Despite concerns by members of the Albemarle County Planning Commission that the county has a shrinking supply of properties zoned for light industrial use, on Tuesday night the group recommend approval of a rezoning for two-acres on U.S. Route 29 from light industrial to the mixed-use neighborhood model .

Greenbrier Commons – Photo from Albemarle Co. staff report

“Staff is recommending approval for this rezoning from light industrial in the face of what we’ve been hearing for months about the acute shortage of light industrial,” said Planning Commissioner Thomas Loach.  “It does seem like a bit of a paradox.”

The property, known as Greenbrier Commons was previously a skating rink and a research center for Sperry Marine and is currently owned by Sue Albrecht.

Albrecht said she requested the rezoning because she was having difficulty finding businesses that could afford the rent and meet the requirements for industrial zoning.  She claimed most of the prospective tenants for the building are commercial users that cannot rent the space because they receive more than 15 percent of their profit through retail sales.

“I’ve worked extensively with these tenant prospects…only to find out that we get stalled by a zoning misfit that’s most generally connected to the light industrial restrictions as to the allowable percentage of retail sales,” Albrecht said. “[Rezoning] will enable the location to flourish,” she added.

Commissioners recommended approval because it is surrounded by commercial zoning and no new development is proposed, only changes to the existing building.

“It is an odd and unusual circumstance,” said Commissioner A. Bruce Dotson . “It’s already an island of light industrial surrounded by commercial so it’s already a spot zoning.”

“It seems that we have been talking and talking and talking about moving away from rezoning anything that was light industrial to any other designation and I was just surprised [by this recommendation],” said Commissioner Calvin Morris . “However it does make sense.”

Staff said another reason for approval of rezoning is that the building will still have space for light industrial uses and, in the future, the building could revert to strictly light industrial.

The Neighborhood Model zoning will allow for Greenbrier Commons to house 25 percent commercial uses and 75 percent light industrial uses.

“I like the fact that it’s reclaimable [Light Industrial] and we are not losing it in the long run,” said Commissioner Richard Randolph .

Albrecht also pointed out that the actual loss to the county would be minimal.

“Maximum loss to the counties light industrial inventory is only 8,250 square feet,” said Albrecht.

Because the goals of rezoning the parcel were consistent with the Master Plan, the Commission supported a rezoning as long as studies were completed to future parking needs for the site and would consider the addition of bicycle racks to the exterior of the building.

“I like the fact that it’s reclaimable [light industrial], and I think that’s very important here, that we’re not losing it in the long run,” said Randolph. “We’re doing something that provides adaptability and flexibility to meet the needs of the [owner] and hopefully the business community and the full community, in terms of services that are going to be there.”