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May 30, 2006

Crozet Pizza & IGA area to be demolished?

Copc20060530bThe C-Ville Weekly ran a cover story today entitled “A change is gonna come: At a Crozet bar, the quiet before the storm.”  The author seemed to be foreshadowing a meeting tonight at which the Albemarle County Planning Commission held a work session on a major new development project called Crozet Station.  While very conceptual at this point (it was a pre-application review meeting), Crozet Station would redevelop, according to the staff report, “a substantial portion of Downtown Crozet that includes more than half the downtown businesses.”  This is an area that includes Crozet Pizza, Three Notch'd Grill, and the IGA shopping center.  All existing buildings would be demolished with this redevelopment proposal.

[Podcast available below]

Copc20060530aCrozet Station, a project by property owner Sandra Everton with Bill Atwood as architect (presenting in photo at right; he designed Crozet Dairy Queen), would contain 52,000 to 56,000 square feet of commercial/retail space (site currently has 49,000 sq. ft.) and approximately 72 residential units, some above commercial on the first floor.  Some of the shops and residential units would be 3 stories in height.

The buildings in the existing downtown that contribute substantially as historic resources (e.g. Crozet Pizza) are, according to the applicant, in poor condition and cannot be incorporated into the new development.  The Crozet Master Plan does advocate for retaining historic buildings that contribute to Crozet’s character, but that objective cannot be realized against the wishes of a landowner to remove them.  The area around the Crozet Pizza building is the heart of the town's historic fruit producing economy. 

Mr. Atwood described the initial orientation of the new grocery store (see site plan image above) on Route 240 as following the “Target Model” reflecting the perpendicular placement of the building to the road (like the Target at Hollymead Town Center on Rt. 29).  The size of the commercial area is going to be increased, according to Atwood, to compete for anchor tenants that may be attracted to Old Trail Village and other developments in Crozet area.

Staff raised the following questions for the Commission’s consideration

Should contributing historic structures be demolished for new development?

Staff report: “The loss of the ‘contributing’ commercial buildings… could eliminate the possibility of establishing a historic district in Crozet.  These commercial buildings stand at the physical core of the town and they represent some of the most important history of Crozet.”

In their discussion, the Commissioners placed a priority on protecting or paying tribute to at least the facades of the buildings around Crozet Pizza to maintain the historic character of this block as it currently exists along the street.

Is the mix of residential and commercial/retail uses appropriate?

Staff report: “Staff is not concerned with the uses proposed or the residential densities… Staff believes that, without a more substantial ratio of commercial to residential use, the vitality of Downtown as a center will be compromised.”  [Note: This statement was based on an initial plan showing only 42,000 square feet of commercial].  In other words, the amount of residential use proposed is acceptable to staff, so long as there is a more substantial commercial component which would bring additional commercial and employment opportunities.

In their discussion, the Commissioners indicated their approval of the mix of uses, the increase in commercial space presented by the applicant, and the positive aspects of the inclusion of “workforce housing.”

What features of the design and layout does the Planning Commission find appropriate?
What would the Planning Commission suggest to improve the layout and design?

In their discussion, the Commissioners talked about the challenge of working around Rt. 240 and the railroad tracks in a way that would maintain a pedestrian friendly environment.  There was concern about VDOT’s interest in widening Route 240 in this area.  There was concern about the open parking lot along Route 240 and a preference for relegated parking (i.e. hidden from Rt. 240).

Listen to the podcast: Download CoPC20060530-CrozetStation.mp3

01:00 -- Staff report by Rebecca Ragsdale, Senior Planner, Albemarle County
09:10 -- Sandra Everton, applicant/landowner
10:26 -- Bill Atwood, project architect.  Discussion with Planning Commission.
27:20 -- Crozet resident Barbara Westbrook discusses challenges of getting residents providing feedback at these meetings.  Asks if it will still be possible to have a restaurant in top of one of the new buildings.  Asks about continuity plans and transition for existing businesses.
31:26 -- Crozet resident Mike Marshall, mentions that to his knowledge no one involved in the Crozet Master Plan ever considered the demolition of these buildings a possibility.  Thinks as much as possible should be done to save these buildings.
38:28 -- George Novey, adjoining property owner
40:00 -- Discussion by Planning Commission

Brian Wheeler

Developer Proffers

In my weekly appearance today on Coy Barefoot's radio show, Charlottesville Right Now (WINA AM 1070), we plan to discuss developer proffers.  Please call in between 4:30 and 5:00 PM at 434-977-1070 to share your insights.

