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April 15, 2010

Albemarle’s six-year road plan challenged by significant state funding cuts

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Albemarle County is slated to receive $325,000 a year from the Virginia Department of Transportation over the next five years for secondary road construction.  The funding is as low as county officials have ever seen it, down dramatically from the $5.15 million allocated by the state in FY 2004.
 
Were it not for right of way use fees paid by utility company customers in their monthly bills, Albemarle County would have no state funding for secondary roads.  All other state and federal funding sources for secondary road construction have been eliminated. 

That was the assessment of Allan D. Sumpter, head of VDOT’s Charlottesville residency, shortly before the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing Wednesday.  Each year, the board reviews the annual list of local secondary road priorities, also known as the six-year plan.

Secondary roads are those numbered 600 and above.  Primary roads, like U.S. Route 29, are funded from other sources for their construction and maintenance.

20100414-BOS

Of the twenty-two projects on Albemarle’s secondary road priority list, only the Meadowcreek Parkway is moving forward.  The other two top priority projects—Jarman’s Gap Road and Georgetown Road—have both had their start dates pushed back repeatedly and their scopes significantly reduced.

“Jarman’s Gap road has been on [the list] forever, you will believe it when you see it,” said County Planning Commissioner Tom Loach in an interview.  “One of the reasons we did the master plan for Crozet was for concurrency of infrastructure, something we have not seen with the [plan’s implementation].”

Improvements along Jarmans Gap Road, including sidewalks and bike lanes, are estimated to cost around $16 million and VDOT now plans to advertise the project for construction bids in January 2011.

David Benish, Albemarle’s chief of planning, told the board that both Jarman’s Gap and Georgetown Road would be fully funded in the proposed six year plan and advertised in 2011 for construction. 

20090404-Broomley-Bridge The next project that will start receiving allocations is the replacement of the Broomley Road railroad bridge near Ivy Nursery off Route 250 West.  Benish said the bridge project is not expected to accumulate adequate funding until 2017.

More than ever before, Albemarle is being left to find its own financial resources to address transportation needs.  When the board passed its FY 2011 budget, Supervisor Dennis Rooker unsuccessfully advocated for a 2 cent increase on the real estate property tax rate in order to support what he called “a modest capital budget,” funds which could be used to support transportation projects.

The county’s approved budget includes a 2010 tax rate of 74.2 cents per $100 of assessed value, which means the average household pays about $90 less in real-estate taxes than in 2009 because assessed home values have declined.

Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier, a fiscally conservative Democrat, teamed with three Republicans on the Board of Supervisors — Kenneth C. Boyd, Rodney S. Thomas and Duane Snow — to keep the rate unchanged.

“If you had the money to do it, that would be great,” said Snow in an interview.  “The bottom line is we don’t have the money….Next year, if we do a tax increase, that will give us some additional money to put into infrastructure.”

“We need to curtail our spending.  We get both feet on the ground, then we can move forward with some of these things,” said Thomas in an interview.  “I’d like to get through the next 6 months and dig deeper into the budgets and the spending.  I would love to get our capital improvements program built back up, but now is not the right time to raise taxes.”

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve its list of road priorities and the road construction budget in Albemarle’s six-year secondary road plan.

April 08, 2010

Crozet residents weigh in on master plan, Yancey industrial park

DailyProgress
This article is an extended version of what appears in today's
Daily Progress.

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, April 8, 2010

As Albemarle County looks for ways to increase its industrial land, some Crozet residents are concerned their community has paid a high price for development in the past several years.

“There are many many people in Crozet who are suffering because of the changes that have come,” said Crozet resident Mary Gallo.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100406-APC-Crozet-Plan

The Crozet Master Plan was originally adopted in 2004, and must be reviewed every five years.  For the past few months, planners have been working with the Crozet Community Advisory Council (CCAC) to adjust the plan.

“When we asked the community about the update and what the focus areas should be, the guiding principle [was] that Crozet should remain Crozet,” said County Planner Rebecca Ragsdale during a work session held Tuesday by the Albemarle County Planning Commission. 

Many Crozet residents were concerned that maps included with the plan showed a total potential population build-out of 24,760, even though the text of the plan capped that figure at 12,000.

The revision involves changes to the map and lowering densities in some areas to bring that number between 15,000 and 17,300.

Commission Chair Tom Loach said he was glad for the lower population numbers, but pointed out they were still higher than the community expected.

“We’re 30% above what [was] originally recommended by the consultants,” Loach said.

The review of the plan also included consideration of two separate requests to change the land use in and around the boundaries of the Crozet plan, but neither request was endorsed by the CCAC or staff.

Celeste Ploumis is seeking an up-zoning of her land at the corner of U.S 250 and Route 240 to create a garden center. She said she’s lived on the property for twenty years, but growth has made her land unsuitable for residential use.

“Planned growth has brought four traffic lights within a mile or so of my home, along with countless subdivisions, shopping centers, and a great increase in population,” Ploumis said.

However, neighbor Lucy Goeke told the Commission she felt granting the request would cause more congestion on Route 250.

“If one more piece of property goes [commercial]… we’ll all be forced to switch,” Goeke said.

20100406-AlbCoPC-W_Yancey Will Yancey

The review of the plan also includes consideration of a request from the Yancey family, owners of the R.A. Yancey Lumber Yard, to add 184 acres to the county’s growth area to create a light industrial business park.

However, neither staff nor the CCAC support the idea. 

“The recommendation from the community was that if there is a need for more light industrial [land], that it be located in the Crozet development area, and that [Route] 250 continue to be protected from commercial development,” Ragsdale said.

The plan suggests that additional land be designated for industrial uses along Route 240.

“There seems to be two competing visions for where to put an employment center in and around Crozet,” said Will Yancey, representing his family.

