The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has approved a request to fill in a section of the flood plain along Powell’s Creek to allow an extension of the Crozet Crossing neighborhood.
Under the plan, the existing cul-de-sac of Cling Lane would be connected through to Orchard Drive and 70 new homes would be built along the new section.
The land, known as West Glen, is zoned for six units per acre but cannot be accessed without the crossing.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek was the lone vote against the permit.
“To me, our water protection ordinance says we shouldn’t be doing this,” Mallek said. “We should be putting our roadways on high ground and not covering every inch of high ground with houses.”
Developers need special-use permits to build stream crossings in areas that are within the county’s flood hazard zoning overlay.
“The proposed crossing will be a 10-by-10 triple box culvert, which the applicant has demonstrated will not cause an increase in the base flood plain,” said county planner Rachel Falkenstein.
As part the plan, an existing dam would be dismantled and the stream bank of Powell’s Creek would be restored. The Army Corps of Engineers has signaled its support.
“The Corps believes the dam removal and stream restoration project is a benefit to the stream and more than offsets any impacts from the proposed road crossing,” wrote Vincent Pero with the Corps’ Charlottesville office in an April 4 email to Armstrong.
However, Armstrong said official approval from the Corps will not be requested until after the site plan is completed.
A previous permit to fill in the flood plain, approved in 1990, allowed an existing crossing of Powell’s Creek.
“That allowed for the construction of 30 lots on the property but it said that no development of the residue property would be allowed until a second access point could be provided to Orchard Drive,” Falkenstein said.
The Crozet Master Plan calls for a density range between three and six units per acre. The plan does not show a stream crossing at the proposed location.
The Planning Commission recommended approval of the permit on June 21 on a 3-1 vote. Commissioner Mac Lafferty voted against, while Commissioner Jennie More recused herself. Two other commissioners were absent.
One side of the crossing is on the property of the proposed 126-unit Vue community being built by Pinnacle Construction and Development.
Both the West Glen land and the Vue currently are owned by the Piedmont Housing Alliance under the name Crozet Development Solutions.
“They have contracts with the Vue and with us to divide the property,” Armstrong said. “They do still own all of it and that’s why things like a road connection through it can be facilitated.”
The PHA originally had planned for a 65-unit complex on the land that will be occupied by the Vue.
Mallek said she was suspicious of the new arrangements.
“The whole property transfer thing certainly sure has been strange and not what was presented to the community over the last many years,” Mallek said.
Armstrong said the PHA would still be somewhat involved with West Glen.
“We are partnering with them on a joint venture for this property,” Armstrong said. “They’re not selling directly it to us. We control how the development process goes but they are a silent partner. Part of our deal we made with them is to provide 15 percent affordable housing.”
That means those units will be reserved for families that make less than 80 percent of the area’s median income.
Armstrong said the price of the rest of the units is not yet known but he said he wants to build something for “middle-income” families that have few options currently.
“There’s plenty of expensive stuff in other places in Crozet and we don’t want to compete with that,” Armstrong said.
Six people who spoke during the public hearing argued the permit should not be granted.
Penny Chang of Cling Lane said the dead end provides a place for children on the street to play peacefully.
“We already feel we have too much traffic in our neighborhood,” Chang said. “This basically will destroy the character of our neighborhood.”
Much of the board’s discussion centered around the potential toxicity of the sediment that has accumulated behind the dam. Armstrong said all the material would be removed.
“There was a previous orchard use on this property as there was across much of Crozet,” Armstrong said.
Mark Graham, the county’s community development director, said he has confidence Southern Development would address the issue.
“No bank will touch this project with a 10-foot pole until this is done,” Graham said. “Once they loan money on it, they’re in the chain of title, and under Superfund law they have some responsibility for the land and they’re scared to death of that liability.”
Supervisor Liz Palmer said she did not like the development but the opportunity to remediate the stream outweighed those concerns.
“This is about a stream crossing and not about a development, so I’m going to have to vote for it,” Palmer said.