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May 19, 2011

Business leaders briefed on transit expansion

DailyProgressThe manager of Charlottesville Area Transit told business leaders Wednesday that increased bus service is an asset for the local economy.

“Public transit can improve access to employment for those that are working in our community,” said Bill Watterson at a North Charlottesville Business Council luncheon.

The NCBC was created in part to oppose the construction of grade-separated interchanges on U.S. 29, a proposal that was considered as part of the Places29 master plan. The group later supported the plan after transportation improvements were limited to projects that had a reasonable chance of moving forward.

“[Transit] is one of the five doable things that we want to work towards,” said L.F. Wood, chairman of the NCBC.

20110518-watterson
Bill Watterson addressing the NCBC (Source: Andrew Shurtleff/Daily Progress)

Watterson said his agency hopes to relieve congestion on U.S. 29. Already the corridor’s route 7 is the second-most used CAT route, surpassed only by the free trolley.

“Together they serve about two-thirds of the approximately 2.3 million passengers that we’ll be serving this year,” Watterson said.

Watterson said new service could include an express route between Fashion Square and downtown via the Meadow Creek Parkway, a route connecting Barracks Road and the new Martha Jefferson Hospital, and a route between the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport and the University of Virginia.

Download Download Connetics Transportation Group's Transit Development Plan

Airport CEO Barbara Hutchinson said she would welcome the transit, but added that several obstacles would have to be overcome. For instance, parking revenues make up approximately 50 percent of the airport’s $4 million budget.

“We wouldn’t want the transit system to assume that transit would be successful, so we would want to work together to ensure it would be,” Hutchison added.

Many of these routes will mean a rise in the number of buses that will pass through the Barracks Road Shopping Center. That will require construction of a new $1.7 million station.

Watterson said the number one request he hears is to extend service to Hollymead Town Center.

“It certainly was planned to be transit-ready, but, come this summer, it’s six years [since opening] and there’s still no bus service,” Watterson said.

Wendell Wood, the owner of Hollymead, is responsible for contributing $50,000 a year for 10 years once service is expanded there. In January, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors denied a request that he be released from that obligation.

Watterson said the Stonefield development will bring new roads, providing an opportunity to better serve the city’s Meadows neighborhood. That will also lead to the eventual removal of a bus stop at the corner of Angus Road and U.S. 29, a factor in traffic congestion in the southbound lane that leads to the U.S. 29/250 interchange.

 

April 28, 2011

Large turnout for kickoff of local planning effort

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, April 28, 2011
 
A large crowd of community members, both new and old, gathered at the Albemarle County Office Building on Wednesday to participate in the launch of the Livable Communities Planning Project.

Funded by an almost $1 million federal grant, the effort is being coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The three-year project will contribute to updates of Charlottesville’s and the county’s comprehensive and transportation plans.

“I am thrilled people are coming out to ask questions and provide input,” said Summer Frederick, the TJPDC’s project manager. “This is a process-driven project, but the process is only as good as the input we get.”

The city, county and the University of Virginia are all working together on the “livable communities” effort under the rubric “many plans, one community.”

20110427-Davis-Aaron
Albemarle County resident Aaron Davis

Surrounded by informative displays and numerous local government staff and officials ready to answer questions, county resident Aaron Davis filled out a feedback form and stuffed it in the comment box.

“If you live in an area, you need to learn about it,” Davis said. “With land development, transportation, housing and jobs, you need to know what is going on in the community.”

Jim Tolbert, Charlottesville’s director of neighborhood development, said he was pleased that the city’s Comprehensive Plan would be updated in a cooperative process.

“The biggest thing is the opportunity to work with the county and the university,” Tolbert said. “To look at how we grow and how we protect the assets that we have.”

Jefferson Area Tea Party member Charles Battig reviewed the materials at the open house and said he was interested to see the term “sustainability” had been replaced with “livability.”

“What happened to ‘sustainability?’” Battig asked. “Did it become a dirty word? It makes sense to get everyone involved, but the question is to what degree this is driven by different visions of what a sustainable or livable community might be?”

“It never works when you try and plan a perfect community,” Battig added. “Cities that are vibrant evolve over time and they are not necessarily planned communities.”

Dave Hurst moved with his family to the city last month from Salt Lake City. A transportation planner, Hurst said he was motivated to learn what his new community had in mind for the future.

“What is the plan?” Hurst asked. “I have seen some [transportation] issues already and I’d like to see what they are planning to do.”

Hurst said primary roads could only be widened so far before too many lanes of traffic would became a barrier to mobility for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists trying to get across.

“A unified front is a great way to go,” Hurst added. “Jurisdictional lines aren’t drawn on the ground and coordination is key to implementing a plan.”

20110427-livable-panels1
Neil Williamson, executive director of the Free Enterprise Forum, has been a critic of Albemarle’s recent planning efforts such as Places29, a master plan for the U.S. 29 north designated growth area. Williamson said that six-year planning effort was fundamentally flawed, overly complex and too ambitious.