During his presentation, Yancey said he felt his land was a more appropriate location for industrial use, claiming trucks could easily access the park via I-64 and a four-lane section of Route 250. He said trucks trying to get to the suggested industrial center on Route 240 would need to travel further and past many residential neighborhoods.

Download Download the Yancey proposal dated September 2, 2008

Mary Rice, a member of the CCAC, said she thought the review process had been positive for the community.

“I think Crozet citizens have regained a lot of faith in the county,” Rice said. “I’d encourage you to keep that faith… and deny any industrial park.”

Crozet resident Mary Gallo said she hoped the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors would reject the Yancey proposal, citing the Board’s 2007 decision not to allow the Soccer-Organization of Charlottesville-Albemarle to build an indoor training facility off of Polo Grounds Road because it is not in the growth area.

“That was denied strictly because it was in the rural area,” Gallo said.

20100406-AlbCoPC-Mary_Rice Mary Rice
Chairman Loach pointed out that the Planning Commission has already dismissed the Yancey proposal once, and is only considering it again at the direction of the Board of Supervisors. He also said Yancey did not mention during his presentation that portions of the property are in the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir’s watershed. 

“It has been consistently been the policy of the county not to build in a watershed,” Loach said.

Commissioner Don Franco said he had not made up his mind on the Yancey proposal, but wanted more information the CCAC’s opposition given the Board of Supervisors’ desire to increase the amount of land zoned for light industrial use.

 “If the county decided that it made more sense to  put [light industrial zoning on the Yancey property] and not to put it downtown because of some of the access points, what would make that bearable?”, Franco asked.

Planning Commissioner Ed Smith, who has only been on the body since January, said he can remember when Crozet was a very small place.

“A lot of people have moved in since then and everyone has their own opinion,” Smith said.  “I haven’t made up my mind, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to take a vote on this.”

County planning staff will now begin the process of writing up new text to go along with the revised maps. Both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors are expected to hold a public hearing this summer.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Staff report from Rebecca Ragsdale
  • 18:40 - Ragsdale summarizes changes for industrial designate
  • 27:00 - Ragsdale describes updates to transportation called for in the master plan
  • 29:00 - Ragsdale discusses updates to green infrastructure and parks
  • 32:00 - Public comment from Celeste Ploumis in support of her CPA request
  • 37:40 - Public comment from Tom Murray, a real estate appraiser who spoke in favor of her CPA    
  • 40:22 - Public comment from Chris Holden, a neighbor of Ploumis opposed to her request
  • 43:00 - Public comment from Jenny Martin, legal guardian for Ellen Claytor, regarding downtown property
  • 54:00 - Public comment from Lucy Goeke in opposition of the Ploumis request.
  • 55:00 - Public comment from Tom Oakley in connection with a downtown property
  • 56:00 - Public comment from D.B. Sandridge, Oakley's realtor
  • 58:15 - Public comment from Carlos Romas, who wants to open up a garden center on the Ploumis property
  • 58:40 - Public comment from Tom Goeke against the Yancey proposal
  • 1:00:00 - Public comment from Barbara Westbrook regarding the Ploumis property
  • 1:02:00 - Public comment from Mary Gallo encouraging PC to adopt CCAC's recommendations for plan
  • 1:07:00 - Public comment from Mary Rice of the CCAC
  • 1:08:40 - Public comment from Tim Tolson of the CCAC
  • 1:10:15 - Public comment from Crozet resident Delia Wilson
  • 1:11:20 - Public comment from Bill Schrader of the CCAC
  • 1:14:30 - Public comment from Mike Marshall of the CCAC
  • 1:16:30 - Public comment from Will Yancey in support of his proposal
  • 1:23:00 - Public comment from Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum
  • 1:24:30 - Comments from Planning Commissioner Tom Loach
  • 1:31:30 - Question and comments from Commissioner Duane Zobrist
  • 1:36:30 - Comments from Commissioner Cal Morris
  • 1:37:00 - Comments from Commissioner Don Franco
  • 1:45:30 - Director of Planning Wayne Cilimberg mentions the emerging concept of allowing low-impact industry at interstate interchanges
  • 1:49:00 - Comments from Planning Commissioner  Ed Smith


 

April 06, 2010

County planners to take up industrial zoning change, Crozet Master plan

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Albemarle County Planning Commission will consider two items tonight that could affect the future of industrial businesses in the county. Commissioners will discuss the first of several expected zoning changes intended to encourage additional economic development and will also hold a work session on the Crozet Master Plan.

When Albemarle County rewrote its zoning code in 1980, two separate districts were created for industrial development.

 “Heavy industrial” zoning was set aside for factories and other businesses “which have public nuisance potential and will therefore be subject to intensive review.”

“Light” industrial districts were specifically designated for the creation of businesses that could operate adjacent to residential and commercial zoning because of their lower impact on neighboring properties.

Tonight, the Planning Commission will consider a resolution of intent that would enable them to pursue an amendment to the county’s zoning that would allow for some heavy industrial uses in light industrial zoning with a special use permit.

Download Download the staff report for the zoning text amendment


The change was requested by the Board of Supervisors following the release in January of an inventory of the county’s available land for industrial development.

The survey concluded that Albemarle has less than 200 acres of vacant land zoned for light industrial uses, and only 40 vacant acres zoned for heavy industrial use. This land is almost entirely along U.S. 29 north of Charlottesville.

“We’re hoping to improve the distribution of uses and better disburse [them] throughout the county,” said Susan Stimart, the county’s business development coordinator.

Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning, said the distinction between heavy and light industry may have become somewhat dated because of new technology.

For instance, he said that in 1980, a concrete-mixing plant would have been considered heavy industry because all of the work was done outside, creating noise and dust for neighbors.

