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June 05, 2011

Crozet Library project likely to have missed favorable construction market

DailyProgressBy Tracie Cabler & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, June 5, 2011

By the end of the summer, the parking lot for the new Crozet Library will be completed. As for the $9.6 million, 20,000-square-foot library itself, Albemarle officials said last week that, absent sufficient capital funding, its start date was uncertain and the project may have missed the window of a very favorable construction market.

20110601-Henry
Trevor Henry, Albemarle’s manager of facilities development

Trevor Henry, Albemarle’s manager of facilities development, told the Board of Supervisors last week that both the parking lot and final construction documents would be ready for the Crozet Library by August.

“We’re going to have bid opening today for the library parking lot and anticipate … starting work [in] early July,” Henry said.

Henry also predicted that the community had lost a chance to take advantage of low prices in a favorable construction market. According to Henry, Albemarle is seeing construction costs rise again on the library design, as well as other school capital projects.

“The most recent estimate that we just received has that cost estimate at around $6.8 million or just under $300 a square foot,” Henry said, describing the construction costs in the $9.6 million overall project. “The big drivers in that cost estimate change are site work and concrete.”

Citizens of Crozet has grown accustomed to delay when it comes to infrastructure called for in the Crozet Master Plan. That plan identified a new library as a priority back in December 2004.

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors approved the library’s plans in 2009 but has been unable to fully fund the project in its capital budget. Meanwhile, Albemarle staff and local leaders have kept the design moving forward to get the project “bid ready.”

20110601-libraryIn April the Architectural Review Board approved the design and now more than 50 percent of the construction documents for the library have been completed, with final documents anticipated to be ready by early August.

Tim Tolson, secretary for the Crozet Community Advisory Council and a member of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library board, said the completion of the parking lot was an important first step, especially with a streetscape project disrupting other parking.

“The concern with the streetscape project downtown is that traffic will avoid downtown because of construction, detours [and] all of that, and businesses there will not have the customer base that they need to stay in business,” Tolson said in an interview. “We saw it happen with Scottsville … where a lot of those restaurants, after many, many months of construction, had to close …”

Bill Schrader, also a CCAC member, said he was concerned that the increasing cost of the library could create more financial challenges for the project. After Henry’s presentation to the supervisors, Schrader said this could potentially place the library on indefinite hold.

“Who knows what the thinking will be in 2015, 2016, whether they’re going to say the library’s No. 1 or the fire department is No. 1,” Schrader said in an interview. “So if we don’t get it quickly, we’re just back in the hopper with every other project.”

Across the street from the library site, a major commercial development is beginning its review by the Architectural Review Board. Claudius Place is a two-story, 6,067-square-foot building intended to house offices, retail and a restaurant.

Schrader said he was disappointed the county missed a great construction market, but he views Claudius Place as a key indicator that the library will help revitalize downtown Crozet.

“They missed a golden opportunity, we’ll never get back the prices we could have had a year ago,” Schrader said. “I’m down on that side, but I’m up on the side that again Claudius Place says this is what can happen when you put the library in … they understand the growth that happens around the library.”

County Executive Tom Foley said the Crozet Library would be back before the board in August with complete construction documents and a final cost estimate. The supervisors learned in a separate meeting last week that they had an opportunity to refinance some existing debt and make another $10 million available immediately for capital projects. The board is expected to discuss whether to allocate these funds toward the library project in the fall.

Crozet Library Timeline

New Crozet Library on Dipity.

June 03, 2011

See the community in 3D: The Claudius Place project in Crozet, VA

Hyperlocal community news in 3D

Charlottesville Tomorrow is pleased to share 3D visualizations of the
proposed Claudius Place project in Crozet, VA.

Claudius Place is a two-story 6,067 sq. ft. commercial project in downtown Crozet currently under review by Albemarle County.

  • First floor is 1,967 sq. ft. featuring a State Farm Insurance office in one of the 2 suites
  • Second floor is 4,100 sq. ft. intended for retail and restaurant
  • Location is across the street from the site of the future Crozet Library
  • The Piedmont Development Group plans to acquire the property in June 2011 from Barnes Lumber.  Ground breaking is expected by the end of 2011 with project completion by Summer 2012.

Public input opportunities:

  •  Albemarle Co. Architectural Review Board - Mon., June 6, 2011, 1PM

Why model this building in 3D?

A goal of our Cville3D initiative is to help our readers and decision makers see the community and proposed development projects in a whole new way. Taking the publicly available drawings, we can render a project in a three-dimensional real-world environment. Presto! You get more information to make an informed decision.

Funding for the Cville3D initiative has been provided by generous support of the Virginia Environmental Endowment and the Oakwood Foundation. The models are created by Bob Pineo, an independent local architect working under contract for Charlottesville Tomorrow. The final product is our best approximation of what this project will look like based on the material submitted to local government.

This is a prototype. Please add your comments below and tell us what we should model next.

Starting with the siteplan...

20110513-claudius1

and the elevations...


  20110513-claudius2

then using  Google Sketchup and Google Earth, we create the 3D perspective seen in this Flickr slideshow


 

The model can also be downloaded and manipulated in Google Earth. 

