Albemarle Architectural Review Board
has panned the design for a 2-story gas station and convenience store proposed for U.S. Route 250 in Crozet. The
received little support at a meeting Monday from either board members or Crozet residents.
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, the Albemarle Planning Commission gave the green light to the store’s preliminary site plan. Despite that approval, the Re-Store’N Station must still get through the ARB, which will assess the proposal against Albemarle’s entrance corridor design guidelines.
“We have been working on this for 4 years,” said property owner Jeff Sprouse after the meeting. “It seems like it’s difficult to do business in Albemarle County.”
A clearly frustrated Sprouse said he intended to submit another revised design, but that he would not try further commercial development in the county.
“Convenience stores create tax revenues which we are missing with no store there,” said Sprouse. “I have lived here all my life and I have found this way too difficult.”
Resident Richard Brown said he was still unsatisfied with the county’s review of the project. Brown has been a regular critic of the gas station that would back up to his Free Town Lane neighborhood.
“I was hoping that the supervisors would turn it down,” Brown told the ARB reflecting on the board’s review last fall. “We’ve got three schools there…and [Route] 250 is jammed up right now, so you are only going to add stress to 250 and the people of Freetown.”
“It didn’t come out in our favor yet,” said Brown after the ARB had rejected the plan. “They are horse trading at this point. I do feel though that some of them understand a large building there is a joke.”
Members of the ARB were highly critical of the architectural design. They said a 2-story building was possible at the 4-acre site 0.3 miles west of the entrance to Western Albemarle High School, but that the proposal in front of them would need significant changes.
“This may be the least appealing to the entrance corridor building I’ve seen during this process,” said board member Paul Wright. “I don’t think the people of Albemarle County would be served with this building as proposed.”
Board members expressed concern about the applicant’s attempt to maximize the building’s footprint allowance of 3,000 square feet. That size limitation was determined by a November decision by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to limit, in part, the amount of water consumed at the facility.
In an effort to remain within the county’s building envelope, the plan seen by the ARB removed a first floor porch and some columns and that supported a second floor balcony, because they were found to contribute to the total building footprint.
Albemarle staff wrote in their written report that the end result was a “free-floating wraparound balcony on the second floor [that] is not an architectural element commonly found in the area.”
“There is no way that this floating balcony fits within guidelines,” said board member Bill Daggett. “Because there is no precedent for it anywhere here, we can’t support it.”
“We would be setting a new precedent with something that is completely out of character with the historic buildings of Albemarle County,” Daggett added. “I think you need to bring this around again for another look and a whole lot more sensitive consideration for what this board is about.”
For the seven residents who shared concerns about the project, their critique hinged less on specific architectural details than that of the overall scale and appearance of the gas station.
“I live very near Greenwood Gourmet…and it’s in character with a rural neighborhood on a rural scenic road,” said Crozet resident Frank Calhoun. “It doesn’t intrude on the character of our neighborhood. This one will.”
ARB chairman Fred Missel said he agreed that the Greenwood Gourmet was an attractive comparable on U.S. Route 250.
“I do agree…that a two-story well-designed structure will work on this site,” said Missel. “There are hints that can be taken from that type of structure — the richness in detailing of a building like [the Greenwood Gourmet] is lacking in this building, the top-heaviness, the proportions.”
“What we are seeing here is not necessarily a re-design [based upon] the input from the board of supervisors, but a non-design,” concluded Missel.