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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.”

October 19, 2010

ASAP slideshow on Optimal Sustainable Population Size project

By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On October 18, 2010, Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population provided Charlottesville City Council with an update on their Optimal Sustainable Population Size research project, funded in part by the city and Albemarle County.

Charlottesville Tomorrow previewed this report in an article on October 18, 2010.

ASAP: Area must stabilize or reduce its population

Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population wants the Charlottesville area to become a model for the rest of the country when it comes to planning how to live within its means. Jack Marshall, ASAP’s president, says a fundamental change in thinking could lead to a stabilized or even reduced local population. Other local leaders think the group’s approach to limiting population growth is unrealistic.

“We must, if we care about having a sustainable community for our grandchildren, we must consume less and simultaneously we must stabilize our population size or even reduce the population size of our community,” Marshall said.

ASAP’s research is available on the organization’s website at www.ASAPnow.org.

This post includes an audio podcast as well as a complete slideshow of ASAP's presentation.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20101018-ASAP-OSPS

Tell us what you think?
20101018-ASAP-slide
Click to view a narrated slideshow of the ASAP presentation and
listen to the discussion by Charlottesville City Council

October 18, 2010

Supervisors adopt Crozet master plan update

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, October 18, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2010-Yancey

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

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

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

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

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

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

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

ASAP: Area must stabilize or reduce its population

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, October 18, 2010
 
Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population wants the Charlottesville area to become a model for the rest of the country when it comes to planning how to live within its means.

Jack Marshall, ASAP’s president, says a fundamental change in thinking could lead to a stabilized or even reduced local population. Other local leaders think the group’s approach to limiting population growth is unrealistic.

“We must, if we care about having a sustainable community for our grandchildren, we must consume less and simultaneously we must stabilize our population size or even reduce the population size of our community,” Marshall said.

What do you think?
Robert P. Hodous, a city resident who works with the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, said population centers around the world taught him a different lesson.

“It’s fascinating to me what these people don’t look at,” Hodous said. “If you take a quick look at the major population centers in Europe, the population density is 10 times what we have here.”

ASAP has completed five separate topical studies intended to help the community identify an optimal population size or range. Marshall, who has led ASAP since its founding in 2002, will present his group’s findings to Charlottesville’s City Council this evening.  [See past coverage of: Study #1 and Studies #2-5]

The research has been supported by local taxpayers through investments of $25,000 by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and $11,000 by the City Council. Additional funding came from ASAP members and a $50,000 grant from the Colcom Foundation of Pittsburgh.

City Councilor David Brown praised ASAP for “pointing out how smart we have to be with our land use planning and resources,” but questioned how realistic it would be to have the city put a cap on population.

“That’s the ultimate ‘not in my back yard’ philosophy,” Brown said. “I am sure every desirable place to live in the country would like to be [limiting its growth].”

“It’s not realistic to turn the clock back,” Brown added. “It reminds me a little bit of trying to limit immigration into this country, and I don’t agree with that.”

One of those studies, ASAP’s Ecological Footprint Analysis, concludes that the Charlottesville-Albemarle area’s biological capacity could sustainably support only 37,000 people at current consumption levels. The community’s combined population today is roughly 135,000, almost 3.7 times what the study says can be supported.

“The major finding was that our ecological footprint is huge, much greater than our community’s 736 square miles can provide for,” Marshall said. “It reveals a significant ecological deficit.”

Neil Williamson, executive director of the Free Enterprise Forum, said that ASAP will be challenged to align this approach with the city’s recent planning efforts.

“I look forward to hearing how City Council responds to ASAP’s call for a reduction in population and how that squares with their goals for economic vitality in the region,” Williamson said. “Government should not be in the population control business.”

Jeff Werner is the local field officer for the Piedmont Environmental Council, a group that advocates for protection of the rural countryside and “smart growth” in designated urban areas.

