Crozet community members express concerns about proposed apartment complex
Several members of the Crozet community expressed concerns at a recent meeting of the Crozet Community Advisory Council about a proposed downtown apartment complex off Blue Ridge Avenue.
The initial site development plan for The Vue calls for the construction of nine two-story buildings with 14 apartments in each building — a total of 126 units. Other aspects of the plan include a one-story clubhouse and a pool with a concrete deck.
One member of the Albemarle County Planning Commission said that while Crozet needs more apartments, she feels the proposed development would not fit with the surrounding neighborhood.
“There’s no attempt in any way to make this cohesive with our neighborhood — it will be like it actually fell out of the sky and landed there,” said Commissioner Jennie More, who lives across the street from development site.
The developers — Vue Realty Partners, an affiliate of William Park, president of Pinnacle Construction and Development Corp. — were not at last week’s meeting.
The Vue would be constructed by-right on property zoned R-6 residential, meaning that it allows for a density of as many as six dwelling units per acre. The parcel that The Vue is proposed to be constructed on is slightly more than 21 acres, and the project has a per-unit density of per acre.
The plan also calls for the demolition of a 100-year-old house at 1194 Blue Ridge Ave.
According to county property records, the two-story, four bedroom house was built in 1900 and is owned by Crozet Development Solutions, a limited liability corporation affiliated with the Piedmont Housing Alliance.
The house is in the Crozet Historic District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This is not the first time a development has been proposed for the property. In 2010, the Piedmont Housing Alliance was planning a 65-unit project called West Village, which had a mix of condominiums, townhouses and single-family detached housing, according to minutes from the CCAC meeting of May of that year.
Alliance CEO Frank Grosch said the development was put on hold following the recession.
“When 2008 and the recession came, markets changed rather dramatically and rather quickly. Those plans were put on hold and we’ve owned the site ever since,” Grosch said. “The plan was to develop it — circumstances changed — and we never did develop it. We came to the decision that it was better for us to sell the land and frankly redeploy that money to other projects that we are working on.”
The property is currently under contract with Vue Reality, Grosch said.
At the CCAC meeting, More also criticized the way the county calculates density, which allows for developers to use land to develop high-density housing by including constrained land that cannot be built on — such as critical slopes and stream buffers — in the calculation.
According to the initial site development plan submitted to the county, the actual amount of land to be built upon — the impervious surfaces on the property that include the buildings, sidewalks and parking pavement — is acres of the 21 acres available.
“Essentially, they’re getting R-18 [zoning],” More said. “You can take all that density that you get from that [constrained] land and apply it to the land that you can build on.”
More, who lives on Blue Ridge Avenue, said that because the project is being undertaken by-right, there is little for the neighbors to do.
“Basically, all they have to do is, they go to a site-review committee and neighbors that own property adjacent to that property get a letter — that’s your one chance to go and talk and listen,” she said.
At the site-review committee meeting, planners, Virginia Department of Transportation representatives and emergency services personnel discuss the site plans as part of the county’s review.
Former CCAC member Kim Connolly said there are other impacts of the proposed development that need to be considered as families move into The Vue.
“It’s going to impact the schools,” Connolly said.
Students living in The Vue would attend Crozet Elementary, Henley Middle and Western Albemarle High School.
More also noted the historic nature of the house on the proposed site of The Vue and said plans in previous years have allowed the home to avoid demolition.
According to county comments on the initial site development plan, an approved demolition permit will be required and the Historic Preservation Committee will need to document the structure of the house prior to demolition.
Jean Hiatt, president of Preservation Piedmont, a historic-preservation advocacy organization, said the county does not provide specific protections for historic structures from demolition.
“Albemarle County does not have the same protective ordinance in place that the city of Charlottesville has,” Hiatt said.
Charlottesville has several historic preservation districts and individually protected properties where the Board of Architectural Review must approve proposed construction.
“What I would hope is the county would come up with a plan to protect the building and showcase it and build houses around it,” Hiatt said. “Usually, people that buy homes in new developments appreciate it.”
In terms of responding to concerns raised at the CCAC meeting, Grosch said the Piedmont Housing Alliance is not involved with the planning of the development.
“We are selling the land to an affiliate of William Park, so we have not been involved in the planning,” he said.
Park did not respond to a request for comment.
The county granted administrative approval for the initial site development plan for The Vue in April.
Mass grading cannot start until a list of all easements related to stormwater management and drainage control has been approved and the developer submits approved stormwater plans and a tree conservation checklist.