By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, November 11, 2010



The

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

has directed planning staff to rewrite portions of the Places29 Master Plan to remove references calling grade-separated interchanges “necessary” on U.S. 29.

“At the beginning of this year, we made it clear that we are going to listen to our business community,” said Supervisor

Ken Boyd

after a public hearing Wednesday.

This week, both the

Free Enterprise Forum

and the

North Charlottesville Business Council

called for the plan to be scrapped unless language pertaining to grade-separated interchanges was changed.

Up to six interchanges were considered for U.S. 29, which would allow traffic and pedestrians from roads such as Rio and Hydraulic to pass over the road, eliminating traffic signals.

“The current planning document text is rife with language that locks in roadway designs about which we and many area businesses and citizens have grave concerns,” wrote Lloyd Wood, the president of the North Charlottesville Business Council. Wood called on the board to reject the plan unless that language is removed.




Download NCBC letter to the Board of Supervisors




Download petition against the expansion area


Specifically, the business community objected to the use of the word “necessary” when describing grade-separated interchanges, as well as language describing a network of ring roads at the intersection of Rio Road and U.S. 29. Virginia Department of Transportation models have suggested that traffic congestion will increase unless more options are made available to motorists trying to get across U.S. 29.

Grade-separated interchanges have played a major role in the transportation sections of Places29 master plan, but in September,

supervisors directed staff to prioritize only projects that have a chance of being built in the next five years

. A grade-separated interchange at Rio Road is estimated to cost more than $40.5 million.

Places29 will now focus on the extension of Hillsdale Drive, a new lane on U.S. 29 from Hydraulic Road to the 29/250 Bypass at Best Buy and the widening of U.S. 29 to six lanes between the South Fork of the Rivanna River and Hollymead. Many roads depicted as concepts on the Places29 map have been removed, another request of the business community.

Before the meeting, county planner David Benish met with business officials, and he offered to prepare revised language that satisfied their concerns. Supervisors agreed to wait until the revisions were complete before voting on the plan at a meeting in January.

Also during the public hearing Wednesday night, a plan to expand the county’s growth area to accommodate a new commercial area was removed from further consideration.






Supervisors will determine the fate of this 45 acre expansion area at their meeting on December 1, 2010


Developer

Wendell Wood

had requested a 140-acre growth area expansion south of the Hollymead Town Center between U.S. 29 and Rio Mills Road on land that is undeveloped and in the county’s rural area.

Staff had recommended approval of the Hollymead expansion in order to help pay for the

extension of Berkmar Drive

, a major transportation component of the Places29 plan. The master plan estimates construction of the bridge and road will cost over $25 million.

Wood has previously said he will proffer payment for a portion of the road and a bridge if granted the expansion.

The

Forest Lakes Community Association

opposed the expansion, citing the potential for additional traffic congestion at the intersection of Ashwood Boulevard and U.S. 29.

“Now is not the time for this expansion,” wrote Ed Leary, one of more than 100 people who signed a petition calling on supervisors to reject the expansion. “Maybe in the future, when the road infrastructure is in place.”

Others said that there is already enough commercially zoned land in the county. Jeff Werner of the

Piedmont Environmental Council

has calculated that there is almost 2.5 million square feet of land zoned for commercial retail development that has not yet been built, including land at Albemarle Place, North Pointe and within

Hollymead Town Center

.

Though he supported the concept, Supervisor Boyd said he had to withdraw his support.

“Because I was elected to represent Rivanna, I’m going to do what the people said,” Boyd said.

The fate of another expansion of the growth area in Piney Mountain will become known at the supervisors’ next meeting on Dec. 1. Supervisor

Dennis Rooker

asked for a decision to be made then after the board can receive a briefing from staff.

That expansion would add 45 acres near the

Rivanna Station military base

into the growth area for both residential and office/light industrial use. Some of the land is already owned by the federal government, while Wood’s Next Generation LLC owns the rest.


The board issued a resolution of intent in May 2006

to consider this expansion as part of the Places29 process.

To provide a balance between growth area and rural area land, 77 acres near Pantops

were removed from the development area in 2008

, partly to offset any future change for Wood. Property owner Clara Belle Wheeler objected to the change.


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