“Any population — birds, fish, bugs, people — cannot survive if it exceeds the capacity of the resources necessary for life,” Werner said in an interview by e-mail. “However, Virginia does not allow — nor in the foreseeable future will it allow — local land use regulations that permanently establish moratoriums on growth and development.”

“As realists, we need to work with the tools available and, taking into consideration these growth-related impacts, develop planning policies and regulations that will accommodate expected growth while preserving as much as possible the natural resources that communities need,” Werner added.

ASAP says their research at this point is still insufficient to identify a specific optimal population for the community. However, faced with a limited supply of natural resources, Marshall said housing is the key piece of community infrastructure that needs to be limited to reduce demand.

“If we don’t build it, they won’t come,” Marshall said. “We could achieve a realistic stationary population simply by adjusting the development potential in the community by changing the zoning.”

“We have been building it because a minority in the community profits from it in the short term,” Marshall added. “But over the long haul, for generations to come, we will all pay for the costs of this growth.”

Williamson counters that new homes are only built when there is demand.

“We need only look at the most recent new home construction numbers to see that when demand goes down, construction goes down,” Williamson said. “The premise that if we don’t build it they won’t come is false.”

Brown said housing affordability could be negatively impacted by limiting its supply.

“There are limits to how we grow and we have to be smart about doing it, but I don’t think we can solve this region’s problems by limiting housing,” Brown said. “What makes housing affordable is having an adequate supply.”

Other ASAP studies, also researched by local residents, evaluated the impacts of population growth on air quality, forest cover, streams and groundwater.

ASAP’s research project has also received attention from other strategists concerned about global population matters. Joseph Bish, who works with the Population Media Center in Washington, D.C., helped to organize a conference earlier this month where Marshall presented ASAP’s work.

“I think ASAP is the new wave of population and sustainability organizations in the country,” Bish said. “They are taking it down to the local level and are doing a great job raising awareness that communities shouldn’t live beyond their means or natural resources.”

“You can still have prosperity,” Bish added. “ASAP isn’t arguing that Charlottesville and Albemarle shouldn’t be prosperous; there just needs to be an optimal balance.”

ASAP’s research is available on the organization’s website at www.ASAPnow.org.

October 01, 2010

Local planners discuss alternative transportation approaches given limited state funding

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, October 1, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Download Download presentation given by Stephen Williams

  Facts-and-figures
Source: TJPDC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

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


September 01, 2010

Mayor backs dredging, opposes new dam at Ragged Mountain

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
 
Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris said Tuesday that he will not support the construction of the new dam contemplated for the Ragged Mountain Reservoir as part of the community water supply plan approved in 2006. Norris said he favors first dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

“We don’t need a 45-foot dam anytime in the near or immediate future. We do need to fix our leaky pipes and take better care of our rivers and streams,” Norris said.

20100830-BlackVeatch
Download Black & Veatch's
feasibility study and cost estimates

 Norris shared his position while discussing the cost estimates released earlier in the day by Black & Veatch, an engineering firm hired by Charlottesville to evaluate repairing or building on top of the existing Lower Ragged Mountain Dam, which was built in 1908.

Black & Veatch reported that a 45-foot increase in the reservoir pool could be accomplished for between $15.8 million and $21.4 million — an amount, according to city officials, that is at least $9.6 million less than the projected cost to construct the all new earthen dam proposed in May.

The firm also reported that the existing dam could be raised 13 feet for a cost between $8.8 million and $12 million or just repaired for $5.5 million to $7.4 million.

HDR Engineering said in June that a one-time, seven-year dredging project could be done at South Fork for about $34 million to $40 million. The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has said that dredging produces only 13 percent of the water storage provided by a new dam.

Norris is the city’s elected official on the RWSA’s board of directors. His counterpart in Albemarle is Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd.

“I have not fully read the [Black & Veatch] report, but we need not be short-sighted in our water planning,” Boyd said Tuesday. “It concerns me a lot that … they are in control of the county’s destiny, yet they are not the ones expected to grow. I don’t want to come up short because of short-sighted city councilors.”

