By Sean Tubbs
Monday, October 18, 2010
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved an update of the Crozet Master Plan. The amendments to the twenty-year plan lower the ultimate population potential and seek to focus the community’s growth into three distinct areas.
“The master plan continues to emphasize redevelopment of downtown,” said David Benish, Albemarle’s chief of planning at a public hearing last Wednesday. “Changes to the plan put greater emphasis on the three centers that have emerged, which is the Clover Lawn area, the Old Trail area and downtown.”
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The plan’s first five-year update was adopted after two years of review from residents and the Crozet Community Advisory Council , a county-sanctioned body of citizens. The plan now envisions a Crozet population growing from 5,500 today to 12,000 by 2030, with an ultimate build-out of 18,000 at some time in the future. The previous plan was estimated to accommodate over 24,000 residents.
Three property owners along Crozet Avenue requested to have their land designated as mixed-use, rather than remain as transitional in nature. That would have allowed for the possibility of dense residential development or commercial buildings to be built adjacent to single-family homes.
“Over the past four years, I have received a total of 17 inquiries about the property I own to be used as some sort of business, but due to the present situation, not one of these offers could go forward,” said Tom Oakley, one of the property owners.
CCAC members said dense uses outside of the core downtown are not appropriate at this time.
“The discussion and arguments and input that we had about what happens with those three pieces of property were gut-wrenching,” said CCAC member William Schrader. “We felt like we needed to protect the homeowners of that area.”
However, the property owners’ request was championed by Supervisor Ken Boyd .
“I just have this very strong feeling for people’s personal property rights,” Boyd said. “People should be able to with their property what they want to do so long as it’s not… going to hurt a neighborhood.”
Before a motion was taken, Boyd asked supervisors if they would support changing the use to reflect the three property owners’ wishes. Supervisor Rodney Thomas said he was sympathetic to the landowners’ request, but Supervisor Ann Mallek disagreed.
“Is their right to do that more important than the rights of the landowners around them?” Mallek asked.
Supervisor Dennis Rooker pointed out to Boyd and Thomas that Crozet is within Mallek’s district.
“We ought to give some deference to the person whose district this master planning is taking place in, and who has attended all the meetings,” Rooker said. “I’m not prepared to second-guess that.”
Boyd and Thomas eventually agreed, and the landowners’ requests were not granted in this revision of the plan.
Two requests to expand the Crozet growth area were considered as part of the revision, but the plan now states that expansion is not desired at this time.
“All new buildings for office, retail, and industrial uses should be located within the existing Community of Crozet,” reads the plan. “This Master Plan update recommends that the Rural Areas outside of the Community of Crozet remain rural, including the stretch of Route 250 West between the Development Area boundary and the interstate interchange.”
Boyd said this language was prejudicial against a comprehensive plan amendment filed by the Yancey family to bring 184 acres into the development area. The Yancey’s plan to build an industrial park between U.S. 250 and I-64 did not get an up or down vote as part of the plan’s revision.
“I don’t want to put anything into the record that says we’re not going to do this or that we’re discouraging anything that I personally want to look at later,” Boyd said. “Some members of this board want to look at [Yancey Mills] as a possibility and I’ve said all along that I don’t think that Crozet can dictate policy for the entire county.”
The other expansion request came from Celeste Ploumis, who sought a reclassification of her property at the intersection of U.S. 250 and Route 240 to allow for a garden center. Members of the CCAC were opposed to both requests because of the potential for adding to traffic congestion on the highway.
“If you look at Crozet and you want to avoid sprawl mistakes, you realize that Route 250 functions as a bypass around where the intended density will go, which is in downtown,” said Mike Marshall, chairman of the CCAC. “The master plan envisions a traditional downtown and gets around the problem we had in Albemarle in the 80’s and 90’s of not having a bypass around 29 by keeping 250 undeveloped.”
The plan also envisions a larger core downtown, with the site of the Barnes Lumber Yard reclassified as mixed use. That site may pave the way for a pedestrian mall in Crozet .
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