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June 27, 2012

Slideshow: Crozet Library Groundbreaking

The long-anticipated Crozet Library broke ground on June 26, 2012. In attendance at this very Crozet event (attendees enjoyed bluegrass music while they arrived) were state and local officials and community members all excited to see this dream become a reality.

 

April 11, 2012

Elected officials react to study identifying new business targets

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Charlottesville city councilors and Albemarle County supervisors were briefed Wednesday on the results of a targeted industry study commissioned by the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development.
 
20120411-TJPED-TIS3-Younger
Sharon Younger
Sharon Younger, the consultant who conducted the $150,000 study, said both communities should focus on industries that provide high-paying wages while creating other support jobs.
 
“There are a lot of things that balance this economy that do not belong [strictly] in the 10.4 square miles of Charlottesville,” Younger said.
 
Councilor Kristin Szakos said a regional approach to economic development could provide job opportunities for city residents.
 
“They may live in Charlottesville but they could work in Albemarle County,” Szakos said.
 
Councilor Dave Norris asked Younger what a targeted industry study would have looked like if the charge had been to lift as many people out of poverty as possible.
 
“That was clearly not reflected in this report,” Norris said. “How would that have shaped the findings?”
Younger said successful economic development strategies are not meant to end poverty, but to improve a community’s overall economy.
 
“We have targets that were put there thoughtfully to create a [job] ladder,” Younger said. “You want something that has a high job-multiplying effect.”

Continue reading "Elected officials react to study identifying new business targets" »

March 28, 2012

MPO remains concerned about changing transportation laws

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Metropolitan Planning Organization policy board is urging Gov. Bob McDonnell to amend legislation that its members say will take decision-making powers away from localities.
 
HB1248 and SB639 passed both houses of the General Assembly earlier this year.
 
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The MPO on March 28, 2012
"They require that localities prepare transportation plans to submit to the Virginia Department of Transportation for review, and once [localities] adopt a plan, [they] have to submit that to VDOT as well," said David Blount, legislative liaison for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.
 
VDOT's review would determine whether local transportation plans are consistent with the state's six-year transportation plan. If not, the Commonwealth Transportation Board would have the power to withhold funds from localities.
The MPO voted Wednesday to send a letter to McDonnell calling for him to veto or amend the bill.
 
"The proposed language presents a scenario where one side always holds the winning cards, rather than one that promotes a more collaborative partnership," reads the letter signed by City Councilor and MPO Chair Kristin Szakos on behalf of the board.
 
"Since the CTB also has the ability to designate project routes, these provisions seem to usurp local control and to give the state the power to force the insertion of projects into locality plans," the letter continues.

Continue reading "MPO remains concerned about changing transportation laws" »

January 12, 2012

County support for Crozet pool sparks renewed interest by swimmers at Fairview

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, January 12, 2012

An effort to upgrade the pool at Claudius Crozet Park to a year-round facility took a major step forward Wednesday after the Albemarle Board of Supervisors voted to reallocate $200,000 in capital funding towards improvements at the park.

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Supporters of the Claudius Crozet Park wore green to support their cause 

The investment, which will allow Crozet Park to allocate other funds it has raised towards a pool enclosure, had supervisors asking whether a similar proposal from the Fairview Swim and Tennis Club should also get support.

“The number one priority of Crozet Park has been an aquatics and recreation center, and they have been fundraising towards this effort since 2004,” said Bob Crickenberger, the county’s director of parks and recreation.

Claudius Crozet Park is owned by a nonprofit organization. The county has spent nearly $1 million on capital improvements at the park since 1997 and is responsible for routine maintenance.

Crozet Park’s directors unsuccessfully approached the county in 2008 seeking funding for an inflatable pool enclosure.

“We took away from the staff recommendation, when we were turned down, to form a partnership with the [Piedmont Family] YMCA and to come back to the board and ask for some help down the road,” said Heidi Sonen, a member of the Claudius Crozet Park’s board of directors.

Continue reading "County support for Crozet pool sparks renewed interest by swimmers at Fairview" »

November 29, 2011

County continues conversation on industrial land use

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

As part of Albemarle County’s comprehensive plan review, county staff members held a roundtable discussion Monday to gather stakeholder comments on industrial land needs.

Business owners, environmental and pro-business advocates and representatives from the city of Charlottesville and University of Virginia gave input on what amenities and zoning regulations would help facilitate operating a business in Albemarle.

County staff noted that the type of industry that they hope to attract is not the obtrusive, polluting factory kind, but “more modern” facilities, offering an image of an attractive molecular foundry in San Francisco as an example.

