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October 22, 2010

Fire station slopes waiver prompts requests for Pantops community room

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By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, October 22, 2010

Fire-station-map
 

The last two fire stations built by Albemarle County feature training rooms that can be used by community groups for meetings. Now, one planning commissioner is calling for a planned Pantops station to include one as well.

“If we are building a public building, let’s make it for multiple uses,” said commissioner Cal Morris during a public hearing on a critical slopes waiver required for the new station.

The station is to be built on land donated to the county by the Worrell Land & Development Company, the developers of Peter Jefferson Place. The conditions of the donation specify that the facility is to be sited at the location of an existing maintenance shed. The Planning Commission endorsed the location for the station in September 2009.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101019-APC-Pantops

The slopes waiver application asked for permission to disturb less than a quarter of an acre to allow for construction of a one story 9,889 square foot building. However, the public hearing and commission discussion focused on the possibility of adding community space, and not the particulars of the requested slopes disturbance.

Dick Jennings, the chair of the Pantops Community Advisory Council, said the Pantops community does not have its share of county resources.

“There are no schools… there are no churches within the development area boundaries, there are no police stations,” Jennings said. “We on the Pantops council would like to be able to enhance the quality of life on Pantops and start a conversation about how to strengthen the quality of the community.”

The county fire chief said he did not think the Pantops station was an appropriate location for a community space.

“This particular station, just because of the constraints of the site and the owner’s desire to move it back as far as possible really limited our opportunity to add any additional community space or other amenities to this station,” said Dan Eggleston. He suggested the community ask Martha Jefferson Hospital if there is any community space on their new campus.

The plan is for the station to initially open in the spring of 2013 with six full-time crewmembers.  There will be one engine with volunteers staffing the station on nights and weekends, according to Eggleston. As currently designed, there are only 12 parking spaces on the site. The long-term goal is to add a second engine and an ambulance.

Ron Lilley with the county’s office of facilities development said the building’s footprint was reduced due to budget cuts, leaving no room for community space. The plan is currently to spend $3 million on the building.

He said the county has not discussed the possibility of two stories with Worrell, but a memorandum of understanding between the county and Worrell restrict the use to fire-rescue only.

“They have a real sensitivity to maintaining an open space field to that parcel as much as possible,” Lilley said.

Download Download Memorandum of Understanding between Worrell and Albemarle

After a unanimous vote approving the waiver request, Morris asked Lilley and Eggleston to approach the Worrell group and specifically ask if they would accept a two story building.

“There are ways of doing this,” Morris said.

David Benish, the county’s chief of planning, said the planned Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center in Darden Towe Park also offered opportunities for community meeting spaces.


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