“The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned at the potential of adding one more layer of bureaucracy with the TJPDC,” Williamson said about the structure of the initiative. “Coordination of comprehensive planning is a good idea, but outsourcing comprehensive planning fails to recognize the different objectives the two localities have.”

“The water supply discussion clearly demonstrated the difference in goals, objectives and strategies,” Williamson added. “This is not to suggest one set of objectives is better than the other, but they are different.”

20110427-livable-panels2 Opposing viewpoints on the 50-year community water supply plan have been a key issue that has divided the local environmental community since 2007. On Tuesday, seven environmental groups joined to sign a letter addressed to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, Charlottesville City Council and the TJPDC to present a “united stand on the importance of environmental goals in planning for a sustainable future for [the] community.”

Thomas Olivier, chairman of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club, signed the letter along with representatives from the Piedmont Environmental Council, the Southern Environmental Law Center, Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population, the Rivanna Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy and the League of Women Voters.

Download Download letter from local environmental groups

The groups have pledged to be very involved in the update of the comprehensive plans and the long-range transportation plan.

“Comprehensive plans are fundamental planning documents,” Olivier said in an interview. “They deal with environmental protection and sustainability and these are critical issues for our community. … In most ways we are in fact one community.”

Frederick said she welcomed the diverse points of view expressed at the open house.

“The more people that are involved, the better,” Frederick said. “Part of the process is discussion, and that’s not necessarily everyone in the room agreeing. … Seeing an idea, a neighborhood, or a community issue through a different lens is how you get to an effective solution.”

Further information is available at the initiative’s website http://1-community.org/.

20110427-livable-group

March 21, 2011

City expects 29/250 interchange improvements in 2014

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, March 21, 2011

Motorists traveling south on U.S. 29 often experience long waits to access the U.S. 250 Bypass, leading to congestion during peak driving times.

“You have the basic problem of too much traffic using a roadway that doesn’t have enough capacity,” said Stephen Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

The city of Charlottesville’s 2007 Comprehensive Plan identifies the capacity limit at the intersection as a major reason for congestion on its portion of U.S. 29.

20110321-dp-image

“Congestion on Emmet Street is largely due to the high traffic volumes, lack of access management and the merge onto the U.S. 250 Bypass westbound from southbound U.S. 29,” the plan reads. “Currently, improvements to the ramp from U.S. 29 onto the bypass are being explored to improve traffic flow in the area.”

Now those improvements are set to move forward. The city is administering a project that would add an additional southbound lane from Hydraulic Road to the interchange, a second ramp leading up to the U.S. 250 Bypass near the Best Buy and a third lane on the bypass that would extend to the Barracks Road exit. The preliminary cost estimate is $4.7 million.

The city has saved up $4.2 million in state and federal funds to implement the plan, but a final design must be produced before construction can begin.

The TJPDC manages regional transportation planning through the Metropolitan Planning Organization. In 2010, the MPO requested a $517,000 earmark through former Congressman Tom Perriello to pay for the final design, but it did not make it through the federal budget process.

However, engineering work has proceeded anyway. An engineering survey of the area is completed, according to Angela Tucker, the city’s development services manager.

“The plan is to complete the design work in fiscal year 2013 and complete construction in fiscal year 2014,” City Manager Maurice Jones said in an email.

Some of the money to pay for final design could come from a $1 million proffer the city is to receive from Edens & Avant, the developer of the Stonefield mixed-use center in Albemarle County. (The center was formerly known as Albemarle Place.)

“We’ve conducted all the work that we can without having all the funding in place,” Jones said. “We’re now just waiting for the funding to come together, including the $1 million proffer and the $500,000 local match, before we move forward with design and construction.”

In 2009, the Virginia Department of Transportation estimated that an average of 51,000 vehicles travel through the intersection of Hydraulic Road and U.S. 250.

Stonefield, which will include the area’s first IMAX movie theater, will add more traffic at both the interchange and on U.S. 29.

A separate project would see a fourth southbound lane from Westfield Road to Hydraulic Road, but that project will be administered by VDOT and paid for through another proffer connected to the original rezoning for Stonefield.

County Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said he feels the project is important for the entire region.

“This improvement has been judged by the city and the county through the MPO to be perhaps the most important project in the area,” Rooker said. “My concern is that if the city doesn’t move to utilize those funds they could end up being lost to the area.”

February 03, 2011

Supervisors adopt Places29, pass on Hollymead expansion

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, February 3, 2011

After nearly six years of planning and more than 70 public meetings, Albemarle County finally has a master plan to guide development in its northern growth areas.

“This is a very long-term guide for the community in the area and I think it’s important we get it in place,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker, shortly before a unanimous vote Wednesday.

Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning, said the adoption of the Places29 Master Plan changes the county’s Comprehensive Plan to reflect its desire for compact development in urban areas.

