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When the Albemarle Board of Supervisors finally holds a public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan on June 10, it also will consider whether to expand the growth area to include an 82-acre property immediately southwest of the intersection of U.S. 29 and Interstate 64.
“I’m in favor of supporting opening up all of our I-64 areas to development because I think that’s a natural place to get economic development,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd.
However, some in the community are concerned that the growth area request will be considered when no information about how the land might actually be used has been shared with the public.
“What level of analysis has gone into this decision?” asked Jeff Werner, with the Piedmont Environmental Council. “The community really has no information and we’re supposed to go to a public hearing.”
Since 1980, the county’s Comprehensive Plan has set aside 5 percent of Albemarle’s 726 square miles for development, with the rest designated as rural. That means that no major commercial developments can be built outside the growth area, unless they are agricultural in nature.
Earlier this month, supervisors directed staff to include the expansion request in the Comprehensive Plan despite a recommendation from the Planning Commission in March 2012 to leave it out. At the time, several adjacent property owners said they did not favor the expansion.
Staff originally had recommended the expansion because the land is within the jurisdictional area of the Albemarle CountyAlbemarle CountyAlbemarle County Service Authority. That means public water and sewer service can be extended to the property.
“We suggested that there could be an opportunity for industrial use or a mixed use in all of this area and greater flexibility for the quadrant,” said county planner Elaine Echols.
At a board meeting earlier this month, all six supervisors indicated their support to add the property to the growth area.
“I’m always concerned when we’re talking about increasing the development area in any way at all but I do know we have a history of trying to make water and sewer areas match the development area,” said Supervisor Liz Palmer.
The land in question was purchased for $2.1 million in 2006 by an Atlanta corporation called Sweetspot of Albemarle. In all, there are about 33 acres of developable land, according to Echols.
The site is also close to a future county park made possible through a donation of 340 acres by the Nature Conservancy. Another adjacent parcel is the home of the Virginia Eagle Distributing Co.
An upgrade to the I-64-U.S. 29 intersection is listed in the region’s long-transportation plan with a preliminary cost estimate of $158.7 million. There is no estimate for when that project might get underway.
In all, there were 13 requests to expand the growth area during the review of the Comprehensive Plan, which has been going on since 2011. Aside from the Sweetspot land, the only other one being considered is the inclusion of the Whittington subdivision off Old Lynchburg Road.
Supervisors voted in 2010 to extend sewer service to that neighborhood.