As developer Frank Stoner works on plans for the site of the former Barnes Lumberyard, he will do so with input from Crozet residents who want to ensure their downtown area grows according to their wishes.
“We have this one chance to get it right,” said Jennifer More, chairwoman of the Crozet Community Advisory Committee.
The committee is appointed by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to guide the Crozet Master Plan, a document adopted in 2004. The plan calls for the 20-acre lumberyard to be developed for office and light-industrial uses.
“The location of the current J. Bruce Barnes Lumber Company has particular opportunities due to its historic industrial use and its location adjacent to the rail line,” reads the plan.
The property is currently zoned heavy industrial and that will need to be changed to the Downtown Crozet District category for redevelopment to occur.
Last summer, Stoner brought forth a proposal seeking to build 200 homes on the property rather than the commercial development called for in the plan. Committee members do not object to having residential units on the property, but they don’t want them on the ground floor.
“We don’t want ground-floor residential to happen in those areas because there is a limited amount of space in the downtown area, and this property makes up a large portion,” More said. “We also want some job creation to be able to happen because we have so much residential development happening in the fringes of downtown.”
The Crozet Community Advisory Committee — then known as a “council” — passed a resolution stating its opposition to the project, and the Albemarle Planning Commission recommended rejection. Stoner deferred the rezoning request.
Stoner is now working with the Crozet Community Association to hold a series of public meetings about the project before preparing a new proposal. The association is a private group formed in 1985 to protect the quality of life in Crozet.
The meetings will be held throughout the spring and summer at various locations in the community. The scope will extend beyond the former Barnes property to include discussions about what Crozet’s future downtown might look like.
“What’s our identity? How does Crozet define itself? And how can we play off those features to make growth fit and make sense in a town that’s been here for so long?” More asked. “We want to incorporate something new right in the middle of it.”
The goal is to complete the discussion series by the end of the summer.
Stoner said facilitators will be brought in to guide the dialogue and direct the process.
“I think it will be a good resource for the community,” Stoner told the committee last week.
“It’s a community engagement process so I would encourage everyone to talk to their neighbors and friends,” said David Stoner, a Crozet committee member who is not related to Frank Stoner.
The community meetings will free the Crozet Community Advisory Committee to deal with other issues. This month they got the chance to hear about a planned by-right development on Route 240.
“We’re still in the very early stages but I know that it’s best to get it out in front of the community as early as possible,” said Jess Achenbach, with Red Dirt Development.
As part of the project, Achenbach said he is willing to dedicate at least two acres along Lickinghole Creek to the county for a public park.
The Board of Supervisors would have to approve that dedication.
The Crozet committee asked questions about issues such as the size of the lots, the potential prices of the homes and whether they would be built by a single developer.
The last version of the master plan was adopted in 2010 and many of its recommendations have since been implemented.
The new Crozet Library and the creation of a streetscape have opened up many other properties in the downtown area to development.
“Those things take time,” More said. “Development of the Barnes property is going to be an organic process. It’s not going to be like Stonefield where you suddenly have a commercial development that all springs up at once.”
But More said she respects that any project ultimately is dependent on what the developer is willing to pay for.
“We also know that we need to be reasonable in what we’re requesting,” she said.