“We’ll review proposals and capital improvements program based on this plan,” Cilimberg said.

Land-use-south
Land use map for the southern portion of Places29 (Source: Albemarle County)

However, the board’s vote did not include the addition of 140 acres south of Hollymead Town Center into the county’s designated growth area.

Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd held a town meeting last week to explain how he thought the expansion would allow the county to collect money from developers through the rezoning process to build key transportation components called for in the plan.

“If we’re ever going to have Berkmar Drive Extended and the improvements that we want along U.S. 29, it’s going to take private investment,” Boyd said. “But it became clear to me in the past week that there is absolutely no interest in doing anything out there until we have a plan in place to make all the infrastructure available.”

Supervisors Lindsay Dorrier and Duane Snow both voted to include the Hollymead expansion area. Dorrier argued that the county needed to replace growth area acreage lost when the massive Biscuit Run property became a state park.

However, Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said northern Albemarle has enough area designated for future development.

“If we’re going to be thinking about replacing something having to do with Biscuit Run’s effect, I think it really should be in the same part of the county,” Mallek said. “There are a lot of residents there who feel they do not have the services and by putting more and more on U.S. 29 north, we’re exacerbating the problem.”

By approving the plan, the board expanded the county’s growth area by 45 acres, bringing in land adjacent to the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Rivanna Station.

20110202-snow
Supervisor Duane Snow

Rooker said he opposed that expansion, and pointed out the land use designation was not necessary because the federal government is exempt from local zoning.

“We will simply run up the price of the land that [the DIA] will ultimately have to pay for expansion by re-categorizing that land and therefore putting a higher price tag that the government has to pay when they buy it,” Rooker said.

Other transportation elements called for in the first five years of the plan include the construction of Hillsdale Drive Extended, improvements to the U.S. 29/250 interchange and the widening of U.S. 29 to six lanes from Polo Ground Road to the Hollymead Town Center.

At the request of the board, consideration of grade-separated interchanges at key intersections along U.S. 29 will be delayed for at least five years, until the plan is required by state law to be reviewed. State officials are warning against the total removal of the interchanges from the plan.

“If the interchanges are removed from the Places29 plan, additional traffic modeling and study would need to be done to ensure that current and future land use and recommended improvements to Route 29 support the goals of Places29 and the needs of the regional transportation network,” VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter said in an interview.

Just before the vote, Boyd asked for the Western Bypass to be included as one of the plan’s transportation components.

“I’ve always felt it should be part of consideration for future planning and it shouldn’t have been excluded,” Boyd said.

However, none of Boyd’s fellow supervisors expressed support.

“Let’s talk about that in five years,” Snow said.

“I don’t see any reason to stop this process for Places29 and do even more re-work on this particular issue when this item can come back up at will,” Mallek said.

Land-use-north
The northern section of the Places29 plan (Source: Albemarle County)

The Metropolitan Planning Organization is just beginning the process of revising its long-range plan for transportation projects, and Mallek suggested that would be the appropriate venue to discuss the bypass further.

An advisory council has been formed to oversee implementation of the Places29 plan. Members include ardent opponents of the plan, including several who have called for a permanent removal of grade-separated interchanges.

“We know that there are some challenges that some of the public still has with the plan,” said Lee Catlin, the county’s spokeswoman. “The point of the advisory council is to bring diverse perspectives together and to find common ground.”

Catlin said an initial meeting of the Places29 council will be held within a few months.

January 28, 2011

Forest Lakes residents grill Boyd on Hollymead growth area expansion

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, January 28, 2011

More than 100 residents of the Forest Lakes community packed Hollymead Elementary School on Thursday night to hear Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd explain the details of a proposed expansion of the county’s development area.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20110127-Boyd-TownHall

  20110127-Boyd-Wide-Shot
Supervisor Ken Boyd fields questions at a forum on the proposed expansion of Hollymead's growth a

 

The majority of speakers expressed opposition to a 140-acre expansion south of Hollymead Town Center on land owned by developer Wendell Wood.

“My fear is that this is going to get approved with no infrastructure improvements and we’re going to watch U.S. 29 come to a standstill,” said Cynthia Neff, a former candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates.

The expansion will be considered Wednesday, when the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a vote on the Places29 Master Plan.

In November, residents thought the idea was dead after Boyd announced at a public hearing that he would not support it following a petition from Forest Lakes residents opposed to the additional development.

“We all want that infrastructure to occur, but we want it done in a way different from the way it’s happened in the past,” said Scott Elliff, a member of the board of directors of the Forest Lakes Community Association. “The way it always happens is that the growth occurs first, and then the infrastructure.”

However, lingering concerns over how to find funding for infrastructure projects called for in the Places29 project prompted Boyd to reconsider the idea a month later. As examples, he listed the extension of Berkmar Drive and improvements to Ashwood Boulevard’s interchange with U.S. 29.

“There’s zero money for any of these projects,” Boyd said. He said the county is not likely to raise property taxes to raise funds given the economic downturn.

