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March 19, 2008

Supervisors approve Pantops Master Plan; Wheeler property removed

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20080317pantopsmap
Source: Albemarle County

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has voted 4-2 to approve the Pantops Master Plan, a Comprehensive Plan amendment that will guide planning of one of the County’s development areas.  The County’s other approved Master Plan is for Crozet and that was adopted in 2004.  Supervisors Ken Boyd (Rivanna) and Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) voted against the plan, in part, because it removes a 77-acre parcel of land from the growth area against the landowner’s wishes.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080317-BOS-Pantops.mp3

 

The approval came following a March 17, 2008 work session at which the Supervisors reviewed three outstanding questions about the plan.

  • Should the Board follow the Planning Commission’s recommendation to allow a 77-acre parcel of land owned by Clara Belle Wheeler to remain in the growth area? (Clarification 3/26/08: Staff originally recommended to the Planning Commission that the Wheeler parcel be removed)
  • Should the Board accept a request by the Vermillion family to add their 25 acre property to the growth area? (Clarification 3/26/08: Staff recommended to the Board that the Vermillion parcel not be added.  The Planning Commission did not consider this request in their review.)
  • Should the Board follow the Planning Commission’s recommendation to not include a relocation of Hansens Mountain Road?

The Board reviewed the Plan on August 1, 2007 and held a public hearing on September 12, 2007. After the public hearing, the Vermillion family requested that their property be added to the development area. In order to do so, the Board would have had to have held another public hearing.

In the discussion, Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) asked staff when the master plan could be adopted.  The County’s Chief of Planning, David Benish, told the Board they could adopt it immediately if they do not make any amendments. The Board decided to not include the Vermillion property at this time, but left open the possibility of amending the plan in the future.  Benish said staff was concerned the topography of the site would not support a dense amount of population without steep slope waivers.  Rooker suggested the Vermillions could return to the Board in the future with a request for a Comprehensive Plan amendment.    

Many of the same arguments for keeping the Vermillion property out of the designated growth area were also made for removing the Wheeler property. Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) said taking the property out would help protect Route 20 as a rural road, and would prevent development along the Rivanna River.  He acknowledged that Wheeler has publicly told the Board that she would like to keep her property in the growth area.

“That’s not unimportant, but we’re supposed to make the determination for the overall long term good of the community,” Slutzky said. Rooker said it made no sense to him to have her property in the growth area.
Boyd disagreed and said her property rights were being violated and that he respected Wheeler’s desire to keep her property in the growth area. Rooker responded that no one has a property right claim in a comprehensive plan designation. “There really have been a number of mixed signals from this property owner in the sense that they’ve talked about putting the property in conservation easement,” Rooker said.
The County does not accept easements on property in the growth areas.

The bulk of the discussion in the work session focused on the Hansens Mountain Road issue. The County was forced by a court decision to approve a site plan by developer Richard Spurzem to build a 180,000 square foot shopping center at the western corner of the road and Route 250. The Board of Supervisors is opposed to the Gazebo Place development, but has no authority to stop it because of the underlying zoning.  VDOT officials have said they would close a crossing of the median at Hansen Mountain Road if the center goes ahead, given the proximity to I-64/250 interchange.  That crossover is also the exit from the Ashcroft neighborhood and it’s elimination would force residents into a right turn only traffic pattern onto Route 250.

The Planning Commission recommended not including any recommendation about a proposed relocation of Hansens Mountain Road to address traffic issues associated with Gazebo Place, citing concern about increasing commercial traffic in the neighboring Glenorchy subdivision.  Staff had amended their recommendation to read as follows:

“Relocate the Hansens Mountain Road from its current intersection with Route 250 to a new location that would utilize the Glenorchy Drive/Peter Jefferson Parkway crossover at the Route 250 intersection to align with the existing entrance into Peter Jefferson Place in a manner that avoids significant negative impacts to occupied dwelling units in the Glenorchy neighborhood. Several possible alignments are identified on the Pantops Master Plan.”

