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March 24, 2008

Supervisors approve several new development projects

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The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved four development requests at their meeting on March 19, 2008.  The projects included two small residential developments, a church expansion, and a commercial building. 

New Housing and the Interconnection Conundrum

The neighbors in attendance at the two residential public hearings raised similar concerns about the expansion of the Fontana neighborhood in the Pantops area (34 homes) and the Patterson subdivision in Crozet (10 homes)--Namely traffic impacts resulting from new developments being interconnected to neighborhoods that were approved before the County’s Neighborhood Model standards were in place. 

New residential developments must comply with the County’s standards for, among other things, sidewalks and street trees.  Allowing cars from these new “walkable” neighborhoods to connect through the pedestrian unfriendly streets in existing neighborhoods has been a point of concern of County residents from Crozet, to Biscuit Run, to Glenmore. 

Supervisors that find these conflicts in their district often side with the existing constituents and oppose interconnection or only allow it for emergency vehicles.  Other Supervisors point out that it is an important principle of the County’s Neighborhood Model.  Even the General Assembly is starting to suggest they will be less likely to pay for maintenance of roads in cul-de-sac developments and will instead create funding incentives for interconnected neighborhoods that better mitigate traffic congestion.

20080319fontana First up was Fontana Phase 4C in the Pantops Development Area.  Two days after approving the Pantops Master Plan, the Supervisors unanimously approved the 34 home expansion of the Fontana neighborhood. 

Fontana resident Jeanne Anderson spoke during the public hearing sharing her concerns about Fontana’s road system.  She thanked the County for getting improved trails in the proffers, but noted “even with a fully functioning path system…it’s not a replacement for sidewalks [and] curb and gutter.  Keep that in mind…our roads are still sub-standard.”

20080319fontanaandersonFontana resident Jeanne Anderson

Anderson also expressed concerns about the nearby Cascadia development which was approved in August 2006 for up to 330 homes.  There the developer limited his interconnection to Fontana to initially be for emergency and pedestrian use only.  Some Fontana residents are concerned that the roads envisioned in the Pantops Master Plan will eventually allow Cascadia residents, and their own expanding neighborhood, a quicker path cutting through their neighborhood to the stores at the top of Pantops along Route 250.

Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) shared his concerns about the additional traffic this project, and nearby projects, would bring to the Fontana neighborhood.

“It’s still a real concern of mine.  Those roads are what they are.  They are built very narrow.  They are built with no sidewalks.  I am just fearful we are going to create a tremendous amount of traffic through there when we interconnect that, when we open up Olympia Drive, which will take you all the way up to the light on [Route] 250, with the Giant [grocery store]...”

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) observed the evolving perceptions of the County’s Neighborhood Model design principles expected in new development.

“I would point out that there were people on the Board [of Supervisors] who really didn’t support initially the imposition of the [Neighborhood Model] standards that we are now concerned are not in place there.  And a lot of the development community at one point said that we should not adopt these standards.  I think what we are seeing is that the community wants and demands these standards.  If you don’t put the standards in place, it creates problems when you start creating links.”

The Board unanimously approved the Fontana Phase 4C development.

20080319patterson On a smaller scale, similar resident concerns surfaced in the Board’s review of the Patterson subdivision in Crozet.  Cliff Fox came requesting approval of a 10 home development adjacent to Grayrock North.  Fox’s property is on the edge of the Crozet Growth Area along Lantetown Road.  However, VDOT recommend against allowing a new cul-de-sac to be connected to Lanetown Road.  Instead, they said it would be better to utilize Lanetown Way within the adjacent Grayrock development.

Not surprisingly, Grayrock North residents were looking for fewer homes and a different road alignment.  Mike Beno spoke during the public hearing.  “We do still fee that the project is a little more dense than is fitting for the parcel,” said Beno.  He also acknowledged that his neighborhood (like Fontana) was developed prior to the neighborhood model.  “What we are asking is that the applicant and the Board of Supervisors is to not compound the shortcomings of that by adding extra traffic onto Lanetown Way....It is where all the kids play, there are no sidewalks.”

20080319pattersonfox
Patterson developer Cliff Fox

Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) was the lone vote against the new project.  She cited concerns about the density of housing and the connection to Grayrock North.  The other five members of the Board overruled the Planning Commission’s 4-2 vote from January 2008 recommending that the plan be denied.  Some Commission members took a strict interpretation of Crozet Master Plan’s map which showed a portion of this parcel as being lower density.  They argued the edge of the Crozet development area should be lower density throughout the Patterson parcel.

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) shared his perspective that the Patterson subdivision was consistent with the Crozet Master Plan.

“[W]e have got a commitment we have made through the master planning process to the broader principle of interconnectivity, of concentrating our development activities inside the growth areas, and upgrading the infrastructure on those sites as they develop.  And we are going to bump up against situations constantly where things that got developed [in the past] don’t have the sidewalks, they don’t have the other infrastructure.  But if those become the reason why we stop honoring the whole point of the growth areas and the master planning, I think we are shooting ourselves in the foot in a very big way…I am genuinely sympathetic to the real situation that the folks in Grayrock are articulating, but there was an opportunity during the master planning process to decide the boundaries of the growth area, decide the densities.  The community as a whole came up with a vision, and I think this proposal is consistent with that vision in many ways…”

The Supervisors approved the Patterson subdivision by a vote of 5-1.

Church expansion and new Office get approval

In other business, the Board of Supervisors quickly approved the request of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church for improvements to their property in Greenwood.  Church leaders were commended for being good stewards of their property and for planning their additional parking areas around the old oak trees the surround the historic church.

Supervisors also unanimously approved Keith Woodard’s plan for construction of a two-story office building at the southwest corner of the intersection of Hydraulic and Georgetown. The 20,000 sq. ft. commercial building will have two stories visible from the road and a third story visible from the parking area at a basement level behind the building.

Brian Wheeler

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