By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, January 28, 2011

More than 100 residents of the Forest Lakes community packed

Hollymead Elementary School

on Thursday night to hear Supervisor

Kenneth C. Boyd

explain the details of a proposed expansion of the county’s development area.


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Supervisor Ken Boyd fields questions at a forum on the proposed expansion of Hollymead’s growth a

The majority of speakers expressed opposition to a 140-acre expansion south of

Hollymead Town Center

on land owned by developer

Wendell Wood

.

“My fear is that this is going to get approved with no infrastructure improvements and we’re going to watch U.S. 29 come to a standstill,” said

Cynthia Neff

, a former candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates.

The expansion will be considered Wednesday, when the

Board of Supervisors

is scheduled to hold a vote on the

Places29 Master Plan

.

In November,

residents thought the idea was dead

after Boyd announced at a public hearing that he would not support it following a petition from Forest Lakes residents opposed to the additional development.

“We all want that infrastructure to occur, but we want it done in a way different from the way it’s happened in the past,” said

Scott Elliff

, a member of the board of directors of the

Forest Lakes Community Association

. “The way it always happens is that the growth occurs first, and then the infrastructure.”

However, lingering concerns over how to find funding for infrastructure projects called for in the Places29 project prompted Boyd

to reconsider the idea a month later

. As examples, he listed the

extension of Berkmar Drive

and improvements to Ashwood Boulevard’s interchange with U.S. 29.

“There’s zero money for any of these projects,” Boyd said. He said the county is not likely to raise property taxes to raise funds given the economic downturn.

Boyd said Wood told him that he could currently choose by-right to build housing developments or gas stations on the land. That would not only deprive the county an opportunity to get investment through proffers, but it would also lead to uncontrolled growth.

“We could be looking at four or five new entrances on U.S. 29,” Boyd said.






A Forest Lakes resident inspects the proposed expansion area


However, Neff pointed out that Wood proffered around $12 million in improvements when Hollymead Town Center was rezoned, and that the new expansion area is one-fifth of the size of that development. That would mean a rezoning of the proposed expansion area would only yield a fifth of the proffers.

“The projects you’re talking about cost $84 million,” Neff said. “Getting a couple of million dollars is not going to solve this.”

Elliff said the improvements to Ashwood Boulevard should be done regardless of the expansion of the growth area.

“Of course you have to be creative in this environment, but we would not trade getting that improvement in on U.S. 29 for having another Hollymead Town Center across the street from us,” Elliff said.

Boyd said the Comprehensive Plan change was the only way to bring the developer to the table to describe what infrastructure improvements they would make in exchange for the rezoning.

“When we go into zoning, we ask for all sort of [experts] to come forward and tell us what the impacts of the development will be,” Boyd said. “I don’t know any time when we haven’t done most of all of those things.”

Elliff said a change to the Comprehensive Plan to allow for retail development there would be one of only two steps required for the development to occur.

“If we don’t want it, why would be possibly open the first gate?”

Steve Ashby said that if Boyd does vote for the expansion, he encouraged Wood to contribute toward a regional bus service.

“I know there’s no money for it but if we’re going to be expanding the growth area we need to be looking at other ways to get around,” Ashby said.

Boyd said he would think very hard about the comments he received before making a decision about how he would vote.



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