By Sean Tubbs
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Albemarle County Planning Commission
has recommended approval of a rezoning that would allow for the expansion of the University of Virginia’s North Fork Research Park along Airport Road. If approved by the
Board of Supervisors
, the rezoning from Rural Area to Planned Development Industrial Park (PDIP) would expand the park by 30 acres and allow for an additional 700,000 square feet of commercial, office and industrial uses.
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The North Fork Research Park was rezoned in 1996 with a total acreage of 525 acres, allowing for over 3 million square feet of office, industrial and research space. The University was granted three special use permits allowing for the construction of parking garages, laboratories, hotels and other commercial uses to support the park. As of today, there are 19 businesses in the park, occupying around 491,000 square feet of office space.
A previous expansion for the park was approved by the Board of Supervisors in February 2006 to allow for the construction of the Hollymead Fire Station, which is technically in the park.
Staff recommended the new rezoning be approved for several reasons. First, the County’s comprehensive plan calls for industrial development at that location. The County’s economic development policy has recently been updated to encourage the creation of more office, commercial and industrial development.
The Places29 Master Plan
calls for this area to be part of the “Uptown” area of urban mixed-use development (a mix of retail, housing, commercial, and office uses), and the application depicts the construction of several roads to build connectivity within the research park. Additionally, UVA has agreed to several transportation improvements as part of the rezoning.
Transportation proffers being made by UVA include:
(White Hall) pointed out that Airport Road already has a failing level of service (LOS) during peak hours. He said nothing in the proffers or in UVA’s plan would do anything to alleviate the pressure until at least 180,000 square feet of the expanded park are built. County Engineer Glenn Brooks said that a connected Lewis and Clark Drive will not be a complete solution, but could take cars off of U.S. 29. County Senior Planner Elaine Echols said an extended Lewis and Clark Drive would help the County build its system of parallel roads.
(At-Large) asked Fred Missell, Director of Design and Development with the UVA Foundation, if he had talked with the research park’s neighbors to determine if they were open to the increased connectivity that will come when the park is built out. Missell said he had not, but that there was a remaining discrepancy about the exact location of a future interconnection to a parcel of land owned by developer Wendell Wood. The potential road would connect the research park to Wood’s Goldleaf Trust, and the location will be lined up when that site plan comes forward. County Planner Bill Fritz acknowledged there was a chance that an agreement between Wood, the County and UVA could not be made, meaning that connection would never be built.
Missell said there are currently no plans to begin construction in any of the new expansion. He said the Foundation is seeking the rezoning now in order to comply with the County’s goals as indicated in the Comprehensive Plan.
The Commission voted 7-0 to recommend approval of the rezoning and the special use permits. The rezoning application will now go before the Board of Supervisors at a date to be determined.
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