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The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has directed county staff to prioritize planning for growth in Crozet and in the Avon Street Extended corridor in 2019.

On Wednesday, the Community Development Department presented supervisors with a work plan that the department will pursue when it is not reviewing building permits, zoning complaints and other development activity.

“We have really truly been in a housing boom and set record levels over the last few years. We thought 2016 and 2017 were heavy, and then 2018 jumped up even higher,” said Mark Graham, CDD director. “As development activity goes up, we have less time to spend on the work program.”

The department approved permits for 1,016 new residential dwelling units in 2018, including apartments and single-family homes. Graham said that number outstripped the department’s activity prior to the Great Recession, but development activity started to slow in the second half of 2018.

Graham said that the department historically spends 80 to 85 percent of its time on development applications but that share is likely to be higher this year.

In the department’s remaining time, planners intend to focus on the supervisors’ strategic priorities, like Biscuit Run Park, the Southwood Mobile Home Park redevelopment, and creating a form-based code for the Rio Road and U.S. 29 intersection. Other projects requested by the board, staff or the community filled the rest of the department’s draft schedule.

20190124-5th-Avon

The Avon Street Extended corridor has attracted several large projects, including 130 potential units at Galaxie Farm and up to 400 in the first phase of the Southwood Mobile Home Park redevelopment.

Credit: Andrew Knuppel, Albemarle County

When the county Planning Commission reviewed the work plan, they asked staff to focus more on affordable housing policy, particularly housing that would allow people employed within Albemarle to live there.

The Planning Commission also emphasized that updating the master plans for the county’s development areas is a priority. Supervisors Ann Mallek and Rick Randolph each agreed and said that master planning was particularly important for their district.

“It looked like the Crozet Master Plan was being considered as an afterthought or a change, and I want to make sure people remember — this was due in 2015 and there are thousands of units that are being built and have been built out there since the previous master plan expired,” Mallek said.

Randolph argued that the Fifth Street and Avon Street Extended corridor has seen an increasing amount of development activity as well and needs the board’s attention.

The draft work plan schedules intermittent work on the Avon Corridor Study through 2019 and ongoing efforts on the Crozet Master Plan from late 2019 until a public hearing planned for late 2020.

Not included in the work plan are the department’s efforts to make its process more transparent.

The department is piloting an online dashboard that shows the number and scale of projects planned for each development area. The data includes projects processed since the fall of 2017.

“We think that there is an education component,” said Andrew Knuppel, the county planner who has run the dashboard so far. “If we can … build an understanding about the purpose of our planning and our policy about growth management, then I think it’s a success.”

Until the dashboard updates automatically, the department has only committed to updating it twice per year. The department is also considering adding other datasets, like planned infrastructure projects and the county’s capacity to grow under current zoning.