My response to public debate about the Adelaide decision

Criticism has been leveled at the process and decision to deny rezoning of the Adelaide property on Rt 250 in Crozet. I stand behind my vote to deny Adelaide to uphold important features of the Crozet master plan. I encourage residents to study the facts about this project and the background on zoning and the zoning process. Hopefully this information will provide some answers and a broader understanding of the decision making factors involved. I welcome questions from constituents.

Did we vote “against inclusivity” in Crozet?
Assertions have been made that the extra 40+ units being requested for Adelaide (for a total of 80 instead of the approximate 35 by right) would have been available for use by people of moderate and low income, starter homes for young families, police and fire staff, and retirees.

While fifteen percent (12) of the units to be constructed in Adelaide’s 80 units would have met the guidelines for affordability, with a purchase price near $220,000, the remaining 68 units would not have been “affordable” by county guidelines, as their offering prices would have been $300,000 to $400,000. In addition, there is no affordability requirement beyond the first owner for any of these units.

There is no county rule which prevents construction of more affordable units.

Supervisors who voted to deny the application have been criticized that they “voted against inclusivity and against the recommendations of experts they appointed.” The staff have explained to the board and citizen groups that there are different interpretations of the elements of a master plan. The staff makes a recommendation to the planning commission. The planning commission are a hard-working and dedicated group of citizens who study the plans and the recommendations of the planning staff and make their own recommendation to the supervisors. Their recommendation may or may not agree with that of staff about emphasis on the elements of the master plan.

These combined recommendations come to the Board of Supervisors to help them evaluate the plans and if the expectations of the greater community are met. As staff have said, it is up to the board to decide the most important elements of the master plan for a particular application.

Does this vote “prevent Albemarle from building trails and connections”?
Supervisors who voted to deny the application have been criticized that their vote “prevents Albemarle from building trails and connections and it pressures growth in the rural areas. It forces us to build closer to our neighbors and environmental features.”

I disagree with these points. The Crozet Trails Crew members have built miles of trails through older neighborhoods and over easements dedicated by forward thinking applicants, who understand that amenities such as these are of small cost and great benefit to the sale of their properties.

There are no rules which force an applicant to build closer to environmental features on a property. On the contrary, there is plenty of encouragement to be as protective as possible. By right development provides flexibility to the applicant to make a community a better place, for new residents and current residents. A by right development can be done using the current density (for example, one unit per acre) without any zoning process if the application meets the comprehensive plan and the zoning.

Two recent examples in Crozet of by right neighborhoods are Foothills Crossing 1 and Westlake. These projects have included many features of applications for rezonings because the applicants wished to do an exemplary job, but they were not required to do so to build their neighborhoods.

Some examples of this above-and-beyond design are:

  • Building connecting roads outside the project to further the long range road network;
  • Building or dedicating land for trails to connect new residents to their greater community;
  • Protecting established forests and stream greenways to an extent greater than required;
  • Providing sidewalks and vehicular connections to other neighborhoods; and
  • Providing street trees for the enjoyment and increased attractiveness of the neighborhood to residents and prospective buyers.

Does this vote “permanently eliminate the opportunity for affordable housing”?

Supervisors who voted to deny the application have been criticized that denial of Adelaide rezoning “permanently eliminates the opportunity for affordable housing.” The facts are that there are already many units of affordable housing in Crozet. An exciting new development is that Habitat for Humanity is building affordable units in Wickham Pond. The Wickham neighbors are planning to join the construction crews as volunteer builders and are working to assist their new neighbors. Since Habitat will hold the mortgages, these units will be permanently affordable, rather than just to the first owner.

Some other examples affordable units are:

  • Apartments over offices and stores in Old Trail Town Center and Clover Lawn;
  • A soon-to-break-ground apartment project of 123 units of affordable homes with a range of rental costs at the Vue on Jarman’s Gap;
  • A soon-to-break-ground apartment and town house project of more than 100 units at Old Trail; and
  • An approved town house project on Orchard Road with fifteen percent of units affordable.

