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September 10, 2010

Board approves expansion for Fontaine Research Park

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DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, September 10, 2010

The University of Virginia Foundation has been given the greenlight to expand its research park on Fontaine Avenue.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a rezoning for the park at its meeting Wednesday night.

20100908-Fontaine
Click to enlarge

The rezoning allows the foundation to expand to a maximum of 875,000 square feet of building space, up from the currently allowed 565,000 square feet. The foundation was also granted several special-use permits, including one allowing for the construction of a 60-bed hospital and another allowing for parking garages.

“As far as I know, the [existing] buildings are full,” said Fred Missel, director of development for the UVa Foundation. Current tenants include various UVa departments and medical facilities, as well as the CFA Institute.

Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker praised the rezoning application.

“The university continues to grow and this plan would allow some vertical growth, especially with the parking decks,” he said.

The most recent rezoning does not answer conclusively the future of the proposed Sunset-Fontaine Connector but does offer clues to how parts of it might be funded.

In 2004, the city, county, and UVa jointly authored a planning study that depicted several potential locations for the connector road. The county’s Comprehensive Plan was amended to encourage an alignment that would see the road built along the eastern edge of the park.

However, the cost for that alignment would be high because of the need to cross streams as well as a railroad in the southern portion of the road.

Albemarle Planning Director Wayne Cilimberg said county staff and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission are conducting a new analysis of the area around the park to determine what transportation improvements would be most effective.

“[The connector] may not be the ultimate solution,” Cilimberg said. “That’s why we need to restudy the area.”

A subcommittee of city, county and UVa officials is expected to hear details of the TJPDC analysis at a meeting in October.

However, a proffer made as part of the rezoning outlines many scenarios in which the UVa Foundation would be responsible for paying for some portions of the road if it seeks a further expansion of the park.

“The university and the foundation have stated publicly for many years that they would accommodate the connector road in that location when-ever the road is ready to be built,” said Valerie Long, an attorney for the foundation. As such, the conceptual plan submitted with the rezoning application dedicates a portion of the property for the road.

However, the proffer states that if the city and county choose an alignment for the connector which does not cross the park, the UVa Foundation will pay only an amount equivalent to the investment that would have been made if the road were in the park.

Download Download staff report with link to proffer statement

If the foundation seeks to expand beyond 875,000 square feet, it will be required to build a second entrance to the park. In that case, Long said, officials would consider building it on land currently reserved for the connector.

The Virginia Department of Forestry’s headquarters is accessed from the Fontaine Research Park. One forestry official was concerned the plan did not clearly show that road connections would remain.

“The Department of Forestry is concerned that any continued development of the Fontaine Research Park must take into consideration our access to both facilities,” said Brad Williams, the assistant state forester.

Long assured Williams that his concerns were unfounded.

“The university certainly will not be cutting off access to Natural Resources Drive,” Long said. “They have a legal right of access easement there, and the foundation and the University of Virginia want to make certain [forestry] trucks and vehicles are accommodated safely.”

The UVa Foundation will have to come back before the Albemarle supervisors for site-plan approval before new construction at the park can begin.

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