By

Sean Tubbs



Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The

Albemarle Planning Commission

agreed Tuesday that the developer of the Granger property is proceeding in the right direction as it plots out a portion of the proposed

Sunset-Fontaine Connector

.

“The consensus is that the alignment is fine,” said Duane Zobrist, chairman of the commission.

Stribling Holdings LLC is developing a plan to build 79 single family homes on the property using the land’s existing residential zoning.

“While the Comprehensive Plan does recommend that this property be developed as an office-service [center], the applicant has chosen to submit a by-right development,” said senior planner Megan Yaniglos.

However, the applicant is willing to build the portion of the connector that would travel along its land. This section of the road would travel from Sunset Avenue Extended and would connect with the existing Stribling Avenue Extended, terminating at a one-lane railroad underpass. Plans show bike lanes on either side and a sidewalk on the western side.

The

University of Virginia Foundation

reserved land for the road on the other side of the tracks as part of a 2010 rezoning that allowed for the expansion of the

Fontaine Research Park

. However, there are currently no plans to move forward for that expansion.





The May 2010 plans for the Fontaine Research Park expansion depict the Sunset-Fontaine Connector running on the eastern side of the park

The railroad crossing will be a major obstacle to completing the connector.“You have to get up and over the railroad tracks with a significant clearance or you have to go under the railroad tracks,” said Julia Monteith, senior land use officer for UVa’s Office of the Architect.

Scott Collins, an engineer representing the developer, said that in reality there is only one option.

“It’s almost impossible to build [a bridge] because of the location of the power lines and the railroad,” Collins said. “The only alternative is to go under.

Another obstacle to the eventual completion of the road on the Granger property is that an agreement has not been worked out with an adjacent landowner.

“We’re working hard to negotiate the right of way necessary to construct the road all the way to the underpass but if [the landowner] chooses not to go along with our development, we may have to stop the road at our property line,” Collins said.

Collins said they would not come forward to the commission to ask for approval for special use permits and a critical slopes waiver until they have reached that agreement or decided to move forward without one.

Commissioner

Russell “Mac” Lafferty

asked Collins why the road was not being located entirely on the Granger property. Collins said he was just following the direction of the Comprehensive Plan.

“What it does is tie in to the existing location of the underpass, which is not on the applicant’s property, so we’re trying to tie in with the existing road network,” Collins said.

Many commissioners expressed concern that the existing underpass would create a dangerous situation for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

“It will be like Polo Grounds Road all over again,” Zobrist said.

However, Collins said the underpass would work similarly to that at Old Ivy Road, which can allow two cars to pass despite being narrow.

Commissioner

Don Franco

said the entire road should be planned by the city of Charlottesville, the county and the

Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

to ensure the infrastructure is adequate.

“This is one of those edges that if we are ‘one community, one plan,’ this is one of those edges we have to work together on,” Franco said, referring to an initiative of the TJPDC.

City resident Jeanne Chase has been an advocate for the Sunset-Fontaine Connector for many years. She sees the road as a way to alleviate high traffic volumes on Old Lynchburg Road. However, she said the proposed road might overburden Stribling Avenue Extended, which is currently a gravel road.

“I [have] a first-hand account of what it’s like to be inundated with huge amounts of traffic on a narrow residential street,” Chase said. “I ask that you have that sensitivity when you think of the Sunset-Fontaine Connector.”

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