent.

The city council for the city of Staunton, Virginia, in order to promote the general health, safety, and welfare of the citizens; to facilitate the creation of an attractive and harmonious community; to conserve, protect, and enhance natural resources; and to safeguard and protect land values states that the purpose and intent of this chapter is as follows:

(1) To aid in stabilizing the environment’s ecological balance by contributing to the process of air purification, oxygen regeneration, groundwater recharge, and storm water runoff retardation, while at the same time aiding in noise, glare, and heat abatement;

(2) To encourage the preservation of existing trees and cultivated vegetation;

(3) To assist in providing adequate light and air and in preventing overcrowding of land;

(4) To provide visual buffering and enhance the beautification of the city;

(5) To safeguard and enhance property values and to protect public and private investment;

(6) To preserve, protect and restore the unique identity and environment of the city and to protect the economic base attracted to the city by such factors;

(7) To conserve energy and to protect the public health, safety, and general welfare. (Zoning ordinance Art. 5, § 15).

18.175.020 Definitions.

For the purpose of this chapter, the following definitions apply:

“Evergreen tree” means a tree which has foliage that remains green through more than one growing season. Evergreen trees used for screening purposes shall be a minimum of five to six feet in height when planted.

“Ground cover” means low plants which grow close to the ground and may upon review take the place of turf.

“Major tree” means a tree which, at maturity, has a trunk diameter in excess of four inches. Major trees shall be two inches minimum caliper when planted (measured six inches above ground level).

“Minor tree” means a tree which, at maturity, has a trunk diameter of less than four inches. Minor street trees shall be one and one-half inches minimum caliper when planted (measured six inches above ground level).

“Shrub” means a low usually several stemmed plant which, at maturity, is less than 25 feet in height and generally spreads less than 15 feet. Shrubs shall be a minimum of 12 inches in height when planted. This excludes ground cover. (Zoning ordinance Art. 5, § 15).

18.175.030 Requirements and applicability.

(1) Landscaping Plan. Except as provided herein, a landscaping plan shall be submitted for review and approval with respect to all land use and development activities, to be commenced after the effective date of the ordinance codified in this chapter. “Land use and development activities,” as used herein, shall mean those activities that require a building permit therefor or the creation of new parking areas or the enlargement of existing parking areas by more than four additional parking spaces (cumulative over a four-year period).

(2) Screening Plan. Except as provided herein, a screening plan shall be submitted for review and approval with respect to all land use and development activities within business, professional and industrial districts, designed to screen the uses of the most intensive use district from the adjoining least intensive use district and public streets.

(3) Exceptions. The requirements hereunder do not apply to:

(a) Individually developed single-family residences;

(b) Additions to or accessory buildings of single-family residences;

(c) Any alteration or reconstruction of buildings situated in the historic conservation district;

(d) Any construction necessitated by the destruction by fire, calamity, storm or other accidental means of less than 50 percent of pre-existing improvements;

(e) Interior and facade improvements made to a structure not requiring any exterior enlargement thereof.

(4) Notwithstanding the foregoing, however, a landscaping plan is required for the development of a residential subdivision. (Zoning ordinance Art. 5, § 15).

18.175.040 Procedure and administration.

(1) The plans required to be submitted hereunder shall be submitted by the owner and the developer of the particular property involved to the senior planner for the city. Said senior planner shall be responsible for the receipt and processing of such applications and shall have the authority to approve or disapprove such plans. Said senior planner is hereby designated as the agent of the city for such purposes. If the senior planner disapproved the plan, the senior planner shall promptly notify the applicant and set forth the reasons why the plan was disapproved and, if necessary, suggestions as to corrections.

(2) Any applicant aggrieved by a decision of the agent may appeal such decision to the planning commission for the city of Staunton in writing within 30 days of the decision in question. The planning commission shall schedule such appeal for hearing at its next regularly scheduled meeting to be held at least 14 days after such appeal is noted. The planning commission shall render its judgment on the date the appeal is heard, unless by the agreement of all parties, the decision can be delayed.

