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July 14, 2010

County planners reject inclusion of industrial park in Crozet Master Plan

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DailyProgress
This article is an extended version of what appears in the
Daily Progress.
By Bridgett Lynn & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

While Albemarle County is seeking to increase its industrial and commercial land activity, proposals reviewed as part of the Crozet Master Plan to build a new business park and convert some residential homes to mixed use have been rejected by the Planning Commission.

Will Yancey appeared at the public hearing Tuesday to lobby for his family’s 2008 application to create a light-industrial business park just outside the Crozet development area near the intersection of Interstate 64 and U.S. 250.
  20100713-Yancey
Will Yancey


“We don’t have enough industrial land,” Yancey said. “In the last three years there have been two studies, one in 2007 and one that was just completed recently, that indicated Albemarle had a shortage of industrial land.”

ISSUE PROFILE
The Yancey Mills Business Park

What: A proposal to create a light industrial business park for offices and equipment storage yard(s) on 148 acres of rural land adjacent to the Crozet designated growth area in Albemarle County

Where: Behind the Yancey Lumber Company sawmill near the interchange of Interstate 64 and U.S. Route 250 West--The business park would cover a total of 184 acres and include 36 acres of heavy industrial land used today for the sawmill's operations

Yancey-Map

Community Issues:

1) The business park would be on land designated for rural uses in the watershed of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. As such, the property is not in the jurisdictional area for public water and sewer. Albemarle's comprehensive plan directs that new residential and industrial development should occur within the existing designated growth areas.

2) The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has expressed interest in increasing the amount of land zoned for light industrial uses and in revisiting the uses of land at the Shadwell and Yancey Mills interchanges of I-64.

3) Downtown Crozet has existing industrial property that can be redeveloped. Doing so has the potential to add truck traffic onto roads servicing a growing residential community. The proposed business park, on the other hand, would be accessed by a four-lane section of Route 250 West at the interstate interchange. Supporters say this would keep trucks away from Crozet.

4) Supporters of the project say it would bring jobs closer to the growing residential community in Crozet. The developer has said he would proffer some land for use by Western Albemarle High School for use as athletic fields.

5) The Planning Commission, the Crozet Community Advisory Council, and majority of members of the public that participated in the 2009-2010 update of the Crozet Master Plan have expressed opposition to the business park proposal.

Timeline:

PC = Albemarle County Planning Commission
BOS = Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

According to county staff, the majority of Crozet residents and the Crozet Community Advisory Council (CCAC) do not support the proposed business park which would be on 184 acres around the site of the Yancey Lumber Co. sawmill.

“The public very adamantly said they were opposed to having a 1.1 [million] to 1.8 million square foot industrial park right outside of the master plan boundaries,” said Mary Rice, a former advisory council member.

“The proposal has serious flaws beyond generating sprawl in the rural area,” said Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The property is located in the water supply watershed. It drains to the South Fork Rivanna River and ultimately to the South Fork Reservoir. Major development activity on this land would almost certainly increase the amount of sediment and other pollutants entering that drinking water reservoir.”

Other concerns about the proposed business park were that it would undermine efforts to invigorate businesses in Downtown Crozet and would negatively impact traffic near the interstate.

“Our recommendation is that it’s bad for the master plan,” said Mike Marshall, chairman of the advisory council. “We don’t think it ought to be allowed.”
  20100713-Marshall
Mike Marshall, chair of the Crozet Community Advisory Board


The planning commission indicated last month that the Yancey Mills project should be independently reviewed by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. At Tuesday’s meeting, the commission formally voted to exclude the project from the master plan update and went a step further and also voted 4-3 to recommend the Board of Supervisors deny the business park request. Commissioners Don Franco, Linda Porterfield, and Edward Smith voted against that motion. 

Porterfield was the only commissioner who supported further study of the Yancey Mills project when the commission originally rejected it in November 2008 by a 6-1 vote. Franco and Smith joined the commission subsequent to that decision.

“We have not studied the Yancey proposal,” Porterfield said Tuesday. “We can’t vote it down if we don’t know anything about it.”

“There is no place else that I’m aware of in this county right now that there is one entity that controls that much land with good transportation,” Porterfield said. "If we don’t start thinking about that, we’re going to be supporting this entire county on residential taxes.”

The other topic getting considerable attention at the public hearing related to a proposal to mix commercial and residential uses in a small area north of downtown.  The commission voted unanimously to maintain the existing residential character of the neighborhood around Wayland Drive and St. George Avenue.

“We’ve had some interest for quite some time from property owners…wanting to have greater use of their property than just the single family residential use that they have right now,” said Elaine Echols, Albemarle County’s principal planner for the development areas.

“What we came up…with the community was a recommendation for mixed use in this particular area with a modification to the stream buffer to allow for redevelopment if there’s mitigation which helps to protect the water supply,” said Echols.

Jenny Martin spoke on behalf of the property owners that supported the staff’s recommendation. She said the proposal would create a transition between commercial and residential use.

“This designation of mixed use will create a buffer to the north of Crozet between commercial and residential which today does not currently exist and will preserve the look and feel of the village of Crozet,” Martin said.

However, other members of the community and representatives of the CCAC spoke against the proposal.

“The resolution that the advisory council passed was on where to maintain the boundary between commercial use…and residential,” said Marshall. “The motion…to maintain that natural [creek] boundary, which is the boundary today, as the future boundary…passed 10 to 2.”

“I cannot understand why just two houses in Wayland Park should be included in a transition zone for mixed use,” said Joyce Shifflett, a resident of St. George Avenue. “To consider just two houses in the subdivision for mixed use would be totally unfair to us and the other property owners in Wayland Park.”

In 2006, county staff prepared a report estimating that Crozet, which has a population of about 5,500 today, could reach a maximum population of about 24,000.  The revised plan now anticipates a long-term population capacity of approximately 18,000.

“I’m all for the community deciding that it wants a much lower total build out,” said Peter Loach of the Piedmont Housing Alliance. “I just want [the community] to be aware…as they lower density and make each house sit on a bigger piece of land, each house is going to cost more and become much less affordable.

Staff will incorporate changes recommended by the Planning Commission and bring the plan back for final approval at their meeting July 27.

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