The following items got me thinking about this issue:

A proffer is a voluntary condition placed on a rezoning request.  It is an offer from the landowner promising to provide an improvement, cash, or service to help justify the zoning changes required to develop the property.  They become a binding and enforceable aspect of the zoning of the property. 

For example, you might have a piece of property in County zoned as rural going back many years.  However, it is also on land considered to be part of the County’s designated growth area.  You could develop it to a certain extent by-right, or what is allowed by the existing zoning.  But if you wanted to put in retail stores, offices and townhouses, you would need to get the property rezoned to support a Neighborhood Model Development.  This is what we saw happen at Old Trail Village in Crozet and at the Hollymead Town Center in the area where the Target is located.

Proffers are something the locality negotiates in advance of a rezoning.  This is the only time the locality has this leverage.  Virginia law does not allow proffers at the time a developer brings forward their subdivision plan or site plan.  Also, the developer has to volunteer it, elected officials can’t ask for specifics in exchange for approval.

Types of things that get proffered:

  • One-time funds for each house built that contribute to capital needs of schools or transportation.  Have ranged from $1,000 to $3,000 per house.
  • Transportation improvements (new turn lanes, road widening, traffic signals, traffic studies, public transit subsidies)
  • Affordable housing
  • Land for public use (school, library, parks, open space, trails)
  • Landscaping and buffers to other developments
  • Phasing of development

On the radio program I'll talk about the size and scope of proffers we see around developments in Charlottesville-Albemarle.

Brian Wheeler

May 23, 2006

The "Annexation Monster"

AnnexmonstIn my weekly appearance today on Coy Barefoot's radio show, Charlottesville Right Now (WINA AM 1070), we plan to briefly discuss some of the history of annexation, attempts to merge our localities, and the Charlottesville-Albemarle revenue sharing agreement.  Please call in between 4:30 and 5:00 PM at 434-977-1070 to share your insights.

In my research, I have benefited from the recent discussion on Jennifer's Charlottesville blog and the book Albemarle: Jefferson's County 1727-1976 which has some excellent information on the annexation of County land in the 1960s.  I also came across this illustration of the "annexation monster" on Rey Barry's website which he credits to local artist Charles Peale.  Apparently, the monster was in wide circulation to convince County voters to support a revenue sharing agreement that would end the City's annexation of County land.

Brian Wheeler

May 22, 2006

City has a new website

CharlottesvillewebsiteSometime in the past month the City of Charlottesville rolled out a new website.  I must have missed all the fanfare, but I did find all my links to their old site broken today!  So with the links repaired, I'll encourage residents to check out the new resources online.

Here are a few goodies on the much improved site:

I have not found any RSS feeds or ways to track page modifications.  I hope we can get that functionality added in the near future.  If you find something interesting or want to critique the upgrade, please make a comment below!

Brian Wheeler

May 19, 2006

Places29 Open House

Places2920060519aOn March 18, 2006, Albemarle County held a public open house to present three design alternatives for the Places29 Master Plan.  This open house was held in advance of a weekend workshop in which each alternative for the 20-year development of the Route 29 North corridor will be presented in more detail for the public's consideration and comment.

WORKSHOP: Saturday, May 20th, 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM at Sutherland Middle School. Breakfast available at 8:30 AM.  Lunch provided.  This is a facilitated public work session on the three alternatives. This is your opportunity to provide direct feedback on the three designs developed by County staff, consultants, and our local transportation experts.

Places2920060519bAbout 100 people were in attendance for the first of two briefings at the open house yesterday.  This recording by Charlottesville Tomorrow begins opening remarks by Judy Wiegand, Senior Planner for Albemarle County, and Harrison Rue, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.  The presentation is by Phil Erickson of Community Design + Architecture and Fred Dock, a transportation consultant with Meyer Mohaddes.

