The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and the Virginia Department of Transportation hosted a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night on the Hydraulic-29 Small Area Plan.
Chip Boyles, TJPDC’s executive director, presented updated plans for the intersection and surrounding area before community members weighed in with their thoughts and concerns about the plans.
“We’re looking at a bigger area with the core focus at the [U.S.] 29 and Hydraulic intersection area,” said Boyles. “At a lot of the previous meetings, we were just able to describe the direction that the advisory panel and the consultants were moving. Tonight, we actually have some drawings to show you.”
An advisory panel of 12 business owners, government officials, and other stakeholders has been working since March, looking at land-use planning for the area and meeting with the community. Six of the 12 members attended Wednesday’s meeting.
Boyles first shared the conceptual framework plan, focused on connecting the area for cars, bikes and pedestrians.
“It’s concepts of what all the connections within this planning area are proposed to be: new roadways, new trails, new bike paths, new connections. Just trying to pull people off of 29 and allow them to get around from a residential neighborhood to do their shopping or go to work.”
The latest idea for the intersection is to create an underpass for Hydraulic under U.S. 29, with turning movements under U.S. 29 so that traffic moving south will not have a signal at the intersection.
Questions of pedestrian and bicycle accessibility were raised in relation to the proposed underpass, and Boyles spoke about the complexity of the issue.
“That’s just a tough thing to do when your goal is also to move traffic on 29,” Boyles said. “Those two goals conflict with each other greatly.”
The panel’s solution is to create two-lane, elevated bridges over U.S. 29 for Zan and Angus Roads. They would be for vehicular traffic but also wide and comfortable enough for people to walk and bike. They would also be handicap accessible.
City resident Bob Willson voiced concern over the elevated roadway, worried that it cuts off access from Angus Road to U.S. 29.
“You’re isolating us from 29 and we have to have a way in that area to get on and off,” said Willson. “If I want to go to Bodo’s, I have to go way up there [to Stonefield], then come down under the underpass.”
Norman Rosenshein, city resident, agreed with Willson about the inconvenience that would be created for those who live off of Angus Road.
“Everyone is being forced to drive around their house to get to their house,” said Rosenshein. “It surely isn’t convenient. You can cut through but other people are not going to drive as slow as I do.”
City Councilor and advisory panel member Kathy Galvin ensured that the community’s thoughts were being heard, evident in plan changes that had already been implemented.
“It is not the case that we have ignored you and we are hanging you out to dry,” said Galvin. “I think it’s important that we acknowledge what our community has been through. We are trying to keep all people safe and happy.”
The second plan Boyles shared was the core area plan, looking at the more concentrated areas and opportunities for recreation spaces.
“It seemed very logical that the activity area should be at the intersection, but after a couple of months of discussion, it was determined there were a whole lot of difficulties with moving people by foot and bicycle all the way around and across 29 at that intersection,” said Boyles. “We started to look on both sides of the intersection for some activity areas there.”
The panel hopes to create a green corridor connecting to Meadowcreek Park, with a dual purpose storm water collector and water feature on the east side of U.S. 29. Intermittent parks throughout the area are also being discussed.
The final drawing was the conceptual land use plan which breaks down the land use by type, such as residential, commercial and mixed-use.
“There are no major changes especially in the single family residential areas,” Boyles said. “What’s being proposed, not in the single family residential, is just to allow a developer more flexibility to put residential on top of retail or residential mixed in with office space.
“Giving that flexibility allows a developer to make the right business decision to meet the long range vision but also make a profit for themselves which we know is what’s going to drive all of this,” he added.
Boyles wanted to emphasize the profit side of development and how plans need to factor in the interests of residents and business owners alike.
“All of this has to work with developers and property owners so that it’s advantageous financially for them to develop in these ways,” Boyles said. “It’s a balance of priorities.”
City resident Tim Wallace added to Boyles point, reminding the crowd that before specific business profits were even considered, the state would have to fund the project.
“You don’t have a prayer of getting the money you need to do any of this unless the state sees this as a way to move people north and south,” Wallace said. “There is a balancing act that has to be done with this project. We can’t do anything if we can’t get the money from the state.
The next Hydraulic Small Area Plan update will be Aug. 23 at Charlottesville High School.