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July 09, 2012

Stonefield developer appeals city stormwater violations

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, July 9, 2012

One of the largest commercial developments ever built in Albemarle County appears to be in violation of a land disturbance permit issued by the city of Charlottesville
Stonefield is located in Albemarle County, but all of the rain that falls upon the 65-acre site drains downstream into Meadow Creek through the city of Charlottesville. 
NDS staff took this picture that demonstrates their claim that Edens did not install riprap to the streambank. To the right of the fence is Great Eastern Management's property. Credit: City of Charlottesville.
State law required the developer, Edens, to obtain an erosion and sedimentation permit from the city’s department of Neighborhood Development Services in order to ensure massive amounts of stormwater do not damage the watershed following heavy rainfall. 
“We simply said when they construct the outfall … we want it to be done correctly so it doesn’t blow out Meadow Creek,” said NDS director Jim Tolbert
Before construction began, all rainwater from the site’s stream drained through a 42-inch pipe underneath U.S. 29
Part of Edens’ stormwater management plan is to build a second 72-inch pipe further north that leads into a drainage channel within city limits. The channel crosses properties owned by the U.S. Post Office, Pepsi and the Seminole Square Shopping Center
The approved plan called for Edens to place rocks known as “riprap” on both sides of the channel in protect the banks by slowing down the velocity of stormwater. 
The city claims the new pipe was to remain closed until that work was complete. 
Edens received permission from the U.S. Post Office to install riprap improvements on their property, but Tolbert said the company did not get approval from either Pepsi or Great Eastern Management Company, the owner of Seminole Square. 

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June 19, 2012

Council denies rezoning in Fry’s Spring area

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Charlottesville’s City Council voted Monday to deny a rezoning that would have allowed a developer to build seven single-family homes at the end of Eton Road, a cul-de-sac in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood.
Without the rezoning, Alex Hancock will only be able to build two or three homes on the 2.5-acre property, according to city planner Brian Haluska. The “planned unit development” Hancock sought would have allowed for more homes to be built closer together.
Denials of rezonings are relatively rare in Charlottesville.
“Typically, applicants will defer or withdraw their applications prior to things getting this far because of the one-year waiting period on re-applying once you receive a denial,” Haluska said.
However, Hancock has already asked for a deferral once before, when it appeared that the Planning Commission was ready to deny the project in October 2010.
When he reappeared before commissioners in May, nine members of the public spoke out against the project. They cited concerns about the loss of woods, additional traffic and a development that was out of character with existing homes.
The Planning Commission recommended 6-0 to deny the rezoning because it did not meet PUD standards. The City Council followed suit.
Phone calls to Hancock were not returned.

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June 13, 2012

Lochlyn Hill development stalls; applicant seeks deferral

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The developer of the proposed 204-unit Lochlyn Hill neighborhood in Albemarle County and Charlottesville has asked for more time to revise his plans after it appeared the city Planning Commission would recommend denial of a rezoning. 
A rendering of how Lochlyn Hill will look (Source: Milestone Development)
Three of the four commissioners present at public hearing Tuesday said they could not recommend approval because Milestone Development’s project did not comply with the city’s affordable housing guidelines. 
“Staff believes that the current application comprises many great things that we want to see in a [planned unit development] application, but there are still holes,” said city planner Michael Smith. 
Smith said the rezoning would be consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan but that Milestone has not guaranteed that 15 percent of the homes will be designated as affordable. 
Instead, Milestone has proposed that at least 15 percent of the homes be in the form of accessory dwelling units. These are smaller units in cottages, above garages and in basements. 

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June 06, 2012

Supervisors approve fast-track process for targeted industries

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has indicated it will adopt a fast-track review process for industrial development proposals that would bring measurable economic benefit to the county.
“I think this is just another step in the right direction,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd, an advocate for making it easier for companies to navigate the county’s community development review process.
“You all understand what this board wants and what the community wants and none of it gets through without coming to us for final approval anyway,” Boyd said on Wednesday.

In January 2010, the board adopted an economic vitality action plan to study the county’s policies to find ways to streamline the process. One of the recommendations was to reduce the amount of time it takes for an applicant to obtain a rezoning or a special use permit.
“To encourage the start-up, expansion and relocation of targeted industries, many localities offer some sort of priority plan review,” said Lee Catlin, the county spokeswoman. “They find that used strategically, priority review for projects that meet defined strategic criteria can be an effective tool.”
To identify companies that would be suitable candidates for fast-tracking, the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development conducted a $150,000 study that recommended Albemarle pursue biotechnology, financial services, information technology and defense security companies.
Catlin said the fast-track process would be reserved for targeted firms that meet additional criteria such as producing a minimum of 25 new jobs within a year, bringing in a minimum of $1 million in capital investment and generating 50 percent of its revenue from outside the region.