Click here to access the model for download in your own copy of Google Earth to

select your own views and perspectives with real terrain - What will it look like from my backyard?

May 17, 2011

Re-Store’N Station fails architectural review test

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Albemarle Architectural Review Board has panned the design for a 2-story gas station and convenience store proposed for U.S. Route 250 in Crozet. The Re-Store’N Station received little support at a meeting Monday from either board members or Crozet residents. 

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110516-ARB

14-Re-Store'N Station - working
Rendering of the Re-Store'N Station
by Charlottesville Tomorrow

View a slideshow of other 3D visuals for this project

Last week, the Albemarle Planning Commission gave the green light to the store’s preliminary site plan.  Despite that approval, the Re-Store’N Station must still get through the ARB, which will assess the proposal against Albemarle’s entrance corridor design guidelines. 

“We have been working on this for 4 years,” said property owner Jeff Sprouse after the meeting. “It seems like it’s difficult to do business in Albemarle County.”

A clearly frustrated Sprouse said he intended to submit another revised design, but that he would not try further commercial development in the county. 

“Convenience stores create tax revenues which we are missing with no store there,” said Sprouse.  “I have lived here all my life and I have found this way too difficult.”

20110516-Brown
Free Town Lane resident Richard Brown

Resident Richard Brown said he was still unsatisfied with the county’s review of the project.  Brown has been a regular critic of the gas station that would back up to his Free Town Lane neighborhood.

“I was hoping that the supervisors would turn it down,” Brown told the ARB reflecting on the board’s review last fall.  “We’ve got three schools there…and [Route] 250 is jammed up right now, so you are only going to add stress to 250 and the people of Freetown.”

“It didn’t come out in our favor yet,” said Brown after the ARB had rejected the plan.  “They are horse trading at this point.  I do feel though that some of them understand a large building there is a joke.” 

Members of the ARB were highly critical of the architectural design.  They said a 2-story building was possible at the 4-acre site 0.3 miles west of the entrance to Western Albemarle High School, but that the proposal in front of them would need significant changes. 

“This may be the least appealing to the entrance corridor building I’ve seen during this process,” said board member Paul Wright.  “I don’t think the people of Albemarle County would be served with this building as proposed.”

Board members expressed concern about the applicant’s attempt to maximize the building’s footprint allowance of 3,000 square feet.  That size limitation was determined by a November decision by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to limit, in part, the amount of water consumed at the facility. 

In an effort to remain within the county’s building envelope, the plan seen by the ARB removed a first floor porch and some columns and that supported a second floor balcony, because they were found to contribute to the total building footprint.

Albemarle staff wrote in their written report that the end result was a “free-floating wraparound balcony on the second floor [that] is not an architectural element commonly found in the area.”

“There is no way that this floating balcony fits within guidelines,” said board member Bill Daggett.  “Because there is no precedent for it anywhere here, we can’t support it.”

“We would be setting a new precedent with something that is completely out of character with the historic buildings of Albemarle County,” Daggett added.  “I think you need to bring this around again for another look and a whole lot more sensitive consideration for what this board is about.”

For the seven residents who shared concerns about the project, their critique hinged less on specific architectural details than that of the overall scale and appearance of the gas station. 

“I live very near Greenwood Gourmet…and it’s in character with a rural neighborhood on a rural scenic road,” said Crozet resident Frank Calhoun.  “It doesn’t intrude on the character of our neighborhood. This one will.”

ARB chairman Fred Missel said he agreed that the Greenwood Gourmet was an attractive comparable on U.S. Route 250. 

“I do agree…that a two-story well-designed structure will work on this site,” said Missel.  “There are hints that can be taken from that type of structure — the richness in detailing of a building like [the Greenwood Gourmet] is lacking in this building, the top-heaviness, the proportions.”

“What we are seeing here is not necessarily a re-design [based upon] the input from the board of supervisors, but a non-design,” concluded Missel.

Re-Store'N Station on Dipity.

May 10, 2011

Panel OKs preliminary plans for Re-Store ‘N Station

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A split Albemarle Planning Commission has approved a preliminary site plan for a 2-story gas station and convenience store on U.S. 250 in Crozet. Crozet residents once again came out and raised concerns about the scale of the project.

14-Re-Store'N Station - working
Rendering of the Re-Store'N Station
by Charlottesville Tomorrow

View a slideshow of other 3D visuals for this project

The Re-Store’N Station is proposed to be built 0.3 miles west of the entrance to Western Albemarle High School. The 4-acre parcel owned by Michelle and Jeff Sprouse was previously the location of a small-engine repair shop and is zoned for highway commercial use.

Crozet resident Frank Calhoun shared his concerns about the project as a member of the board of directors of Scenic Virginia, a statewide environmental group.

“We are very concerned that this proposed [gas] station is on scenic Route 250,” Calhoun said. “It does lead to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. It is a scenic route and should be protected.”

County staff recommended approval of the Re-Store’N Station’s preliminary site plan, but said several issues would have to be addressed before a final plan is authorized.

“There are two main issues we have identified, the entrance location and the building design,” said Bill Fritz, Albemarle’s chief of current development. “I have received verbal comment from [the Virginia Department of Transportation] … that they have approved the location [of the entrance] where it is.”