Listen to podcast: Download 20060518-Places29-OpenHouse.mp3

The PowerPoint slides are not currently available online, however you can download a companion document that will help you review the three alternatives during Mr. Erickson's presentation.

Companion document: Reviewing the Alternatives (2MB PDF file)

Brian Wheeler

May 17, 2006

North Pointe Commentary

In this post I want to share several comments from County staff and the North Pointe representatives which immediately preceded the May 10, 2006 public hearing and which I think help inform the North Pointe discussion in advance of the next public hearing to be scheduled this Summer.  Major outstanding issues involve transportation, the form or design of development, and the timing of this rezoning.

Recommendations in staff report to Board of Supervisors for May 10, 2006 meeting

... approval of the rezoning is both premature and not recommended.  Staff has analyzed the proposal for conformity with the Comprehensive Plan and finds that the proposal represents a conventional suburban form with a segregated land use pattern that is not in keeping with the following principles of the Neighborhood Model: [abbreviated below, details here]

    1. Pedestrian orientation...
    2. Neighborhood friendly streets and paths...
    3. Relegated parking...
    4. Neighborhood Centers...
    5. Buildings and spaces of human scale...

The proposal does not appropriately mitigate transportation impacts because there is no calendar date for constructing the middle entrance or constructing a southbound lane within a reasonable period of time.  Affordable housing is not provided in accordance with the County’s policy for 15% affordable units and the administration of the proffers for affordable housing will be problematic.

The proposed rezoning does not reflect trends in growth and the economic needs of the community.  Retail space is proposed in excess of absorption within a reasonable amount of time, which staff believes will result in vacancies throughout the Route 29 corridor.  Zoning property before the use is actually needed will limit the County’s ability to cause the owner to respond appropriately to a changed future condition.  The County has recently dealt with this situation in Gazebo Plaza and Faulconer Construction.

Chuck Rotgin, Applicant, Great Eastern Management

“It’s an exciting proposal that reflects a new paradigm for creating communities in Albemarle County.”

Valerie Long, attorney representing Great Eastern Management

“We’re very excited about the North Pointe community.  It is an exciting mixed use community where generations of residents can live, work, play, learn, worship, exercise, all in the same community.  They can… ride their bike to their job at the UVA Research Park across Route 29 or perhaps at the [National Ground] Intelligence Center.  Where they can live within walking distance of their grandchildren.  Where Great Eastern will build walking paths for the public to access the Rivanna River ‘blue way’ trail system, and where it will donate land for the ‘blue way’ trail system.  Where public transportation infrastructure has been designed into the road network.  Where Great Eastern will financially support the provision of bus service to the community.  Where there will be a dynamic mixed use area, including a library, and a park.  The library block area will include three and four story buildings combining small stores, offices, and residences in the same building.  And again, North Pointe will put the necessary infrastructure in place at the time the community is built.... North Pointe is consistent with the applicable portions of the Neighborhood Model.”

Mark Graham, Director of Community Development, Albemarle County

“In talking about the transportation impacts, for staff, the eight-hundred pound gorilla is Route 29.  We’ve got the regional impacts [of this project to consider], this goes beyond what the applicant has proffered which deals with the immediate impacts associated with getting their entrances onto 29.  This development could potentially drop up to 30,000 cars onto Route 29 and at this point in time we need to recognize… that 29 has no approved plans for how to deal with this additional traffic.  Places29 [Master Plan] is working on that, we do have a transportation study that is trying to deal with it, but it is not addressed at this point.”

Elaine Echols, Senior Planner, Albemarle County

“The big picture problem areas; there are four of them.  The first one is the form of development.  We just want to talk a little bit about why we can’t recommend approval.  The form of development is fairly conventional.… What the Neighborhood Model is about is a more integrated development, one that brings the commercial and the residential in closer proximity to each other so people can feel comfortable walking in those areas [around retail establishments] and they are not having to walk across a vast expanse of parking lots.  The integration is what is so important to the Neighborhood Model, not just the little pieces, not just the pieces of sidewalks and street trees, but how they all relate together to make a whole.”

Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna)

“I have [a question] for staff and the applicant.  On the one side you feel like you have met the neighborhood principles, and staff says you haven’t met the neighborhood principles.  Just curious, what is the dividing line?  Is it the size of the stores?  Is it too much commercial?”

