Two supervisors call for reconsideration of Hollymead expansion area

By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, December 2, 2010

When residents of the Forest Lakes neighborhood left

a November public hearing on the Places29 Master Plan

, they believed a proposal to expand Albemarle County’s growth area south of Hollymead Town Center was dead.

However, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd joined Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas on Wednesday in requesting that the idea be revisited. Boyd told a crowded auditorium in November that he would not support the expansion but has since reconsidered.

“There’s some additional information that’s been brought to my attention that’s made me reconsider what I said,” Boyd said. “And I’m perfectly willing to take the political heat for that.”

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When asked to elaborate in an interview, Boyd said he wanted to explore the possibility of a smaller expansion of the Hollymead area, possibly by 20 to 30 acres.

The proposed expansion, which community members thought had been tabled, would add around 140 acres to the county’s growth area

The Comprehensive Plan amendment on the table prepared by staff would have expanded the area by approximately 140 acres to allow developer Wendell Wood to build a large retail store.

“There are some by-right issues already existing along U.S. 29,” Boyd said. “If exercised, they would make [the road] much more congested and make the Ashwood Boulevard intersection even more dangerous.”

Boyd said under this compromise scenario, the county may be able to get Wood to invest in improvements to that intersection to satisfy Forest Lakes residents.

Scott Elliff of the Forest Lakes Community Association said he remains opposed to any expansion across from the neighborhood’s southern entrance, no matter how small.

Supervisors Rodney Thomas and Ken Boyd

“It is irrelevant,” he said in an interview. “A community rose up overwhelmingly and indicated that this is a bad thing. As soon as the spotlight is off, an elected official tries to go back and do the same thing. … You do not develop these parcels until you have the infrastructure.”

At Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors could not remember whether they had taken a definitive up or down vote on the Hollymead expansion and disagreed upon whether they had reached consensus.

“Everybody said where they stood, and the direction to staff was based upon that,” Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said.

County Attorney Larry Davis said consensus is not a binding vote, and so the Hollymead expansion could be reconsidered even though the required public hearing has been closed.

“There’s no legal requirement for any additional public hearing at this time,” Davis said. “The board has the discretion to add or delete those expansion areas under the process that’s already been conducted.”

Supervisor Duane Snow warned Boyd about the ramifications of changing his mind.

“You’ve got to keep your credibility with the citizens, and to have everyone here [at a public hearing] and take a vote and then change it in the back room, I don’t think is fair to the citizens,” Snow said.

Supervisors needed more information to determine whether to include 45 acres of land into the designated growth area

Staff had expected the board to decide whether to include another of Wood’s growth area expansion requests when the Places29 Master Plan receives its final approval. The Piney Mountain expansion involves land adjacent to the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Rivanna Station. Wood has also already constructed an office complex near the National Ground Intelligence Center.

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek and Rooker said they both oppose this expansion because of potential security implications for the military base and a belief that their action is not necessary, as the federal government could expand the base without local approval. The board directed staff to ask military officials about their long-range expansion plans and opinion on a larger growth area.

A final vote on the Places29 Master Plan had been expected in January, but supervisors decided to push that back to February to allow the board one more work session.

The board’s meeting Wednesday ended without any firm direction on whether to revisit the Hollymead expansion.

“They never got to the point where they agreed if they were going to bring it back,” said David Benish, Albemarle’s chief of planning. He added that he had not yet seen the specifics of any compromise proposal of the type described by Boyd.