The plan states three possibilities for how the road might be built, even though staff acknowledged some of them might be difficult. Rooker said the developer has even purchased lots in the Glenorchy subdivision in order to build an alternate entrance given the limitations of Hansen Mountain Road.  Slutzky suggested waiting until it was certain Gazebo Place could have some form of a public road built to serve it. “It seems silly for us to adopt a comprehensive plan that may or may not be implementable,” Slutzky said.

20080317bos_2
David Benish and Wayne Cilimberg listen as Supervisor Thomas asks a question

Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) asked if adopting the Pantops Master Plan would accommodate Spurzem’s plans for Gazebo Place. Wayne Cilimberg, the County's Director of Planning, said Gazebo’s site plan has been approved, even through the Pantops Master Plan would not recognize the land use that Gazebo Place will employ. County Attorney Larry Davis said the Plan would allow the County to place restrictions on Gazebo Place should Spurzem seek a rezoning in the future.

Rooker moved approval of the Pantops Master Plan with the staff recommendations to keep Vermillion and the Wheeler property out of the growth area, as well as the staff recommendation on the relocation of Hansen Mountain Road. Boyd said his colleagues were forcing him to vote against the plan. Lindsay Dorrier joined Boyd in voting against the plan.

Timeline for podcast:

  • 01:00 –David Benish updates Supervisors on progress of Plan since September 12, 2007 work session
  • 02:40 – Supervisor Rooker asks staff to depict how Hansen Mountains Road would be relocated, and Supervisors discuss how the by-right Gazebo Place development might affect traffic patterns on Pantops
  • 07:44 – Supervisor Slutzky asks if the County could condemn the Gazebo Place property in order to avoid a transportation nightmare. Rooker suggests that the developer will have a hard time finding tenants, given that VDOT will not allow a crossing of 250 at that location.
  • 16:04 – Supervisor Thomas asks if adopting the Plan would affect the plans for Gazebo Place
  • 25:06 – Supervisor Rooker asks when the Plan will come up for a vote, and is told by Benish they could adopt it immediately if they do not make any amendments
  • 25:44 – Supervisor Slutzky asks if the Plan can be adopted if the 77-acre plot of land owned by Clara Belle Wheeler (no relation to Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Brian Wheeler) is taken out of the development area
  • 27:03 – Chairman Boyd asks why the Vermillion property was not recommended for inclusion in the development area
  • 31:24 – Slutzky outlines reasons why taking the Wheeler property out of the growth area would benefit the County
  • 36:30 – Benish explains staff recommendations, as well as the Planning Commission’s recommendation. Staff had recommended taking Wheeler’s property out and leaving the Hansen Mountain Road connection in the Pantops Master Plan. Discussion returns to Gazebo’s potential traffic impact on Glenorchy Drive
  • 39:43 – Supervisor Thomas asks question about how Gazebo Place might interpret adoption of the Pantops Master Plan with the language suggesting the three potential routes for the access road
  • 44:55 – Rooker suggested taking out all references to Hansen Mountain Road and asks what would happen
  • 47:53 – Wayne Cilimberg explains staff’s reasoning behind how the three potential routes was selected, and offers thoughts on each one. He outlines one scenario where VDOT might decide to build one of them, perhaps with funding from the developer.
  • 52:38 – Rooker describes how VDOT will close left-turn options at Hansen Road Mountain if Gazebo Place is built – limiting access to Ashcroft subdivision
  • 57:26 – Cilimberg suggest Board can vote on plan if they’ve resolved Wheeler, Vermillion and Hansen Mountain issues
  • 58:00 – Boyd asks if Pantops Master Plan could extend east of I-64 in order to bring more land into the plan to be zoned for Light Industrial, prompting a discussion
  • 1:07:00 – Rooker sums up the questions facing the Board, and Supervisors discuss the merits of taking the Wheeler property out of the growth area, followed by motion to approve which carries 4-2

Sean Tubbs

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