When the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meets later today, they’ll vote on a proposal to preemptively rezone parts of downtown Crozet in order to create a new district to encourage business development. The County Planning Commission endorsed the idea at a joint meeting and public hearing with the Board on June 4, 2008.
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Wayne Cilimberg, the County’s Director of Planning, said the changes are the result of several meetings between staff and community stakeholders such as the Downtown Crozet Association. If enacted, the new district would control things such as parking, landscapes, as well as what new buildings could be used for.
“The intent is to implement what the Crozet Master Plan has called for in Downtown, as well as to promote the economic and social vitality,” Cilimberg said. “We hope that it can lead to in-fill and redevelopment opportunities being realized… and also be unique to what the character of Crozet is.”
Cilimberg said the new zoning district would have set-back requirements that would allow for café seating, a minimum height requirement of two stories for new buildings, and calls for shared parking between businesses. The district has also been reduced in size, as the Barnes Lumber Yard has been excluded by the mutual consent of planners and the property owner. Staff recommended approval of the rezoning.
Commissioners and Supervisors asked several questions about the rezoning. Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) asked how the changes would encourage developers to create affordable living choices. Cilimberg said there are provisions which would allow for bonus density for affordable units, but that the County would not be able to request 15 percent of units be designated “affordable” as is the case with other rezonings in the county. Amelia McCulley, the Director of Zoning, added that there is a provision that allows for increased building heights in exchange for a public benefit. One benefit, she said, would be the provision of affordable places to live.
Commission Chairman Cal Morris (Rivanna) asked how the retail assessments of homeowners included in the rezoning and those nearby would be affected. County Assessor Bruce Woodzell said he would have to determine that on a parcel-by-parcel basis, and said a specific forecast was not clear at this time. As a follow-up, Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) asked what could be done to limit a rise in assessments for those Crozet residents who have both invested in their properties, and will also suddenly have their property more marketable because of the change in zoning.
“In my position as assessor, I have to follow statute so if statute says that property is rezoned to this new zoning, I absolutely have to consider that in my assessment,” Woodzell said. “I have no ability under statutory law to defer or delay what my opinion of value would be.” He said that some residences on US 29 have higher assessments due to the underlying highway commercial zoning on those properties.
Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) questioned whether the County’s chosen method of securing Crozet’s economic vitality would best be accomplished through a pre-emptive rezoning. He said a detailed master planning process would let the County communicate to would-be developers what land uses are desired, while also allowing the County to retain proffers.
Cilimberg said that would have introduced uncertainty because future Boards could change the plan, and that it would discourage developers because two public hearings would be required for any rezonings, a costly process.
“For property owners who are being upzoned and are now going to have to pay a significantly higher property tax because our actions… I’m not sure that’s entirely fair,” Slutzky said. He added it would take decades for the vision of downtown Crozet to be realized.
Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said very few downtowns in the country have formed without some form of conducive zoning already in place.
“This whole process started because many people in Crozet felt like it would be a good idea to create a consistent zoning overlay district for the downtown area because there were some differences between the downtown Crozet area and perhaps something out on Route 29 that is zoned the same way,” Rooker said.
Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) asked if Crozet had the critical mass necessary to support a vibrant and self-sufficient economy. “The idea is that we live and work in the same community and yet the reality often is, in Scottsville, that we commute 20, 30 miles a day each way to get to work,” Dorrier said.
Cilimberg said that the district is an attempt to introduce other elements to support a population in Crozet, especially by creating employment centers to create a balance between jobs and housing. Currently, though, he said that doesn’t exist. Susan Stimart, the County’s Business Development Facilitator, said part of the solution is to appeal to the supply chains of other companies that have a national presence, such as Coran Capshaw’s entertainment business.
“This downtown code has that potential of making it easier for small businesses who can support the Musictoday operation,” Stimart said.
During the public hearing, Sandy Wilcox of the Downtown Crozet Association accused the County government of being greedy by looking for as many ways as possible to get tax revenue out of citizens.
“There’s got to be a way that we can figure out how if you do a County initiated re-zoning and you have a residence in that thing that you want in the targeted area but you don’t force them out by taxing them to death,” Wilcox said. “You’re pitting a community that wants to do stuff to be better commercially and yet you’re basing it on a tax system that is trying to tax somebody the highest that you can possibly get away with before they even change to that use.”
Carol Conley, owner of the Barnes Lumber Yard, said he supported the rezoning, even though his property is not included. The yard is zoned heavy industrial, and Conley said he hoped to keep his 47 workers employed downtown. But, he added that if he ever does consider selling, the County would be able to seek proffers.
Mike Marshall, Chairman of the Crozet Advisory Council, said he supported the pre-emptive zoning rather than Slutzky’s alternative master planning solution.
“If you don’t rezone it, then basically everybody’s going to go out onto the highway [Route 250],” Marshall said. “Downtown is emptying out of businesses and the highway is piling up businesses.”
Tim Tolson, president of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library Board of Trustees, called on the Board to adopt the rezoning so that the Crozet Library can move ahead faster. He said the lot on which it is to be built is currently zoned residential, and the library will need to spend money to rezone the lot itself if the Board denies to go forward with the rezoning
After the public hearing, the Planning Commission held its deliberations first. Strucko asked if the Commission could make boundary adjustments given that some property owners had expressed a willingness to be left out. Cilimberg said that any property could be removed from the rezoning, but any additions would require a public hearing.
Tom Loach made a motion to recommend adoption of the zoning tax amendment which would create the district, as well as zoning map amendment, with the conditions that one of the homeowners in the proposed district be left out. The Commission voted 6-0 to adopt. Commissioner Jon Cannon (Rio) was not present.
With the Commission’s approval, the Board began its deliberations. Supervisor Thomas sought a vote, but Cilimberg said staff would need a week to make the various changes. County Attorney Larry Davis recommended placing the changes adopted by the Commission into a new draft, as well as the drawing of a new map that would incorporate the omission of the omitted property
Slutzky announced he was planning to vote against the preemptive rezoning, and suggested there would be unintended consequences.
The vote will be held in Room 241 in the County Office Building at the beginning of the Board’s afternoon work session on Wednesday, June 11, 2008.
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