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May 15, 2011

UVa agrees to limit traffic impact of new office building

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DailyProgressBy Jason Ha & Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, May 15, 2011

The University of Virginia Health Services Foundation has agreed to remove a daycare facility from a proposed office complex it hopes to build on Fontaine Avenue west of that road’s interchange with the U.S. 29 bypass.

Morey-creek-view
Source: Daggett & Grigg

Residents of the adjacent Buckingham Circle argued at an Albemarle County Board of Supervisors public hearing last week that the Morey Creek Professional Center was out of scale with their neighborhood and would hurt their quality of life through increased noise and light pollution.

“This project is too large,” said neighborhood resident Brie Gertler. “All of the seriously negative impacts that it will have on the Buckingham Circle community can be decreased by decreasing the size of the building.”

The preliminary site plan submitted with the rezoning application depicted a 100,000-square-foot office building, a three-story parking garage and a 15,000-square-foot daycare center. The daycare center would serve the entire UVa community.

20110511-Daggett
Bill Daggett

The foundation proffered to pay for the installation of two traffic lights at the U.S. 29 interchange, as well as a sidewalk on the north side of Fontaine Avenue between the office building and the research park.

In April, the county Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the project. The land is currently zoned residential. A previously approved 61-unit townhouse development was never built.

Morey-creek-traffic
 

Bill Daggett, the architect who designed the proposed building, said it needed to be large enough to allow the foundation to consolidate all of its administrative departments into one location. That would free up space for more health-care clinics to be located at Fontaine Research Park.

“There is a solid basis and reasoning behind the Health Services Foundation’s request for a building of this magnitude,” Daggett said.    

A traffic analysis prepared by county staff calculated the project as submitted would generate 2,523 vehicle trips a day.

“The traffic is going to be backed up in the morning all the way up to this site,” said Buckingham Circle resident Dick Smith. “The daycare being outside of the bypass is a colossal mistake.”

That argument resonated with Supervisor Duane Snow, who suggested it be removed from the plan.

“By reducing the daycare center, it cuts out 1,189 [daily vehicle] trips, which reduces the traffic almost by half,” Snow said.

The rest of the board agreed, and Daggett said he would eliminate it from the project. UVa will locate the center elsewhere.

Despite the concession, the supervisors could not take action on the rezoning at Wednesday’s hearing because the changes have to be re-advertised for another public hearing.

“In order to eliminate the daycare, there would need to be an amendment to the … application plan that would no longer show that use,” said county attorney Larry Davis.

The next public hearing on the Morey Creek Professional Center is tentatively scheduled for July. It will not need to go back to the Planning Commission.

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