In a November 2016 report to the Planning Commission, the housing officer reported results of County affordable housing policy from 2004 to 2016 – that more than 1000 units were proferred.

  • 387 of those 1000 units are in the Crozet Growth Area.
  • $1.5 M in cash contributions were accepted, most of which was prior to 2007.

There were more than 4000 residential units approved for Crozet between 2004 and 2008.

Development of these units has been slow, with only 20 percent of the affordable units countywide constructed to date. A bit more than 50 percent of the proffered cash has been received. This delay is due to the recession and the large number of approved units which have not yet been constructed. Cash proffer balances are due at intervals as the project is developed.

Additional reasons for my vote

I thought that the density on the edge of the growth area, surrounded by forest and rural uses, should be at the low end of the range suggested in the comprehensive plan and master plan for Crozet.

The site of this application is constrained by slopes, streams, and limited points of visibility for entrance onto Rt 250. There are hills in both directions which limit the time when a vehicle entering the roadway can be seen by a driver on 250.

There were no vehicular and pedestrian connections to other neighborhoods, so every trip for services would need to access Rt 250. VDOT revenue sharing improvements to the area are years away.

The highest density buildings were placed at the highway, further encroaching on the rural nature of the State Scenic byway.

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Zoning 101

Zoning was established in the County in 1970s. While not in place universally across the state even today, zoning rules allow a predictability to land use which brings comfort to landowners, that they can reasonably anticipate what land around theirs might be used for in decades ahead.

Zoning also assists the county in planning and implementing infrastructure for new residential development as growth is anticipated. While this has been the goal of residents of western Albemarle for forty years, the delivery of these supporting features has lagged behind the arrival of new residents.

In the 2007 election season, the most important issue from citizens at their doors by far was the increase in population and no delivery of increased services. Long-time residents and newcomers alike were disappointed that the promised items on which their developments were based had not been delivered.

Some examples. Jarman’s Gap Road improvements were on the planning list since before the approvals of Greyrock, Wayland’s Grant and Bargamin Place. The early 1990s approvals for those hundreds of new homes was based upon the road improvements and sidewalks. The road was completed in 2010, and road and sidewalks are well used today.

Serving a 35 square mile area in western Albemarle, the Crozet Library was in need of expansion in 1988, falling well below the state standards for library services. It too was completed in 2010. Both of these projects enjoyed strong community support to be achieved.

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Background on The Growth Area

The Crozet Growth Area was created in 1980 when the urban ring growth area around the City was created. The Crozet area already had water and sewer services for its manufacturing plants and was thought to be an ideal place to expand residential units and provide efficient and cost effective services, close to existing treatment plants. Since then interceptors have been improved to deliver sewage to the Moore’s Creek treatment plant east of the City. Improvements to seal out rain infiltration and replace caps on access points have been completed. Further improvements to handle increased capacity are in the planning stages.

The community made its own growth plan in 1980. Behind the scenes from 1980 to 1990, many properties changed hands in preparation for new growth and development. When these new projects came to light, Crozet residents requested to be the first community to participate in master plan development. The first master plan was adopted in 2005 and was a learning experience. Lack of transparency and errors in data presentation left citizens angry that the promised population buildout of 12,500 (for a community of 1200 at the time) had evolved behind the scenes into 25,000. The 2010 master plan review brought the buildout numbers to approximately 16,000 (still a ten-fold or more increase in population).

The next review scheduled in 2015 has not yet occurred. This postponed review has on its agenda consideration of density ranges on the circumference of the growth area where the rural area is across the street. . On the master plan map, the land west of Cory Farm remained yellow during the 2010 review, as a range of 3-6 units per acre, because it had the potential to be connected to other developments on that side of the street to reduce impacts. In discussion during the master plan meetings, the expectation was that it would develop as had its companion on the rest of the farm, Cory Farm neighborhood.

The Crozet Citizens Advisory Committee, CCAC, was created by the board of supervisors eleven years ago as a buffer between the community engagement on the master plan implementation and the board of supervisors. Members are from different neighborhoods, businesses, perspectives, and all meetings are open to the public, advertised and now, live streamed.