(3) Any applicant who is aggrieved by the judgment of the planning commission may appeal such judgment to the council for the city of Staunton in writing within 30 days of the judgment rendered. Such appeal shall be heard by the city council at its next regularly scheduled meeting to be held at least 14 days after such appeal is noted. The city council shall render its judgment on the date the appeal is heard, unless, by agreement of all parties, the decision can be delayed.

(4) All appeals set forth above shall be filed with the agent and shall set forth the grounds upon which the petitioner is aggrieved. The agent shall promptly schedule such matter to be heard with the planning commission and/or the city council, as the case may be.

(5) Nothing herein shall deprive an aggrieved party from seeking a variance or other determination with respect hereto from the board of zoning appeals of the city of Staunton as permitted by local and state law. (Ord. 2017-03. Zoning ordinance Art. 5, § 15).

18.175.050 Plan contents.

The department of planning for the city of Staunton will assist those required to submit plans hereunder upon request. The landscape and/or screening plan should provide information such as:

(1) The location, size, and type of all proposed plant materials and screening measures.

(2) Existing trees with a caliper of six inches or greater, or wooded areas must be identified and considered for preservation.

(3) Existing landscaping features on the site to be retained.

(4) Location of utilities, including watering facilities for plantings on the site and drainage patterns.

(5) A plan of maintenance. (Zoning ordinance Art. 5, § 15).

18.175.060 Standards.

(1) The following minimum landscaping standards shall apply:

Landscaping shall consist of at least a five feet wide landscaped area, along the street right-of-way, in business and professional districts and at least a 10 feet wide landscaped area, along the street right-of-way, in the industrial districts. These areas are exclusive of the area required for sidewalks, public street rights-of-way, or parking. Utility easements can be used with the permission of the city.

(2) The following minimum screening standards shall apply:

Screening shall consist of a planting strip, existing vegetation, a slightly opaque wall or fence, or combination thereof, to the reasonable satisfaction of the agent. Where only vegetative screening is provided, such screening strip shall not be less than five feet wide in the business and professional districts and 10 feet wide in the industrial districts. Vegetative screening may consist of a double staggered row of evergreen trees planted 15 feet on center, or a double staggered row of evergreen shrubs planted 10 feet on center. Alternate methods of vegetative screening may be approved by the agent. Where a fence or a wall is provided, it shall be a minimum of six feet in height and plantings shall be required at intervals along such fence or wall.

(3) The following minimum street tree standards shall apply:

(a) Street trees shall be required along existing or proposed public streets and shall be planted with even spacing, or as otherwise required by the agent, adjacent to the public street right-of-way. One street tree shall be required for every 50 feet of road frontage, or portion thereof, if the street abutment is 20 feet or more in length, except as exempted in subsection (4) of this section. These trees should have a clear trunk height of at least six feet. The agent may waive these requirements in certain cases where site conditions warrant an alternate solution.

(b) Streets with posted speeds of over 35 mph shall have minor trees only planted along the right-of-way. Streets with posted speeds of less than 35 mph may have major or minor trees planted along the right-of-way.

(c) In the event that trees are desired along walkways adjacent to traffic flow, no tree shall be planted closer than 35 feet of any street corner, measured from the point of nearest intersecting curbs or curblines or pavement lines. No street tree shall be planted closer than 10 feet to any fire hydrant.

(d) No trees other than those species listed as 30 feet or less in height at maturity may be planted under or within 10 lateral feet to any overhead utility wire, or over or within five lateral feet of any underground water line, sewer line, transmission line, or other utility.

(4) The following landscaping requirements for new parking areas consisting of five spaces or more shall apply:

(a) Street Trees. Street trees shall be planted in accordance with subsection (3) of this section. The trees shall be planted between the street right-of-way and the parking area within the landscape setback. If this requirement creates a hardship by causing the relocation of required parking spaces, then the additional planting area may be counted toward the interior landscaping requirement.

(b) Interior Landscaping. An area equal to five percent of the parking and patron vehicular circulation area, as measured by the outside boundaries thereof, shall be landscaped to include trees and shrubs. Such landscaping shall be fairly uniformly dispersed throughout the vehicular parking and circulation area. At least one minor shade tree is required for each 10 parking spaces or portion thereof. Shrub plantings, except to the extent that they exceed five feet in width, adjacent to a building shall not be counted as interior landscaping. The requirements of subsections (4)(a), Street Trees, and (4)(c), Additional Planting Along Public Streets, of this section and screening of parking lots are to be excluded as a part of the five percent interior landscaping requirement.

(c) Additional Plantings Along Public Streets. When a parking lot is located such that the parked cars will be visible from a public street, then additional landscaping of low street shrubs may be required between the street and the parking lot. Shrubs shall be in a single row planted five feet on center. All shrub plantings along entrances, exits, and intersections shall be kept below two and one-half feet so that visibility will not be impaired. Alternate methods of landscaping designed to minimize the visual impact of the parking lot may be approved by the agent.

(d) Wheel stops, curbing, or other barriers shall be provided to prevent damage to landscaping by vehicles. Where necessary, trees shall be walled or otherwise protected against change of grade. All pervious areas of the site shall be permanently protected from soil erosion with grass, ground covers, low shrubs, or mulch material. Special attention should be given to using plants that are drought tolerant. (Zoning ordinance Art. 5, § 15).

18.175.070 Exceptions.

In lieu of planting new materials, existing trees and vegetation may satisfy landscaping and screening requirements, subject to the agent’s approval. The landscaping plan shall indicate the trees to be saved, limits of clearing, location and type of protective fencing, grade changes requiring tree wells, or walls and trenching.

Upon review of the site and/or site plan, the agent, or the reviewing authority, may reduce or suspend any of the requirements of this chapter, if the site presents special circumstances whereby the strict compliance of this chapter will produce an undue hardship or if the spirit of the chapter has been met and deviation has been deemed to be in the best interest of the city. (Zoning ordinance Art. 5, § 15).

18.175.080 Approval period and revisions.

(1) All landscaping shall be planted and maintained according to established planting and maintenance procedures using good quality plant materials. The required plant materials may be chosen from a recommended species list provided by the agent. Plant materials not listed may be substituted for suggested plant material if such substitution is expressly approved by the agent.

(2) Approval of landscaping and screening plan under the provisions of this chapter is valid for a period of one year; however, if said plan is part of approved site plan in accordance with this title or an approved subdivision plan, then approval is extended for same period as the site or subdivision plan.

(3) Requested changes or revisions to approved landscaping and screening plans may be authorized in writing by the agent as long as said revisions do not, in the agent’s opinion, substantially affect terms of the original approval. Otherwise, the agent may require a new plan be prepared and submitted for review in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

(4) All landscaping and screening required by this chapter shall be installed at the cost of the developer or property owner. The owner shall be responsible for maintaining all landscaping in good condition so as to present a healthy, neat appearance and shall be kept free from refuse and debris.

(5) All landscaping and screening features shown on the approved plan must be adequately maintained and kept in effect in order for approved plan to remain valid and not become a zoning violation of this title. (Zoning ordinance Art. 5, § 15).

18.175.090 Plans required prior to issuance of building permit.

No building permit shall be issued by the city until the applicant therefor exhibits to the building inspector the approved plans required by this chapter. (Zoning ordinance Art. 5, § 15).

18.175.100 Occupancy permit.

The building inspector for the city shall not issue an occupancy permit for such development until the landscaping and/or screening required hereunder has been completed. Notwithstanding the foregoing, however, the building inspector may issue a temporary occupancy permit with respect to the development, if, in the opinion of the building inspector, said landscaping and/or screening has been delayed for reasons beyond the control of the developer, such as weather and other causes. (Zoning ordinance Art. 5, § 15).