“Most of its operation [today] is inside buildings with not that much exterior activity,” Cilimberg said. “The special use permit [application] becomes a bit of a location-specific rezoning if you will,” Cilimberg said.”The commission can just deny it if it’s not in the right spot.”

Tonight’s discussion of the zoning change is only the first in a series of proposed changes to the county’s zoning code to boost industrial development.  Stimart said the second phase would involve redefining the light industrial classification to make it harder for businesses to build office complexes on land that is not intended for that use.

“That tends to raise the price of industrial real estate,” Stimart said.

Neither Stimart nor Cilimberg said they were aware of any specific individual or business who had requested the zoning amendment to allow heavy industrial activities in new areas of the county. Stimart said the change may help the county as it seeks to find ways to allow for private recycling facilities within its borders.

The commission will also hold a work session on the Crozet Master Plan, the first time the plan has been back before decision-makers following a series of community discussions this winter.

The work session will include a discussion of whether or not the county’s growth area should be expanded near Western Albemarle High School near Interstate 64. The Yancey family has requested the expansion so they can build a 184-acre business park for light industrial uses.

February 07, 2010

Decision on Yancey Mills Business Park to wait until July

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, February 7, 2010

A proposal to bring 184 acres of western Albemarle land into the county’s development area to create an industrial park will continue to be considered as part of the Crozet Master Plan, despite the concerns of one supervisor who wants to expedite the decision.

"The problem I'm having is I'm not sure why it's taking so long for the Crozet Master Plan to be reviewed," Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said. Boyd also said the county needs to foster more commercial activity in order increase county revenues.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100203-BOS-Yancey-Mills

In August 2008, Will Yancey submitted a request to Albemarle to amend the county’s Comprehensive Plan seeking the ability to create a light industrial business park on mostly rural land that borders Interstate 64 and Western Albemarle High School.

The Planning Commission and staff have both recommended denial of the proposal, but the Board of Supervisors directed staff in December 2008 to evaluate the proposal as part of the revision of the Crozet Master Plan.

Community and staff recommendations on the revised plan will not come before the Board of Supervisors until July. In the meantime, the board heard a report Wednesday on the county’s supply of available industrial land that could be immediately occupied by businesses looking to expand or relocate here.

The report by business development facilitator Susan Stimart says that while there are 900 acres designated in the county’s Comprehensive Plan for industrial use, only about 100 of those acres carry the proper zoning and are available for development.

“All the measurements indicated that we have a shortage of light industrial and heavy industrial [lands],” Stimart said.

Stimart said the land is needed by companies that start here, but outgrow their existing location. She told the board the county will soon lose BOSS Medical Technologies to Fluvanna County because they could not find enough land that was affordable on which to build a new facility.

The report also states that most of the 900 acres are located along U.S. 29, which is not as desirable because of congestion and lack of access to Interstate 64. That view was also held by at least one supervisor.

“My view of light industrial is that it needs to be located in a usable place,” said Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas during the work session. “Let’s have [land] available so we can open the door for these people that want to come here.”

Stimart’s report included several recommendations. The first would protect land currently zoned for light industrial use by removing office and other uses from the zoning ordinance. The second would be to preemptively rezone land designated in the Comprehensive Plan as light industrial. Stimart said this would only be done with the permission of individual property owners.

The report’s final recommendation would be to allow additional uses in rural areas near interchanges with I-64 in both the Yancey Mills area and along U.S. 250 in Shadwell. This would require the creation of a “Light Industrial (LI) light” designation to allow storage yards and other uses that would not require access to the water and sewer system. Benish said it would take a year to develop ordinance language to bring the “LI-light” category before the board.

That timeline bothered Boyd.

“I can’t sit here and say that I think we need another year to jumpstart this economy,” Boyd said. He added that the “LI-Light” concept might prevent a fair hearing of the Yancey project, which offers a different vision of how Crozet’s interchange with I-64 might be configured.

“These people want to move forward with this project,” Boyd told fellow supervisors. “I think they deserve their chance in front of this board to do that.”

Benish said he did not think the community or staff would recommend the addition of the Yancey land to the growth area, but he said the board would have the final say.

Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said the Crozet Community Advisory Council has been strongly opposed to the project. However, he added the board had the power to remove the Yancey proposal from the Crozet Master Plan revision process if it wanted to.

Benish said if the board did not want to wait until July to make a decision on the Yancey proposal, it needed to direct staff as soon as possible. That direction did not occur on Wednesday.

Thomas suggested the Yancey proposal continue as part of the Crozet Master Plan. Board Chairwoman Ann Mallek said that was essential, given the importance of trust between government and residents.

“The community put their heart into [the revision] and they believe it,” Mallek said. “I think that in all the various [magisterial] districts, people need to have confidence in the master planning process.”  Mallek said Crozet’s priority was to invest in its downtown area, and not to create new development areas on the edges.

Will Yancey, representing the Yancey family, said in an interview that he would be happy to have his proposal considered outside of the plan’s context, and he hopes supervisors would consider more than just Crozet when making their decision.

