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March 13, 2008

County approves major retail development between Fifth & Avon

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The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted to approve a new retail development south of the City of Charlottesville. The Fifth and Avon Center will bring 470,000 square feet of retail space just south of the City of Charlottesville, in a configuration that will include at least two “big-box” retail stores, as well as a five-story parking structure to serve the site. The property is being developed by Hunter Craig in collaboration with investors who include Coran Capshaw.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo


Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 2008080312-BOS-5thAvon.mp3

Siteplan In addition to the site, the County will get a new road called the Bent Creek Parkway that will connect Avon Street with Fifth Street on a route that runs the northern perimeter of the new development along Moores Creek. However, part of the road will traverse an old landfill site.

The approval came despite proffers that were dated March 10, two days before the advertised public hearing. According to its own policy, the Board is supposed to receive final proffers nine days before the public hearing to give both staff and the public the opportunity to review them. However, state law allows for proffers to be updated up until the time when a public hearing is called.

The staff report lists several changes that have been made to the proffers in response to the Board’s work session on January 16, as well as other information requested

  • The developer has guaranteed the shopping center will be built as one phase, though the site plan would include creation of pad sites for later use
  • Developer commits to using green roofing for at least 25% of project as well as rainfall harvesting
  • To allay concerns about the County being liable for any ruptures from the old landfill, the property owner will retain ownership of the section of the Bent Creek Parkway that crosses over the landfill – a permanent easement will be granted
  • The Department of Environmental Quality has approved the developer’s work plan for how to ensure the landfill does not rupture during construction or after
  • Developer proffered that Bent Cark Parkway must be complete before certificate of occupancy can be granted
  • County Transportation Planner Juandiego Wade issued a statement that the Bent Creek Parkway would not contribute to additional congestion at I-64 and Fifth Street, and would ease congestion at some intersections on Route 20. However, Wade’s report also mentions that VDOT will conduct a detailed study on the future capacity of the I-64/5th Street interchange “when their workload permits.”

However, staff recommended denial of the plan despite these changes, pending resolution of several issues. First, there were a series of technical errors that prevents the proffers from being legally acceptable. County Attorney Larry Davis said the March 10 revisions corrected those mistakes. Cilimberg said the revisions did not address staff’s outstanding concerns.

Those remaining concerns included:

  • Whether the Architectural Review Board would retain control over certain aspects of the plan, including approval of any illuminated signs
  • Because occupancy permits will depend on the completion of the Bent Creek Parkway, City engineering staff must sign off on road signals and transportation improvements, such as its intersection with Fifth Street. However, if for some reason the City misses certain deadlines for responding to developer correspondence on these improvements, proffers to fund their construction would not be guaranteed. Staff also questions who would be responsible for right of way acquisition
  • If site plan needs to be changed to meet County’s stream ordinances, further rezoning may be needed

Before Chairman Ken Boyd (Rivanna) opened the public hearing, Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) asked if the public hearing would need to be delayed if a new proffer was suggested by developer in response to staff concerns. That prompted some discussion of whether the people who had signed up to speak should be heard, if the Board was forced to delay the public hearing to satisfy its policy. Boyd invited Stephen Blaine of LeClair Ryan, counsel for the developer, up to the podium to discuss staff concerns before the public hearing was called.

Blaine waived the traditional presentation, and instead used his time to address the concerns. He told Slutzky that the proffers require the landfill mitigation work to be conducted according to the DEQ work plan. He added that the development would meet or exceed the requirements of the ARB, and that the ARB would have to approve each sign. 

Eight people spoke during the public hearing. The first six all reside in the southern end of the County, and welcome the chance to have a grocery store and home improvement store closer to their home.

Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center said his organization has been following the development closely, and could not recommend it unless the big box stores were required to be two-story. He added the development would increase traffic, and that the developer should be required to contribute to a fund to pay for improvements elsewhere in the road network. Butler also said he was troubled by the Board’s practice of allowing proffers to be altered up until the public hearing is called.

Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council said the project would end up impacting the County due
to increased traffic, and could hurt the City as well.

“It’s frustrating as a City resident to watch Albemarle County just sort of slowly change the perimeter of the beautiful City of Charlottesville into a sort of Anywhere USA Big Box,” Werner said, lamenting what he perceives as the region’s transformation into Northern Virginia.

After the public hearing, Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) said he supported the project because it would mean more money would be spent in Albemarle County, rather than Augusta County. One speaker during the public hearing had mentioned her neighbor travels to Waynesboro rather than shopping along Route 29 in Albemarle.

Slutzky said he did not think the project would generate traffic, but instead would transfer traffic away from Route 29 by giving residents of southern Albemarle more choices. He praised the developer for proffering green roofing technologies, which was not required.  “a particularly high quality project,” he said.

Rooker said the project is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, and took issue with Werner’s characterization of the project.

“If you drive around Route 3 in Fredericksburg, you’re not going to see anything like this project, which is surrounded by a significant green buffer, is very sensitive to the streams, incorporates trails, has a good pedestrian plan within the project,” Rooker said. He added that the site could allow multi-story buildings.

Thomas said she lost the battle with her fellow Supervisors when the County changed the Comprehensive Plan designation for the property in 2004 to allow for this use. “So, having lost it, I think I’m about to vote for my first big box, because I think the transit provisions, the pedestrian, the bike network, the other environmental  aspects. Have we pushed as hard as we could? Could we have gotten something even more special? We’ll never know, but this is certainly the best that we’ve seen and I’m excited that it’s going to set a good standard.”

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 1:04 - Staff report from Wayne Cilimberg, detailing the changes in the plan since the January 16 work session
  • 11:43 - Cilimberg reviews staff recommendation
  • 13:01 - Supervisor Slutzky expresses concern that he has not seen a copy of the work plan to secure the landfill
  • 15:09 - Supervisor Thomas asks questions about the "tree-islands" staff is recommending be placed between every ten spaces in the surface parking lot, as well as questions on pedestrian-friendliness of the development
  • 16:41 - Supervisor Rooker asks how public hearing will be affected if a new proffer is suggested by developer in response to staff concerns
  • 18:34 - Supervisor Rooker asks a question about an ARB requirement to have a 50 foot buffer zone between I-64 and the property to hide the development from view
  • 20:04 - Supervisor Mallek asks about staff concern regarding stream buffer ordinance and the potential for required work outside the property
  • 21:29 - Stephen Blaine of LeClair Ryan addresses staff concerns
  • 28:36 - Thomas asks Blaine for clarification on issue of illuminated signs
  • 34:16 - Thomas asks for definition of "extensive" roofing
  • 35:25 - Slutzky asks his colleagues if they are satisfied with Blaine's responses
  • 37:31 - Thomas asks how traffic at 5th Street and I-64 interchange will be affected
  • 40:04 - County resident Hugh Underwood speaks at public hearing in favor
  • 42:01 - County resident Lorraine Renella speaks at public hearing in favor
  • 43:09 - County resident Rebecca White speaks at public hearing in favor
  • 45:13 - Downtown Mall business owner and City resident Jacob Martin speaks at public hearing in favor
  • 47:03 - County resident Sam Towler speaks at public hearing in favor
  • 48:11 - Willoughby resident David Storm speaks at public hearing in favor
  • 50:46 - Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center speaks against the big box element of the development
  • 53:46 - Jeff Werner of Piedmont Environmental Council cautions against traffic increases
  • 56:08 - Public hearing closes and Supervisors discuss, followed by motions to approve

Sean Tubbs

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