Saturday, January 30, 2010
A spirited crowd of Crozet residents was on hand at a public forum Thursday to challenge the notion that western Albemarle is a prime location for expanded industrial development. The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has asked for consideration of a new light industrial business park in the Crozet Master Plan’s first five-year update.
“We’ve been waiting for this meeting and don’t know if the Board of Supervisors has already made a preliminary decision or not,” said Meg West, a Crozet resident for over 25 years who is opposed to the new park. “We’re hoping they will listen to us.”
In early January, the Board of Supervisors approved a pro-business action plan that identified the Yancey Mills area as one location for expanded industrial zoning. That directive coincides with a request from the Yancey family to expand the county’s designated growth area for a new business park.
Listen using player above or download the podcast:
The Yancey Lumber Company sits on 36 acres along U.S. 250 that represents about 32 percent of all the heavy industrial zoned land in the county. The family also owns 148 surrounding rural acres, some of which has been in the family since 1878. It is this land, which borders Interstate 64 and Western Albemarle High School, on which Will Yancey is proposing a new light industrial business park.
Several of Thursday’s attendees shared their disagreement with conclusions in the report.
“Part of the reason why we don’t have enough light industrial land is because it gets very easily converted to commercial,” Crozet resident Lucy Goeke said. She pointed to a table in the report that lists more than 160 acres rezoned from industrial to other uses in the past five years.
Yancey said many potential business owners have told him his family’s land would be an ideal location for them to locate because of its close access to I-64.
“What we’re trying to do is create a discrete employment center with no retail component,” Yancey said. “We would be happy to proffer away any kind of highway commercial use that’s associated with U.S. 29.”
“We can’t get building to happen in downtown Crozet,” Marshall said. “We’ve got vacant parcels next to the post office. All through downtown there is vacant land.”
In late 2008, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to include consideration of the Yancey proposal as part of the Crozet Master Plan despite a lack of support from the county Planning Commission. When it was reviewed, staff and commissioners pointed out that the business park was inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan, affected the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir’s watershed and might compete with downtown Crozet.
However, a section of the inventory report recommends studying the potential of opening up the rural area near interchanges to certain uses, such as contractors’ storage yards. County planner David Benish said this category of uses would be less intensive than what would be allowed under the Yancey proposal.
Many in the community were skeptical.
“It’s like you’re taking a baby-step towards light industrial rather a full step,” Marshall said.
When asked by Benish if the crowd wanted staff to continue refining this concept, the majority shouted out a loud “no!”
In the interest of fairness, Marshall also asked the crowd if anyone approved of the concept.
After members of the crowd booed his comments, Gibson questioned their commitment to business.
“We’re losing tax dollars to other counties because we will not sit here as a community and realize that we have to grow,” Gibson said.
Despite Yancey’s willingness to give up commercial uses, Marshall said he could not support the proposal.
“We don’t have any confidence that in a couple of years [the land] won’t be flipped to another use,” Marshall said. “We have an issue developing our existing infrastructure, our existing commercial area and our existing downtown. When those are full, it’s a different question.”
Supervisor Duane Snow (Samuel Miller District) said by his count about 90 percent of the crowd appeared to be against the Yancey proposal.
“A lot of people don’t trust government and they don’t trust developers to do what they say they will,” Snow said in an interview.
Snow said he was keeping an open mind over the Yancey proposal because there is still time before supervisors weigh in directly. He said he was personally considering the argument that some industrial uses might be more appropriate in Yancey’s business park rather than on Route 240 near downtown in Crozet.
A decision on the Yancey proposal will come later this year as the Crozet Master Plan is updated by the Board of Supervisors.
TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
- 01:00 - Mike Marshall of the Crozet Community Advisory Council describes the three items on the meeting's agenda
- 04:00 - David Benish of Albemarle County Community Development explains the light inventory report
- 04:38 - Benish updates audience on the Crozet Master Plan
- 05:30 - Benish explains why the light industrial inventory was commissioned by the Board
- 10:00 - Benish explains how the light industrial inventory was conducted
- 14:30 - Benish relates the County's light industrial strengths and weaknesses
- 17:50 - Benish explains the recommendations of the LI report
- 23:00 - Question about the lumber yard and whether it will be considered industrial
- 24:00 - Question from audience about whether the Yancey Mills interchange could end up being commercial
- 25:00 - Question about whether lawnmower and tractor repair would be allowed
- 25:45 - Comment from Crozet resident Lucy Goeke about how LI land is easily switched to commercial
- 28:45 - Marshall begins questioning Benish about the report
- 34:45 - Benish describes how southern urban master plan could be an opportunity to find more LI land
- 41:20 - Marshall questions the demand for additional light industrial land
- 44:00 - Goeke argues that light industrial land at Yancey Mills will be too expensive for that use
- 44:30 - Planning Commissioner Duane Zobrist asks for the name of one business that did not locate here because of lack of land
- 45:00 - Business Development Coordinator Susan Stimart explains how Albemarle County is losing businesses to other counties
- 47:15 - Comments from Sarah Henley
- 48:15 - Comments from William Schrader of the CCAC
- 50:45 - Benish leads discussion of whether other industrial land can be found within Crozet growth area
- 53:00 - Benish takes audience through the Crozet Master Plan
- 57:40 - Marshall explains some of the possibilities for rezoning the Barnes lumber yard
- 1:02:45 - Marshall explains why the Acme property is currently unavailable
- 1:07:00 - Audience member asks if Acme property could be converted to commercial
- 1:18:40 - Will Yancey presents details about his proposal
- 1:29:45 - Woman in the audience questions the notion there isn't enough light industrial land
- 1:34:25 - Marshall compares size of proposal to Fashion Square Mall
- 1:35:35 - Comments on the Yancey proposal from William Schrader
- 1:38:00 - Schrader asks Yancey to describe exactly what he wants to see happen on his property
- 1:39:45 - Crozet resident Mary Gallo recalls a BOS meeting where SOCA was denied an SUP for fields in rural area
- 1:42:00 - Goeke reads aloud the 8 unfavorable factors why County staff recommended against proposal in late 2008
- 1:44:00 - Benish summarizes why staff had recommended against further study of the Yancey Mills proposal
- 1:48:00 - More details on the recommendation for the interstate interchange concept
- 1:51:15 - Comments from Wendell Gibson, building contractor, sparks debate about the land
- 1:54:45 - Benish attempts to finish up his presentation
- 1:58:15 - Comment from Crozet resident Trina English who said Crozet Master Plan appears to not have any meaning