Boyd said Wood told him that he could currently choose by-right to build housing developments or gas stations on the land. That would not only deprive the county an opportunity to get investment through proffers, but it would also lead to uncontrolled growth.

“We could be looking at four or five new entrances on U.S. 29,” Boyd said.

  20110127-map-watcher
A Forest Lakes resident inspects the proposed expansion area

However, Neff pointed out that Wood proffered around $12 million in improvements when Hollymead Town Center was rezoned, and that the new expansion area is one-fifth of the size of that development. That would mean a rezoning of the proposed expansion area would only yield a fifth of the proffers.

“The projects you’re talking about cost $84 million,” Neff said. “Getting a couple of million dollars is not going to solve this.”

Elliff said the improvements to Ashwood Boulevard should be done regardless of the expansion of the growth area.

“Of course you have to be creative in this environment, but we would not trade getting that improvement in on U.S. 29 for having another Hollymead Town Center across the street from us,” Elliff said.

Boyd said the Comprehensive Plan change was the only way to bring the developer to the table to describe what infrastructure improvements they would make in exchange for the rezoning.

“When we go into zoning, we ask for all sort of [experts] to come forward and tell us what the impacts of the development will be,” Boyd said. “I don’t know any time when we haven’t done most of all of those things.”

Elliff said a change to the Comprehensive Plan to allow for retail development there would be one of only two steps required for the development to occur.

“If we don’t want it, why would be possibly open the first gate?”

Steve Ashby said that if Boyd does vote for the expansion, he encouraged Wood to contribute toward a regional bus service.

“I know there’s no money for it but if we’re going to be expanding the growth area we need to be looking at other ways to get around,” Ashby said.

Boyd said he would think very hard about the comments he received before making a decision about how he would vote.
 

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:30 - Supervisor Ken Boyd makes his opening remarks
  • 16:00 - Comments from Cynthia Neff
  • 19:30 - Responses from Ken Boyd to Neff's comments
  • 21:30 - Comments from Steve Ashby 
  • 22:45 - Jane Williamson asks Boyd if he can see any end to population growth in Albemarle
  • 24:40 - Comments from Mike Warlick about a recent rezoning requested by Wendell Wood
  • 27:00 - Another person comments about proffers for Hollymead Town Center
  • 28:45 - Comments from Kirk Bowers about stopping growth
  • 33:30 - Comments of Scott Elliff of the Forest Lakes Community Association
  • 35:45 - Boyd said he will not support a single entrance for the new development at Ashwood Boulevard
  • 38:45 - Elliff explains why he is opposed to a comprehensive plan change now
  • 40:30 - Comments from Joyce Ross about another rezoning
  • 42:50 - Comments from Lyn Holt in favor of the growth area expansion
  • 45:00 - Comments from John Chavan in favor of the growth area expansion
  • 48:30 - Comments from Jennifer McEwan questioning need for expansion
  • 54:30 - Comments from a woman in opposition to the expansion
  • 58:00 - Comments from Jim Grimes questioning the effectiveness of proffers
  • 01:00:15 - Boyd claims rules are stricter now on controlling erosion
  • 01:01:00 - Comments from Chris Hapgood on continuing siltation of Forest Lakes' bodies of water
  • 01:02:00 - Grimes asks Boyd how he will vote; he defers to the end of the meeting
  • 01:02:30 - Comments from a man who says form of development needs to be worked on
  • 01:06:20 - Comments from Phil Merrill
  • 01:11:00 - Comments from Lisa Harrison who says land should stay rural
  • 01:14:20 - Comments from Key West resident Dennis Roethlisberger
  • 01:18:00 - Comments from Jenny Patterson
  • 01:19:20 - Comments from unidentified woman
  • 01:24:00 - Comments from Forest Lakes resident Ted Miller
  • 01:27:00 - Comments from Jimmy Dean
  • 01:29:30 - Additional comment from Kirk Bowers
  • 01:31:00 - Comments from Jack Marshall of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population
  • 01:32:00 - Comments from Steve Ashby about lack of pedestrian improvements in northern growth area
  • 01:33:30 - Boyd explains why he is against a local tax increase to pay for transportation improvements
  • 01:34:00 - Comments from Forest Lakes resident Bob Daniels
  • 01:37:10 - Comment from an unidentified man
  • 01:38:30 - Boyd explains why he supports putting the western bypass back on the table
  • 01:41:30 - Forest Lakes South resident Mark Davis asks Boyd
  • 01:44:00 - Forest Lakes resident Derek Duval
  • 01:46:10 - Boyd says he will not announce how he will vote until Wednesday   
  • 01:49:30 - Comment from the public

January 27, 2011

MPO begins rewriting long-range transportation plan

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, January 27, 2011

The organization that coordinates transportation policy for the region has begun the process of developing a new long-range plan. But members of the group’s Policy Board seemed more concerned Wednesday with finding ways to fund projects that have been in the planning stage for decades.