According to the staff report, the gas station’s proposed entrance is too close to the adjacent Free Town Lane’s intersection with U.S. 250. Albemarle staff said the developer could seek to consolidate their entrance with Free Town Lane’s access or appeal to VDOT for a waiver.

Jo Higgins, speaking on behalf of the property’s owners, said that she had recently received written approval for a waiver from VDOT.

“The exception has been approved by VDOT,” Higgins said.

On the second matter, Albemarle staff determined that the proposed 2-story building had a footprint of about 5,000 square feet and was out of compliance with the past conditions set by Albemarle supervisors. In a previous meeting, the project was described as having a 3,000-square-foot first floor with a 1,000-square-foot office on the “partial” second floor.

Fritz said he expected the size of the building to be adjusted downwards in order to receive approval.

“At the time this site plan was prepared … the building [shown] exceeds the footprint,” Fritz said. “This is not a condition that should result in denial.”

Higgins said the building in the final site plan would have a footprint of only 3,000 square feet. Neighbors, and some planning commissioners, said the second floor was much bigger than what had been previously presented.

“The new plan breaks the deal made between the supervisors and the applicant,” said Mike Marshall, a member of the Crozet Community Advisory Council. “This isn’t what was supposed to come out …. You should send it back to the supervisors. The second floor is now the issue because they changed the second floor.”

Commissioner Linda Porterfield asked Higgins if she would consider shrinking the second-floor office as it appeared to her that there had been a “miscommunication” about its size.

“Just maybe we can get a little closer to what you and the community have been negotiating for so long,” Porterfield said. “This appears to be a mistake you are ramming down the community’s throat.”

“I don’t believe the office is even a detail before you tonight,” Higgins responded. “We ask that you recognize [what we have already done]. I can’t speak for Mr. Sprouse.”

The Planning Commission voted 3-2 to approve the preliminary site plan. Tom Loach and Linda Porterfield voted against and Commissioners Don Franco and Duane Zobrist were absent.

“I believe applicant has done what Board of Supervisors has asked them to do,” said Commissioner Ed Smith. “It will certainly look better than any other facility adjacent to it.”

The project has been in development and under review for more than two years. In that time, the project’s scope has shrunk dramatically, including the number of gas pumps, the parking area, the building footprint and even the allowed hours of operation. The changes have been made to accommodate both neighborhood concerns and also directives of the Board of Supervisors.

A group of neighbors was unsuccessful last week in a complaint heard by the Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals. Residents argued that the proposed building was too large and that the site plan varied significantly from an earlier one reviewed by the supervisors. The BZA found the plan was in “general accord” with earlier versions.

Because U.S. 250 is an Albemarle entrance corridor, the project also must be approved by the Architectural Review Board. The ARB’s review of the Re-Store’N Station is scheduled for Monday. After review by VDOT and the ARB, the project will return to the Planning Commission for final approval.

March 16, 2011

Albemarle to advertise current real estate tax rate for FY2012


By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, March  16, 2011

Three members of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors said Monday they would support a one cent increase in the real estate property tax to pay for new infrastructure.   However, a motion to advertise the higher rate failed on a 3-3 vote.

20110314-Duane-Snow
Supervisor Duane Snow

“It’s important that we maintain our roads, it’s important that we keep working on our infrastructure,” Supervisor Duane Snow said.

Snow was joined in supporting the increased rate by Supervisors Dennis Rooker and Ann Mallek.  In the face of a deadlock, a second motion to advertise the rate at 74.2 cents per $100 of assessed property value was approved unanimously.

The votes came during a work session to discuss the county’s proposed $18.2 million capital improvement program budget for the next fiscal year. The CIP totals $75.4 million over the next five years, with the majority of funding going to maintenance.

“We do think this proposed program does adequately address our existing infrastructure in terms of maintenance and it includes two critical projects,” said assistant county executive Bill Letteri, referring to a new fire station on Ivy Road and renovations at Greer Elementary School.

In FY2012, no funding is allocated towards community development projects, such as sidewalks or new roads. There is also no funding for the county to participate in VDOT’s “revenue-sharing” program where county dollars are matched one-to-one with state money.

Part of Governor Bob McDonnell’s transportation package in the recent session of the General Assembly included an increase of funding for the program .

“Not being able to take advantage of the revenue-sharing program is I think extremely imprudent,” Rooker said.

Halfway through the work session, Rooker suggested a one-cent tax increase to raise $1.5 million for capital projects, including participation in VDOT revenue sharing and the construction of a new library in Crozet.

“My expectation is that the making of this public investment will help the entirety of downtown Crozet which will then ultimately provide additional tax revenues,” Rooker said.

However, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said it was not the time to raise taxes, and predicted that the county would get additional revenue from retail developments such as the former Albemarle Place, now known as Stonefield.

“[There are] still a lot of people out of work, and I’m not at a place where I want to increase taxes to pay for a Crozet library,” Boyd said.

Rooker argued that by raising additional revenues to pay for the project now, the county would save money by taking advantage of lower interest rates and lower construction costs. But Boyd, who has made the same argument in advocating for speedy construction of a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, was not persuaded.

