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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.”

January 22, 2011

A growing village in western Albemarle, Old Trail sees record sales

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, January 22, 2011

One real estate project in western Albemarle County is seeing significant residential sales growth. Old Trail Village reported this week that 70 homes were sold or placed under contract during 2010, a record number for the mixed-use development near Crozet.

“We had the best selling year that we have ever had,” said Andrea McNeill, director of marketing for Beights Corp. “I think in large part that’s due to the housing product that our builders are providing, and it’s obviously what consumers want.”

Old Trail’s success comes in the midst of a housing market that last year saw regional sales drop 1.5 percent below their 2009 levels, the fourth straight year of decline.

The 70 homes that sold in 2010 surpasses the total of 27 sold in 2009 and 21 in 2008. McNeill said 58 of the homes were new construction and 12 were re-sales.

In addition, the first phase of Old Trail’s mixed-use commercial town center is virtually all leased.

There are almost 300 occupied homes in Old Trail today and the development has been approved to build another 2,300, for about 2,600 homes in total.

Gaylon Beights, president of Beights Corp., attributed part of the recent success to the maturing of the neighborhood.

“I think Old Trail has matured, the amenities are present, and the architecture is established,” Beights said.

When Albemarle County approved the development in 2005, many area residents decried it as being too large, a threat to existing businesses in downtown Crozet, and a population bomb that would undermine the 2004 Crozet Master Plan. That plan has now been revised with a great deal of community input to adjust, in part, for the housing density that ended up in Old Trail.

Jim Duncan, a Realtor in Crozet at Nest Realty, said Beights had responded well to market demand.

“I think they are doing something right and that they have created something that people want,” Duncan said. “When I talk about it with clients I say, ‘It has stuff — a pool, shopping areas, things to walk to.’ People want to have an engaged community.”

“Success breeds success,” he added. “Old Trail has succeeded faster than other developments like Belvedere because they had the commercial areas ready to go. People view this as the beginning of a successful community.”

According to Beights, there are 39 apartments above the first floor commercial area in the existing town center, all of which were occupied throughout last year. Recently five apartments became available, but he said that was because those residents moved into other homes within Old Trail.

Melissa Riley lives in one of the apartments and works in the town center.

“This is a close-knit community and you feel safe,” Riley said in an interview at Face Value Studios. “I’m a single mom and I plan to start by renting a townhome and then move on up in the neighborhood. Who wouldn’t want to wake up every morning and see those mountains?”

Eating lunch at Anna’s Pizza in the town center, Jason and Adrienne Augustino said they had relocated from Baltimore and were initially attracted by the surrounding countryside.

“We just liked the area, the farmland,” Jason said. “It sounded like a nice area that would have restaurants and a walkable community. Everything that we like and want and need is here.”

McNeill said phase 9 of Old Trail is under construction across from the town center. The Village Commons will include another 126 homes.

“Also, the Lodge at Old Trail will have 126 beds in a new senior assisted living facility,” McNeill added. “It’s on the rental model and that has a range of care from basic assisted living up to end-of-life care.”

Both Riley and the Augustinos said they were excited about the next phase of development for Old Trail Village.

“From an investment perspective, it will really help,” Adrienne said. “We enjoy being able to walk to restaurants and we are excited about the neighborhood’s growth.”

The investment is paying off for Beights, too, who led his business through a difficult market.

“The biggest surprise was 2008-2009 when we faced a market like I have never could have imagined in 40 years of development,” Beights said. “Maneuvering a project this massive through the uncertainty of those years, I knew we’d be here, but I didn’t know if my bank was here for the long haul. It’s refreshing to be on this side of 2010 being able to say sales are continuing.”

January 11, 2011

Ed McMahon traces connection between economic vitality, community character

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

20110109-McMahon2
Edward McMahon presented many examples of how corporations will adapt their images to meet community expectations - if asked to do so.

A leading land use expert told a packed room at the Omni Hotel Monday night that the most successful American communities are those ready for the future while retaining a sense of the past. The event was sponsored by Charlottesville Tomorrow.