“We’ve got five or six projects that are really pressing and at the top of our agendas,” said Duane Snow, the newest member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Snow, an Albemarle County supervisor, wanted to know the status of plans to widen U.S. 29 near Forest Lakes and to extend Berkmar Drive to Airport Road. Both are called for in Albemarle’s Places29 Master Plan.

However, Snow was told none of those projects is even close to construction because all are in the conceptual stage.

“To be ready to go, you have to have gotten through all of the steps in the development process, which is arduous,” said Stephen Williams, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, which oversees the MPO.

20110126-MPO-Shot
(left to right)City Councilor Kristin Szakos, Supervisor Rodney Thomas, James Utterback of VDOT

“We’ve got a number of projects in the design phase,” said James Utterback, the administrator of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Culpeper District. “But typically we don’t move projects forward if we don’t have a funding stream.”

For instance, the widening of U.S. 29 is not on VDOT’s six-year plan for primary road projects because there is no money to pay for it. The current draft of the Places29 plan only calls for design work to be performed in the first five years of the plan, which is slated to be adopted later this year.

Design work for Hillsdale Drive Extended, another of the projects called for in the Places29 plan, is about two-thirds complete, according to Jeanette Janiczek, Charlottesville transportation planner.

However, its construction will depend on right-of-way being donated by property owners.

A project to build a second on-ramp for the U.S. 250 Bypass from U.S. 29 received a setback when a Congressional earmark to fund final design of the project was not included in the federal budget.

As for Berkmar, there is no clear source of funding for Albemarle’s secondary road projects. The state has drastically reduced allocations from $5.15 million in 2004 to $325,000 this fiscal year.

For many years, the county has applied its secondary road funding to three projects. Its portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway is to be completed next year, and improvements to Jarman’s Gap Road and Georgetown Road likely will be advertised for construction this year.  Jarman's Gap Road has already been advertised and bids are expected to be reviewed in February.

Federal policy requires each MPO to adopt a long-range plan to show that future transportation needs will be met. The last plan, known as the United Jefferson Area Mobility Plan, was adopted in May 2009 

The next one is required to be completed by May 2014.

The next plan will be put together with an increased awareness of building “sustainability” into the transportation network, meaning there will be an emphasis on finding ways to get people out of their cars. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission was recently awarded a $999,000 grant by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department to help coordinate planning among localities.

“Both Charlottesville and Albemarle will be updating their comprehensive plans at the same time,” Williams said. The grant will pay for additional planning staff to coordinate efforts.

Albemarle Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas welcomed the possibility of joint planning.

“We need more interconnectivity to make the area more of one community,” said Thomas, who will become chairman of the MPO in March.

January 05, 2011

Forest Lakes residents continue to lobby against Hollymead expansion

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is expected to decide today whether to include two expansions of the county’s designated growth area in the Places29 Master Plan, which comes up for a final vote next month.

“We’re hoping to get that direction so we can proceed and get this [plan] finalized for them to act on it in February,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning.

Expansion-area-2
The proposed expansion, which community members thought had been tabled, would add around 140 acres to the county's growth area. Ken Boyd has stated the expansion may be smaller, but no further details have been officially revealed

Members of the Forest Lakes Community Association had thought one of the requests from developer Wendell Wood, to bring 140 acres south of Hollymead Town Center into the growth area, was dead. Neighbors expressed their opposition at a public hearing in November.

At the time, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd told residents he would follow their lead and not support the inclusion, even though he personally favored the idea.

However, at a subsequent work session in December, Boyd said his mind was changed by “additional information,” but he did not further elaborate at the meeting on the specifics. However, he did make an appearance in late December on WINA’s “Charlottesville Right Now” program to explain his views.

“I had an outpouring of people [from] Forest Lakes who said they didn’t want this,” Boyd said. “They thought we were approving development there. All [a growth area expansion] does is invite private investment. … It only says that this is an area that is available for rezoning. It doesn’t rezone the property, and I think that’s what the people are confused about.”

Boyd went on to say that a rezoning would allow the county to receive financial support, in the form of proffers from developer Wendell Wood, to pay for needed infrastructure.

“The reason I changed my mind is that we should give the public an opportunity to hear what they can get out of it,” Boyd said. He specifically singled out the intersection of Ashwood Boulevard and U.S. 29 as one potential beneficiary of funding from a rezoning.

However, a member of the Forest Lakes Community Association’s Board of Directors said he fully understands the county’s land use policies and remains opposed to the reclassification of the land.

“We’re being told this is only a preliminary step in the process, but that does not make any difference,” Scott Elliff said in an interview. “We have said loud and clear that infrastructure needs to come first and that there should be no development on these parcels until traffic problems have been fixed, which is the key purpose of the Places29 program.”

Elliff said he and other Forest Lakes residents will appear before the board to make their views known during the public comment period in the morning. Board Chairwoman Ann H. Mallek said in an interview that she did not plan to take further public comment during the work session.

