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September 27, 2010

Albemarle planners narrowly approve Hollymead modification for new cinema

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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


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.


  • 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



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