Colonial Auto’s expansion on 29 North hits a roadblock

The Albemarle County Planning Commission put the brakes on a proposal to expand the Colonial Auto Center on U.S. 29 near Rio Road until the fall, the earliest date a land use change could be approved in the Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan.

While agreeing that commercial use would be acceptable for a acre property behind the car dealership, the Planning Commission earlier this week recommended that the applicant follow the county’s process for a plan amendment rather than take the proposal directly to the Board of Supervisors for review.

“The Board of Supervisors is just beginning their Comprehensive Plan review. They haven’t really fully embraced the document yet to even think about making an exception,” Commissioner Richard Randolph said. “I would urge us to be deliberate.”

Valerie Long, the attorney for the applicant, Carter Myers Automotive Properties, was concerned that going through the formal process for a land use amendment will create unnecessary delay for the project’s next step of filing a rezoning request to allow building on the property.

“To go through a Comprehensive Plan amendment first, we would be having that conversation twice,” Long said. “We are trying to shave off overlapping time that may not be necessary based on the consensus we hear.”

The Planning Commission agreed on the merit of a land use change based on the commercial zoning of surrounding properties, and the potential to expand an already successful business.

However, county staff determined that the proposal was not in compliance with the area’s new master plan, and did not meet Albemarle’s “Neighborhood Model” design principles. The Comprehensive Plan designates the area — the former location of Greenfield Mobile Home Park — as primarily for residential uses.

Commissioners said they also supported the potential for greater interconnectivity between U.S. 29 and Berkmar Drive via an extension of Myers Drive. Creating “creating walkable, interconnected neighborhoods” through creating smaller blocks and connector roads is a goal of the Places 29 Master Plan.

“This would be a great site for another 20-30 dwelling units so close to the brand new library. However I do think that a connector route trumps the library,” Commissioner Calvin Morris said.

Pete Borches, the president of Carter Myers, said the land was needed to grow the 20-year-old auto center.

“Anticipating further sales and service growth, we need to expand, and we’ve got the property behind us sitting there empty,” Borches said

Based on the Planning Commission’s recommendation, CMA Properties must wait until the next Comprehensive Plan amendment filing date on Sept. 2 before moving forward. A rezoning request could be submitted following that review process.

Randolph said that following the formal process allows for appropriate review of land use and rezoning requests.

“The goal is just to ensure we have a procedure here that provides an adequacy and time for the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to look at these requests,” said Randolph.