“When we talk about industrial land of 2011, we’re trying to get away from the concept of smokestacks,” said Elaine Echols, principal planner at the county. “This country isn’t doing much in the way of smokestacks anymore … what we’re looking at is the high tech industry.”

Continue reading "County continues conversation on industrial land use" »

August 16, 2011

Crozet gas station design approved

DailyProgressBy Tracie Cabler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board has given final approval to a controversial gas station and convenience store in Crozet.

Representatives of the Re-Store’N Station were pleased with Monday’s unanimous vote in favor of the project.

20110815-Higgins “We will proceed to construction plans, submit our building permit and then hopefully start construction within two months,” said the project’s developer, Jo Higgins.

“I’m fine with what I see,” said board member Charles Lebo. “I think they’ve addressed all the issues we talked about last time.”

The two-story building will be located on U.S. 250 West on a four-acre site 0.3 miles west of the entrance to Western Albemarle High School. Since 2008, county officials and residents of Freetown Lane have questioned the station’s appropriateness within the Crozet community. Issues such as water usage, the station’s size and its exterior appearance have all been scrutinized, including the final question of building material choices.

However, following the station’s positive review with the Architectural Review Board two weeks ago, the project seemed to finally be on track toward approval. That was followed by the Albemarle Planning Commission’s unanimous vote last Wednesday to approve its street entrance and location.

Some residents of Freetown Lane however, still remained unsatisfied with the review process.

“There’s a faithful few of us that always show up, and we always lose,” said resident Sandra Meyers last Wednesday following the commission’s decision. “I think the faithful few of us who keep coming have kept it down to a manageable state.”

Other residents are continuing a legal challenge. In early March, neighbors of Freetown Lane filed an appeal with the Board of Zoning Appeals challenging the determination by Deputy Zoning Administrator Ron Higgins that the site plan proposed in December 2010 was in general accord with county conditions. When the BZA upheld Higgins’ decision on May 3, residents then filed an appeal in Albemarle County Circuit Court.

Residents involved in the suit — Richard Brown, Bruce Kirtley, Chris and Ann Suh of Brownsville Market and Marcia Joseph — are being represented by the Zobrist Law Group. In the lawsuit, residents state that the station’s second-floor office is not in compliance with conditions set by the Albemarle supervisors.

However, when the Re-Store’N Station appeared before the Architectural Review Board in early August, the second floor had been reduced to 2,700 feet and the first to 1,900 feet.

At Monday’s meeting, one resident reminded the ARB that they should take their time reviewing the project.

“Ms. Higgins indicated at the last [ARB] meeting that they’ve been in this for a long time,” said resident Frank Calhoun. “I would like to say to you all and to her that this will be here after we are all gone.”

The ARB reviewed a revised landscape plan as well as component drawings of the proposed column piers, awnings, and second floor porch overhang on the station’s exterior. Details for the materials of the latter had been a topic of discussion at the ARB’s prior meeting.

“My only concern [now] is the columns,” said Board member Paul Wright. “I think the conditions that I was concerned about, being one of the two votes against it, I do believe have been addressed.”

Albemarle staff told the ARB that they were uncertain whether the columns would be wrapped in PVC plastic or some other material.  PVC does not meet county standards within the entrance corridor. Developer Jo Higgins assured the board that PVC was not under consideration.

“They’re not shiny and it is a composite material,” said Higgins. “They come in white so we thought they were a good application [and] they have a nice detail.”

Upon the condition that a material sample for the columns be provided to staff for approval, the ARB unanimously approved the station’s certificate of appropriateness.

No trial date has yet been set for the resident’s case against the station in circuit court. If the court rules in favor of the residents, any revised design for the Re-Store’N Station would have to be reviewed again by the ARB.

August 09, 2011

Jarmans Gap project comes under scrutiny

DailyProgressBy Frank Muraca
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A $13.5 million road project in Crozet is coming under increased scrutiny from neighbors just as the road’s closure has been pushed from summer to the fall.

20110804_jarmans_gap2 Virginia Department of Transportation officials met last week with about 20 residents from Old Trail Village to discuss plans for a stormwater runoff pond being built at the intersection of Old Trail Drive and Jarmans Gap Road.

“Our concerns are that this is one of two entrances to a beautiful community,” said John Rotherham, president of the Old Trail Community Association. “And before this meeting it appeared that one could conclude that VDOT was stonewalling us.”

