The developer of a vacant property on Fifth Street Extended near Interstate 64 will rework his plans following a public hearing Tuesday by the Albemarle Planning Commission.
“This property has been sitting dormant for a while,” said developer Katurah Roell.
Roell is seeking amendments to a prior application plan originally approved by Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors in 1999 on 4.35 acres between a Holiday Inn and commercial developments just across the border in Charlottesville.
The commission had several concerns about the plan, though they said they could support a request to forgo the county’s requirement to relegate parking behind the back of a building that fronts Fifth Street Extended. Placing parking behind buildings rather than in front is a major tenet of Albemarle’s neighborhood model form of development.
Roell said that has been a deal-breaker for potential tenants.
“There have been over a dozen potential tenants for this site, including Cracker Barrel, who have walked away because of the relegated parking,” Roell said. “We are not in a downtown urban area. We’re in a regional district by the interstate.”
An approval in 1999 allowed the Moores Creek floodplain to be filled in to accommodate the development. The special-use permit had expired but was reapproved by supervisors in 2008.
The project has been through several iterations. A 2013 request to add a drive-thru window also was deferred, but the Albemarle Board of Supervisors changed the rules to allow them by-right earlier this month, so that is no longer an issue.
Roell needs the county to amend the zoning for a new plan that includes a third building not shown in the 1999 plan. He also wanted the building closest to the street to be set back 30 feet.
Roell said the setback would be consistent with the Holiday Inn, as well as existing and pro-posed commercial buildings across Moores Creek in the city of Charlottesville.
Travis Pietila, with the Southern Environmental Law Center, urged the commission to uphold the relegated parking requirement and deny the deeper setbacks.
“The county’s neighborhood model guidelines make clear that relegated parking and avoiding excessive setbacks are essential to creating the active and pedestrian-friendly streets and development patterns envisioned by the Comprehensive Plan,” Pietila said.
One commissioner agreed with Pietila.
“By not relegating the parking, you are preventing a lot of other pedestrian-oriented aspects and multimodal aspects of the neighborhood model,” said Pam Riley.
However, other commissioners said they were willing to be flexible.
“While there’s been a lot of great residential development in the area and there are things you can walk to, it’s more of a car-oriented part of the county,” said Karen Firehock. “This would not be out of character to have some additional parking in the front.”
“This is kind of an island in a sense,” said Bruce Dotson. “There’s not really any residential areas where people are likely to be walking.”
However, commissioners were not as certain about the 30-foot setback; they wanted Roell to return with another plan.
The commission wanted to ask more questions about the flood plain, but Roell insisted disagreements would be worked out. He will submit a new plan within 45 days and it will come back to the commission this summer.