Council decides to keep Old Lynchburg Road open and ask the County to make Fontaine-Sunset Connector a priority

Late last night the

Charlottesville City Council

heard a dozen members of the public weigh in on the future of

Old Lynchburg Road

and the City’s transportation diplomacy with the County of Albemarle before they reached consensus around midnight that the existing connector road should only be closed only “as a measure of last resort.”  Many of their citizens had testified and signed petitions indicating they have already reached the breaking point.

How much time will City Council give for diplomacy to work?

Councilor Kevin Lynch

plans to give the County “a month” to demonstrate that they are serious about getting the Fontaine-Sunset Avenue Connector built across the Granger property and through the UVA Fontaine Research park.  This proposed connector road has virtually unanimous support in both localities, but is tied up on an uncertain timeline in County rezoning requests and proffer negotiations.  Meanwhile, the Biscuit Run rezoning, the largest neighborhood ever proposed in the County, is moving forward in its review through the County Planning Commission.  Biscuit Run also has substantial proffers under consideration and a key topic for City Council is their expectations about how the developer’s voluntary contributions to mitigate traffic impacts should be tailored to help the City.

Mayor David Brown

indicated that while he agreed with the importance of building new County connectors to alleviate conditions on Old Lynchburg Road, he was skeptical of the City’s ability to influence the County’s negotiations with the developer.  He feared pre-emptive action by the City to close the road might lead to the unintended consequence of the City getting no support for its transportation needs.

Councilor Julian Taliaferro

suggested the City might have to send a message by closing the road.  “Sometimes we have to send a message.  Sometimes I feel they disregard us.”

Multiple Councilors reacted to the remarks in public comment from local

transportation activist John Pfaltz

.  Mr. Pfaltz asked the City to close Old Lynchburg road immediately as a way to improve the position of the Board of Supervisors in their negotiations on Biscuit Run as well as to spark acceptance by County residents for additional road interconnections from neighborhoods like Redfields to Route 29.  He argued that only if County residents were literally running into a wall at the City line would they then accept the bitter pill of a political decision by the Supervisors to build alternate paths around the City and through some County neighborhoods.

Those alternate paths around the City are at the top of

Councilor Kevin Lynch’s wish list

.  He joined the rest of the Council in the belief that Old Lynchburg should only be closed as a last resort, but it is a step he said he was prepared to have the City take if there is no movement on a Fontaine-Sunset Avenue Connector.  He wants a significant contribution from the Biscuit Run proffers to go to the building of that road.  Meanwhile, the Biscuit Run developer is focusing a significant portion of his transportation proffer dollars towards improvements on Route 20.  The fact that proffers for one housing development are being debated all the way from Route 20 to Route 29 are one indication of the scale of the expected impact of Biscuit Run on the City of Charlottesville.  The developer’s attorney, Steve Blaine, has repeatedly told the County Planning Commission that their proffer contributions are a very finite resource.

The Biscuit Run traffic study indicates the need for improvements throughout the area, including the widening of the bridge over I-64 at Fifth Street, a project for which there are neither proffers nor an exact price tag.  Certainly traffic backing up at I-64 and Fifth Street will also send more cars towards Old Lynchburg Road and Route 20 to find a path into the City of Charlottesville.

City Council agreed Monday to pursue Biscuit Run proffers towards

: improvements on Old Lynchburg Road; traffic light synchronizations; and the Fontaine-Sunset Avenue Connector road.  City staff will also ask the County to adopt the September 2004 “Area B” study as part of its Comprehensive Plan.  This was the joint planning effort by the City, County, and UVA that identified numerous connector roads needed as a way to build a “a more integrated and interconnected community.”

This community discussion will continue at the following upcoming meetings:

While the County Planning Commission has tentatively scheduled a public hearing and vote on Biscuit Run for February 27, 2007, it is very unlikely they will have all the information they have requested to complete their review.  If the applicant declines to defer to a future meeting, the Commission could reject the development.  The developer would then appeal directly to the Board of Supervisors, thus starting another round of public work sessions and proffer negotiations.

Brian Wheeler