VDOT is required by state law to build a retention pond while expanding Jarmans Gap Road. The road will be expanded from Route 240 to Old Trail Drive, and include 4-foot-wide bike lanes on either side of the road, as well as a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the northern side of the road. Each car lane will be a total of 12 feet, and include some turn lanes.

Last week, Rotherham wrote transportation Commissioner Gregory Whirley a letter on behalf of the community association, explaining why residents are opposed to the current pond designs.

“Our strong concerns center on how this pond, with minimal landscaping and a chain link fence, will create an eyesore in place of the current welcoming appearance at this entrance to our community,” Rotherham wrote.

The pond is currently designed to hold water running down from the construction site on Jarmans Gap, as well as from a housing development on the opposite side of the road. After heavy rainfall, the water will be held in the pond for about a day, before traveling through a pipe into Old Trail’s stormwater retention system. The deepest part of the pond is planned to be 10 feet.

At the meeting, Albemarle Supervisor Ann H. Mallek suggested that VDOT redesign the pond to act as a bio-filter, similar to one that is built off McIntire Road. A bio-filter would include mostly vegetation to absorb the water, but would still be linked to Old Trail’s existing infrastructure.

  “You’re not building something monstrous,” Mallek said, “and you’re not building something that would stop construction of the roadway.”

“I’m not sure we will be able to redesign the pond,” explained Karen Kilby, program management director for VDOT in the Culpeper District.

20110804_jarmans_gapKilby said that a redesign could take time and would have to go through another approval process. Likewise, Kilby explained that VDOT may have to purchase additional right-of-way, depending on the details of the plan.

In his letter to Whirley, Rotherham explained that the cost of a bio-filter would be around $50,000, according to Collins Engineering Company, the planning contractor for Old Trail Village.

Rotherham wrote that they have “been seeking a more environmentally sound and aesthetically pleasing substitute — a bio-filter with landscaping compatible with our community’s standards.”

Kilby told Charlottesville Tomorrow that she was not prepared to discuss costs or designs.

“VDOT will be working with a group of homeowners in order to provide the best design that meets Virginia stormwater regulations, VDOT’s design criteria, the homeowners’ expectations, as well as make the best use of public funds,” Kilby wrote in an email.

Costs for the retention pond are included in the total cost for expansion of Jarmans Gap. Currently, the cost of construction is estimated to be $13,555,319.

Kilby said that VDOT would be willing to work with community members to re-assess the landscaping plan that will surround the pond. The details for a landscaping plan have not been finalized, but currently include a chain-link fence, along with various plants surrounding the pond.

“We don’t have to have a chain-link fence,” Kilby said.

Rotherham, along with other residents, indicated that the community association would elect a committee at a scheduled meeting to collaborate with VDOT going forward.

“Ideally, we would like the retention pond option to be rejected, and to substitute this new concept that Ann Mallek was describing,” Rotherham said. “That’s the idea. And we obviously want adequate landscaping, We found it reassuring that the VDOT spokesperson seems willing to work with us on that.”

On Wednesday, Kilby notified the Board of Supervisors that Jarmans Gap would be closed from Aug. 15 to Oct. 15 to install a box culvert over Powell’s Creek. The board had previously authorized the road to be closed from June to August. But Kilby explained that plans were delayed due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

August 03, 2011

Split Architectural Review Board sends Crozet gas station to another work session

DailyProgressBy Tracie Cabler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, August 3, 2011

After years of setbacks and reviews, a controversial gas station in Crozet is potentially one work session away from approval by Albemarle County’s Architectural Review Board.

Following the Re-Store’N Station’s latest review on Monday, some members said they were pleased with the project’s design progress.

“This is not an eyesore,” board member Charles Lebo said. “I think they’ve come a long way, they’ve done a lot of work [and] it’s starting to fit in somewhat with the character of the neighborhood.”

20110801-Calhoun
Crozet resident Frank Calhoun

However, while there was a general consensus with regard to the overall appropriateness of the station, the board remained split over whether to move forward and approve the project. Board member Bruce Wardell expressed reservations about granting approval before viewing more design and structural details.

“I feel like we’re reviewing a moving target,” Wardell said. “It’s not that I disapprove of it, it’s that I don’t really know what I’m in fact being asked to approve.”

“I don’t know the railing details, I don’t know the cornice details … all of those things have to do with the texture of a building, and that’s one of the primary vehicles that we have in the entrance corridor to make a contemporary building have a sense of appropriateness,” Wardell added.

