In their September 5, 2006 meeting, the Albemarle County Planning Commission unanimously rejected a request from LeClair Ryan attorney Steve Blaine representing Target and Hollymead Town Center LLC for a two-year extension on the deadline to build a new road behind the Harris Teeter and Target stores.

The Hollymead Town Center development is divided into four major areas lettered A thru D.  Mr. Blaine’s clients occupy what is called Area B and the road in question is on Developer Wendell Wood’s property in Area A which has not yet been rezoned.


The Planning Commission took a tough stand in defense of the County getting what has been promised to them in proffers, or voluntary contributions from a developer in exchange for a favorable determination on a rezoning request.

Unless there is a meeting of the minds, the road named Meeting Street may be 1-2 years from construction and some occupants of Hollymead Town Center may not get occupancy permits they need to open for business.


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BACKGROUND



Developer Wendell Wood proffered the construction of several roads as part of the original Hollymead Town Center rezoning for Area B in July 2003 when it was approved by the Board of Supervisors.  In what is known as Proffer 3, Mr. Wood promised to continue Town Center Drive from near the Harris Teeter to Dickerson Road.  In what is known as Proffer 4, Mr. Wood promised to build Meeting Street (formerly Ridge Road) connecting Area A to Area C behind the Harris Teeter store.

When Area B was sold to Hollymead Town Center LLC (Dierman Realty and the Regency Realty Group) to support development of the first phase for tenants including Target and the Harris Teeter, a private agreement was made between the two developers as to when the road would be constructed by Mr. Wood to support the rest of the town center’s development and in compliance with the proffer agreements between Mr. Wood and Albemarle County.  Mr. Blaine reported that his client had already paid $400,000 to Mr. Wood to support construction of Meeting Street.

Because Town Center Drive has not been built as required by Proffer 3, a

moratorium on the issuance of new certificates of occupancy was ordered on August 18, 2006

by Jan Sprinkle, the Albemarle County Deputy Zoning Administrator.  According to Mr. Blaine, there are several small businesses that are waiting for these certificates before they can legally open.  County staff told the Commission that this was standard practice for a property with a zoning violation.

As required under Proffer 4, when the certificate of occupancy was issued for the Target on June 15, 2005, the clock started ticking on the deadline for the construction of Meeting Street, which was due for completion one year later on June 15, 2006.  Even if Mr. Wood can clear up the requirements of Proffer 3, it appears that the additional zoning violation under Proffer 4 could lead to further delays on Area B’s occupancy permits.

The Commission’s denial sets up an interesting discussion before the Board of Supervisors on October 11th and a potential lawsuit by Mr. Blaine’s clients against Wendell Wood to force construction of Meeting Street, if they do not build it themselves and bill Mr. Wood for their efforts.  If the situation is not quickly resolved by the two developers or the Board of Supervisors, the completion of Meeting Street could be delayed by 1-2 years as it moves through the courts or the County calls the bond, collects the cash from Mr. Wood, and bids out the road project on its own.

Staff also informed the Planning Commission that a stop work order currently exists on Area A because of a pattern of repeated erosion and sediment control violations.  A rezoning request submitted by Mr. Wood for Area A is currently under review by the County.


THE DISCUSSION

Steve Blaine submitted on behalf of his client a proffer amendment request that would extend the deadline for the construction of Meeting Street by two years.  In his comments to the Commission, Mr. Blaine argued that the County was in a much better position to get Meeting Street built through leverage related to Mr. Wood’s upcoming rezoning request for Area A and because of its ability to call the bond and build the road on its own.  Mr. Blaine described the challenge his client faces building a road not on the Area B property and which, even if they built their portion, would not allow for a connection all the way to Route 29 unless Mr. Wood complies with the requirements of Proffer 3 for Town Center Drive.  Mr. Blaine asked why they should “build half a road to nowhere” since it would end in a dead end in the short term.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Blaine said that local small businesses trying to open in the Hollymead Town Center would be hurt if the Planning Commission did not make an accommodation.  He encouraged the Commission to find a practical remedy that utilized financial incentives to compel Mr. Wood to build the road.  He said his client was being held to a standard that was not just.

The Planning Commission had a sharp reaction to the presentation.  Chairman Marcia Joseph argued that it was not the County’s fault that occupants built businesses without the property owner handling their obligations to build roads promised in the rezoning.  Commissioner Bill Edgerton stated that the proffers should be enforced and that he would have difficulty believing the road would even be built in two years if an extension was granted.  He took exception to Mr. Blaine’s suggestion that this was unjust treatment when both parties signed an agreement saying the road would be built.  Commissioner Eric Strucko pointed out that this is another example of where he sees the need for concurrency of road infrastructure with development.  He pointed out that businesses also face risks in the partners they choose, but those risks are not the County’s problem and this infrastructure should be built by the applicant as promised.

Wendell Wood was not present at the Planning Commission meeting and Steve Blaine declined to comment for Charlottesville Tomorrow after the vote.

Brian Wheeler

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Charlottesville Tomorrow

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