By Sean Tubbs
Thursday, January 6, 2011
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors debated a request Wednesday to expand the county’s growth area south of Hollymead Town Center, but reached no firm decision on the matter.
However, the board did vote to include a second expansion near the Rivanna Station military base when a vote is taken on the Places29 Master Plan later this year.
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At issue in both cases are requests from developer Wendell Wood to change the land’s use designation in the county’s comprehensive plan. A future rezoning would be necessary before the start of any new commercial development, a process that could involve the landowner making proffers to mitigate impacts such as transportation needs.
Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said he did not want to participate in a suggested straw poll on the Hollymead proposal until after a Jan. 27 meeting he plans to hold with his constituents, many of who thought the idea had been killed at a November public hearing.
However, Boyd said he deemed it important to consider the expansion so the county could fund transportation priorities called for in the Places29 plan.
“This is not about what the developer wants, but about improving the [U.S. 29] intersection at Ashwood Boulevard and about getting Berkmar Drive Extended done,” Boyd said. “If we can get money from [the developer] and money from VDOT and we do it collectively and get this process done, that’s the best thing for our community.”
The Berkmar project has a preliminary cost estimate of $25 million for construction and another $12.6 million for right of way.
A project to construct a grade-separated “jug-handle” interchange at Ashwood and U.S. 29 has a preliminary cost estimate of nearly $12 million for construction plus an additional $3 million for right of way.
Supervisors were also unclear about how large the expansion area would be when it appears before the board for a vote. The board considered a 140-acre expansion at the November public hearing, but county planner David Benish said he had spoken further with Wood about the specifics.
“The property owner indicated that a smaller area was better and access to Ashwood Boulevard would be important,” Benish said. He added Wood said an area between 40 and 50 acres would be acceptable.
Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said a smaller expansion area would likely mean the county would not be able to extract enough in proffers for both Berkmar and Ashwood Boulevard improvements. He also questioned the logic of adding more commercial space at this time.
“We already have 2 million square feet of commercial space approved in the 29 corridor that’s not been yet built out,” Rooker said. “One of the primary things you’re supposed to consider in expanding the growth area is whether there’s a need for it.”
Supervisor Duane Snow, who supports the expansion, said moving the land into the growth area would not approve any development.
“We’re just saying that in the future this will be available for future development provided that the proffers are met,” Snow said. “We’re not talking about zoning, or starting to build a big box next week. We’re talking about down the road five, six, seven years.”
With that in mind, Rooker suggested waiting until the Places29 Master Plan comes up for its five-year review in 2016 before making the decision.
Scott Elliff of the Forest Lakes Community Association said he was impressed at the amount of time the board spent debating infrastructure needs, but he remains cautious about the proposal.
“My concern is how do you enforce these nice statements that you’re not going to do anything until the infrastructure is place?” Elliff asked in an interview.
The other request, which would add around 30 acres to the growth area near the Rivanna Station military base, will now be included as part of the vote on the Places29 Master Plan. The board voted 4-2 on a straw poll to do so. Supervisor Ann H. Mallek joined Rooker in voting against.
Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning, said if the board opts to go for a smaller expansion area at Hollymead as requested by Wood, he could not guarantee the Places29 plan would be ready for a February vote because new language would need to be written.