“Fundamentally, the lack of light industrial zoning is a county-wide issue that shouldn't exclude input from the broader community beyond Crozet,” Yancey said.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Susan Stimart begins her report on the LI inventory   
  • 04:15 - Rooker points out that the UVA Research Park is not being taken into consideration by report
  • 05:20 - Boyd disagrees with Rooker's concern
  • 10:20 - Benish explains why the research park wasn't deemed appropriate for the needs being assess in the LI report
  • 11:10 - Rooker points to Fifth and Avon development as an example of why there isn't much demand for LI
  • 12:50 - Thomas said he would prefer to rezone land to industrial to make it available
  • 14:45 - Mallek asks question about potential industrial uses for small parcels
  • 20:40 - Boyd said there a lot of reasons why the 900 acres in the comp plan aren't where the inventory is needed
  • 22:35 - Stimart seeks feedback on the report's recommendation: maintain and allow ease of use for existing properties
  • 26:15 - Discussion of whether land designed in comprehensive plan should be preemptively rezoned
  • 28:00 - Boyd asks for information on companies that have been unable to relocate or expand in Albemarle
  • 34:50 - Snow asks how much of the decisions is driven by property costs
  • 38:00 - Benish seeks direction on staff recommendations
  • 42:00 - Discussion of second recommendation
  • 45:30 - Boyd expresses frustration
  • 46:30 - Davis said a key first step will be to create a new zoning district  
  • 50:30 - Mallek said Crozet community wants to focus light industrial uses on north side of Route 240
  • 53:00 - Stimart asks for feedback on the LI-Light proposal
  • 1:03:00 - Boyd says he has a problem with Yancey Mills proposal being held up, prompting discussion about whether it should be considered in Crozet Master Plan
  • 1:05:15 - Benish describes how Yancey proposal was connected   

January 17, 2010

County planners to debate whether Albemarle has enough industrial land

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, January 17, 2010

Landscaper Scott Watkins was told by Albemarle officials in February 2005 that the landscaping business he had operated for more than twenty years was in violation of county zoning because its headquarters and storage yard was located in the rural area off of Route 20.

Five years later, Watkins is still working with community development officials to move his company into the development area.

“The process is like crawling through forty miles of barbed wire because there are so many pieces to it,” Watkins said. He estimates he’s spent nearly half a million dollars to stay in Albemarle County.

After much research, Watkins found property on Route 250 near Crozet that could be rezoned. In March 2008, the Board of Supervisors granted him the rezoning, but he is still working to meet the requirements detailed in his site plan.

Watkins’ story is one of many that has prompted some members of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to back an “action plan” of steps designed to make the county more business friendly. Among the proposals in the plan, adopted earlier this month, is the call for an expedited review of a report on the availability of light industrial land.

That report, initiated well before last November’s elections, will be presented to the Albemarle County Planning Commission on Tuesday night. Susan Stimart, the county’s business development facilitator, analyzed real-estate records and conducted interviews with business owners to produce a “snapshot” of available industrial land.

“Staff concludes there is a shortage of high-quality, vacant industrial land compared with existing users’ stated demands, workforce projections and comparable supply in other jurisdictions,” Stimart writes in the report.

Download Download Susan Stimart's assessment of light-industrial land in Albemarle County

One of the conclusions is that there are currently less than 200 acres of available vacant land in Albemarle zoned for “light industrial” uses such as research and development, printing, and light manufacturing.  

20100117-map1 Stimart's report includes maps showing where vacant industrial land remains in Albemarle County
However, the report also indicates the true figure is closer to 100 acres because some of the land is in the rural area and because other properties are undergoing environmental remediation. One such location is the former Acme Visible Records complex in Crozet, which sits on 52 acres, but is scheduled for six more years of environmental clean-up.

Another conclusion is that the County’s comprehensive plan has over 900 acres of land designated for “industrial service” but which is currently zoned for other purposes. With the plan and the zoning out of accord, a company looking to locate here or expand would have to would have to go through the county’s rezoning process.

In general, the report recommends the county take several steps to increase the amount of land available for industrial use. Using employment statistics extrapolated from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Stimart estimates the county will need between 184 and 500 additional acres of land zoned for industrial uses by 2018 in order to meet future employment needs.

Recommended steps include bringing zoning into conformance with the comprehensive plan, allowing for more uses (such as storage yards) on land zoned for light-industrial, and using the upcoming master planning process for the county’s southern development area to designate new areas for industrial use.

Mike Harvey, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development, said whether the County has enough land or not, the issue is whether individual parcels are large enough to attract industrial development. He said many companies evaluate localities first through Internet-based research.

20100117-map2 The report shows that the majority of vacant land designated in the comprehensive plan for industrial service tends to be in the Places29 area
“Sometimes you don’t make the cut because you don’t have the basic property,” Harvey said. One Albemarle landowner has offered to increase the county’s inventory by expanding the designated growth area. Will Yancey has introduced a comprehensive plan amendment that asks for 184 acres of mostly rural land near his family’s Yancey Lumber Company to be moved into the growth area, specifically to create a light industrial business park.

“I think the report clearly states what we’ve known anecdotally for some time,” Yancey said. “There is an inadequate amount of land zoned for industrial uses in the county.” He added that his land is close to I-64, has access to water and sewer, and contains at least 50 acres of developable land.

Jeff Werner with the Piedmont Environmental Council said the county has squandered much of the land that had been zoned light industrial. During the residential and retail boom of the last decade, many properties that had been zoned for light industrial use were rezoned to make way for new developments such as Albemarle Place and Hollymead Town Center.

Werner specifically pointed to the March 2008 rezoning of 88 acres off of Fifth Street Extended to make way for a new shopping center.

“I don’t recall anyone from the development community raising any concerns about that,” Werner said

“Given that the county has been willing to rezone light industrial lands for retail, I see no need to expand the growth area.”

Harvey said that, in Albemarle, the problem is often companies that grow here but can’t expand because land is either too expensive or unavailable. For his part, Watkins said he wanted to make sure he could stay in Albemarle because most of his clients are located here.

The Albemarle County Planning Commission will receive and discuss the report at their meeting Tuesday evening at 6:00 PM at the County Office Building.

