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July 18, 2012

Albrecht Place recommended for approval behind Shoppers World

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A new commercial development along U.S. 29 received a favorable recommendation from the Albemarle Planning Commission at its meeting Tuesday.

Albrecht Place will consist of a 48,000-square-foot commercial building and 183-space parking lot on about 3.4 currently wooded acres behind the Shoppers World shopping center and next to the Berkley neighborhood.

20120717-AlbrechtPlaceThe property owner, Sue Albrecht, will be moving her Design Environs company, a commercial interiors firm, to a portion of the new development. Another tenant may include a local gym.

“I am very excited that we have gotten approval from the Planning Commission,” Albrecht said after the unanimous vote.

In its deliberations, the commission overcame concerns about potential traffic impacts that had led county staff to recommend against the project until more information could be considered.

VDOT evaluated the proposal and determined it did not meet the threshold of necessitating a full traffic impact study, but that some additional analysis by the developer would be beneficial. Access to the site would be via Shoppers World, Berkmar Drive, Commonwealth Drive and 29.

“The main issue of concern with this particular rezoning request has to do with transportation,” said Albemarle County senior planner Claudette Grant. “Submission of the traffic impact analysis will provide necessary information that will help us determine what impacts, if any, this development could have on the surrounding roads.”

Woody Parrish, an architect planning the development, said he had shared his own traffic consultant’s research with staff.

“The staff report does acknowledge that this is expected to have fairly light traffic impacts,” Parrish said. “We have had a traffic consultant look at this and they have come up with estimated trip generations and that number turns out to be less than 1 percent of the traffic than is currently using this section of U.S. 29.”

“We are having a hard time spending another $15,000 [on a traffic study] to quantify information that I think we understand well enough to affirm an existing zoning designation for an infill parcel in the development area that’s fully consistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan,” Parrish said.

That statement struck a chord with the commission.

“Would your traffic consultant be willing to write a letter?” asked commissioner Mac Lafferty. “This seems to me to be the major hold up.”

Parrish said such a statement could be produced, and that satisfied the commission’s desire for more transportation data.

Continue reading "Albrecht Place recommended for approval behind Shoppers World" »

July 17, 2012

Plans approved for Fresh Market in Albemarle Square

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

At Monday’s Albemarle County Architectural Review Board meeting, members approved the design for a Fresh Market specialty grocery store that will occupy the old Circuit City building in the Albemarle Square shopping center on U.S. 29.

20100515-CityMarketThe Fresh Market will feature outdoor seating and a design that mimics a farmer’s market. Board members said they were pleased with the developer’s latest plans to add another set of windows to the front of the building.

“You have done a fantastic job and … if you can do anything to make these windows happen … we would certainly be pleased with it,” said board member Paul Wright.

“Compositionally, it is nicer,” board member John Quale said.

Members called attention to the fact that the windows would only be a positive addition if they did not feature spandrel glass, which gives a uniform appearance in building walls.

“Spandrel glass on the entrance corridor is discouraged,” said ARB chairman Fred Missel.

The board also held a work session to discuss Albemarle County’s requirement for relegated parking along entrance corridors that keeps parking lots out of view. Staff emphasized the importance of maintaining the ability to convert complexes along entrance corridors into walkable areas for the future.

“We’ve got to set things up for a ‘now’ and a ‘later’ so that you have that place where people … have the right place to walk, and the right place to walk is not right up on the road with the moving traffic. It’s pushed back,” said Elaine Echols, principal planner for Albemarle County.

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June 28, 2012

City and county seek common goals for joint planning

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler & Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 28, 2012

Planning staff and officials in the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County will spend this summer identifying joint goals to include in their respective comprehensive plan updates.

Earlier this year, officials identified seven shared priorities: historic preservation, entrance corridors, environment, housing, economy, transportation and land use. In separate meetings Tuesday, each planning commission began identifying specific opportunities for the first three of those topics.

Summer Frederick, Project Manager, TJPDC

Summer Frederick, a project manager with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, spoke to the Albemarle Planning Commission after giving a similar briefing in the city.

“What we are looking for is for you to discuss these topics and come up with … specific opportunities to work with the city to come up with joint goals,” said Frederick.

The TJPDC is working with the city, county and the University of Virginia as part of a three-year $1 million federal grant awarded in 2010 for what is known as the Livable Communities Planning Project. One goal is to facilitate the comprehensive plan updates that guide local government planning decisions.

Albemarle Commissioner Bruce Dotson noted the results of a community survey from a previous comprehensive plan update.

“The thing that I remember from that … was how many residents of the city said that what they liked about the area were things that are located in the county, and vice versa, how many county residents liked things located in the city,” Dotson said. “The ultimate success in preserving the rural area is when urban people value it, and vice versa.”