Elaine Echols

“It’s the fact that it is not integrated… In the southern part, this is all very conventional development.  The only mixed use area is right here in the library area.  When I showed you those pictures, which I got off the Internet… I was looking for some that conveyed the sense of place.  The sense of a place where people could go and shop and they could feel a part of the community… The potential for that only occurs right here [in the library block].  All of this area [around large retail development] has large expanses of parking and there’s not really a good way that [the two areas] integrate...  We think there are very appropriate ways it can happen, maybe with not so much commercial.  But it’s the integration Mr. Boyd.  That’s the issue, it is so segregated it gives us a lot of pause.”

Valerie Long

“We think it is very much a Neighborhood Model project.  Sometimes, like everything, there is a difference of opinion.  Whether something complies with the Neighborhood Model, you could have twelve people look at twelve principles, and twelve projects and everyone might come out with a different opinion or a different conclusion about something.  I think that’s why the public process is so important and its so helpful to have such a large group of people look at projects and talk about projects…. The mixed use library block area is actually a little larger than what Elaine was showing… These buildings here are all within the library block, those are all two and three story buildings all with a mixture of uses.  There is retail on the ground floor level, offices on the second floor and then residential on the third and fourth floors…. We think we have actually done a very good job integrating those uses, and to be fair, we’ve had a lot of help from [County] staff on that.”

Brian Wheeler

Podcast of North Pointe discussion on WINA

Yesterday, I made my weekly visit to Coy Barefoot's radio show on WINA.  The topic of the day was the proposed North Pointe rezoning under review by Albemarle County.  Sean Tubbs and the Charlottesville Podcasting Network have the podcast available here:


As I described on the show, I took some time last weekend to listen to the 3 hour recording of the March 10, 2006 North Pointe public hearing.  My goal was to scorecard each of the 39 public speakers and distill out of the evening's discussions the major themes of the public's current assessment of this large rezoning request.

My assessment is that the public feedback was evenly split between those for and against the project.  When I make that assessment, I eliminate the feedback from people who stated they had a direct economic interest in the project (nine speakers that were consultants, realtors, builders, investors, attorneys, etc.).  I include the advocates representing various constituent groups (Chamber of Commerce, Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors, environmental groups).

If you look at all thirty-nine speakers, the following themes were most commonly shared by those for and against North Pointe:

  • 33% of all speakers expressed support for growth being channeled into the County’s designated growth areas.  This support was strongest among those in favor of the project.
  • 31% of all speakers stated something positive about neighborhood model.  This support was found to be equal among those for and against the project.  The only concern expressed about the neighborhood model was from those in nearby areas who did not want their neighborhood streets interconnected to North Pointe.

Note: This doesn't mean the remaining 67-69% of speakers were necessarily against these two concepts, it is simply an indication of the most popular themes expressed in the public speakers' remarks.

Strongest themes among those supporting North Pointe:

  • 48% of all the supporters said retail development in North Pointe was needed or a positive aspect of the development.
  • 38% of all the supporters said they thought the North Pointe development would create affordable living choices.
  • 29% of all the supporters said they thought development in North Pointe would help protect the rural areas of Albemarle.

Strongest themes among those opposed to North Pointe:

  • 64% of those opposed to the project cited traffic congestion concerns.
  • 57% of those opposed to the project indicated retail development in North Pointe was not needed or a negative aspect of the development.
  • 36% of those opposed to the project expressed concerns about the environment (quantity of available drinking water, impact on sedimentation in river, air pollution related to automobiles)

Brian Wheeler

May 15, 2006

Another block of Albemarle Place approved by ARB

Coarb20060515The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board (ARB) met today continuing its review of the Albemarle Place development approving Block F which is a portion of the development between  Sperry Marine and the old Comdial facility.  Block G on US 29 between Sperry and Comdial still requires approval from the ARB and, while it was discussed heavily at today's meeting, the volume of changes led Board members to request the plans for this section be resubmitted at a future meeting.  Block G is the location of the future Whole Foods grocery store and, according to developer Frank Cox, they are currently the only signed tenant in Albemarle Place.

