When the Pantops Master Plan was adopted in March 2008 , the Pantops Community Advisory Council (PCAC) was created to oversee its implementation. The council now sees challenges similar to those facing all of the County’s master plans, how to pay for infrastructure to support a growing community. Two of its members recently gave an update to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors at their meeting last week.
PCAC representative Rita Krenz said the citizen council’s main goal is to increase communication between all the players in the Pantops area to ensure that their voices are heard by county leaders. She reported that one of the continued struggles among Pantops pedestrians is the incomplete sidewalk network.
“If you’re on [Route] 250 in front of Applebee’s and you look left down the hill, best of luck to you,” said Krenz. “If you’re standing in front of the Rite Aid and look to your right, there is also no sidewalk there, either.”
Another area of concern for the council is traffic congestion, particularly during peak periods. PCAC has been encouraging Pantops businesses to institute and promote ride sharing programs to relieve traffic jams. The council also expressed anxiety about approved housing developments that will bring additional cars to the community’s roads.
PCAC member Cal Morris , who also represents the Rivanna District on the Albemarle County Planning Commission, informed the board that PCAC has identified the problems, but needs the board’s assistance on finding, and funding, solutions.
“We’re realizing that [with] the traffic situation… [there’s] not a heck of a lot we can do. We’re trying to look at ways to make it pedestrian [and] bike friendly. [But] how do you get across 250? We can’t do that for ourselves,” said Morris.
Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) raised the question of how to pay for such improvements in the Pantops area, such as crosswalks and bike lanes on Route 250.
“The only way we have to really pay for additional infrastructure is to raise taxes. If the community is not interested in that, and I haven’t heard anybody telling me that they want their taxes raised in Pantops, then I want to make sure they understand that this is just a wish list,” said Slutzky.
Slutzky told the advisory council that it would be helpful to the board if PCAC discussed potential methods to pay for the requested improvements.
“We’re in a mode where people say we’d like the infrastructure, end of sentence,” said Slutzky. He added that funding should also play an important part in planning discussions, which it often fails to do.
Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) clarified that PCAC was not creating wish lists for the county to finance, but was simply asking for fair treatment relative to other communities such as Crozet and Places29 .
“They [PCAC] want fair treatment on any kind of capital improvement dollars that are spent,” said Boyd. “I’ve not heard anybody say anything about raising taxes to do this.” Boyd also said that PCAC has been in communication with Pantops businesses to develop private-public partnerships to solve these issues, but realized, too, that the current economic conditions placed many constraints on the possibilities at this time.
Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) suggested the possibility of creating a midday shuttle bus to service all of the major commercial spots that people travel to during their lunch hour.
“I’m always impressed with the noontime road blocks on Pantops, and I don’t know where people are all going at noontime,” said Thomas.
Another priority for the PCAC is to investigate creating a trailhead for a nature trail on a tract of land on South Pantops Drive. According to Krenz this particular tract was designated in the Pantops master plan as green space. No member of either the PCAC or the Board of Supervisors knew definitively who currently owned the land, but Albemarle County Director of Planning Wayne Cilimberg guessed it probably was owned by Virginia Land Corp.
Members of the PCAC said that they would look into the ownership issue further and continue discussion about the site of the potential new trailhead.
Morris said that while the PCAC has much work to do, it is essential for the council to promote conversations between everyone concerned with the future of Pantops. “Communication is our top priority, and we’re just starting to crack that nut,” said Morris.
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