The Albemarle County Planning Commission will meet on
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
to review the final site plan for the proposed Northtown Center retail complex on Route 29 North, across from Kegler’s bowling alley. Northtown Center last came before the Commission in October 2005 when the preliminary site plan was presented by local developer Wendell Wood. County staff are recommending denial of the by-right site plan until conditions related to sediment control and storm water management are fully addressed.
In 2005, residents of Woodbrook and Carrsbrook, the residential developments that border the proposed site, expressed opposition to the construction, primarily citing the environmental impacts it could have on their neighborhoods. The construction plans involve burying a stream, in addition to fundamentally reshaping the topography of the area. Neighbors expressed concern about downstream impacts from sediment and storm water runoff. As Dean Wenger, President of the Carrsbrook Homeowner’s Association put it at the time, “quality of life has centered over the lakes that exist in Carrsbrook.”
The members of the Planning Commission shared many of these concerns, and although the plan was approved by a vote of 5-1, the approval was conditional. The Planning Commission issued a four page action letter requiring Mr. Wood to make a number of amendments to the plan, and then return to the Commission with the amended version for final approval. According to a staff report issued this week by Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development for Albemarle County, “not all conditions of the preliminary approval have been satisfied,” so he is recommending that the Planning Commission deny the application.
The site plan currently before the Commission details phase one of the overall development, encompassing 83,900 sq. ft. of retail space on about 7 acres. The developers have not yet announced who they expect to have as tenants, although in 2005 Second Bank & Trust expressed interest in the site for a regional headquarters (a special use permit has been approved allowing for construction of a bank drive through.). Second Bank & Trust is now an affiliate of StellarOne which has an existing branch location nearby on Route 29.
This site has been considered for numerous developments including auto dealerships and a Home Depot since it was zoned as highway-commercial in 1980. The Home Depot denial by Albemarle was a landmark decision as three of six Supervisors sided with the Planning Commission to uphold a recommendation to deny the critical slopes waiver request. Lacking a fourth vote on the Board, the Home Depot plan was derailed.
The current Northtown Center project will also have to address zoning regulations governing construction and development on critical slopes, soil areas with an angular rise or fall of 25% or more. These regulations exist to prevent soil erosion and sedimentation, as well as runoff from storm water. Two acres of critical slope would be disturbed by the plan as presented.
The Planning Commission’s action letter called for a number of specific changes in order to justify approval of the waiver. Among these were stipulations that the construction plan must have a defined duration, as well as provisions to deal with storm water and stream flow during the construction process, in order to minimize disruption to the surrounding area. Mr. Fritz did not find either of these requirements to be satisfied in the latest version of the plan. The action letter also specified the implementation of high efficiency sediment basins using flocculants (particles that cause water contaminants to separate out of the water flow), but Mr. Wood has not yet committed to using this method.
Ben Doernberg & Brian Wheeler