“We are entering a new era in America and the world, an era that will change our lives in ways no less fundamental than the industrial revolution,” said Edward McMahon, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute. “It’s about finding better, smarter, greener, more energy efficient ways to work and move around,” McMahon said.

The Urban Land Institute was founded in 1936 to study and develop best management practices for land use and development. McMahon advises communities nationwide about the importance of protecting their unique character as an economic development tool.

“I believe ‘sense of place’ is explicitly that which makes our physical surroundings worth caring about,” McMahon said.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20110110-Community-Character

 

During his hour-long presentation, McMahon showed slides of how some communities have set
high standards for development to avoid looking like any other place in the United States.

McMahon’s talk was followed by a panel discussion.

20110110-panel
(Left to right: Ed McMahon, Dennis Rooker, Kim Tanzer and Gaylon Beights

Supervisor Dennis Rooker called McMahon his “hero” and said he was invigorated by the presentation. He agreed that Albemarle County and Charlottesville are both poised to take advantage of historic resources.

“Here we’ve got the advantages of the beautiful mountain vistas, the history of Monticello and the University of Virginia, and those things are bricks to build on that most communities don’t have to start with,” Rooker said.

McMahon also advises communities on how to develop in a way that encourages and welcomes alternative modes of transportation. In the county, that form of development is called “neighborhood model” development and it is strongly encouraged in the designated growth areas.

Gaylon Beights, the developer of Old Trail Village in Crozet, said his decision to embrace  the neighborhood model has been profitable as people seek out walkable mixed-use communities.

“We have 287 current residents that love [Old Trail],” Beights said. “This year, we sold 70 houses, more than twice than we’ve ever done before, and it’s because people want to live where it is beautiful."

Near the end of his talk, McMahon advised Charlottesville to make a special effort to develop the West Main Street corridor to become a more densely populated, urban environment.

“That could be one of the great streets in Virginia, but it’s not, it’s missing teeth,” McMahon said. He encouraged the University of Virginia and Charlottesville to work together to develop the corridor.

“Successful communities use education, incentives, partnerships and voluntary initiatives,” McMahon said. 

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:30 – Introduction from Michael Bills, Chair of Charlottesville Tomorrow’s board of directors
  • 04:30 – Presentation from Ed McMahon of the Urban Land Institute
  • 59:00 – Brian Wheeler introduces panel
  • 1:01:30 – Comments and remarks from Supervisor Dennis Rooker
  • 1:09:30 – Comments and remarks from developer Gaylon Beights
  • 1:13:30 – Comments and remarks from Kim Tanzer, Dean of the U.Va School of Architecture
  • 1:27:00 – Question from Supervisor Rodney Thomas
  • 1:30:00 – Comment from Supervisor Ann Mallek
  • 1:31:00 – Question from Charlie Foster about signage
  • 1:36:45 – Question about population control
  • 1:39:00 – Question from Robin Hoffman about neighborhood involvement
  • 1:41:00 – Question and comment from Kathy Galvin

 

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. 

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast:Download 20091217-Crozet-Forum3

20091217-Crozet-Marshall
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


250_logox750
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
250_logo_sm

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. 

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090915-APC-Crozet-Master-Plan


Land-use-map-image
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.

September 14, 2007

Crozet residents host the White Hall Supervisor candidates

20070913boscandidatedebate
(left to right) Ann Mallek (D), David Wyant (R), and David Wayland

On September 13, 2007, the Crozet Community Association hosted a candidate forum for the two candidates seeking the White Hall seat on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.  About 60 residents gathered in the Crozet Fire Station to hear David Wyant (R) and Ann Mallek (D) present their campaign platforms.  The forum was moderated by David Wayland, President of the Crozet Community Association.