This is not the first time architectural and site details have challenged the Re-Store’N Station. Since the property was purchased by Jeff Sprouse in 2006, the proposed gas station at Freetown Lane on U.S. 250 West has faced a series of design dilemmas. Plans for the station have been reviewed and rejected by the board several times. At the previous review in May, the board again expressed concerns over the station’s size and outward appearance.

Neighboring residents of Freetown Lane have voiced continual opposition since the project’s inception. Some residents have taken issue with various design aspects of the station, including its size and appearance, in the context of the rural character of their Crozet neighborhood.

“[Jo Higgins] didn’t discuss the lighting of Freetown and how high this building’s going to be, because it’s changed from time to time,” said Freetown Lane resident Richard Brown. “Before the final say, let’s make sure we cover all bases; so far today I haven’t heard too much about Freetown.”

Residents also aired their dismay over the process by which Higgins, the project’s developer, has taken to achieve approval for this project. Some took issue with how Higgins showed the most recent illustrations only to the board members at the meeting.

“We’re at a disadvantage here,” said Crozet resident Frank Calhoun. “We don’t see the illustrations you see. I would still like this to look like a Greenwood Gourmet and not a Sheetz.”

While Wardell and fellow board member Paul Wright were in favor of postponing the vote, board member Bill Daggett expressed his belief that the devil in this case was not necessarily in the details.

“It seems to me that they’re working pretty hard here to try to mimic some of the vernacular forms,” Daggett said. “We’re 200 feet away from the entrance corridor and at 45 mph … I don’t think that the depth of detailing is going to be an overwhelming negative to the overall form of this.”

However, Wright said it remained important to verify specific details of the plan.

“To be honest, this is the first building I thought was approvable,” Wright said. “I think in this project we would do well to be very specific — that you’re getting what it is you think you’re getting.”

The ARB drafted a detailed list of conditions for the gas station’s approval. Despite this compilation, when a vote for approval was taken, a split 2-2 vote occurred, with Wright and Wardell remaining in opposition. Both desired to see the ARB’s conditions met before signing off on a certificate of appropriateness.

“Our goal is to not simply establish a kind of bottom level or kind of lowest bar possible,” Wardell said. “At 45 mph and seeing this building from one direction or another, I guarantee you that the details make a difference.”

The board agreed to postpone a final vote until after a work session can be held with the developers.

July 12, 2011

Crozet’s water supply needs lowered in face of smaller population and increased conservation

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Changes in population assumptions and a 20 percent drop in per capita water use are two of the main factors driving down the projected water needs of the Crozet community in western Albemarle County.

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority is holding a series of public meetings this week to discuss water demand forecasts for the Charlottesville-Albemarle area. The analysis projects the community’s water needs in the year 2060 for the urban area and separately for the communities of Scottsville and Crozet.

Download Download AECOM's July 5, 2011 draft forecast

20110711-Shorter_Kim
Kim Shorter, AECOM Technology Corporation

Crozet’s water needs were the focus of the first meeting, held Monday evening at Western Albemarle High School where the draft forecasts commissioned by the RWSA were presented to a handful of local residents. 

Kim Shorter, a water supply specialist with AECOM Technology Corporation, said population estimates were a big driver of any water forecast.

“We are using very current population and employment numbers based upon the updated Crozet Master Plan,” said Shorter in an interview. “The Albemarle Community Development staff told us to assume an 80 percent build-out would be achieved in Crozet by 2060.”

Crozet is on a separate water supply from the urban area around Charlottesville, thus planning for its long-term needs have largely been a separate matter from the debate over the new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, planned as part of the almost $140 million water plan being implemented by the RWSA.

In June 2007, engineering firm Gannett Fleming examined the so-called “safe yield” of the Beaver Creek Reservoir and determined it could provide 1.8 million gallons per day under a worst drought condition. At the time, Albemarle County staff estimated Crozet would have a population of 17,101 by 2035, which would use an estimated 1.59 mgd. 

Gannett Fleming said that the Beaver Creek Reservoir would be a sufficient water source up until 2035.

AECOM now forecasts that in 2035, the same year evaluated by Gannett Fleming, Crozet will have a water demand of 0.69 mgd for 9,581 people, numbers that are 57 percent and 44 percent lower, respectively, from the 2007 estimates. 

“We have better disaggregated data than what Gannett Fleming had,” said Shorter. “We know the per household consumption in Crozet. We are using Crozet numbers for Crozet, and I think that really helps.”

Developing a new 50 year water demand forecast with population estimates that reflect the revised Crozet Master Plan, AECOM now projects that Crozet will need 0.98 mgd in 2060 to serve a significantly smaller population of 13,600. While AECOM is focusing on the demand side of the equation, the data indicates Crozet’s Beaver Creek Reservoir will now last at least 25 years longer than previous projections.

