Somerset Farm concept plan, June 2011 Credit: CREDIT: Collins Engineering

The Albemarle Planning Commission voted 4-2 Tuesday to end further study several requests to expand the county’s growth area as part of the continuing review of the county’s comprehensive plan.

“We don’t need any more residential [development] right now,” said Linda Porterfield , a planning commissioner who represents the Scottsville district .

The commission was asked to review 12 specific requests by landowners who wanted their property to be added to the growth area.

Since 1980, the county has set aside five percent of land for development with opportunities being limited in the rest of the county to preserve environmental resources.

The commission’s vote was the first action taken in the comprehensive plan review and update.

“This is a very small piece of the whole project, but this is important in terms of what the future land use maps will look like,” said Elaine Echols, a senior planner with the county.

Table depicting staff’s analysis of how many dwelling units have been approved but not yet bui

County staff have estimated there will be 34,000 more residents in Albemarle in 2030. Staff estimated there would need to be between 1,770 and 7,438 new units to accommodate that population growth.

However, they also concluded there are just over 8,000 units that have already been approved by the county, but not yet built by developers.

“I think we ought to take this time that we have the excess capacity to start looking at our patterns of development,” said commissioner Tom Loach .

Commissioners Don Franco and Ed Smith voted against the motion.

“We certainly can’t ask these people to sit on their hands for five to ten years,” Smith said.

Franco, an area homebuilder, said he thought staff had overestimated the total build-out number.

“Right now I don’t have a good idea of how many of those units of the 8,000 are single family detached versus multi-family or townhouses,” Franco said.

Franco said his analysis of the report led him to conclude there will be a shortage of single family detached homes in the growth area, meaning that people would choose
instead to build in the rural areas.

Other commissioners accepted staff’s calculations.

“Based on the figures, we don’t need any more residential at this particular time or probably for the next ten years,” said commissioner Cal Morris .

Porterfield said she wanted more information about how well the county is providing amenities in current development areas, particularly to identify transportation problems, public safety capacity and libraries.

“We have to discuss what the county can afford as far as the amenities in the development areas,” Porterfield said. “Right now, we’re not doing a lot.”

A request to expand the growth area to include property owned by John Chevan at the I-64 interchange at Shadwell will be studied as part of the interchange policy.

Porterfield, a resident of Glenmore , has spoken in opposition to previous requests to add highway commercial uses along that corridor, but she has supported more intensive development of Albemarle’s interstate interchanges .

Loach said he felt the Board of Supervisors should weigh in at the beginning of the process on growth area expansions.

“There are some logical reasons to look at expansion areas and one can’t deny that,” Loach said. “But it doesn’t make sense to me for us to go through all this work and thought, and come up with a decision, only for the board to say we can’t afford it.

Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning, said the capital improvement budget would be analyzed in the upcoming budget cycle to determine what needs are not being met. The commission will have a work session on the CIP in January 2012.