Liz Palmer serves on the Albemarle County Service Authority’s board and has been a vocal supporter of the water supply plan approved in 2006, which includes a new dam at Ragged Mountain and a new pipeline connecting it to South Fork.

“I am all for building something for less, if I am getting the same thing,” Palmer said Tuesday. “As long as the volume is the same, I don’t care how you do it. I want to know it is as safe and will last as long [as an earthen dam]. From this study by Black & Veatch, there is not enough information to determine that.”

The City Council will review the water plan at a special work session at noon Thursday at the new Charlottesville Area Transit building on Avon Street. A public hearing on the next steps for the water plan is expected to be held Sept. 20 at the council’s regular meeting.

Water plan decision looms for Charlottesville and Albemarle

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Albemarle and Charlottesville officials are hoping to come to terms soon on a 50-year water plan that has been in the works for nearly eight years, since the drought of 2002 underscored the need for a long-term solution.

Originally approved in 2006 at a then-projected cost of $142 million, the 50-year water plan has since been heavily scrutinized after questions were raised about inflated costs for a new dam and the merits of dredging an existing reservoir.

Water-supply-decision-matrix
Review Charlottesville Tomorrow's Water Supply Decision Matrix, an evaluation of many of the key criteria local leaders will be reviewing as they finalize a decision on the 50-year water supply plan.

With a revised design for an earthen dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir in hand and county leaders supporting its construction, the City Council will hold a work session Thursday to discuss a group of water-supply studies completed over the summer.

The latest new information surfaced Tuesday, when a consultant issued new projections on the cost and viability of repairing and building on the existing dam at Ragged Mountain — yet another potential alternative in the overall water plan.

If the City Council seeks to amend the 2006 water plan, any change would require a majority vote at a future Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority board meeting. Should city and county representatives on the RWSA board reach a stalemate, the community may be faced with the prospect of having an approved water plan that can’t be implemented.

The city and county have three votes each, with a seventh belonging to a jointly appointed chairman, currently Mike Gaffney, who is in his fourth two-year term in that position.

Ann H. Mallek, chairwoman of Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors, said in a recent interview that there needs to be a joint meeting with the City Council to plan the next steps.

“The city needs to resolve where it is and come to that meeting with its position and concerns, otherwise we have no way to figure out what to discuss,” Mallek said. “It is very difficult when people don’t agree on the facts.”

Thomas L. Frederick Jr., the RWSA’s executive director, said in a recent interview that one difficulty in developing a plan such as the water supply is “the possibility that community goals can change while you are doing it.”

“I am not convinced that they have changed,” he said.

20100602-earthen-dam-sectio

City Councilor Kristin Szakos said in a recent interview that she has yet to finalize her position heading into Thursday’s meeting.

“Before I solidify my view, I want to wait for the work session. [The City Council is] also meeting with Mr. Frederick individually to get his perspective, and that will be really helpful to me,” Szakos said. “When those are done, I don’t see anything standing in the way of making a decision.”

At the last City Council meeting, after spirited public comment on the water plan, several councilors said the debate needed to be “fact-based.” They said personal attacks against members of the community with a position for or against the plan had been both unpleasant and ineffective.

The water plan represents the largest joint project ever pursued by these localities since the formation of the RWSA in 1972. At that time, state and federal regulators pressured Charlottesville and Albemarle to combine their water and sewer systems.

Gerald Fisher served on the county Board of Supervisors from 1972 to 1987 and was chairman during the contentious 1982 debate over the land acquisition for the Buck Mountain Reservoir in Free Union.

“I am very glad there are current leaders who can work this out. I just hope they can make the right decisions and go on with it,” Fisher said in an interview. “Sometimes I feel like a lot of time is spent going back over things that have already been decided.”