“In businesses and our personal lives, we all have lost opportunity costs,” Boyd said. “I agree it’s unfortunate but we don’t have the money right now. I don’t want to put that burden on taxpayers… I think we can weather through it and still move forward as this economy turns around.”

Supervisor Rodney Thomas said he agreed with Boyd.
 
“I think it’s time to tighten our belts maybe a bit more, and hold it tight for a while longer,” Thomas said.

Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier said he could not support the increase because too many people are on fixed incomes and can’t absorb the additional tax.

“The public seems to support [staying at 74.2 cents] because they certainly didn’t come out at the public hearing,” Dorrier said.

But Snow said he could support the increase. 

“For that one cent we can add jobs back into the community to help some of these people that are out of work,” Snow said.

With a 3-3 stalemate, Mallek asked Boyd, Thomas and Dorrier if any of them would support an equalized rate of 75 cents, which would bring in the same amount of revenue as the current fiscal year.

 A 74.2 cent tax actually results in a tax decrease for most property owners because of declining property values. Once the board votes to advertise a tax rate, it can only be decreased, not increased before the adoption of the budget.

Thomas said he wanted to keep the rate as is, and Boyd and Dorrier agreed. A motion by Rooker to adopt an equalized tax rate also failed.

However, that does not necessarily mean the county will not participate in VDOT’s revenue sharing program.

Staff had presented the board with the option of setting aside $448,000 in FY12 to pay for operating costs at the new Ivy fire station when it opens in FY13.

Rooker suggested, however, that the money should be used to ensure the county could participate in VDOT revenue sharing.

Also at the work session, the Board agreed to make a one-time payment of $5,000 to the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society to support the Hatton Ferry. They also agreed to authorize a half-time employee at the Crozet Library. The library had asked for a full-time employee at a cost of nearly $31,000.

Many other capital projects loom on the horizon, such as the potential need for a new complex to house the county’s court system. In May, the board will hold a work session on long-term funding strategies for that and other capital projects.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST #1:

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110314-BOS-Budget3-part1

  • 01:00 - Introduction from County Executive Tom Foley recapping work session with school board
  • 06:00 - Motion to approve school budget communications strategy
  • 06:30 - Foley introduces the agenda for the CIP work session
  • 07:00 - Assistant County Executive Bill Letteri begins review of the capital improvement program budget
  • 10:35 - Letteri explains how CIP budget is based on a 74.2 cent increase
  • 13:00 - Supervisor Ken Boyd asks what happens with surpluses that result from projects that come in under budget
  • 13:40 - Letteri relates recent trends in CIP funding
  • 17:00 - Discussion of the Ivy fire station which is in the CIP
  • 18:30 - Letteri describes how funds are transferred into the CIP
  • 23:30 - Boyd asks if the CIP anticipates replacement of county court buildings
  • 24:45 - Letteri describes recommendations from CIP oversight committee, including discussion of extending life  of fire equipment
  • 28:30 - Boyd questions whether some maintenance projects are simply improvements that could be deferred
  • 29:50 - Letteri describes projects in the capital budget, with discussion about planned Ivy fire station
  • 38:30 - Rooker asks question about appraisal software that is listed in the CIP
  • 54:30 - Rooker asks what could be built with another $1 million in the CIP and points out 1 cent rise equals $1.5 million
  • 01:03:30 - Boyd responds to Rooker
  • 01:07:00 - Rooker laments county's inability to pursue VDOT revenue sharing money
  • 01:09:30 - Supervisor Duane Snow asks how much the surplus was for the previous fiscal year
  • 01:14:45 - Boyd claims Barnes' lumber project is being held up by county bureaucracy, citing rumors
  • 01:17:00 - Rooker and Supervisor Ann Mallek suggest using VDOT revenue sharing money to fix Broomley Bridge
  • 01:21:30 - Rooker asks supervisors if they would support a one-cent increase in sales tax to to capital
  • 01:23:00 - Dorrier asks about the "rainy day fund"
  • 01:25:00 - Boyd explains his opposition to any tax increase 01:31:00 - Snow explains his support for a one-cent increase
  • 01:37:00 - Mallek asks Boyd, Thomas and Dorrier if they will support an equalized tax rate


TIMELINE FOR PODCAST #2:

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110314-BOS-Budget3-part2

 

  • 01:00 - Discussion of compensation and benefits led by Lorna Gerome,  Acting Director of Human Resources.
  • 19:00 - Lori Allshouse answers remaining questions about the budget brought up at previous work session
  • 21:30 - Conversation about reserving money in FY2012 budget for Ivy fire station operating funds in FY2013
  • 22:30 - Rooker suggests using Ivy fire station operating costs set-aside for VDOT revenue sharing match instead
  • 28:00 - Discussion of Hatton Ferry
  • 30:00 - Dorrier explains why he wants the $5,000 for the Hatton Ferry
  • 33:45 - Snow explains why he would support the $5,000 for the Hatton Ferry
  • 40:15 - Snow asks for more information on the county self-insuring vehicles
  • 43:00 - Discussion of new employee at Crozet Library
  • 53:45 - Discussion of restoring funding for ACE program
  • 01:05:00 - Rooker makes a motion to advertise 75 cent tax rate 
  • 01:08:00 - Boyd makes a motion to advertise tax rate

 

December 08, 2010

Two long-awaited road projects poised to move forward in Albemarle

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A pair of projects to improve two key Albemarle connector roads will move forward this winter after years of planning.