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June 24, 2012

County holds roundtable to discuss ways of streamlining the development review process

DailyProgressBy Ian Lamb
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, June 24, 2012

Members of the development community, environmental leaders and Albemarle County officials came together last week to discuss proposed changes to the development review process. The adjustments are intended to streamline the process by which projects are reviewed.

20120613-Alb-CompPlanA collection of plans and requirements guiding development in Albemarle County

“It’s really about trying to shorten those timeframes, avoid those regulations that are not necessary, continue to maintain opportunities for the public to be involved and, overall, to maintain community quality,” said Wayne Cilimberg, Albemarle’s director of planning.

The hope is that the proposed process would provide clear expectations of the applicants and, in doing so, not only render decisions by the county in a more timely manner, but reduce the number of application re-submittals, which cost projects time and money.

“Because our application requirements are not tightened down, we find that there are things that are not provided [by the applicant] that are needed, but we’re not hearing about it until 46 days into the process,” said Cilimberg, regarding the inefficiencies of the current process. “We really would want to avoid that.”

The proposed review process for proposals that go before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors would require applicants to submit a pre-application form with basic information about the project. Applicants would then be required to attend a pre-application meeting with county staff to identify areas of the initial project proposal that may require modification.

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June 20, 2012

Decision on new soccer fields deferred

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Albemarle Planning Commission said at its meeting Tuesday that it needs more information before it can make a decision on a special-use permit that would allow four new soccer fields and a parking area off Polo Grounds Road.

The Monticello United Soccer Club requested a deferral on its application after a lengthy public hearing.

Pat Reilly, president of the Monticello United Soccer Club

The club has worked out a lease with the owners of an almost 80-acre parcel between U.S. 29 and the entrance to the Montgomery Ridge neighborhood. Farther down Polo Grounds Road is the Soccer Organization of Charlottesville-Albemarle’s South Fork Soccer Complex.

“We are trying to put four soccer fields on this property,” said Dan Ivory, a MONU board member and director of coaching. “We simply want to grow grass, put up some soccer goals and let kids play.”

“Local residents will be able to use the property,” Ivory added. “We are not opposed to allowing others to use the fields when MONU doesn’t have events taking place.”

Seventeen residents spoke at the commission’s public hearing, with only a handful offering support for the project. Some neighbors of the proposal’s site said they were concerned about the project bringing more traffic and about the location on a flood plain in Albemarle’s designated rural area.

Joseph Kulbok is president of the Montgomery Ridge neighborhood association.

“Montgomery Ridge has about 60 families and we have large houses and a lot of children — a lot of soccer players — and we support soccer,” Kulbok said. “However, the No. 1 problem is traffic, and people are very concerned about it. To put additional facilities there without changes to the road will cause gridlock.”

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June 19, 2012

Albemarle seeks to give design advice earlier in development process and calls for reconsideration of relegated parking

DailyProgressBy Ian Lamb
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Albemarle Architectural Review Board passed a resolution Monday supporting the addition of an ARB representative to the county’s site review committee in an effort to streamline the development review process.

Charles Lebo & Fred Missel, Albemarle Architectural Review Board

The committee, which contains a representative to assess each aspect of a development project, such as transportation issues, fire and rescue considerations, and engineering, is intended to prepare a development request for review by staff, the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors.

For plans requiring ARB review, applicants could take advantage of a “pre-application” phase where basic site plan information, including building location and size, would be given to the committee for review. This initial evaluation of plans would serve to identify areas of applicants’ proposals that may need adjustment.

“The pre-application submittal would allow someone to submit some basic information and staff would then have 10 days to review it and provide a response,” said Bill Fritz, Albemarle’s chief of special projects. “What [the committee] would be doing is identifying major issues at that point.”

Although a representative of the ARB would sit on the committee and review the pre-applications, all comments made would be considered recommendations. Only plan changes supported by specific ordinances would be compulsory.

Continue reading "Albemarle seeks to give design advice earlier in development process and calls for reconsideration of relegated parking" »

June 14, 2012

Albemarle says shorter can be better when it comes to comprehensive plans

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 14, 2012

As a planner in Albemarle County for the past 15 years, Elaine Echols is one of the most knowledgeable officials guiding the locality’s update of its comprehensive plan. While changes happen each year, a major rewrite hasn’t happened since 1996, shortly before Echols started her job.

However, the plan she was handed as a new employee fit in a single three-ring binder. Today, she can only show community groups photos of the comprehensive plan. That’s because it’s too cumbersome to carry around.

Elements of Albemarle County's Comprehensive Plan in June 2012
Credit: Elaine Echols

“I took this picture yesterday, and I’m not sure it’s inclusive of everything, but this is our comprehensive plan,” Echols said Wednesday to a meeting of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club. “You can see why it needs to be reduced in bulk.”

