Forest Lakes residents get second briefing on Brookhill

Representatives from Riverbend Development met with Forest Lakes residents Tuesday to continue discussions about the proposed Brookhill neighborhood. The mixed-use development would border Forest Lakes South and extend to the corner of U.S. 29 and Polo Grounds Road in northern Albemarle County.

This was the developers’ second meeting with neighbors. Since that April meeting, the development team has submitted the application plan for a rezoning to county officials.

“We are asking for a rezoning to the Neighborhood Model district,” said Ashley Davies, a planner with Williams Mullen law firm. “We have an application that shows what the overall layout will look like. It gives the county a general indication about how we’re committed to developing the site.”

Davies emphasized that the plans being shown thus far are conceptual in nature.

“If the rezoning gets approved, then we can move into the more detailed phases of site plans and subdivision plats,” she said.

Much of the meeting was spent covering the main area of concern of residents — a road connecting Brookhill to Ashwood Boulevard, the main entrance to Forest Lakes South.

“The Ashwood connection is owned by the county,” said Alan Taylor, president of Riverbend Development. “The county’s master plan shows a connection between Polo Grounds Road and Highway 29. We are required to show it.”

Area residents expressed concern that the connection to Ashwood could increase traffic in the neighborhood dramatically. However, according to data from a traffic modeling plan required by the Virginia Department of Transportation, Brookhill traffic is expected to be relatively low on the Ashwood connector road.

The majority of morning traffic from Brookhill, about 80 percent, is expected to turn south on U.S. 29 from the development’s main exit, located south of Ashwood. Other residential traffic is expected to use Polo Grounds Road.

“The model estimates that approximately 5 percent of Brookhill traffic will be using [the Ashwood] connector road during peak hours in the morning and afternoon,” Taylor said.

Many of the vehicles using the connector road are expected to use it to access Hollymead Elementary and Sutherland Middle schools, located off Ashwood Boulevard on Powell Creek Drive.

Other elements of the conceptual design for Brookhill include a 40-acre neighborhood center with shops, restaurants, green space and access to community amenities like a pool and tennis courts. Higher-density housing will surround the commercial center.

The development team said open space will occupy a large portion of the land to protect natural resources.

“The stream system that flows to the Rivanna [River] has been a huge consideration for the design team,” Davies said. “We want to disturb those areas as little as possible. Because of that, a really unique feature is that we’ll have over 100 acres of open space, about one-third of the total property.”

The land around the streams will be part of a trail system, which the developer hopes to open to the public and build a network with surrounding trails. The majority of the land will be used for single-family homes of varying lot sizes and construction styles.

The Brookhill developers also are studying neighboring properties to ensure their mixed-use development compliments the surrounding areas.

“If you pan back, we’re trying to match the pattern of development in this area while transitioning toward 29,” Taylor said. “We want to create a neighborhood center and neighborhood amenities that link into the trail system.”

In addition to Forest Lakes, the developers have met with residents of nearby neighborhoods, including Belvedere and Montgomery Ridge, to discuss their ideas for the property.

“We think it’s more important to have face time with people are directly impacted in smaller groups so we can have these types of conversations,” Davies said.

The next step in the development process for Brookhill will be a community meeting, required by the county as part of the rezoning application process. The meeting is expected to be held within the next month and will be open to the public.

“We want to keep in touch with all the area neighborhoods,” Davies said. “We’ll come back as often as you want to see us and give you updates on where we are in the process. We want to hear your feedback along the way.”