Fisher worked with then-Mayor Frank Buck in months of cost-sharing negotiations before an agreement on Buck Mountain was reached in 1983. That reservoir was expected to be needed by 2015, but it was never built, in part because the property was later found to be habitat for the James spinymussel, a federally listed endangered species.

Twenty-eight years later, city and county officials are once again about to negotiate cost-sharing matters and the overall approach to preparing the community for future droughts and population growth.

Specifically, officials must consider whether to satisfy the projected needs fully through construction of a new dam at Ragged Mountain versus partially through dredging to restore capacity at the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan has advocated for dredging South Fork, which it says will meet the community’s water supply needs for at least the next three decades.

Regardless of how the storage problem is solved, decisions are also looming for other major projects to maintain the existing water supply system. These include upgrading water treatment plants, replacing aging pipelines, and fixing or replacing the 1908 dam at Ragged Mountain. These projects are all part of the 2006 plan that the RWSA now says has a total price tag of $142,623,500 in capital costs alone.

Szakos was not on the City Council when the water plan was approved unanimously in 2006. She indicated in an interview that the city can’t ignore the county’s future needs.

“I don’t really see us dropping in water demand here,” Szakos said. “We will have population growth, maybe not within the city limits, but we are all one community and we can’t just take our marbles and go home.”

The council is expected to follow up its work session with a public hearing in late September. Cost-sharing is one issue Szakos expects to be raised.

“There are some real serious concerns by city ratepayers that they will bear a disproportionate cost for this project, one which wouldn’t be necessary if it was only for the city,” she said. “We have to be responsible to our taxpayers.”

July 14, 2010

County planners reject inclusion of industrial park in Crozet Master Plan

DailyProgress
This article is an extended version of what appears in the
Daily Progress.
By Bridgett Lynn & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

While Albemarle County is seeking to increase its industrial and commercial land activity, proposals reviewed as part of the Crozet Master Plan to build a new business park and convert some residential homes to mixed use have been rejected by the Planning Commission.

Will Yancey appeared at the public hearing Tuesday to lobby for his family’s 2008 application to create a light-industrial business park just outside the Crozet development area near the intersection of Interstate 64 and U.S. 250.
  20100713-Yancey
Will Yancey


“We don’t have enough industrial land,” Yancey said. “In the last three years there have been two studies, one in 2007 and one that was just completed recently, that indicated Albemarle had a shortage of industrial land.”

ISSUE PROFILE
The Yancey Mills Business Park

What: A proposal to create a light industrial business park for offices and equipment storage yard(s) on 148 acres of rural land adjacent to the Crozet designated growth area in Albemarle County

Where: Behind the Yancey Lumber Company sawmill near the interchange of Interstate 64 and U.S. Route 250 West--The business park would cover a total of 184 acres and include 36 acres of heavy industrial land used today for the sawmill's operations

Yancey-Map

Community Issues:

1) The business park would be on land designated for rural uses in the watershed of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. As such, the property is not in the jurisdictional area for public water and sewer. Albemarle's comprehensive plan directs that new residential and industrial development should occur within the existing designated growth areas.

2) The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has expressed interest in increasing the amount of land zoned for light industrial uses and in revisiting the uses of land at the Shadwell and Yancey Mills interchanges of I-64.

3) Downtown Crozet has existing industrial property that can be redeveloped. Doing so has the potential to add truck traffic onto roads servicing a growing residential community. The proposed business park, on the other hand, would be accessed by a four-lane section of Route 250 West at the interstate interchange. Supporters say this would keep trucks away from Crozet.

4) Supporters of the project say it would bring jobs closer to the growing residential community in Crozet. The developer has said he would proffer some land for use by Western Albemarle High School for use as athletic fields.

5) The Planning Commission, the Crozet Community Advisory Council, and majority of members of the public that participated in the 2009-2010 update of the Crozet Master Plan have expressed opposition to the business park proposal.

