The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors reluctantly granted an approval this week for a commercial development behind the existing Shopper’s World Plaza.
“It’s the best of a bad situation,” Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said at Wednesday’s board meeting.
Albrecht Place is likely to be a 48,000-square-foot building with multiple uses, including the new home for the property owner’s interior design firm. The exact size will not be known until the developer submits a final site plan.
Sue Albrecht purchased the property in the mid-1990s and has been seeking ways to develop the property, which was zoned as “planned development – shopping center” in 1980.
However, the site plan filed with that application depicted the area under consideration as open space. That required Albrecht to seek a rezoning.
“There are by-right uses under the PD-SC but they can’t be implemented until there’s an approved site plan,” said Albemarle’s attorney, Larry Davis.
Woody Parish, the architect for Albrecht Place, said the project has been under development for many years. The Planning Commission reviewed two earlier versions of the development in 2007.
“Both of those earlier versions were sort of under the influence of Places 29,” Parrish said. “They were more ambitious in scale and intensity.”
Parrish scaled back the development after reviewing comments from the Planning Commission and the neighborhood. For instance, there is no longer pedestrian interconnection into the adjacent Berkley neighborhood.
“We have thought about how we might do that but in deference to what we believe is the preference of the neighborhood, we haven’t shown any connection there,” Parrish said.
Staff recommended approval of the project, but still has reservations about the potential for increased traffic.
“Shopper’s World has been somewhat of a challenge over the years for circulation because of the way it has been developed,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning.
“Additional traffic that will be using this same facility will be using the same aisles that exist out there now.”
The Planning Commission approval was conditioned on a new traffic analysis. Albrecht retained Segars Engineering to conduct one, which concluded the development would generate 567 trips per day.
“Given the fact that we have a parcel here that is already zoned for commercial development, our feeling is you’re not going to see a commercial project with a lot less traffic than that,” Parrish said.
Several supervisors were concerned the new development would add to an already congested shopping center.
“In my mind, this is a terrible circumstance in terms of the traffic flow to and from this site,” Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said. “I’m not sure it can be improved upon given the location of the property.”
However, Davis said the board did not have the discretion to deny the application.
“I don’t believe this board can deny a plan unreasonably but if there is a reasonable basis to deny the plan, then I think that you can deny it based on those reasons,” Davis said.
After no one spoke at the public hearing, supervisors voted unanimously to approve the rezoning. The applicant will submit a final site plan, which will determine the ultimate size of the building and the number of parking spaces.
“What we’re doing tonight is just approving the concept and they’ll come back with a total site plan,” said Supervisor Duane Snow.