When reached for comment Tuesday, Boyd said he would make no further public remarks until he can explain to his constituents why he is in favor of the expansion.

“There is obviously a great deal of misinformation out in the public and individuals trying to spin their opinions as my position,” Boyd wrote in an e-mail. “I have arranged a community conversation at Hollymead Elementary on January 27th and don’t plan on any more comments until that discussion.”
Elliff said he would welcome such a meeting, but said it was long overdue.

“We think it would have been much more preferable to get the opinions of those who live here early on and to listen to their overwhelming opposition to this bad idea,” Elliff said.

Supervisors will also decide whether another potential expansion area should be allowed near the Rivanna Station military base, some of which also includes land owned by Wood. In December, supervisors said they wanted more information about the Defense Intelligence Agency’s future expansion plans for the base. Cilimberg said that to his knowledge the DIA has not presented the information, but added it was possible supervisors could have had personal conversations with DIA staff.

The work session on Places29 will begin at 3:30 this afternoon. Opportunities for the public to speak will come in the morning during the regularly scheduled comment period.
 

December 02, 2010

Two supervisors call for reconsideration of Hollymead expansion area

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 2, 2010

When residents of the Forest Lakes neighborhood left a November public hearing on the Places29 Master Plan, they believed a proposal to expand Albemarle County’s growth area south of Hollymead Town Center was dead.

However, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd joined Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas on Wednesday in requesting that the idea be revisited. Boyd told a crowded auditorium in November that he would not support the expansion but has since reconsidered.

“There’s some additional information that’s been brought to my attention that’s made me reconsider what I said,” Boyd said. “And I’m perfectly willing to take the political heat for that.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101201-BOS-Hollymead-Expansion

When asked to elaborate in an interview, Boyd said he wanted to explore the possibility of a smaller expansion of the Hollymead area, possibly by 20 to 30 acres.

Expansion-area-2
The proposed expansion, which community members thought had been tabled, would add around 140 acres to the county's growth area

The Comprehensive Plan amendment on the table prepared by staff would have expanded the area by approximately 140 acres to allow developer Wendell Wood to build a large retail store.

“There are some by-right issues already existing along U.S. 29,” Boyd said. “If exercised, they would make [the road] much more congested and make the Ashwood Boulevard intersection even more dangerous.”

Boyd said under this compromise scenario, the county may be able to get Wood to invest in improvements to that intersection to satisfy Forest Lakes residents.

Scott Elliff of the Forest Lakes Community Association said he remains opposed to any expansion across from the neighborhood’s southern entrance, no matter how small.

20101201-BOS1
Supervisors Rodney Thomas and Ken Boyd

“It is irrelevant,” he said in an interview. “A community rose up overwhelmingly and indicated that this is a bad thing. As soon as the spotlight is off, an elected official tries to go back and do the same thing. ... You do not develop these parcels until you have the infrastructure.”

At Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors could not remember whether they had taken a definitive up or down vote on the Hollymead expansion and disagreed upon whether they had reached consensus.

“Everybody said where they stood, and the direction to staff was based upon that,” Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said.

County Attorney Larry Davis said consensus is not a binding vote, and so the Hollymead expansion could be reconsidered even though the required public hearing has been closed.

“There’s no legal requirement for any additional public hearing at this time,” Davis said. “The board has the discretion to add or delete those expansion areas under the process that’s already been conducted.”

Supervisor Duane Snow warned Boyd about the ramifications of changing his mind.

“You’ve got to keep your credibility with the citizens, and to have everyone here [at a public hearing] and take a vote and then change it in the back room, I don’t think is fair to the citizens,” Snow said.

Expansion1
Supervisors needed more information to determine whether to include 45 acres of land into the designated growth area

Staff had expected the board to decide whether to include another of Wood’s growth area expansion requests when the Places29 Master Plan receives its final approval. The Piney Mountain expansion involves land adjacent to the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Rivanna Station. Wood has also already constructed an office complex near the National Ground Intelligence Center.

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek and Rooker said they both oppose this expansion because of potential security implications for the military base and a belief that their action is not necessary, as the federal government could expand the base without local approval. The board directed staff to ask military officials about their long-range expansion plans and opinion on a larger growth area.

A final vote on the Places29 Master Plan had been expected in January, but supervisors decided to push that back to February to allow the board one more work session.

The board’s meeting Wednesday ended without any firm direction on whether to revisit the Hollymead expansion.

“They never got to the point where they agreed if they were going to bring it back,” said David Benish, Albemarle’s chief of planning. He added that he had not yet seen the specifics of any compromise proposal of the type described by Boyd.

November 11, 2010

Supervisors defer Places29 plan to accommodate business community

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, November 11, 2010
 
Places29_web The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has directed planning staff to rewrite portions of the Places29 Master Plan to remove references calling grade-separated interchanges “necessary” on U.S. 29.