The format of the forum was such that each candidate had fifteen minutes to make a presentation followed by a five minute rebuttal by the first candidate.  Wayland flipped a coin and Mallek, winning the toss, gave her opening statement first.  Afterwards, Wayland entertained questions from the audience.  The evening was dominated by growth and development issues in Crozet.  Each candidate had two minutes for closing remarks.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcastDownload 20070913-White-Hall-Forum.mp3

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Watch a video of the program:

20070913mallek_2Highlights of the audio:

  • 00:51 - Introduction by David Wayland
  • 03:31 - Opening statement by Ann Mallek (D)
  • 13:13 - Opening statement by David Wyant (R)
  • 28:20 - Rebuttal by Ann Mallek (D)
  • 33:30 Questions from the audience begin
  • 34:41 - Question about the candidates' views on the Crozet Master Plan approved in 2004.
  • 41:38 - Question about how much control the Supervisors have on the timing of transportation infrastructure like the proposed Eastern Avenue and improvements to Jarmans Gap Road.  If they do not have enough control, can new developments be denied instead?
  • 48:00 - Did the County forget obligations to Crozet when it was designated long ago as a growth area?  How do you view those commitments, financial or otherwise, today?
  • 20070913wyant51:49 - Candidates asked about Old Trail Village rezoning and Crozet's population estimates.  How do you explain the increase in estimated population documented in the Master Plan from 12,000 to 24,000?
  • 1:00:28 - Why does the Board of Supervisors approve new commercial development along Route 250 when that competes with Downtown Crozet?
  • 1:04:57 - What should the County do when the growth areas are fully developed?  In their answers, candidates addressed the question of whether Albemarle's growth areas should be expanded.
  • 1:15:35 - Closing remarks by David Wyant (R)
  • 1:17:09 - Closing remarks by Ann Mallek (D)

Brian Wheeler

July 10, 2006

Realtors touting walkable, livable villages

Local realtor Jonathan Kauffmann has a blog that focuses on the Old Trail development in Crozet, VA.  In a post today, he makes mention of a CNNMoney.com article entitled "The next real estate boom: Dense settlements, not sprawling ranch houses, are the future of housing - and could make for a smart real-estate investment."  Mr. Kauffmann wants his readers (and future investors) to know that Old Trail is intended to have many of the benefits described in the article as a similar "New Village" redefining the housing product in areas outside of a city center.  According to the article's author, Chris Taylor:

"The demand for such developments is real, and it's only going to get greater as consumer preferences rapidly shift away from the McMansions preferred by boomers. According to a study by the nonprofit Congress for New Urbanism, while less than 25 percent of middle-aged Americans are interested in living in dense areas, 53 percent of 24-34 year olds would choose to live in transit-rich, walkable neighborhoods, if they had the choice."

The demand in Albemarle for "walkable" and "livable" communities has been spurred by Albemarle County's Neighborhood Model Development (NMD) ordinance.  Developers wishing to get their property rezoned (e.g. Biscuit Run, Rivanna Village, Old Trail) know the County is expecting mixed-use communities (housing combined with retail/commercial), town centers, interconnected streets instead of cul-de-sacs, and a variety of housing types and cost ranges.  The article also points out that developers also know simple math--There are more housing units selling at higher prices in these denser villages.

Another large County development designed with this model in mind is North Pointe.  North Pointe is currently at the rezoning stage and will be in front of the Board of Supervisors on August 2nd for another public hearing.  One of the things I noticed at the North Pointe public hearing was how many people said favorable things about the idea of pedestrian and bicycle friendly neighborhoods following the County's Neighborhood Model principles.  One of the challenges is that we do not have a large NMD project in Albemarle completed that we can look at and evaluate.   

As a result, the public often questions whether denser developments are a good thing.  For example, residents of existing neighborhoods ask not to be connected to new neighborhoods which will have schools and shopping they could easily drive, walk or bicycle to IF they were effectively and safely connected. New roads would allow them to take shorter trips off congested thoroughfares. However, the Neighborhood Model will only work if the developer, County and the state government can fund and build the infrastructure required to support a growing population. 

Another factor we have to consider in Charlottesville and Albemarle is the impact on our roads of developments located on the outskirts or separated from the existing urban area (Rivanna Village at Glenmore, Old Trail in Crozet, North Pointe up 29N, and Biscuit Run south of Charlottesville).  What needs will develop for new transportation solutions as people commute to jobs at UVA and in the City of Charlottesville.  What will the impact be on traffic congestion?  What impact will the over 3 million square feet of additional retail under review by Albemarle have on existing stores and roads?  Transportation infrastructure and retail saturation are two issues Charlottesville Tomorrow has asked the Board of Supervisors to consider carefully as they consider future rezonings in the County's growth areas [our letter].

