Granger property to be developed by-right; connector road part of plans


Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A key undeveloped parcel adjacent to the University of Virginia’s

Fontaine Research Park

will be built upon at a much lower density than what was called for in

Albemarle County’s comprehensive plan


Source: Albemarle County (Click to enlarge)

Stribling Holdings LLC has opted to not seek a rezoning for the development of the Granger property. That process would have allowed the county to negotiate with the developer to pay for new infrastructure in exchange for the rezoning.

“It is a by-right development, so we can’t require them to propose a rezoning even though that’s what the comprehensive plan calls for,” said county planner Megan Yaniglos.

A 2004 planning document known as the

Area B study

called for “a new neighborhood center on the Granger property, with small scale mixed-use.”

The company will instead use the existing residential zoning to build 74 single-family units on the land, which is immediately south of Fontaine Research Park.

That will mean a density of 1.1 units per acre, a substantially lower number than the six to 31 units per acre called for in the comprehensive plan. However, a planning application submitted by the developer shows they would build at least a portion of the

Sunset-Fontaine connector

, a key piece of infrastructure identified in the Area B study.

“We’re still trying to provide for the opportunity for the road to be built,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning.

The county planning commission will hold a work session tonight for an initial discussion on whether Stribling Holdings should be granted permission to fill in the flood plain in two locations to accommodate stream crossings.

One of the crossings would be to allow for construction of the connector road, and the other would be to open up access to a portion of the property for a second phase of development.

Yaniglos said the county’s preference is for the road to be built all at once on the Granger property.

“It is important for interconnectivity to have the road built with the first phase of development,” Yaniglos said.

According to their plans, Stribling Holdings would build the road from Sunset Avenue Extended up to Stribling Avenue Extended, thus creating a connection to the city and Fontaine Avenue. Currently, that road travels underneath the railroad tracks through a one-lane passageway.

A September 2010 rezoning that allowed for expansion of the Fontaine research park requires the University of Virginia Foundation to set aside land for a portion of the connector road, as opposed to using the existing Stribling Avenue Extended as envisioned in Stribling Holdings’ plan.

However, Cilimberg said neither the UVa Foundation nor Stribling Holdings would be responsible for improving the connection at the railroad tracks to allow for high traffic volumes. That would most likely mean the county would need to pay for it.

“There would have to be a lot more analysis of what that would entail,” Cilimberg said. “In the meantime, we don’t want to have that connection foreclosed.” Yaniglos said Stribling Holdings does not own all of the right of way for its portion of the road, so they would need to obtain an easement from the landowner or purchase the property.

“Part of the applicant’s hope for the work session is that they can get some feedback so they can take it back to the [adjacent] owner to get them to cooperate and get easements for the road,” Yaniglos said.

The connector would have bike lanes on both sides, though Yaniglos said the developer will apply for a waiver to build a sidewalk only on one side. The developer will also need a critical slopes waiver in order to proceed, but that is not on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.

Phone calls to Stribling Holdings  Management were not returned.

Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum said he was not surprised that the developer decided not to pursue the rezoning.

“When the rezoning process is too long, too expensive, and has a lack of… certainty, it is amazing that any landowner applies for a rezoning,” Williamson said in an email.