With expectations for 700-800 residential units, the new Whole Foods store, a movie theater, a hotel, and 616,000 sq.ft.of retail (about 2x what is already built at Hollymead Town Center; more than the 540,000 sq.ft. of retail proposed for North Pointe), all within 64 acres, Albemarle Place will equal roughly the size of two Downtown Malls.

AlbemarleplaceprelimsiteplIn this site plan image (click to enlarge), you can see the location of the Whole Foods store which will be accessed via a new traffic signal and intersection near the current US Postal Service (USPS) facility.  Block D (top left on site plan) is still on hold but will also require review by the ARB.

A new version of the Albemarle Place preliminary site plan is currently under review by planning staff.  Unlike North Pointe and Biscuit Run which are rezoning requests before the County, Albemarle Place was rezoned for this type of development in 2003.

Brian Wheeler

May 10, 2006

No decision at North Pointe public hearing

Boshearing20060510aThe public filled the Burley Middle School auditorium tonight (likely over 150 people were in attendance) to give the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors three hours of feedback on the North Pointe rezoning request [project website].  Almost 40 speakers testified, many sporting buttons either for or against the project, which if approved would bring to the US 29 North corridor a mixed use development on 264 acres with about 900 new homes and over 500,000 sq. ft. of additional retail space.

Yesterday, developer Chuck Rotgin was surprised to learn that the Board would announce to the public tonight that no decision would be made at this meeting.  Another work session will be scheduled for June 7, 2006, followed by another public hearing, before the Board of Supervisors is expected to take action on the project.

I was unable to attend the first part of the public hearing [thus I am looking forward to hearing the podcast too], but my understanding is that supporters outweighed opponents of the project both in the audience and at the microphone.  I expect the Daily Progress will have a good assessment of this in tomorrow's paper.

Late in the public hearing, after a number of speakers had suggested the County was dragging its feet on approving new developments, Chairman Dennis Rooker interrupted the public hearing and stated, "It has not been the County that has held up this proposal."  Mr. Rooker cited developments initiated after North Pointe including Albemarle Place, Belvedere Farm, and Old Trail Village  which have all been approved by the County.

Boshearing20060510b_1At the closing of the public hearing, Mr. Rotgin asked for a vote to take place at the June 14th meeting.  Chairman Dennis Rooker informed him that the timing of a public hearing and vote was largely dependent on the proffers being finalized in advance.  According to Mr. Rooker, the proffers for this round of review were revised as recently as today and thus could not be provided to the Board well in advance of tonight's public hearing.

Click here to review all North Pointe blog postings.

Listen to podcast:

Download northpointe20060510a.mp3
Download northpointe20060510b.mp3

UPDATE: In the event you are having difficulty listening to these podcasts, you may try this alternative download location -- Podcast A (22.8 MB) / Podcast B (10.3 MB)

Here are the highlights:

Podcast A:

  • 1:00 -- Introduction by Dennis Rooker
  • 1:18 -- Staff report from Mark Graham and Elaine Echols
  • 33:40 -- Comments from project applicant Chuck Rotgin
  • 38:10 -- Presentation by applicant representative Valerie Long
  • 47:30 -- Comments from the Board
  • 1:00:28 -- Remarks from the public

Podcast B:

  • 0:52 -- Remarks from the public
  • 49:01 -- Comments from the Board
  • 52:25 -- Closing remarks from Chuck Rotgin

Brian Wheeler

Supervisors review Mountain Overlay District Committee Recommendations

Bosworksession20060510aOn May 10, 2006, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held a work session to review recommendations from the Mountain Overlay District Committee.  The Committee began its work on this project in April 2004 and, after 30 meetings, has completed its recommendations on the framework for a new ordinance to govern development activities in the mountainous areas of Albemarle County, also known as the mountain overlay district (MOD). [project website]

The Supervisors reached consensus in this meeting to send the draft forward to a future public hearing.  After receiving public feedback later this Summer, the Board is expected to provide direction to the Planning Commission as to the specific requirements of the new mountaintop protection ordinance.  There would then be additional public hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors take action on the final ordinance in late 2006.

Listen to podcast: Download 20060510-BOS-MOD.mp3

Brian Wheeler