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May 29, 2012

Success, challenges of neighborhood model debated

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The ongoing update of Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan is giving county officials an opportunity to review a key planning strategy meant to encourage density within the designated growth areas.
“The Comprehensive Plan talks about the neighborhood model as being the preferred model of development,” said Elaine Echols, principal planner for the county.
An abbreviated list of the 12 principles in Albemarle County's Neighborhood Model
The neighborhood model, which was adopted in 2001, has 12 principles ranging from orienting buildings to be more pedestrian friendly to providing clear boundaries between urban and rural areas.
“Since that time we’ve had many developments which are achieving the [goal] of the neighborhood model,” Echols said at a recent county Planning Commission work session.
Other principles include encouraging a mixture of commercial and residential uses, and relegated parking.
Each new neighborhood that makes its way through the community development department is measured against these principles.
“It puts [applicants’] eyes on the individual aspects that they need to address, or if they can’t address them it becomes clear why they can’t,” Echols said.

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May 23, 2012

County planners support museum for Teddy Roosevelt’s rural retreat

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 

A proposal to build a historical center at President Theodore Roosevelt’s rural Albemarle retreat near Keene has cleared its first step in county government. 
The county Planning Commission recommended approval Tuesday of a special use permit allowing for construction of a small museum and restroom facility at Pine Knot. 
Beazley addresses the Albemarle Planning Commission
Pine Knot is a rustic cottage nestled in the middle of southern Albemarle,” said Paula Pierce Beazley, president and chair of the Edith and Theodore Roosevelt Foundation. 
Edith Roosevelt selected the spot as a getaway for the 26th president of the United States.
“He needed a place for rest and repairs within a day’s trip of Washington, yet remote enough and deep within the woods so as to leave his presidential cares behind,” Beazley said. 
Pine Knot is currently not recognized as a historical center under the zoning code.
“They’re looking to bring the use of the site as a historical center with special events into compliance with our zoning ordinance,” county planner Andy Sorrell said. “The events would promote the mission of the historical center.”

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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

City Council agrees to sell Oakwood Cemetery expansion area

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Charlottesville City Council has agreed to sell two parcels of land next to Oakwood Cemetery for development, despite the pleas of one resident who wanted the land to be reserved for future burials. The land was acquired in 1944 and 1957 for the cemetery.
“Without ever addressing the subject directly, you have tonight formally closed down this entire community’s public cemetery system,” said city resident Antoinette Roades.
The parcels shaded in blue are the two that the city sold to Southern Development. 
In mid-April, the council heard the first reading of a proposal to sell 3.5 acres to Southern Development for $10. The firm has proposed to build a mixed-income community of 47 units in a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Charlottesville-Albemarle. 
The price of the land was set low because the city used the land to bury construction debris for many years.
“We can’t pin down when, but at some point the city started landfilling [there],” said Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services
Tolbert said if the city wanted to use the land for any reason, it would have to pay at least half a million dollars to clean construction debris from the site. As part of the sale, Southern Development will assume the clean-up cost. 
The staff report for the council’s first discussion of the land stated the property was “near” the cemetery. Roades, who has six relatives buried at Oakwood, said in an email to the council that was inaccurate. 
“The property — which carries an assessed value of $370,700 despite its alleged worthlessness — is part of Oakwood cemetery, a part made up of public land purchased systematically by public officials with public money for the public purpose of expanding the City’s otherwise limited public cemetery space,” Roades wrote. 

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May 08, 2012

New Dominion electrical substation gets approval from city planners

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A plan by Dominion Virginia Power to increase the reliability of Charlottesville’s electric grid took one step forward Tuesday as the city Planning Commission voiced approval.
Design Development LLC was hired to create a model that shows how the substation would fit on the existing site 
Dominion required a special use permit in order to build what is known as a “backbone structure” at the back of its Charlottesville headquarters on Hydraulic Road.
“Electric substation facilities act as a conduit between high voltage lines and [the] lower voltage lines that which serve homes and businesses,” said Jonathon W. Schulitis, a site specialist with Dominion.
“What a substation does is provide an off ramp from the interstate of the electrical transmission system,” Schulitis added. “The substation will take power from that system and break it down to the distribution voltage. The more access you have provides for more [reliability].”
The permit is required because the structure will be 15 feet taller than that the 80 feet currently allowed in highway corridor zoning. However, there are existing utility poles that are already higher than that.
Staff recommended approval of the permit because the station is located along an existing transmission corridor and will increase the reliability of electricity in the area.
“The proposed substation will support the commercial growth the highway corridor is intended to facilitate,” said city planner Michael Smith. “In order for Charlottesville to continue promoting land use policies encouraging dense, urban development, the city must have adequate infrastructure.”

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May 06, 2012

Master planning for Albemarle’s southern growth area takes shape

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, May 6, 2012

The ongoing review of Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan is giving officials and residents a chance to map a future for the county’s southern and western urban growth areas.
Click to download the presentation for the April 24, 2012 Planning Commission work session
That will provide direction for development around the Biscuit Run state park, infrastructure needs around the Mill Creek neighborhood and answer whether the growth area should be expanded to accommodate more homes.
Unlike Pantops, Crozet and other growth areas, Albemarle’s southern and western urban areas have never been master planned. The plan review will send signals to property owners for how land could be developed to support county goals.
One question is what to do with an undeveloped section of land behind the University Heights apartment complex on Ivy Road.
“Our economic development people were asking if there is a use that could be allowed in that area to help some of our small businesses and industries,” said Elaine Echols, the county’s principal planner. “An office use or a very small non-residential use that has few impacts on the neighbors might be appropriate.”

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