If developer Andrew Boninti was intimidated by the 150 people staring him down Wednesday as he pitched the latest plans for almost 400 new homes at the gates of Glenmore, it didn’t show.
“I’m the face of the project,” Boninti said. “I’ve lived in the same home for 33 years [in Ivy] and I think I understand Albemarle County.”
Outreach from developers in scenarios that include town hall-style meetings have become the norm for Albemarle County rezoning requests. Boninti answered dozens of questions while his attorney milled quietly around the audience of raised hands gathered at the East Rivanna Volunteer Fire Company.
Long-time Glenmore residents have been engaged with the Rivanna Village project for more than a decade. Boninti’s team acquired the property earlier this year.
One of the major changes is in the population density on the property.
“I felt like we needed more single family homes than the previous plan allowed,” Boninti said.
When asked whether Rivanna Village would be built in multiple phases, he said the “plan is to take the property and do the whole project.”
Not all nearby residents realized the whole project on the 93-acre site was a major mixed-use development in the waiting. It is inside one of the county’s designated growth areas.
“I moved here about a year ago from Washington, D.C.,” said Jane D’Aguanno. “This is disappointing to me because this is what I tried to move away from — the townhome, multi-use environment — because it’s a lot that goes on a small amount of land. … I came out here and saw the beautiful rolling hills and the approach to Glenmore with the lovely fields and horse farms. This will change the approach to our community.”
Boninti’s landscape architect, Mark Keller, said his charge was to take an already approved development and make it better.
“They said to keep it the same, but make it different,” Keller said. “Change the focus to get away from [housing] density and think more about sensitivity to the environment and to the neighbors.”
The new Rivanna Village proposal seeks approval for up to 400 residences and 60,000 square feet of commercial space, a decrease from the 2007 plan, which had 521 housing units and 125,000 square feet of commercial space.
Keller said that 39 percent of the site would be preserved as green space and include a public county park, an enlarged pond, and “something very special” for four-legged residents at an old quarry site.
“We will create our dog park in the [quarry] area, surrounded by trails, and it will be totally fenced,” Keller said.
Keller said a dog-friendly pier would be built in the quarry’s water pool, a separately fenced area where people will be able to train their animals.
Boninti said his initial plan only includes 20,000 square feet of commercial uses, though Albemarle officials have encouraged him to accommodate three times that amount ultimately. He told residents he thought it would take 6-7 years to be built out.
A number of residents expressed concerns about a lengthy period of construction traffic and the added cars on U.S. 250.
“I think you’ve done a great job. I think what you have done here is far better than what we have seen before,” said Richard Wagaman. “The Achilles heel to this whole thing is transportation.”
Wagaman favors building a new interchange on Interstate 64 at Hacktown Road. He believes that would be a much cheaper solution than widening Route 250 to four lanes.
“We need to bring the transportation part into sync with what you want to do, and then we have a win-win, otherwise our property values will suffer,” Wagaman said.
Glenmore resident Carl Staton got a round of applause when he encouraged Boninti and Albemarle officials to consider opening a new entrance onto U.S. 250 sooner rather than later.
“You are talking about…a lot of construction traffic coming in via Glenmore Way,” Staton said. He encouraged the project’s first road grader to blaze an entrance for all future construction vehicles.
Boninti appreciated the suggestion.
“The purpose of a meeting like this tonight is exactly that type of point,” Boninti said. “I think that’s a really good point and we will work to accomplish that.”
After listening to nearly two hours of discussion, one 13-year resident chimed in with her endorsement.
“This project has been on the books as long as we’ve been here,” said Janet Snyder. “We are very happy to have a local person come in … and it’s a beautiful opportunity for us.”
Public hearings for the Rivanna Village plan have yet to be scheduled for the Albemarle Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.