The community of Crozet, through its Master Planning process, has always supported the recommendation that with any rezoning there be included 15 percent affordable housing. The current master plan has multiple citations regarding the protection of Rt 250 from further development and that high density should be focused, along with previous county investment, to downtown. Dense developments which are in downtown and provide the high performance desired have been well supported by the CCAC and community.

County affordable housing policy results from 2004 to 2016 include over 1000 units. 387 of those affordable units are in the Crozet Growth Area. $1.5 M in cash contributions was accepted, most of which was prior to 2007. There were more than 4000 units of all types approved for Crozet between 2004 and 2008.

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Why Rezoning?

When an applicant desires to increase the housing density beyond the current zoning, for example, R-1 (one unit per acre) to 3-6 units per acre, the process allows for approval of that increase if the impacts of those extra units can be dealt with in the particular location and according to the application plan.

Important considerations related to decision-making are:

  • Is the rezoning in compliance with the comprehensive plan? If not, a comp plan amendment must be considered and approved first.
  • Is the character of the community maintained?
  • Are there pedestrian and vehicular connections with other neighborhoods to avoid every trip for services entering a major roadway?
  • Are there sidewalks to connect the new residents to their greater community?
  • Are there possible ways to ameliorate any traffic increases to permit the surrounding roadways to function as before the rezoning?

In addition, the site plan requirements for the rezoned development include:

  • Control features to prevent stormwater runoff off site
  • Stream buffers 100 feet on each side of a stream
  • Sidewalks and street trees along interior streets and to screen utilities from the roadway and adjacent residences
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Eighth series of town halls in March 2012

Thank you for your confidence to send me back for a second term representing the White Hall district. You are vitally important to success, by sharing your insights about problems and solutions in our community.

Unlike some radio hosts, I believe “Community” is a good word, conveying a sense of caring about neighbors, local business success, our children’s futures and the protection of the environment which helps us to lead healthy lives. None of us is alone on an island; we are all connected to sink or succeed together.

Beginning Tuesday, March 13, I will host three citizens’ town halls. Police Dept officers and school board members will be in attendance. In addition to the budget details, I ask for feedback on any other issues of interest. I will gather topics every 30 minutes to prevent leaving issues unaddressed. Please join me at an upcoming meeting:

Tuesday, March 13. Town Hall with Pam Moynihan. Broadus Wood cafeteria. 7 pm.
Saturday, March 17. 1 pm. Town Hall with Steve Koleszar at White Hall community Center.
Monday, March 19. 7 pm at the Meadows, Crozet Ave. Town Hall with Eric Strucko and Ned Gallaway.

We will discuss the timetable for ordinance changes for rural area businesses such as bed-and-breakfast rooms in outbuildings and food service at farms, as well as changes to county process to “fast-track” applications to help our economic recovery.

There are many other questions. What are your thoughts on cost-recovery billing to insurance companies only for ambulance transport? Should changes be made to ordinances currently allowing burning of household trash in our backyards? Are you concerned about drug use in the school-age population?

Updates will also be provided about upcoming VDOT projects in the White Hall District.

Actions of the General Assembly as the session ends will affect the local budget. State government has passed us the bill to restore funding to the state retirement system by requiring an additional $1.4 M each year from Albemarle County. Sad the Governor did not repay the loan he took from the retirement system, calling it “surplus” and handing out bonuses to state employees.

General reductions in funding for schools, for mental health services as patients are returned to their communities, for maintenance of roads unless matched 50/50 by local funds, and cuts in funding for commonwealth’s attorney, sheriff, and jail budgets will hamper our ability to fund our local future. It is unknown today what the Governor will do as the bills pass and come across his desk.

What is known is that we all can work together. Many of you help me to be well informed about issues of particular interest to you. We will continue to work together to fund the completion of the Historic District application and the furnishings to the Western Albemarle Crozet library.

Thank you all for your assistance.

 

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