Members of the Crozet Community Advisory Committee gathered Wednesday night to hear updates on proposed plans for the vacant Barnes Lumberyard site.
Frank Stoner of Milestone Partners plans to develop the property. Two community meetings held earlier this summer included reviews of possible site plans for the area. A key component of each plan included a public plaza or green space.
“People were very interested in the green space being public, inviting and welcoming,” said Tim Tolson, president of the Crozet Community Association. “Stoner is interested in deeding that green space to the county so that the community can have access to it.”
Stoner provided an update on the progress of the site design and referenced several meetings with the Virginia Department of Transportation and Albemarle County as providing further direction for the plan.
“At this point,” explained Stoner, “We’re trying to take the concepts presented to you before and put them into something that’s more reliable like a land survey or topographic maps. In the fall, after we’ve gotten feedback from the county and VDOT folks, we’ll have more details. I hope we can start to narrow the options.”
The mixed-use redevelopment project will provide opportunities for businesses and homes to be located in a pedestrian- and bike-friendly extension of downtown Crozet.
Warren Byrd, a retired landscape architect who lives in the area, arrived at the meeting with his own design for Stoner’s property.
“This plan that I worked on is just a contribution that we are providing as caring citizens,” Byrd said. “We think that we can tweak some things and make this a better plan. We hope we’re not stepping on Frank’s toes or on the toes of the hundreds of people at the community meetings.”
Byrd’s firm at the time, Nelson Byrd Woltz, contributed to the original Crozet Master Plan in 2004. He said he referenced materials and comments from the community meetings held by Stoner’s team to influence his proposed design.
Byrd envisions a more traditional grid-like layout inspired by Crozet’s existing downtown square.
“I feel like we’re playing homage to the existing square,” Byrd said. “I think it supports or reinforces what’s there.”
Byrd’s plan calls for concentrated commercial development towards the western end of the site near the new library, with a “gradation” of more residential structures as one moves towards the eastern end.
The plan Byrd proposed also features the much-desired public plaza area. Byrd focused on simplicity in the design and features of the park.
“The park would be used intermittently throughout the day and also for special events to be used as a gathering space,” Byrd said. “The park would be slightly less than one acre and could be as simple or complicated as you want. We’re thinking mostly trees and lawn.”
Stoner asked Byrd several questions about the placement of roads and the vision and requirements laid out in the Crozet Master Plan.
“A master plan should be adaptable, and you can challenge it if it’s not working,” responded Byrd. “Here I am, challenging the very master plan we were involved in creating. I think as things change through time, the plan should be adapted.”
Byrd’s plan does not increase the size of parking areas on the site relative to the plans proposed by Stoner’s team. When questioned about the lack of parking, Byrd encouraged the community to see this space as taking on a new form.
“Fight the system,” said Byrd. “There will also be an inherent conflict between walkable spaces and areas focused on commercial development and parking. This plan is going to grow somewhat organically west to east. I think you have to fight that normative suburban ratio of parking to commercial space in order for it to be a vibrant area.”