“At the beginning of this year, we made it clear that we are going to listen to our business community,” said Supervisor Ken Boyd after a public hearing Wednesday.

This week, both the Free Enterprise Forum and the North Charlottesville Business Council called for the plan to be scrapped unless language pertaining to grade-separated interchanges was changed.

Up to six interchanges were considered for U.S. 29, which would allow traffic and pedestrians from roads such as Rio and Hydraulic to pass over the road, eliminating traffic signals.

“The current planning document text is rife with language that locks in roadway designs about which we and many area businesses and citizens have grave concerns,” wrote Lloyd Wood, the president of the North Charlottesville Business Council. Wood called on the board to reject the plan unless that language is removed.

Download Download NCBC letter to the Board of Supervisors

Download Download petition against the expansion area


Specifically, the business community objected to the use of the word “necessary” when describing grade-separated interchanges, as well as language describing a network of ring roads at the intersection of Rio Road and U.S. 29. Virginia Department of Transportation models have suggested that traffic congestion will increase unless more options are made available to motorists trying to get across U.S. 29.

Grade-separated interchanges have played a major role in the transportation sections of Places29 master plan, but in September, supervisors directed staff to prioritize only projects that have a chance of being built in the next five years. A grade-separated interchange at Rio Road is estimated to cost more than $40.5 million.

Places29 will now focus on the extension of Hillsdale Drive, a new lane on U.S. 29 from Hydraulic Road to the 29/250 Bypass at Best Buy and the widening of U.S. 29 to six lanes between the South Fork of the Rivanna River and Hollymead. Many roads depicted as concepts on the Places29 map have been removed, another request of the business community.

Before the meeting, county planner David Benish met with business officials, and he offered to prepare revised language that satisfied their concerns. Supervisors agreed to wait until the revisions were complete before voting on the plan at a meeting in January.

Also during the public hearing Wednesday night, a plan to expand the county’s growth area to accommodate a new commercial area was removed from further consideration.

Expansion1
Supervisors will determine the fate of this 45 acre expansion area at their meeting on December 1, 2010

Developer Wendell Wood had requested a 140-acre growth area expansion south of the Hollymead Town Center between U.S. 29 and Rio Mills Road on land that is undeveloped and in the county’s rural area.

Staff had recommended approval of the Hollymead expansion in order to help pay for the extension of Berkmar Drive, a major transportation component of the Places29 plan. The master plan estimates construction of the bridge and road will cost over $25 million.

Wood has previously said he will proffer payment for a portion of the road and a bridge if granted the expansion.

The Forest Lakes Community Association opposed the expansion, citing the potential for additional traffic congestion at the intersection of Ashwood Boulevard and U.S. 29.

“Now is not the time for this expansion,” wrote Ed Leary, one of more than 100 people who signed a petition calling on supervisors to reject the expansion. “Maybe in the future, when the road infrastructure is in place.”

Others said that there is already enough commercially zoned land in the county. Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council has calculated that there is almost 2.5 million square feet of land zoned for commercial retail development that has not yet been built, including land at Albemarle Place, North Pointe and within Hollymead Town Center.

Though he supported the concept, Supervisor Boyd said he had to withdraw his support.

“Because I was elected to represent Rivanna, I’m going to do what the people said,” Boyd said.

The fate of another expansion of the growth area in Piney Mountain will become known at the supervisors’ next meeting on Dec. 1. Supervisor Dennis Rooker asked for a decision to be made then after the board can receive a briefing from staff.

That expansion would add 45 acres near the Rivanna Station military base into the growth area for both residential and office/light industrial use. Some of the land is already owned by the federal government, while Wood’s Next Generation LLC owns the rest.

The board issued a resolution of intent in May 2006 to consider this expansion as part of the Places29 process.

To provide a balance between growth area and rural area land, 77 acres near Pantops were removed from the development area in 2008, partly to offset any future change for Wood. Property owner Clara Belle Wheeler objected to the change.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101110-BOS-Places29

 

