By Bridgett Lynn
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, August 22, 2010

A group that oversees planning in Crozet has endorsed a new concept to redevelop a lumber yard on the Square into a walkable and livable community similar to Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.

“We need a pedestrian mall in Crozet,” said Mike Marshall, chairman of the Crozet Community Advisory Council. “This comes into Crozet’s life at a very fortunate time for us.”

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The CCAC voted Thursday to recommend rezoning the 14.74-acre J. Bruce Barnes Lumber Yard and CSX railroad property to allow for future development as part of the Crozet Master Plan.

Member Kelly Strickland abstained because he helped to draw the plans for the property.

Katurah Roell

“If you imagine Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, it’s a complete mixture of uses,” said Katurah Roell, president of President of Piedmont Development Group and a representative of the lumber yard. “This is a very small scale, a version of that, but what it does create is the ability to have a gathering space and some place where people love to go [in] Crozet.”

Under this concept, the lumber yard would be redeveloped into a space that would be open to a mixture of uses. The concept provides 100,000 square feet of light industrial building space and would account for almost one-fifth of development for light industrial use in the Master Plan, according to Roell.

“From [research and development] business to office space, restaurants, retail [and] some housing,” Roell said, “it will provide a variety of opportunities for people to locate their businesses, live, work, play and entertain each other.”

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Crozet’s downtown is also under pressure to compete with other mixed-use neighborhoods such as Old Trail Village, which has a shopping village, golf course and other amenities.

“There are many existing businesses … that have considered going to Old Trail,” Roell said. “[We want] to be able to provide an office complex in here somewhere, where literally several hundred people can be employed.”

Some CCAC members were concerned that parts of the concept would not fit the area.

“It looks like there is a lot of on-street parking, and I don’t think that’s been thought out very well for that area,” member Charles Mitchell said. “I don’t want us to do something stupid.”

“There is close to over 700 parking spaces shown here,” Roell said. “That’s based on square footage, density, no particular use, and it’s also tied to Crozet downtown and/or light industrial zoning district parking requirements that are county ordinances.”

Some members of the public were concerned that the plan could disrupt their privacy.

“I’m wondering what kind of buffer zone there is going to be between these two- and three-story buildings and my backyard,” said Ellen McKenna, a resident of Hill Top Street. “I have a very private backyard and whenever this plan is fully implemented, I’m going to have buildings looking down into my yard. So my sense of privacy will be pretty much gone.”

“[The buildings are] 60 feet away from the property line,” Roell responded. “[And] those large trees along the back of the boundary of the property were intended to be left intact.”

“If anything, the downtown plan [makes] it more flexible for people to build buildings,” said Tom Loach, a member of Albemarle’s Planning Commission. “We should try and actively get employment in the downtown area.”

“I think it’s a very intelligent plan,” Marshall said. “I think it’s drawn by people who know what they’re doing. I think it’s highly in sync with what we hoped would happen in downtown when we designed the downtown zoning district.”

According to county planner Elaine Echols, county staff will submit a report to the Planning Commission presenting the CCAC’s input on the proposal. The county Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a work session on the updated Crozet Master Plan on Sept. 1.

“I’m very glad that we’re thinking about all of these issues because having something as wonderful as [this] is going to bring people to [Crozet],” said Ann H. Mallek, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors.


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