A $13.5 million project to widen a stretch of Jarman’s Gap Road in Crozet will be advertised for construction in January 2011. The right of way phase for this project first began in 1998.

“Given the amount of development that has taken place, the improvements are important for providing adequate access,” said chief planner David Benish in an interview. The project will also add sidewalks and a bike lane, which will make downtown Crozet more accessible.

Georgetown Road will also get pedestrian improvements as part of a $2.3 million dollar project that will be advertised in February. That project has been scaled back dramatically due to funding cutbacks and a lack of space. A sidewalk will be built on the western side of the road, but there is no room for a bike lane.

“Even with available funding it would be very expensive and cost-prohibitive because of the amount of existing development on the road,” Benish said.

For several years, the two projects have been among the county’s top transportation priorities. Another is Albemarle’s portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway, for which the county invested over $30 million.

Under VDOT regulations, localities must save up the entire amount of a project’s cost estimate before construction can be advertised. Accruing the money for all three projects has taken longer than expected because of state budget cuts.

In 2005, Albemarle received around $5.5 million in secondary road funds. That figure has dropped to around $325,000 for the current fiscal year. VDOT will release an estimate for how much Albemarle can expect in FY2012 later this month.

Even though funds are limited, supervisors will be asked early next year to indicate their priorities for what secondary roads will be funded next.

"It's always good to have a plan for when opportunities present themselves,” said Benish. One of those opportunities could be the release of several hundreds of millions of dollars uncovered an internal VDOT audit.

The next project to accrue funding will be a replacement of a wooden railroad bridge on Broomley Road off U.S. Route 250 West  that was damaged when a train hit it in August 2007. In April, chief planner David Benish told the board that it might not be until 2017 before enough money is accumulated  for the project.

Another opportunity for new funding could come as the Meadowcreek Parkway is completed.

“The bid came in less than we had originally estimated, and we put a lot of our secondary road funds in it over many, many years,” said Supervisor Dennis Rooker. 

Karen Kilby, investment manager for VDOT’s Culpeper District, said she would not know about any unspent balance until at least five months after the project is complete in late 2011.

The county is also facing a potential setback in an alternative effort to pave gravel roads while avoiding extensive widening. The state places a high priority on paving roads, but VDOT standards require at least a 40 foot right-of way. Concerned that such roads would attract more development in the rural area, supervisors opted instead to use VDOT’s rural rustic program which allows for more flexibility in design, less impact to the landscape, and results in a lower cost.

However, Supervisor Ann Mallek recently discovered that the rural rustic program will not be the cheaper alternative it was expected to be.

 “Our estimates that we’d been looking at for some of these roads are woefully undervalued, to the tune of two or three times,” Mallek said during the board’s December 1 meeting. “There has been a change in procedure that requires professional engineers’ signatures on all plans instead of just sending our paving company out there to grade them, put the ditches in and drop the asphalt.”

Two Supervisors fail in attempt to resurrect western bypass

The controversial 6.1 mile Western Bypass of U.S. 29 remains dead, despite an attempt by two supervisors to revive it last week.

“In the past, the majority of this board has been totally opposed to it,” said Supervisor Ken Boyd. “I’m not so sure that’s still the case.”

Boyd asked the board if they would consider bringing the Western Bypass back before the Metropolitan Policy Organization. The MPO has never authorized funding for construction of the road, thought it has accepted $47.2 million in state and federal funding for design and the purchase of right of way.

Supervisor Rodney Thomas supported the request, but no other supervisors voiced their support at the meeting.

Reached in an interview, Supervisor Duane Snow said he did not support bringing the idea back at this time.

Boyd said he wanted further study to determine whether the right of way could have some value as a parallel road or limited access parkway. However, that idea would also appear to be off the table. In October 2009, the board asked a consultant preparing a study of the U.S. 29 corridor to delete language that called the right of way to extend Leonard Sandridge Road north of the U.S. 250 bypass.


October 18, 2010

Supervisors adopt Crozet master plan update

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, October 18, 2010

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved an update of the Crozet Master Plan.  The amendments to the twenty-year plan lower the ultimate population potential and seek to focus the community’s growth into three distinct areas.

 “The master plan continues to emphasize redevelopment of downtown,” said David Benish, Albemarle’s chief of planning at a public hearing last Wednesday. “Changes to the plan put greater emphasis on the three centers that have emerged, which is the Clover Lawn area, the Old Trail area and downtown.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20101012-BOS-Crozet-Plan

20101013-BOS-Crozet-LandUseMap
Higher resolution images are available on Albemarle County's website

The plan’s first five-year update was adopted after two years of review from residents and the Crozet Community Advisory Council, a county-sanctioned body of citizens. The plan now envisions a Crozet population growing from 5,500 today to 12,000 by 2030, with an ultimate build-out of 18,000 at some time in the future. The previous plan was estimated to accommodate over 24,000 residents.