Timeline:

PC = Albemarle County Planning Commission
BOS = Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

According to county staff, the majority of Crozet residents and the Crozet Community Advisory Council (CCAC) do not support the proposed business park which would be on 184 acres around the site of the Yancey Lumber Co. sawmill.

“The public very adamantly said they were opposed to having a 1.1 [million] to 1.8 million square foot industrial park right outside of the master plan boundaries,” said Mary Rice, a former advisory council member.

“The proposal has serious flaws beyond generating sprawl in the rural area,” said Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The property is located in the water supply watershed. It drains to the South Fork Rivanna River and ultimately to the South Fork Reservoir. Major development activity on this land would almost certainly increase the amount of sediment and other pollutants entering that drinking water reservoir.”

Other concerns about the proposed business park were that it would undermine efforts to invigorate businesses in Downtown Crozet and would negatively impact traffic near the interstate.

“Our recommendation is that it’s bad for the master plan,” said Mike Marshall, chairman of the advisory council. “We don’t think it ought to be allowed.”
  20100713-Marshall
Mike Marshall, chair of the Crozet Community Advisory Board


The planning commission indicated last month that the Yancey Mills project should be independently reviewed by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. At Tuesday’s meeting, the commission formally voted to exclude the project from the master plan update and went a step further and also voted 4-3 to recommend the Board of Supervisors deny the business park request. Commissioners Don Franco, Linda Porterfield, and Edward Smith voted against that motion. 

Porterfield was the only commissioner who supported further study of the Yancey Mills project when the commission originally rejected it in November 2008 by a 6-1 vote. Franco and Smith joined the commission subsequent to that decision.

“We have not studied the Yancey proposal,” Porterfield said Tuesday. “We can’t vote it down if we don’t know anything about it.”

“There is no place else that I’m aware of in this county right now that there is one entity that controls that much land with good transportation,” Porterfield said. "If we don’t start thinking about that, we’re going to be supporting this entire county on residential taxes.”

The other topic getting considerable attention at the public hearing related to a proposal to mix commercial and residential uses in a small area north of downtown.  The commission voted unanimously to maintain the existing residential character of the neighborhood around Wayland Drive and St. George Avenue.

“We’ve had some interest for quite some time from property owners…wanting to have greater use of their property than just the single family residential use that they have right now,” said Elaine Echols, Albemarle County’s principal planner for the development areas.

“What we came up…with the community was a recommendation for mixed use in this particular area with a modification to the stream buffer to allow for redevelopment if there’s mitigation which helps to protect the water supply,” said Echols.

Jenny Martin spoke on behalf of the property owners that supported the staff’s recommendation. She said the proposal would create a transition between commercial and residential use.

“This designation of mixed use will create a buffer to the north of Crozet between commercial and residential which today does not currently exist and will preserve the look and feel of the village of Crozet,” Martin said.

However, other members of the community and representatives of the CCAC spoke against the proposal.

“The resolution that the advisory council passed was on where to maintain the boundary between commercial use…and residential,” said Marshall. “The motion…to maintain that natural [creek] boundary, which is the boundary today, as the future boundary…passed 10 to 2.”

“I cannot understand why just two houses in Wayland Park should be included in a transition zone for mixed use,” said Joyce Shifflett, a resident of St. George Avenue. “To consider just two houses in the subdivision for mixed use would be totally unfair to us and the other property owners in Wayland Park.”

In 2006, county staff prepared a report estimating that Crozet, which has a population of about 5,500 today, could reach a maximum population of about 24,000.  The revised plan now anticipates a long-term population capacity of approximately 18,000.

“I’m all for the community deciding that it wants a much lower total build out,” said Peter Loach of the Piedmont Housing Alliance. “I just want [the community] to be aware…as they lower density and make each house sit on a bigger piece of land, each house is going to cost more and become much less affordable.

Staff will incorporate changes recommended by the Planning Commission and bring the plan back for final approval at their meeting July 27.