What do you think about denser neighborhood villages in our community?  Are you ready to invest?  Are you ready to move in?

Brian Wheeler

March 13, 2006

Crozet plans cross 12,000 population threshold

There is a Crozet rezoning request before the Board of Supervisors this week (Liberty Hall) that has an interesting status report, prepared by staff, which shows that the currently approved and proposed housing in the Crozet development pipeline, if all built, would likely take Crozet beyond a population of 12,000 people.  While nobody can predict accurately the speed with which those homes will be built and occupied, it is news that County staff are bringing this to the attention of the Board.  On paper, the twenty-year Crozet Master Plan approved in December 2004 has crossed the threshold of a population of 12,000 people.

Crozetwesternridge

What happens next?  Many residents of Crozet have asked the County to adhere to the master plan's goal of 12,000 people.  The County will continue to receive additional development proposals.

  • Should rezonings stop entirely while we wait and see how fast things get built? 
  • Should rezonings only be approved that bring needed infrastructure to Crozet? 
  • Should additional rezonings be approved with the idea that it will take many years for the houses to be built and occupied, that not all units applied for will be built, and thus we can afford to pad the pipeline? 
  • If additional developments are approved should they now be steered towards the lower end of the plan's allowed density ranges?
  • Is the ultimate goal a community with 12,000, 24,000, or some other number of people? 
  • How does that long range goal inform our choices as a community today? 
  • Are we getting proffers that help bring all the necessary elements of a quality community?

These are but a few questions I think the community wants to see discussed.  I have reproduced the table of data below.  [Read all weblog postings on development in Crozet]

Brian Wheeler

Development in Community of Crozet as of 3/7/2006

Number of Existing Dwelling units as of 6/05, estimated by GDS* [i.e. number of residences in Crozet before additions below]

1,451 units

Number of By-Right Dwelling Units/Lots Approved (FINAL SUB & Final SDP) 2004 & 2005 - No CO's** as of 6/05

SUB 04-136

Ballard Field

63

SDP 05-17

Ballard Field Townhouses

79

SUB 04-102

Upper Ballard Field

43

SUB 05-113

Westhall I & II (SF)

49

TOTAL

234 units

Number of Units/Lots on Approved PRELIMINARY Plats and Site Plans

SUB 04-288

Old Trail Creekside

24

SUB 05-259

Old Trail Creekside II - Phase I

96

SUB 05-229

Clayton

21

SUB 05-146

Westhall Phase III

9

SUB 04-134

West End at Western Ridge

17

SDP 05-90

Westhall Phase IV

36

TOTAL

167 units

Number of Units-Rezonings approved in Crozet since Master Plan Adoption

ZMA 04-24

Old Trail Village

2,275

ZMA 04-17

Wickham Pond

107
TOTAL
2,382 units

Number of Units-Rezonings Under Review

ZMA 05-05

Liberty Hall

53

ZMA 05-07

Haden Place

40

ZMA 05-18

Wickham Pond II

127

ZMA 06-01

Westhall Phase V

38

ZMA 02-05

Foothill Crossing -- indefinitely deferred

600
TOTAL
858 units
From Liberty Hall staff report for 3/15/06 BOS Meeting: "Some members of the public who spoke have raised concerns about the rate at which Crozet is growing. Staff provided the table below to the Commission and public after their request for a “status report” on approved developments and developments under review in Crozet. From this table, if Old Trail is built out to its maximum approved units, and all rezonings under review are approved and built out to their maximum approved units, in addition to the by-right development, the number of dwelling units would result in a population that would likely exceed 12,000 (2.4 persons per unit x number of dwelling units). However, the table does not attempt to project the rate at which growth will occur, nor can it predict whether the approved developments will build out to their maximum allowed development potential."
*GDS=Albemarle Co. Geographic Data Services
**CO = Certificate of Occupancy