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February 03, 2011

Supervisors adopt Places29, pass on Hollymead expansion

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, February 3, 2011

After nearly six years of planning and more than 70 public meetings, Albemarle County finally has a master plan to guide development in its northern growth areas.

“This is a very long-term guide for the community in the area and I think it’s important we get it in place,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker, shortly before a unanimous vote Wednesday.

Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning, said the adoption of the Places29 Master Plan changes the county’s Comprehensive Plan to reflect its desire for compact development in urban areas.

“We’ll review proposals and capital improvements program based on this plan,” Cilimberg said.

Land-use-south
Land use map for the southern portion of Places29 (Source: Albemarle County)

However, the board’s vote did not include the addition of 140 acres south of Hollymead Town Center into the county’s designated growth area.

Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd held a town meeting last week to explain how he thought the expansion would allow the county to collect money from developers through the rezoning process to build key transportation components called for in the plan.

“If we’re ever going to have Berkmar Drive Extended and the improvements that we want along U.S. 29, it’s going to take private investment,” Boyd said. “But it became clear to me in the past week that there is absolutely no interest in doing anything out there until we have a plan in place to make all the infrastructure available.”

Supervisors Lindsay Dorrier and Duane Snow both voted to include the Hollymead expansion area. Dorrier argued that the county needed to replace growth area acreage lost when the massive Biscuit Run property became a state park.

However, Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said northern Albemarle has enough area designated for future development.

“If we’re going to be thinking about replacing something having to do with Biscuit Run’s effect, I think it really should be in the same part of the county,” Mallek said. “There are a lot of residents there who feel they do not have the services and by putting more and more on U.S. 29 north, we’re exacerbating the problem.”

By approving the plan, the board expanded the county’s growth area by 45 acres, bringing in land adjacent to the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Rivanna Station.

20110202-snow
Supervisor Duane Snow

Rooker said he opposed that expansion, and pointed out the land use designation was not necessary because the federal government is exempt from local zoning.

“We will simply run up the price of the land that [the DIA] will ultimately have to pay for expansion by re-categorizing that land and therefore putting a higher price tag that the government has to pay when they buy it,” Rooker said.

Other transportation elements called for in the first five years of the plan include the construction of Hillsdale Drive Extended, improvements to the U.S. 29/250 interchange and the widening of U.S. 29 to six lanes from Polo Ground Road to the Hollymead Town Center.

At the request of the board, consideration of grade-separated interchanges at key intersections along U.S. 29 will be delayed for at least five years, until the plan is required by state law to be reviewed. State officials are warning against the total removal of the interchanges from the plan.

“If the interchanges are removed from the Places29 plan, additional traffic modeling and study would need to be done to ensure that current and future land use and recommended improvements to Route 29 support the goals of Places29 and the needs of the regional transportation network,” VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter said in an interview.

Just before the vote, Boyd asked for the Western Bypass to be included as one of the plan’s transportation components.

“I’ve always felt it should be part of consideration for future planning and it shouldn’t have been excluded,” Boyd said.

However, none of Boyd’s fellow supervisors expressed support.

“Let’s talk about that in five years,” Snow said.

“I don’t see any reason to stop this process for Places29 and do even more re-work on this particular issue when this item can come back up at will,” Mallek said.

Land-use-north
The northern section of the Places29 plan (Source: Albemarle County)

The Metropolitan Planning Organization is just beginning the process of revising its long-range plan for transportation projects, and Mallek suggested that would be the appropriate venue to discuss the bypass further.

An advisory council has been formed to oversee implementation of the Places29 plan. Members include ardent opponents of the plan, including several who have called for a permanent removal of grade-separated interchanges.

“We know that there are some challenges that some of the public still has with the plan,” said Lee Catlin, the county’s spokeswoman. “The point of the advisory council is to bring diverse perspectives together and to find common ground.”

Catlin said an initial meeting of the Places29 council will be held within a few months.

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