Expanding the growth area

In my opinion we are NOT in need of new growth area at this time. There is a huge inventory of approved projects which have not been built because of the economic slowdown . There has also been a dilution of demand because so much was approved in a short period of time. There are not enough customers to go around.

A market analyst told me that in a thirty mile radius of Charlottesville there are only 175,000 people, not enough for unlimited stores and housing developments to succeed.

Urban planners from other areas say that our growth area is too large for effective service provision, that it does not grow from the center out in an organized way, but development hop scotch jumps all over the place whenever a landowner wants to do something. This leaves the service authority chasing its tail to provide sewer and water services.

First should be growth in the area already designated, as highway improvements are made.

In the comprehensive plan the main reason to make change is when change is NEEDED for the community. At a time when there are more than 3 million square feet of already approved commercial space and thousands of houses for sale (with more thousands already approved), we do not NEED to add more empty houses and stores.

The light industrial land inventory will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on February 3. The existing LI zoned properties will be shown and evaluated for usefulness. There will certainly be a debate about the addition of more LI land.

An essential part of that discussion will be the multitude of uses allowed in our current LI zone, including office space. Standalone office buildings bring a higher return than warehouses and more typical light industrial uses. Many of the recent rezonings have taken LI land off the map, turning it into residential and commercial.

There is no point in increasing the area of LI without fixing the definitions which create the problem. For example, the Yancey property which had been proposed for light industrial property, contractor storage, and warehouse uses is now being called a Business Park and could contain more than one million square feet of office space.

How would that affect the revitalization of downtown Crozet which has been a target of county infrastructure investment with more than 4000 dwelling units approved there since 2000? What would be the effect to the road capacity of Route 250 west?

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One Response to “Expanding the growth area”

  1. Lonnie Murray says:

    I have heard people mention several flaws with the way our growth areas are being done currently. First of all, there seems to be an assumption that development must occur in previously undeveloped areas. This really runs counter to the principles of New Urbanism (which are the foundation for the neighborhood model). In fact, I believe it’s far easier to attain a walkable community if you start with an already developed area. Think of how many shopping centers, old industrial sites, or parking lots that we have in the county that are either poorly used, or could be used more effectively. If we provide too much undeveloped land in the growth there is then no incentive for developers to redevelop existing properties. Because there are some risks and issues associated with already developed sites, I also believe it is essential that local government serve as a partner in redevelopment by finding ways to reduce risk, lower costs, and incentivize reuse.

    Another very serious flaw in how we view growth is a faulty assumption that by increasing density that you automatically reduce demand elsewhere. If you review the statistics for who buys homes in the county, you’ll see that a significant number of them are bought by people from outside the areas. Of those, a large number seem to be retired baby boomers. So, clearly the demand for homes is not local but rather from migration. That being the case, I’m not sure we could ever satisfy the demand by building more homes. It would be as if Albemarle was asked to supply enough bottled water to meet the demand of everyone in Northern Virginia. Even if the assumption about density and demand were true, would we want to actually lower demand right now? Why would we want our home values to decline? If I’m not mistaken, that’s already happened and it isn’t exactly a good thing… Furthermore, what happens when all the Baby Boomers sell their large homes and move into apartments and retirement communities all at once? I think the current economic situation should be an opportunity to rethink how and where we want to grow (If for no other reason, so we can shield ourselves from future economic disasters).

    It’s also clear that urban density must be pared with rural protection and creation of urban greenspace. Without that, we’re just getting more development without much real benefit. We can do that protection through market based incentives, but there is no amount of high density suburban properties that you can sell that will reduce the demand for new large homes on rural parcels.