 

Three property owners along Crozet Avenue requested to have their land designated as mixed-use, rather than remain as transitional in nature. That would have allowed for the possibility of dense residential development or commercial buildings to be built adjacent to single-family homes.

“Over the past four years, I have received a total of 17 inquiries about the property I own to be used as some sort of business, but due to the present situation, not one of these offers could go forward,” said Tom Oakley, one of the property owners.

CCAC members said dense uses outside of the core downtown are not appropriate at this time. 
“The discussion and arguments and input that we had about what happens with those three pieces of property were gut-wrenching,” said CCAC member William Schrader.  “We felt like we needed to protect the homeowners of that area.”

However, the property owners’ request was championed by Supervisor Ken Boyd.

“I just have this very strong feeling for people’s personal property rights,” Boyd said. “People should be able to with their property what they want to do so long as it’s not… going to hurt a neighborhood.”

Before a motion was taken, Boyd asked supervisors if they would support changing the use to reflect the three property owners’ wishes. Supervisor Rodney Thomas said he was sympathetic to the landowners’ request, but Supervisor Ann Mallek disagreed.

“Is their right to do that more important than the rights of the landowners around them?” Mallek asked.
Supervisor Dennis Rooker pointed out to Boyd and Thomas that Crozet is within Mallek’s district.

“We ought to give some deference to the person whose district this master planning is taking place in, and who has attended all the meetings,” Rooker said. “I’m not prepared to second-guess that.” 
Boyd and Thomas eventually agreed, and the landowners’ requests were not granted in this revision of the plan.

Two requests to expand the Crozet growth area were considered as part of the revision, but the plan now states that expansion is not desired at this time.

“All new buildings for office, retail, and industrial uses should be located within the existing Community of Crozet,” reads the plan. “This Master Plan update recommends that the Rural Areas outside of the Community of Crozet remain rural, including the stretch of Route 250 West between the Development Area boundary and the interstate interchange.” 

2010-Yancey

Boyd said this language was prejudicial against a comprehensive plan amendment filed by the Yancey family to bring 184 acres into the development area. The Yancey’s plan to build an industrial park between U.S. 250 and I-64 did not get an up or down vote as part of the plan’s revision.

 “I don’t want to put anything into the record that says we’re not going to do this or that we’re discouraging anything that I personally want to look at later,” Boyd said. “Some members of this board want to look at [Yancey Mills] as a possibility and I’ve said all along that I don’t think that Crozet can dictate policy for the entire county.”

The other expansion request came from Celeste Ploumis, who sought a reclassification of her property at the intersection of U.S. 250 and Route 240 to allow for a garden center. Members of the CCAC were opposed to both requests because of the potential for adding to traffic congestion on the highway.

 “If you look at Crozet and you want to avoid sprawl mistakes, you realize that Route 250 functions as a bypass around where the intended density will go, which is in downtown,” said Mike Marshall, chairman of the CCAC.  “The master plan envisions a traditional downtown and gets around the problem we had in Albemarle in the 80’s and 90’s of not having a bypass around 29 by keeping 250 undeveloped.”

The plan also envisions a larger core downtown, with the site of the Barnes Lumber Yard reclassified as mixed use. That site may pave the way for a pedestrian mall in Crozet.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Staff report from David Benish
  • 05:30 - Question from Supervisor Boyd regarding fate of three requests for property's density to be increased
  • 14:00 - Boyd calls attention to language in the plan that restricts development along Route 250 in rural area
  • 17:45 - Boyd asks a question about the CIP
  • 24:30 - Public comment from Paul Grady in favor of Yancey Mills project
  • 28:00 - Public comment from Celeste Ploumis requesting her property be added to growth area
  • 31:45 - Public comment from Aden Ray requesting Ploumis property be added to growth area
  • 33:30 - Public comment from Mike Marshall of the Crozet Community Advisory Council
  • 37:00 - Public comment from Tom Oakley in favor of having his property converted to mixed use
  • 38:15 - Public comment from Meg Holden in defense of the master planning process
  • 41:00 - Public comment from Tom Murray, realtor for Ploumis
  • 42:50 - Public comment from Katurah Royell to discuss Barnes lumber yard
  • 45:45 - Public comment from Barbara Westbrook, formerly of the CCAC in support of the plan
  • 47:30 - Public comment from Tim Tolson of the CCAC in support of the plan
  • 49:20 - Public comment from Lucy Goeke of the CCAC in support of the plan
  • 50:30 - Public comment from Jenny Martin requesting her property be converted to mixed use
  • 55:15 - Public comment from Mary Gallo of the CCAC
  • 58:00 - Public comment from Richard Martin requesting his property be converted to mixed use
  • 1:01:30 - Public comment from Jo Higgins
  • 1:04:30 - Follow-up comment from Tom Murray, realtor for Ploumis
  • 1:05:30 - Public comment from William Schrader of the CCAC
  • 1:07:30 - Discussion returns to the Board of Supervisors, with question from Rodney Thomas
  • 1:10:00 - Boyd asks if Crozet would support mixed use designation for three properties if it brought jobs

October 07, 2010

Eyeing costs, Albemarle continues to seek more information on regional library agreement

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, October 7, 2010

 

20101007-Library
CAPTION

A staff review of the agreement that has Albemarle County participating in the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system will not be available until January, prompting concern from several members of the Board of Supervisors.