January 05, 2010

Top-10 Growth & Development Stories of 2009

In my weekly appearance today on WINA AM 1070 on the Charlottesville Right Now program, host Coy Barefoot and I will count down Charlottesville Tomorrow's top-10 growth and development stories of 2009.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download Brian Wheeler's appearance on the Coy Barefoot show

This is the fourth year we have counted down the top-10 growth and development stories in Charlottesville-Albemarle.  This wouldn’t be possible without the support of WINA for the Charlottesville Right Now program, host Coy Barefoot for having me on the show each week, Charlottesville Tomorrow’s donors, and the excellent reporting by my colleague Sean Tubbs and our interns.

Charlottesville Tomorrow's Top-10 Growth & Development Stories of 2009
  1. Biscuit Run goes from Albemarle’s largest proposed development ever to a future state park after all 1,200 acres are acquired by the Commonwealth of Virginia in December.
  2. Meadowcreek Parkway construction begins in Albemarle.  Local lawsuit fails to stop construction and City Council’s 3-2 vote to convey City property is upheld in court.  In December, VDOT puts City’s portion (called McIntire Road Extended) out to bid and City Council approves preliminary interchange design.
  3. City & County both hold local elections.  Democrats keep all five seats on Charlottesville City Council.  Three independent candidates in the City are unsuccessful in their bids for Council with Bob Fenwick’s campaign largely a referendum on the future of McIntire Park and dredging for water supply needs.  In Albemarle, Republican Rodney Thomas upset incumbent Chairman Democrat David Slutzky (D-Rio).  In the open seat race to fill the Samuel Miller District seat, Republican Duane Snow defeats two opponents.  Thomas and Snow join Republican Ken Boyd to form a group of three Republicans.  Both newcomers are local businessmen born and raised in Charlottesville-Albemarle. The election results will bring a new mix of experience, politics and philosophy to the board in 2010 that could mean big changes in the board's approach to budgeting, tax rates, economic development and other key issues.
  4. Fifty-year Community Water Supply Plan continues to be evaluated by local officials and public for opportunities to improve plan and lower costs.  Engineering firm Gannett Fleming is dropped and replaced with local firm Schnabel Engineering.  Three studies get underway related to dredging of South Fork, the design of the new Ragged Mountain Dam, and a “conceptual review” of the proposed pipeline connecting the two reservoirs.
  5. Places29 Master Plan is recommended for approval by Albemarle County Planning Commission on 4-2 vote.  Many business leaders continue to oppose grade-separated interchanges and other transportation proposals that cannot currently be funded by state.  Wendell Wood lobbies for growth area expansion on to undeveloped land he owns in Northern Albemarle.
  6. Peter van der Linde opens recycling facility at Zion Crossroads.  Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (run jointly by Charlottesville-Albemarle) files lawsuit against van der Linde accusing him of fraud and non-payment of as much as $1 million in tipping fees to the RSWA facility.  RSWA decides to seek bids to privatize the Ivy Material Utilization Center and McIntire recycling facilities.
  7. Charlottesville Downtown Mall renovations completed under budget and mostly on schedule (fountains needed more work after deadline).
  8. Major new housing and retail developments continue to be held up by market forces, economic downturn, and lack of adequate public infrastructure (e.g. sewer capacity).
  9. Virginia General Assembly blocks local sales tax voter referendum, requested by both Charlottesville & Albemarle as part of search for new transportation funding resources, specifically to support formation of a Regional Transit Authority.
  10. First annual CvillePieFest is held in Crozet.  Organized on Twitter, it was simply amazing.
    (Full disclosure: Coy Barefoot & Brian Wheeler really want to continue as permanent judges for this event, something that should become the Virginia Pie Festival! Keep track of all things local pie here.)
Brian’s predictions for the top stories of 2010
  1. Key decisions will be made about next steps for the fifty-year Community Water Supply Plan related to Ragged Mountain dam design and dredging.
  2. Crozet Master Plan review is completed.  What is new target for Crozet’s build out population and will the growth area be expanded at Yancey Mills for a new business park?
  3. New growth area land in U.S. Route 29 corridor will be considered to replace the 3.5% of growth area lost to state’s acquisition in late 2009 of Biscuit Run for a new state park.
  4. Village of Rivanna and Places29 Master Plans will be reviewed by Board of Supervisors.  Will Places29 be approved and, if so, with what transportation vision for the future of U.S. 29 North?
  5. Local government continues to struggle with the continuing impact of state and local budget shortfalls in very difficult economy.  Officials will consider new proposals to diversify Albemarle’s tax base (increased commercial/industrial) and proposals to reduce recently adjusted cash proffer expectations in an effort to encourage new home construction.
  6. City-County-UVA cooperation will get more attention by the public and local officials (revenue sharing, water, solid waste, schools, public safety).  Will it get better or worse?
  7. Master Planning of McIntire Park will get underway and future uses, like a botanical garden, will be assessed. 
  8. The military facilities at Rivanna Station around the National Ground Intelligence Center will continue their expansion and bring new residents to the community working for the Defense Intelligence Agency and military sub-contractors.
  9. Charlottesville and Albemarle both face challenges from their residents concerned about urban infill development, the type of growth encouraged by each locality’s comprehensive plans, but often opposed in the face of neighborhood concerns about increased traffic, public safety, and noise.  How will this impact redevelopment of West Main and old Martha Jefferson Hospital?
  10. Landmark Hotel construction on Downtown Mall resumes, or not…

December 19, 2009

Crozet leaders anticipate a critical review of Yancey Mills Business Park in January

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, December 19, 2009

Albemarle County officials gathered more input on potential changes to the twenty-year Crozet Master Plan at a forum held Thursday evening.  The Crozet community continues to weigh in on modifications to the county’s first ever master plan, originally approved in 2004, which is now getting its first five-year review.

Mike Marshall, chair of the Crozet Community Advisory Council, welcomed an audience of about 40 residents to the third of five planned community forums on different aspects of the master plan.  Marshall said he didn’t think there would be much controversy about the matters on the evening’s agenda, however he foreshadowed concerns about the Yancey Mills Business Park proposal. 