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:20 - Staff report from Chief Planner David Benish
  • 18:20 - Supervisor Ken Boyd asks question about how Places29 would be reviewed
  • 24:00 - Boyd expresses concern that business community could be affected by pla
  • 26:50 - Public comment from Albemarle County resident Greg Quinn
  • 29:50 - Public comment from Bob Hodous representing Chamber of Commerce
  • 32:00 - Public comment from Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center
  • 35:40 - Public comment from Ron Gentry representing Chamber of Commerce
  • 36:30 - Public comment from Lonnie Murray representing the Natural Heritage Committee
  • 39:30 - Public comment from Valerie Long
  • 43:00 - Public comment from Chris Hapgood
  • 46:10 - Public comment from George Lehry representing CATCO
  • 49:20 - Public comment from Fulton Gaylord
  • 52:40 - Public comment from Carter Myers
  • 56:30 - Public comment from L.F. Wood, Chair of NCBC
  • 1:00:15 - Public comment from Tom Olivier of the Sierra Club
  • 1:02:40 - Public comment from Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum
  • 1:05:45 - Public comment from Henry Weinschenk
  • 1:08:30 - Public comment from Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council
  • 1:12:00 -  Supervisor Rodney Thomas says Hollymead expansion would not enlarge growth area
  • 1:12:30 - Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier says plan is too complicated, calls for it to go back to
  • drawing board
  • 1:14:30 - Supervisor Duane Snow sums up consensus on the plan
  • 1:15:30 - Supervisor Dennis Rooker says master plans will never satisfy everyone
  • 1:20:30 - Supervisor Ann Mallek explains her support for the plan
  • 1:24:15 - Snow explains opposition to language referencing special tax districts
  • 1:29:00 - Boyd explains why expanding Hollymead will help provide funding for transportation projects
  • 1:31:30 - Boyd withdraws his support for Hollymead expansion, despite personal support for it
  • 1:34:45 - Boyd says he will support plan if business community buys into it
  • 1:35:30 - Dorrier calls for delaying the plan for six more months after business community can weigh in
  • 1:44:15 - Rooker asks for an hour to talk about the Piney Mountain expansion



September 27, 2010

Albemarle planners narrowly approve Hollymead modification for new cinema

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, September 27, 2010

Plans for a new 12-screen Great Escapes movie theater in Albemarle County’s Hollymead Town Center moved one step ahead last week. The Albemarle County Planning Commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval of a modification of the zoning text amendment that created the initial development.

“It’s a theater company that actually goes out and buys the land and develops their own building,” said Scott Collins, representing developer Wendell Wood before the commission last Tuesday. “So, they have a buy-in into the community.”

The theater would offer stadium seating, according to Collins. He said the modification to the rezoning was necessary to build the theater to Great Escape’s specifications. 

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20100921-APC-Great-Escapes

 

B1-2007-plan
The above plan submitted with the 2007 rezoning envisioned a different layout (click to enlarge)

B1-2010-plan The applicant redrew the plan to remove one through street and to allow for a large theater (click to enlarge)

One of the specific changes requested was to alter the flow of an internal road through the development in order to allow the theater to have a larger footprint. The original plans showed a wide through road connecting the northeast and southwest parts of this triangular shaped parcel of land.

Staff recommended approval of the modification as long as certain conditions were met. One was that the application reconsider how large retaining walls behind the theater would stand as much as 20 feet above a greenway called for in the original rezoning. Collins said the structures are necessary in order to develop the land.

“My concept of a greenway is it’s supposed to be used by people and relaxing, and I’m not sure if you’re walking next to a wall that’s four times your height that it’s very relaxing,” said commissioner Mac Lafferty.

Collins agreed to the move the trail.

After a long discussion, Chairman Tom Loach said he felt he needed to see how the applicant responded to the commission’s feedback before he could grant approval. He gave Collins a chance to defer in order to resubmit the plan.

Collins said Great Escape wants to be showing films in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, one of the busiest times of the year.

 “They have to be finish construction by October which means they have to start construction in February, which means the site plan has to be under review fairly quickly,” Collins said.

Cilimberg suggested the board consider recommending approval with conditions. That would allow the developer to alter the plan, but still allow the application to proceed to the Board of Supervisors without delay.

That was not acceptable to Loach.

 “Are we negating what our mission is in trying to craft something so that hopefully between now and when it gets to the board you will meet our recommendations without getting our feedback for them?” Loach asked.

Commissioner Don Franco said he was comfortable setting the conditions and voting for approval.

“We’ve got a board [of supervisors] that would like to see things facilitated and moved forward in a responsive manner,” Franco said.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield said she appreciated the need to expedite the process but she needed to see if the conditions were carried out on the plan before she could consider approving the project.

“If we’re a planning commission, and we don’t do…our own job, you might as well just dissolve us and let’s let the Board of Supervisors act as a committee of the whole and they could just do this stuff,” Porterfield said.

The commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval with Lafferty, Loach, and Porterfield voting against.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Staff report from Judy Wiegand, introduced by Chair Tom Loach
  • 11:00 - Commissioner Linda Porterfield requests more information on the streets in the plan 
  • 14:30 - Testimony from Scott Collins representing Route 29 LLC
  • 26:30 - Commissioner Cal Morris asks for more information on
  • 37:00 - Collins explains why a multiple story parking garage is a "deal-breaker"
  • 52:30 - Commissioner Ed Smith asks if Collins has considered making a portion of the street one-way
  • 54:00 - Public hearing comment from Justin Morgan, a neighboring resident concerned about connection to Abingdon Place neighborhood
  • 55:00 - Loach resumes discussion after five-minute break
  • 1:00:45 - Loach asks Collins to respond to commission's input  
  • 1:10:00 - Planning Director Wayne Cilimberg reviews the various conditions he has heard
  • 1:27:20 - Commission Don Franco specifies the exact conditions on which PC approval is based