June 24, 2010

Nature of growth debated at economic development roundtable

DailyProgress 

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Members of the public who felt they were excluded from the creation of a plan to encourage economic development in Albemarle County were given the first of two chances to contribute Wednesday night. And contribute they did, in fine detail.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100623-Economic-Roundtable1



 “This document is extremely important to a lot of us,“ said Albemarle County resident Kirk Bowers. “We don’t want to see our culture and environment diminished.”

Bowers and over 40 others crowded into a conference room for a vigorous and spirited debate about the plan. Participants went line by line through the document in order to offer suggestions on how it might better reflect the interests of the whole county and not just businesses.

The primary goal of the plan is to increase tax revenue for the county by increasing commercial development. To do that, the plan calls for increased cooperation with the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development (TJPED) to identify specific businesses that the county might want to attract or grow.

A major thread in the discussion was what form that cooperation might take. Does it mean bringing new businesses to Albemarle, or encouraging them to grow from within?

20100623-Roundtable-wide

Tom Olivier of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club said seeking new businesses might bring more people to Albemarle County.“We’re already unsustainable in terms of our size,” Olivier said. “Every bit of growth in population makes us less sustainable.”

That comment bothered David Mitchell, the owner of a construction company and an amusement center in Charlottesville. He said he wanted a healthy and diverse economy to ensure his four children have an option to stay in the community as they enter the workforce.

“You have organic growth here that you just can’t stop,” Mitchell said. “We should concentrate on our citizens here and the ability of our children to stay in and around us.”

Gary Henry, chair of the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council, said the plan as written focused too much on existing businesses.

 “If growing new business is a piece of [economic development], there’s a need to meet with organizations that support entrepreneurs who are not yet a business,” Henry said. His organization is not named in the plan.

Mike Harvey, president of the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development, said his goal was to focus on existing businesses and grow new ones from within.

“We want to understand and focus on people who are here first,” Harvey said. “We don’t do business attraction. It’s been my focus to focus on organic growth here.” 

He added his preference would be for the city and the county to work closely with the University of Virginia to develop companies using research generated there.

Lee Catlin, county spokeswoman, said she thought the first roundtable had been productive.

“I thought it was very energetic, very passionate, and what you’d expect when you bring a variety of people together on a topic they feel deeply about,” Catlin said.

A second roundtable will be held on July 1 at 1PM at the Albemarle County Office Building. A public hearing on the plan will be held before the Board of Supervisors on July 14.

May 28, 2010

ASAP research challenges community to shrink its ecological footprint

By Bridgett Lynn
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 28, 2010

Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP) met Thursday night with local residents to discuss recent findings in a study called the Ecological Footprint Analysis of Albemarle County and Charlottesville. The analysis evaluates the environmental sustainability of the community and its optimal population size.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100527-ASAP

The study found that the footprint (demand) of Albemarle and Charlottesville exceeds the biocapacity (supply) of the area causing an ecological deficit, which is an unsustainable situation that occurs when an ecosystem is exploited more rapidly than it can renew itself..

20100527-Marshall
Jack Marshall, Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population
“We are running a severe ecological deficit. We are not living sustainably,” said Jack Marshall, president of ASAP. “We’re really doing a lousy job.”

ASAP researchers calculated this deficit by measuring the ecological footprint of Albemarle and Charlottesville, which is the amount of land and water required to satisfy the demands and waste of people in the area, and the biocapacity for the same area, which measures how much land is available for consumption and waste.

The city and county have an ecological deficit of 3.7 land areas, meaning that there is not enough biocapacity from Albemarle and Charlottesville’s 736 square miles of land alone to accommodate for the demands of 135,000 residents.

In August 2009, ASAP published research indicating that the community could be home to a population of up to 300,000 people if it was willing to sacrifice some environmental conditions in the development areas. With this additional research, however, ASAP has calculated that Albemarle and Charlottesville can sustainably only support a population of about 37,000 people.

