Albemarle grants preliminary approval for Dunlora Forest
The Albemarle County Planning Commission has approved a critical slopes waiver and preliminary site plan for a 90-home development off Rio Road despite concerns from neighbors that it would further deteriorate traffic conditions on the road.
“You’re taking a beautiful place and you’re creating a traffic disaster,” said Anne Williams, a resident of nearby River Run. “If you don’t live there then you don’t know what we will be giving up if you approve of all of this.”
The Dunlora Forest development would include townhouses, single-family dwellings and duplexes on 22 acres at the corner of Rio and Pen Park Road.
Southern Development had originally hoped to build more homes as part of the project, but scaled back the density on the site following a meeting in July when it appeared the commission was unwilling to grant the critical slopes waiver.
The land is already zoned for high residential use and the Places29 master plan calls for dense development at that location.
“The property is located in the development area which has been identified by the Board [of Supervisors] and the Planning Commission as an area where development should occur,” said senior planner Megan Yaniglos.
The project’s primary entrance would be on Rio Road and its secondary entrance would be on Pen Park Road. This entrance is currently envisioned as being a right-in, right-out entrance, but engineers at the Virginia Department of Transportation will need to approve it.
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“That intersection is going to require a design exception for spacing requirements,” said VDOT engineer Joel Denunzio. “We need a traffic analysis of that specific area before we make any sort of commitments to what type of intersection that could be.”
River Run resident Paul Wright said he felt the new entrance would be a danger to his community because the right-in, right-out entrance would be frequently misused.
“I would ask that you pass this on to the Board of Supervisors for a proper review of this because I will guarantee you that if you allow this to happen, there will be accidents there,” Wright said. Wright is also a member of the county’s Architectural Review Board.
Commissioner Linda Porterfield said she could not approve the preliminary site plan because not enough attention has been paid to how additional traffic congestion in the area would be addressed. Another 90-home development, Treesdale Park, is currently under construction right across the street.
“The problem is, we’re approving the ability to put this many units in this location on a road that currently doesn’t seem to be handle very well the traffic that’s on it,” Porterfield said. “[And] we’re just going to increase that without a known solution.”
However, the rest of the commission voted for the motions Tuesday because they felt comfortable with the fact that VDOT would have to approve the entrance before the project can be built.
“We are going to work with VDOT because obviously we need their approval,” said Keith Lancaster of Southern Development.
Lancaster said the eventual opening of the Meadow Creek Parkway would cut traffic in half on Rio Road.
“There are solutions coming down the road as [Dunlora Forest] continues to go through the [development] process,” Lancaster said.
The commission will also need to approve a final site plan before construction can begin.
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