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Mike Marshall, Chair, Crozet Community Advisory Council
Marshall, an outspoken critic of the expansion of the growth area and business park, encouraged residents to each return with “15 or 20 friends” for the next forum being held January 21st.“The next forum is going to be about light industrial uses,” said Marshall. “This is a highly significant issue for Crozet and we need a good turnout and we need people to pay attention.  The Yancey’s have put in a comprehensive plan amendment which would create a 184-acre light industrial park at the southeast corner of the I-64 interchange.”

The Albemarle County Planning Commission will receive a highly anticipated report on issues related to light industrial zoning at their meeting January 19th.  Marshall said he wanted the advisory council to weigh in on that report, with feedback from Crozet residents, before the recommendations are considered by the Board of Supervisors in February.

Incoming Supervisor Rodney Thomas (Rio) said in a November interview that he was interested in finding new locations for light industrial businesses and that he was open to discussing the business park proposal in Crozet’s rural area. 

A year ago, the supervisors overturned a 6-1 vote by the planning commission to table the business park and directed that the Yancey Mills project be considered as part of the master plan review.  At the time, Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) expressed concern about leaving a decision that he said could have benefits for the entire county “in the hands of a relatively small group of people” in Crozet.

At the first two forums on the master plan revisions, the community discussed downtown Crozet and land use patterns.  The topics at Thursday’s meeting included transportation facilities, parks and greenways, and community facilities like libraries and schools.

20091217-Crozet “I think that the planning process is a good one,” said participant Mac Lafferty in an interview.  “I like the way that the county has broken it down into several different meetings. I  was pretty pleased with the participation we had last night.”

Lafferty, an engineer that previously lived in Crozet, was appointed last week by Supervisor Dennis Rooker to the county planning commission’s Jack Jouett seat.  His term begins in January.  Supervisor Ann Mallek was another local official in attendance at the forum.

On transportation, residents said they wanted a reexamination of a frontage road proposed by staff to run parallel to Route 250 in front of Brownsville Elementary and Henley Middle School.  The County’s Community Relations Manager, Lee Catlin, said she also heard residents express a high priority for trails and pedestrian connections that would allow people living in Western Ridge, Highlands  to get into downtown Crozet.

Mike Marshall said a pedestrian connection was also needed between downtown Crozet and Old Trail Village.

“We now have two economic centers that really are within walking distance, that are trying to emerge and get stronger,” said Marshall.  “We need to make it plain to people that you can walk there.”

After the fifth community forum is held in February, a summary of recommendations from staff and the public will be provided to the planning commission in March.  The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to start its review of the Crozet Master Plan revisions in June.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 00:01:11 – Introduction by Mike Marshall, Chair, Crozet Community Advisory Council
  • 00:07:24 – Presentation by Elaine Echols, Albemarle County’s principal planner for the development areas
  • 00:10:30 – Echols describes timeline for master plan review.  Planning Commission to get recommendations in March 2010.  Recommendations go to Board of Supervisors in June 2010.
  • 00:11:19 – Echols reviews guiding principles and 2004 recommendations for transportation issues
  • 00:18:05 – Echols reviews staff recommendations for transportation changes in the master plan
  • 00:24:10 -- Echols discusses staff recommendation to maintain proposed frontage road in front of Brownsville Elementary and Henley Middle School, parallel to Route 250.
  • 00:25:09 -- Rebecca Ragsdale, Albemarle County Neighborhood Planner, starts staff presentation on parks and greenways
  • 00:26:19 – Ragsdale reviews guiding principles and 2004 recommendations for parks and greenways
  • 00:27:58 – Ragsdale reviews the limited staff recommendations for changes in the master plan related to parks and greenways
  • 00:31:38 – Ragsdale reviews guiding principles and 2004 recommendations for community facilities
  • 00:36:36 – Ragsdale reviews staff recommendations for community facilities in the master plan
  • 00:38:40 – Marshall asks residents for feedback on transportation issues.  Goal of road interconnections in 2004 master plan is discussed.
  • 00:40:35 – Marshall asks for discussion of proposed frontage road in front of Brownsville Elementary and Henley Middle School.  Resident questions value of this road.  Ragsdale describes benefit for traffic that would not need to get on Route 250.  Marshall says he doesn’t think it will contribute much benefit.  Parent describes benefit of road for student pick up and drop offs.
  • 00:48:18 – Marshall reflects that there are a number of concerns being raised about traffic congestion at the school.  Discussion of truck traffic and proposed Eastern Avenue.
  • 01:10:47 – County Transportation Engineer, Jack Kelsey, provides update on Jarmans Gap Road improvements.  He reports that VDOT’s staff cuts in right-of-way acquisition department is causing some delays.  Kelsey says there is a $900,000 gap funding shortfall on the project.
  • 01:16:00 – Marshall starts discussion of parks and greenways.
  • 01:19:30 – Marshall calls for a pedestrian connection between Downtown Crozet and Old Trail.
  • 01:22:00 -- Marshall starts discussion of community facilities.  Need for placeholder for a third elementary school is discussed.
  • 01:23:41 -- Recap of comments as captured by Lee Catlin, Albemarle’s Community Relations Manager

December 11, 2009

Rooker names engineer to County Planning Commission

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 10, 2009

Recently re-elected Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) has named Russell “Mac” Lafferty to serve on the county’s Planning Commission. Lafferty, a native of Crozet, will replace Bill Edgerton, who did not reapply for a third term.

“I think he would be a very good addition to the planning commission,” Rooker said while nominating Lafferty to the position. The Board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve Lafferty’s appointment.

20090624-lafferty Mac Lafferty at the June 24, 2009 meeting of the MPO Policy Board

Lafferty, a retired engineer and professor, lived in Crozet for many years before moving to the Jack Jouett District. A 1966 graduate of the University of Virginia, he has taught engineering and physics courses at Piedmont Virginia Community College as well as his alma mater. For a time, Lafferty owned and operated a firm called Deerfield Enterprises.

“My engineering background and the civil engineering experience I have from running a heavy construction company gives me an appreciation for what happens on the ground and how it affects the environment,” Lafferty said in an interview.

Lafferty has a great deal of experience serving the community. His positions in local government include a stint on the Crozet Community Advisory Council and the MPO’s Citizens (CHART) Committee. For the past year, he’s served as CHART’s representative to the MPO Policy Board.

He has also served on the board of the Second Street Art Gallery, the Senior Statesmen of Virginia and is currently active with Charlottesville-Albemarle Robotics.

While on the Commission, Lafferty will be in a position to weigh in on the five-year review of the Crozet Master Plan. He said a priority for him would be finding a way to get the new Crozet Library back into the development pipeline. Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors agreed to defer the project from the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) due to the county’s financial crisis.

“I think [the Crozet Master Plan] has served a good purpose in that it has given some guidelines about growth,” Lafferty said. “Not only has it gotten the involvement of the citizens of Crozet, but the County has taken notice that the citizens want a great deal of input in their living conditions and environment.”

Lafferty, who is also on the board of directors for Bike Virginia, is an avid cyclist who wants improvements to Jarmans Gap Road to be completed as soon as possible.

“If Albemarle County ever gets around to developing a park in Old Trail Village, then more and more people will be walking to that park,  and right now Jarmans Gap Road is certainly not safe to bike,” Lafferty said.

Lafferty said he will reach out for advice and his insight from Edgerton before he attends his first meeting in the new year.

Lafferty will be joined by at least two and as many as three other newcomers. Incoming Supervisors Duane Snow (Samuel Miller) and Rodney Thomas (Rio) will choose their nominees from a list of applicants. Thomas could also re-appoint Commissioner Don Franco, who told Charlottesville Tomorrow last month he would re-apply.

The entire Board of Supervisors will also vote for a new at-large member of the Commission. Marcia Joseph said she would not be applying for a third term.

December 02, 2009

Amid growth in Crozet, Albemarle seeks to maintain US 250 as a scenic byway


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DailyProgress
This article is the third in a four-part series on the future of Route 250 published jointly by The Daily Progress and Charlottesville Tomorrow
Part: One, Two, Three, Four
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By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stacy and Jonathan Hunt looked all over Albemarle County to find their first home. On Free Town Lane, just off U.S. 250 west in Crozet, the young couple found a small home built in 1925 on a lot of less than a quarter acre.

In a wooded area between Western Albemarle High School and R.A. Yancey Lumber Corp., their two-story home had a price and location that were just right.

“We didn’t buy a home in an established development. We bought a home that had been here since the 1920s,” said Jonathan Hunt. “We liked Crozet for what it is today. We didn’t come here saying we wanted more restaurants and stores.”

Five years later, the Free Town neighborhood now finds itself in the middle of a debate about the future character of both Crozet and the U.S. 250 west corridor. The Hunts’ neighbors, who include a number of lifelong residents who trace their ancestry to former slaves who settled there, are concerned about new development, traffic and their quality of life.

It’s a story of concerns that can be found along U.S. 250’s length from Keswick to Crozet, a key stretch of highway that has come under pressure from increasing traffic, but has little state funding for improvements to help drivers or pedestrians and bicyclists.

A new gas station has been proposed for a now vacant lot on the highway that is 300 feet from the Hunts’ front yard. Across the street is the Old Trail Village development in the Crozet growth area. And now, neighbors are also concerned about a proposal to build the Yancey Mills Business Park on 184 acres of mostly rural land that buffers their homes from Interstate 64 to the south.

“It is death by 1,000 cuts and it happens one little development at a time,” said Hunt at a recent neighborhood gathering. “First a gas station, then a Harris Teeter, and before you know it, the character of your community is gone.”

Part of the charm

U.S. 250 in western Albemarle is a Virginia Scenic Byway known today for its rural charm, limited development and mountain views. The highway’s 9.5-mile stretch from Broomley Road near Farmington to Yancey Mills in Crozet features two travel lanes and a central turning or passing lane in all areas except the narrow stretch through Ivy.

Scenic 250 formed as a grassroots organization in 1997 to protect the rural character of the highway. According to steering committee member Scott Peyton, it was a coincidence that the Virginia Department of Transportation launched a pivotal study of 250 that same year.

“It was a watershed moment,” Peyton said. “We had been previously unaware of VDOT’s plans to widen the road.”

VDOT’s final report in January 2000 recommended the widening of 250 west to four lanes between the US 29/250 Bypass near the Bellair neighborhood all the way to the railroad trestle crossing the Mechums River.

Scenic 250 vigorously opposed the road’s widening, a recommendation that VDOT made over the objections of the citizen committee participating in the study. The public argued that it made no sense to widen 250 when it ran parallel to the existing I-64.

With the strong support of Supervisor Sally H. Thomas, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in May 2000 that committed the county to protecting the road as a two-lane scenic corridor all the way west to the county line. VDOT conceded that 250 was used largely for local traffic, and if residents wanted to deal with the congestion, that could be a local choice.

Since 2001, the traffic on 250 west has increased on all the sections measured annually by VDOT. Near Yancey Mills and Old Trail, traffic is up by 28 percent as of 2008. However, the section from Miller School Road to the Mechums River is up 48 percent over the same period, and from there to Ivy it has increased 41 percent.

New developments

Peyton thinks new homes being built in the rural area along 250 pose the greatest threat to the corridor.

“If you look at risks to scenic beauty of 250 west, it is not all tied to commercial development,” Peyton said. “Arguably, high-density residential development poses greater risks.”

In recent years, members of the county’s Route 250 West Task Force have petitioned unsuccessfully for the Architectural Review Board to gain more authority to regulate the appearance of residential developments visible from the corridor. Current and former task force members cited Cory Farms and Foxchase as examples of neighborhoods they wish had been visually buffered from 250.

Other observers interviewed for this story say it is Crozet’s growth and new projects on land zoned long ago for highway commercial that are the critical challenge facing U.S. 250 west.

Justin Beights is vice president of the Beights Development Corp., which is developing Old Trail Village. Old Trail and its adjoining neighborhoods have been approved for about 2,500 homes. According to Beights, the development has around 210 occupied residences today.

Beights said his thinking has changed about U.S. 250’s relationship to his development, because it once was where he wanted more of the commercial activity.

“We proffered a buffer along Route 250, so hopefully at the end of the day you won’t see too much more of Old Trail than you see today,” Beights said. “One of the Crozet master plan’s key components was the limitation of development along Route 250, and that has led us to the first phase of a successful village center [in Old Trail].”

Beights said the higher standards for development should apply to anything new on U.S. 250.

“We were held to a very high standard, and because of that, we have a quality product,” Beights said. “I would be frustrated if someone was not held to those high standards, particularly in a visible place like 250.”

Will Yancey, who has asked the county to consider a proposal to develop rural land outside the growth area and behind the saw mill as a new business park, said he also wants to be sensitive to “visual pollution” along 250.

“Our development would be invisible from Route 250,” Yancey said. “Furthermore, in a growing area like Crozet, which already has potential to double in size, you will need more jobs in and around Crozet, or you face the specter of having to widen 250 from Yancey Mills all the way to Charlottesville.”

Driveway jam

A neighbor of the Hunts, Vicki Whiting, was born and raised in Free Town. Whiting said she has reached the point where she is considering moving.

“I am caught between progress and familiar surroundings,” Whiting said. “The other day I left the house and there was a wall of cars on Route 250 and I couldn’t go either direction. I sat in my driveway for 30 minutes.”

Whiting said Crozet’s growth has made her feel like she is being “bombarded with an influx of people.”

“I feel like I live on a major interstate in the city and that 250 has become just insane,” she said. “I used to walk on 250, but it is not safe anymore.”

Crozet resident Barb Franko is a member of the Route 250 West Task Force who favors greater attention being given to the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, while at the same time keeping 250 west a two-lane road.

“I would like to see more greenways and bike trails connecting Crozet to Charlottesville,” Franko said. “That would help keep it more scenic in the future, protect the sides of the road from development, and increase the awareness of the people that this is a valuable asset.”

September 19, 2009

Population and growth area expansion top Crozet concerns

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, September 19, 2009

Albemarle County has begun its first five-year review of the Crozet Master Plan. At the Planning Commission meeting earlier this week, residents took the opportunity to share their concerns about Crozet’s future population growth and the proposal to add about 150 acres for a new business park. 

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The mismatch between this map and the text of the plan caused concerns among Crozet residents. The full map can be downloaded as a .PDF from the County's website.
With the adoption of the plan in December 2004, community leaders believed they had a twenty-year plan that would cap Crozet’s population at a maximum of 12,000. Crozet is estimated to have a population of 5,336 people today.

However, Crozet residents began to ask questions after the approval of the Old Trail Village development (up to 2,200 homes).  In response to their concerns, in January 2006, County staff announced their new assessment of the ultimate build out population of Crozet after reinterpreting the land use map adopted as part of the plan. They found the plan depicts population densities that, when fully built out, could allow a population range between 15,816 and 24,758 people.

Mike Marshall, the chair of the Crozet Community Advisory Council (CCAC), said he thought the master plan would guide the maximum population towards around 12,000. He said the population issue is the main concern of the advisory group.

“The town felt sort of like they’d been betrayed, that the plan hadn’t been followed,” Marshall told the Commission. He said the community wants the map to reflect expectations that the total build-out of Crozet will be 12,000, no matter the year.

County Planner Elaine Echols said the land use map will be updated during the review, and it will reflect developments that have been built since 2004.

“Not all parcels develop at their full potential in terms of density,” Echols said. She also said the densities would likely be adjusted to match the expectations of the community. 

Commissioner Tom Loach (White Hall) was not satisfied with efforts by staff to explain the difference between the narrative of the plan and the infrastructure map. “I don’t understand how the decision was made not to take the colors on the map and make them equivalent to the table which the community had been told was the population build-out,” Loach said.

Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) defended the plan, and said he did not think County staff ever expected a build-out of 24,000 over 20 years.

“Both numbers are right,” Edgerton said. “Land use capacity in this area will go up to a higher number than 12,000.” But he said that the reality of development did not always match the maximum expectations.

David Benish, Chief of Planning for Albemarle County, said it was likely the review would see the densities reduced.

“What we are seeing is that we’ve got some intensities of development that are too high for Crozet regardless of what that minimum number was,” Benish said.

Another issue to be reviewed as part of the plan is whether to bring an about 150 additional acres owned by the Yancey family into the development area in order to create more land for light industrial uses. The Planning Commission recommended against even considering the idea last November, but the Board of Supervisors has directed them to take the matter up anyway.

Loach said he objected to the idea of that decision being made within the context of the Crozet Master Plan.

“It seems to me that these sorts of decisions should be [up to] the community,” Loach said.

The next opportunity for public input will be during a town meeting to be held on September 30, followed by an October 15 forum about the land use map. The Board of Supervisors wants the Commission to finish up its review by July 2010.