“If our community were to source all its current consumption and waste disposal right here on our available land, we would need 3.7 Charlottesville/Albemarle land areas to support our consumption,” said Marshall. “We need a lot more land than we’ve got.”

ASAP argues in the study that if we continue to ignore the ecological deficit, then we will see destruction of natural habitats, reduction of water quantity and quality, and erosion of ecosystem services in environments of other places. It may not happen in this community in the near term, but it will maintain pressure on global ecosystems according to the study.

“The way we live with our ecological deficit erodes the health of living systems at a global level," said Marshall. “It causes deforestation, water shortages, declining biodiversity, and we screw up the air, the water, and the soil. Locally, we do the same thing.”

ASAP was formed in 2002 to study the effects of population growth on natural resources, and their goal is to provide data for local city and county decision-makers  to help identify an “optimal sustainable population size”. The Ecological Footprint Analysis is one of five scientific studies being conducted by ASAP.

“The information from the ASAP studies should be used by local government for planning,” said John Cruickshank, chairman of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club. “For land use planning, for transportation planning, and for the planning for the protection of natural resources.”

Cruickshank believes the community should focus on protecting the environment by creating more nature preserves and parks, pursuing green building practices, and encouraging density.

“When development does occur , we should cluster the residences so there’s not as big of an impact on the environment,” said Cruickshank. “We need to think smaller. We need to drive smaller cars, we need to have smaller houses, we need to use less and less and less.”

20100527-Rooker2
Dennis Rooker, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
In the audience, Supervisor Dennis Rooker said he agreed with the goal of preserving more rural land.  “The more land we can get in conservation easements for parkland, the better,” said Rooker.

The Board of Supervisors agreed to spend $25,000 for the scientific aspects of the study, and the City of Charlottesville paid $11,000. Additional funding came from ASAP members as well as a $50,000 grant from the Colcom Foundation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

According to Marshall, no other community in the nation has conducted a similar study, and the national planning community is watching ASAP's work to see if the study might be used as a harbinger of things to come.

Although Marshall agrees that less resident consumption is important, he argues that that alone will not dramatically improve the ecological deficit.

“One of the results of this research I hope will be to bring greater attention to the fact that there are two components in achieving sustainability,” said Marshall

“Reducing consumption is not enough,” said Marshall. “Simultaneously we have to deal with the number of consumers, the population.”

 “I believe that government should not be in the business of recruiting new residents.” said Cruickshank. “There has been a lot of recruiting to get new people from other parts of the United States to move to the Charlottesville Area.”

“We don’t need to go out and spend taxpayer money bringing growth to this community which is already growing about 1,000 people per year,” agreed Rooker.

The Board of Supervisors will be holding a work session at 2pm on Wednesday, June 2, at the County Office Building, Lane Auditorium, to discuss Albemarle County’s new economic development action plan.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

00:45 – Jack Marshall introduces filmmaker Dave Gardner
01:13 – Gardner talks about his upcoming film, “Hooked on Growth”
03:16 – Marshall introduces ASAP
04:24 – Dennis Rooker talks about community participation
11:28 – Marshall outlines meeting agenda
13:16 – Marshall summarizes ASAP’s mission
17:31 – Marshall summarizes Ecological Footprint (EF) analysis
24:34 – Tom Olivier talks about biocapacity calculations
31:17 – Marshall talks about measuring the Footprint component
32:37 – Marshall discusses EF analysis
41:58 – Olivier comments on unsustainable living
50:12 – Mike Mellon talks about human footprint issues
54:39 – Brian Richter talks about EF water related issues
1:03:04 – John Cruickshank talks about Sierra Club policy and EF analysis
1:12:08 – Randy Salzman questions how to distribute EF information to public
1:12:55 – Elizabeth Burdash comments on youth involvement
1:15:32 – Dennis Rooker comments on conservation easement
1:17:27 – Richard Lloyd questions community exports
1:28:42 – Conclusion