Download Download scope of work for staff review of JMRL agreement

“Back in June, when I asked to have a meeting with the library [Board of Trustees], I was told that within a couple of months we’d be having something back from staff,” Supervisor Ann Mallek said Wednesday. “[January] is way too late, from my perspective, in the budget process.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101006-BOS-Library

Earlier this year, the JMRL’s Board of Trustees threatened to close the Scottsville library to cover a 5 percent reduction in funding from Albemarle County. Supervisors eventually decided to spare the library and allocated $3.17 million, the same amount as in the previous year.

“For that amount of money we could take care of the libraries in the county very easily,” Supervisor Duane Snow said.

The library agreement describes how costs are to be shared among JMRL’s six jurisdictions. All jurisdictions contribute to library administration and system-wide services. Charlottesville and Albemarle County both contribute to the funding of the Central, Gordon Avenue and Northside libraries.

Albemarle County is the sole supporter of both the Crozet and Scottsville branches.

“We’re under-serving our residents because we’re dumping the biggest portion into city facilities,” Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said, adding that he would prefer to spend money on the Crozet and Northside libraries.

Download Download 1991 library agreement

To leave the system, Albemarle would have to give two years’ notice, according to the agreement, meaning the county would at a minimum fund JMRL for at least two more years.

Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said it was worth taking the time to complete the review.

“It behooves us to be well-educated and understand what it is we’re getting for what we pay and what the options would be,” Rooker said.

Supervisor Lindsay G. Dorrier Jr. suggested that the county might find a way to stay within the system but get more control of the system’s budget.

“If we think that they’re spending more money on [the city] than we think is proper, we can influence that decision,” Dorrier said.

Mallek said she wanted to avoid a repeat of last year’s showdown.

“We need to continue to support our library in the upcoming budget and not have a replay of last year’s debate,” Mallek said. “It’s one of those core services that we need.”

Supervisors will continue preparations for the next budget with a meeting next Tuesday to discuss future funding needs.

October 01, 2010

Local planners discuss alternative transportation approaches given limited state funding

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, October 1, 2010

A plan adopted by the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Policy Organization last year anticipates spending nearly $300 million on transportation projects to accommodate a growing population. However, local planners questioned this week whether alternative approaches could save money.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100927-CPC-APC-Joint-Meeting

“We’re really facing here in Virginia, and also at the national level, a transportation funding crisis,” said Stephen Williams, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “It’s politically difficult to impose any tax or to raise any existing tax.”

“My personal preference is to [look] at alternative strategies with as much weight as we are with built projects,” said Charlottesville Planning Commissioner Genevieve Keller. Such strategies would include better transit and more compact urban development.

On Tuesday, members of the Albemarle and Charlottesville planning commissions were asked to rank their priorities as part of the initial planning for the update of the region’s long-range transportation plan. Every five years, the MPO is required to show the federal and state governments how the community plans to address traffic congestion that comes with population growth.

Download Download presentation given by Stephen Williams

  Facts-and-figures
Source: TJPDC

In 2007, there were an estimated 553,000 trips taken by area residents, according to data presented by Williams. The vast majority of these trips were made in automobiles, with 9.9 percent walking or biking. Only 1.3 percent used public transit. By 2035, the number of trips is estimated to increase to 684,000 as the local population increases to a projected 160,000.

The current plan includes $54 million for interchange improvements along U.S. 29, $43 million to improve traffic flow on U.S. 250 at Pantops and $25 million for Hillsdale Drive Extended. The plan also estimates $42 million in capital costs for expanded transit and another $10 million to build more bike lanes and trails in the urban ring of Albemarle County.

Williams said funding projects will be difficult without new sources of revenue.

Virginia has the 11th-lowest fuels tax in the nation at 17.5 cents per gallon, a rate that has not increased since 1987. The average tax for all states is 29 cents. One of the questions asked of commissioners is whether they would support a tax increase to provide more funding.

Many commissioners questioned Williams’ methodology. Charlottesville’s Dan Rosensweig said relying too heavily on forecasting data to plan tomorrow’s transportation network might mean the community doesn’t build what it really wants.

20100927-CPC-APC
Commissioners were ranked to fill out a survey indicating transportation preferences. Download a copy for yourself.

“If you read between the lines of this survey, it sort of assumes that congestion is the problem,” Rosensweig said. “That is a problem, but there’s also a qualitative component that I can’t see measured in this … Does it feel better to walk from one place to another than it does to drive?”

David Neuman, the architect of the University of Virginia, said planning is moving away from the “technical fixes” of big road projects and toward creative alternatives that reduce automobile trips.

“We’re looking at telecommuting, alternative work schedules, alternative school schedules,” Neuman said. He added that behavioral changes by employees would eliminate the need to raise additional funds for expensive road projects.