Shorter said “lots of little things” probably contributed to the trend of lower water usage over the last eight years, including permanent shifts in water conservation.

“In the Gannett Fleming study, they saw a 20 percent drop in per capita water use in fiscal year 2003,” said Shorter. “They saw that year as an outlier in the data and they threw it out, just as I would have done because it was during a drought, but now we have eight more years of data at that lower number, and we are going to use that.”

According AECOM’s report, Crozet had a population of 5,562 in 2010 and current water usage is up from 0.31 mgd in FY 2003 to 0.37 mgd in FY 2010. Shorter said 73 percent of Crozet’s water supply was used by single-family residences and that Crozet residents use on average 68.3 gallons of water per capita per day. By comparison, the city of Charlottesville averages 107.1 gallons per capita day.

“It shows there is a good conservation ethic here today,” said Shorter.

“Per capita usage is fairly low ,compared to other communities across the country, across our planning region,” said Thomas L. Frederick, Jr, RWSA’s executive director.  “That means people take water conservation seriously and a lot of water conservation measures have already been adopted.”

Today, the RWSA is holding two additional public meetings to review the AECOM forecasts. The Scottsville area water plan will be reviewed at 10:00 a.m. in Scottsville’s Town Council Chambers. The Charlottesville and Albemarle County urban area water plan will be reviewed at 6:00 p.m. at Burley Middle School on Rose Hill Dr.

June 13, 2011

Talks continue for Claudius Place in downtown Crozet

DailyProgressBy Tracie Cabler & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, June 13, 2011

With the new Crozet Library stalled for lack of funding, it appears a new commercial building will be the cornerstone of a major expansion of downtown Crozet.

As the design for Claudius Place works its way through Albemarle County’s Architectural Review Board, the developers are learning that being first in line carries a hefty design responsibility.

20110606-Anderson
Claudius Place Architect, Bob Anderson

Bob Anderson, lead architect for the project, views Claudius Place as a “transitional building” between old Crozet and a revitalized downtown. Located across from the library site, the two-story, 6,607-square-foot building would be the commercial anchor of the Barnes Lumber redevelopment project.

Anderson told the ARB last week that his office-and-restaurant design brought together Crozet’s industrial past with the traditional architecture of its historic storefronts.

“Through materials we want to tie into those [two sides], but at the same time we want it to have a contemporary feel to it so that it’s more representative of who we are today, as opposed to who we were 20 years ago or 50 years ago,” Anderson said.

However, some members of the board felt that certain elements of the design — in particular, the roof and two “languages” of the façade — were not appropriate within the existing fabric of Crozet.

“It concerns me a little bit if this is a main street building that doesn’t use the language of main street architecture,” said board member Bruce Wardell. “It’s sort of taken the warehouse language that’s along the railroad tracks and brought it over to main street.”

“We could mimic that [traditional architecture] but that was not our decision,” Anderson responded. “We decided, no, let’s think in terms of the warehouses that are up there, the things that are going to be torn down [at the lumber yard], and pull a little toward that direction.”

Wardell said the “argument didn’t really hold together” and he felt the design looked more like a “1950s school building” and needed to incorporate more of the existing, traditional main street context.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW SLIDESHOW

3D Rendering of Claudius Place project by Charlottesville Tomorrow. The model can also be downloaded and manipulated in Google Earth. Click here to access the model

Lauren Morris, a State Farm Insurance agent in Crozet, says she’s excited about the project. Morris, who was born and raised in Crozet, is set to be the building’s first commercial tenant and owner.

“I am excited about it,” Morris said in an interview. “I am ready to have a better location, a new building and new signage. I don’t have any road frontage today, so my car is my only sign right now.”

“I like the old downtown feeling — this is the core of Crozet,” Morris said. “The opportunity to own my own building here is also very attractive.”

Board member Charles Lebo said it would be important to hear more testimony from Crozet residents about the design. After sitting through several reviews for the Crozet Library, Lebo said that its final product had the vocal support of the Crozet community.

“For me to state what’s appropriate for Crozet, without maybe some input from some of the community people that live there, is rather difficult to do,” Lebo said. “I’d like to hear what they have to say about this project.”

The Piedmont Development Group expects to close on the purchase of the property from Barnes Lumber later this month.

Katurah Roell, the project developer, is scheduled to meet with the Crozet Community Advisory Council on Thursday to discuss Claudius Place.