“We have master plans, a biodiversity report and recommendations, open space plans … the neighborhood model and historic preservation,” Echols observed of the stacks of material. “We’ve got a lot of plans where the substance doesn’t need to go but the form needs to be changed.”

Albemarle is reaching out to various stakeholders to get them involved in the effort. A similar process is under way in Charlottesville and both localities are working in concert with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The TJPDC received a three-year $1 million federal grant in 2010 grant for what is known as the Livable Communities Planning Project.

Tom Olivier is the chair of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club. He followed up Echols’ presentation from the perspective of a long time environmental advocate in the community. He said he agreed having a more accessible plan was a “completely reasonable goal.”

“A plan should not be highly specific,” Olivier said. “It ceases to be a plan if it is so detailed that people can’t find the principles readily.

“At the same time, when text is reduced, it’s very easy for nuances and small bits of text which nonetheless involve key commitments, to get changed or eliminated,” Olivier warned. “We need for citizens with knowledge and commitment to be involved and look at the drafts as they are brought before the Planning Commission.”

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June 05, 2012

Green screens and donut shop windows under review by Albemarle

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Green vegetative building screens and windows on a new Dunkin Donuts were among the topics discussed during Monday’s Albemarle Architectural Review Board meeting.

Katurah Roell, from the Piedmont Development Group, was given the go-ahead for his company’s plans to renovate the Pantops Med Express building. The plan includes a green screen, essentially a vertical plant trellis, which will improve the building’s facade.

Albemarle County Architectural Review Board

However, this addition to the Med Express building caused ARB members to discuss the possible need for more regulations concerning green screens. Members noted that other green screens on buildings in the Barracks Road Shopping Center have not been successful.

“My fear is we get these green screens on all these things in places — for example, on Barracks Road — and there are some places that look great and there are other walls that seemingly never get covered,” said board member Paul Wright.

Board Chairman Fred Missel said that perhaps the lattices themselves should be regulated in the future, in case plants do not thrive and cover them in a reasonable amount of time.

“We’re probably going to see a lot of green screens because it seems to be the Stonefield approach to mitigating blank walls,” Missel said, referring to an approach being used on the new Trader Joe’s grocery store. “As we entertain more and more of these green screen ideas, we may want to consider what the green screen looks like without the plants, just in case.”

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May 16, 2012

County staff outline new development review process with early engagement of neighbors

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Albemarle County Planning Commission has signaled its willingness to support changes to the process through which rezoning and special-use permits are handled by county government. 
In January 2010, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors adopted an economic vitality action plan that directed staff to find ways to make it easier for businesses to expand in the county. One of the directives was to streamline the legislative review process by which all discretionary land use decisions are made. 
“The focus was on codifying our expectations, being clear on what we need to have in the process to serve the applicants best,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning, at a Tuesday work session.


Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120515-APC-Legislative-Review

One of the main goals is to get projects to public hearings as swiftly as possible. 

Cilimberg said that may be accomplished by ensuring applications are as complete as possible from the beginning. 
“The proposed process changes are to require pre-application meetings [with staff] and for the applicants to provide a completed pre-app form for those meetings,” Cilimberg said.
Within ten days, the applicant would be notified if their submission would be accepted. If not, a checklist would be provided telling the applicant what information is missing. 

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May 09, 2012

Piney Mountain neighbors seek changes to church project

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Greg Quinn, a self-described constitutional conservative, found himself in a “conundrum” before the Albemarle County Planning Commission this week. His mission: Seek local government’s help intervening in a neighbor’s building plans.

20120508-NewHopeThe backyard neighbor? A non-denominational Christian church seeking to build a 400-seat sanctuary, and a less than regulation size soccer field, on 21 wooded acres in the county’s rural area off Dickerson Road. The congregation currently holds services at Sutherland Middle School.

In recent years, Quinn has been a critic of the county’s sustainability initiatives and programs aimed at reducing carbon emissions. He lobbied successfully, with the local Tea Party, to get the county to withdraw its membership in ICLEI, citing inappropriate intervention by the United Nations and the federal government in local policy.

“My land is mine, it’s deeded in my name, and until Albemarle County or the rest of the community owns it, it’s my business what I do with my land,” Quinn told the Albemarle supervisors in February 2011. “I’m getting sick and tired of being told what to do, especially by the international community.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Quinn told the commission he was a strong proponent of private property rights, but he thought the plan could be improved.

“I am not opposed to a church, but what I am opposed to is the impact to Piney Mountain and the close proximity to the road,” Quinn said. “We’ve got bird watchers and Tea Partiers on the same mountain, and we all get along very well.”

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