Other commissioners said concerns about congestion are overblown because the region does not experience the problems of major metropolitan areas.

“I lived in Southern California for 35 years and I think traffic here is phenomenal,” said Albemarle Commissioner Duane Zobrist. “It’s very rare that I don’t get through a red light on the first try.”

Williams said congestion can be perceived in different ways by different individuals, but travel times are projected to increase if the infrastructure is not in place.

“Our forecasts are right at the tipping point and although we’re only looking at a 30 percent growth in our travel in the next 25 years, we think that’s going to lead to rapid degradation of our travel experience,” he said.

The MPO will continue to collect input from key stakeholders as it prepares a new draft plan.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Albemarle Planning Commission Chair Tom Loach calls meeting to order, asks for introductions
  • 04:00 - Stephen Williams of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission begins his presentation
  • 04:40 - Linda Seaman, CHART representative, gives a description of area transportation planning
  • 09:10 - Williams discusses the relationship between transportation and land use
  • 17:15 - Seaman asks commissioners first of several questions
  • 21:45 - Williams describes the "transportation funding crisis"
  • 28:00 - Williams describes the fiscally constrained list of projects in the UNJAM plan
  • 34:30 - Loach asks if projects suggested for UNJAM would meet transportation needs
  • 40:30 - Commissioner Dan Rosensweig asks what level of service is for Hydraulic Road / U.S. 29
  • 43:00 - Williams discusses other alternatives to gas taxes
  • 52:30 - Commissioner Cal Morris asks about retrofitting rural roads for bike lanes
  • 1:09:40 - Loach asks if U.S. 29 corridor study will result in changes locally
  • 1:18:30 - UVA Architect David Neuman says era of "technical fixes" is over


August 22, 2010

Crozet “Downtown Mall” gets OK from advisory group

DailyProgress

By Bridgett Lynn
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, August 22, 2010

A group that oversees planning in Crozet has endorsed a new concept to redevelop a lumber yard on the Square into a walkable and livable community similar to Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.

“We need a pedestrian mall in Crozet,” said Mike Marshall, chairman of the Crozet Community Advisory Council. “This comes into Crozet’s life at a very fortunate time for us.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100819-CCAC

The CCAC voted Thursday to recommend rezoning the 14.74-acre J. Bruce Barnes Lumber Yard and CSX railroad property to allow for future development as part of the Crozet Master Plan.

Member Kelly Strickland abstained because he helped to draw the plans for the property.

20100819-Roell
Katurah Roell

“If you imagine Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, it’s a complete mixture of uses,” said Katurah Roell, president of President of Piedmont Development Group and a representative of the lumber yard. “This is a very small scale, a version of that, but what it does create is the ability to have a gathering space and some place where people love to go [in] Crozet.”

Under this concept, the lumber yard would be redeveloped into a space that would be open to a mixture of uses. The concept provides 100,000 square feet of light industrial building space and would account for almost one-fifth of development for light industrial use in the Master Plan, according to Roell.

“From [research and development] business to office space, restaurants, retail [and] some housing,” Roell said, “it will provide a variety of opportunities for people to locate their businesses, live, work, play and entertain each other.”

20100822-Crozet-Mall
Click to enlarge


Crozet’s downtown is also under pressure to compete with other mixed-use neighborhoods such as Old Trail Village, which has a shopping village, golf course and other amenities.

“There are many existing businesses … that have considered going to Old Trail,” Roell said. “[We want] to be able to provide an office complex in here somewhere, where literally several hundred people can be employed.”

Some CCAC members were concerned that parts of the concept would not fit the area.

“It looks like there is a lot of on-street parking, and I don’t think that’s been thought out very well for that area,” member Charles Mitchell said. “I don’t want us to do something stupid.”

“There is close to over 700 parking spaces shown here,” Roell said. “That’s based on square footage, density, no particular use, and it’s also tied to Crozet downtown and/or light industrial zoning district parking requirements that are county ordinances.”

Some members of the public were concerned that the plan could disrupt their privacy.

“I’m wondering what kind of buffer zone there is going to be between these two- and three-story buildings and my backyard,” said Ellen McKenna, a resident of Hill Top Street. “I have a very private backyard and whenever this plan is fully implemented, I’m going to have buildings looking down into my yard. So my sense of privacy will be pretty much gone.”

“[The buildings are] 60 feet away from the property line,” Roell responded. “[And] those large trees along the back of the boundary of the property were intended to be left intact.”

“If anything, the downtown plan [makes] it more flexible for people to build buildings,” said Tom Loach, a member of Albemarle’s Planning Commission. “We should try and actively get employment in the downtown area.”

“I think it’s a very intelligent plan,” Marshall said. “I think it’s drawn by people who know what they’re doing. I think it’s highly in sync with what we hoped would happen in downtown when we designed the downtown zoning district.”

According to county planner Elaine Echols, county staff will submit a report to the Planning Commission presenting the CCAC’s input on the proposal. The county Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a work session on the updated Crozet Master Plan on Sept. 1.

“I’m very glad that we’re thinking about all of these issues because having something as wonderful as [this] is going to bring people to [Crozet],” said Ann H. Mallek, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors.