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Proposed Approval of Planned Observatory Structure

Green Springs National Historic Landmark District » Proposed Approval of Planned Observatory Structure » Document List

The National Park Service (NPS) invites review of and comment on its determination of No Historic Properties Affected for, and thus approval of a project planned and to be funded by the owners of a 91-acre farm in the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District, Louisa County, Virginia. They plan construction of an observatory structure, 10' in height and 10' in diameter, atop a concrete foundation-pad, to house a telescope.

The location proposed for the structure is adjacent to the garage-end of a house built in two phases in 1996 and 2012. The NPS reviews the plan (the review itself constituting the Federal undertaking) under the terms of a 1973, NPS-managed conservation easement for the "Sunny Banks" property. Stipulation 2 of the easement's restrictions-section states that structures may be erected "in a way that would, in the opinion of the Grantee [NPS] be in keeping with the historic character of the [c. 1885 Sunny Banks] manor house, its setting and the character of the Green Springs Historic District." Stipulation 2 also states that the property owner may propose new structures "appropriately incidental to a single-family dwelling." Following the recommendations of the NPS Section-106 subject area advisers, and with concurrence by the Virginia State Historic Preservation Officer, this review and consultation, are expedited per 36 CFR 800.3(g), to combine the steps of: Initiation of Consultation; Identification of Historic Properties; and Assessment of Adverse Effects.

For illustrations and supporting documentation, including delineation of the Area of Potential Effect and a fuller narrative of the Assessment of Effects summarized below, see "Description, Illustrations & Site Plan," in Public Documents section of this webpage. For archeological aspects, see also document "Proposed Conditions Regarding Unanticipated Discoveries." As noted below, the NPS Section-106 adviser for archeology recommends Identification based on a 2012 assessment of the property, rather than on a survey.

Summary: To help gauge the easement's "appropriately incidental" aspect, the landowners supplied documentation of five private-use observatory-structures, in the same height range of 10'-20', on private property in adjoining counties: Spotsylvania (1), Fluvanna (1), and Albemarle (3). The NPS Section 106 adviser for cultural landscapes recommends a determination of No Historic Properties Adversely Affected. The considerable distances of 1,800-1,300'—shown in the attached illustrations-packet—separating the site of the proposed observatory structure from the Sunny Banks manor house and Foster Creek Church (considered National Register of Historic Places-eligible for the purposes of this review), and from the public road; the modest (10') height of the proposed structure; and the screening by mature-tree woodlots and hedgerows, individual trees, and the downward-sloping terrain occupied by the 1996/2012 house would conceal the proposed structure. The NPS Section 106 adviser for historic architecture recommends a determination of No Historic Properties Adversely Affected, "due to the proximity of the proposed observatory to a ca. 1990s residence and no impact on the view shed from the public right-of-way...the coloration, a beige color, will assist in blending the structure with the tall grasses further masking its visual impact." The NPS adviser for archeology recommends a determination of No Historic Properties Adversely Affected, and that the assessment of 2012 should also "apply to the area proposed for the observatory. The landform and distance from water make the presence of prehistoric resources and historic occupation unlikely. Additionally the 1996 construction of the existing house site more than likely resulted in extensive disturbance." The adviser for archeology also makes this recommendation conditional on the protocol outlined in the "Proposed Conditions Regarding Unanticipated Discoveries," also attached.

Contact Information
Noel Harrison, Manager of Easements,
540-693-3200