By Sean Tubbs
Thursday, December 15, 2011
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has denied a rezoning request to expand the Redfields development on land just outside the county’s designated growth area.
“When you weigh all the factors here, this should not be approved,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker .
The board voted unanimously to uphold a September recommendation by the Planning Commission against the expansion because they said it would be against the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
The rezoning request was made by developer Gaylon Beights , who sought to build 126 homes on a portion of a 58-acre site.
Beights’ attorney argued the Comprehensive Plan does not have to be changed in order to accommodate the rezoning. The land is zoned as Planned Residential Development – Open Space.
“It was clear in the application plan as far back as 1991 that the intention was to develop it in the future and that’s why it was designated as open space, subject to [rezoning],” said Stephen Blaine, with the firm LeClair Ryan .
But many homeowners in the development testified at Wednesday’s public hearing that they had been told by Realtors that the land would be kept as open space.
“I chose Redfields because the sales center showed me a large piece of property that was open space,” said Barry Condon, who has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years. “I’m begging you on behalf of my neighbors to protect our land.”
There are currently trails on the property that many in the community consider to be amenities.
As part of the rezoning, the developers would have relocated the nature trails and would have deeded the land to the Redfields homeowners association. Blaine said Beights could also revoke permission for people to use the trails at any time.
This drew a sharp rebuke from one speaker.
“I wasn’t going to speak tonight until I heard Mr. Blaine say that they let us walk on the nature trail out of the kindness of their hearts,” said Chris Anderson. “I’ve lived in Redfields since 1997 and … there has been a sign there since before I moved in pointing the direction to the nature trail … It was sold as part of Redfields and was not a charitable gift.”
Blaine denied that developers of Redfields have used the open space to market the property.
“There is no misrepresentation here about what the developers intended,” Blaine said. “There is a misunderstanding and that’s what caused the problem.”
Supervisors voted to deny the rezoning after 29 people spoke against it at the public hearing.
“They have planned to develop it but I’m troubled by the sales brochures that went out,” Supervisor Duane E. Snow said. “I could go along with this if it came back at half the density.”
After the vote to deny, Blaine asked for clarification about what his client could do next.
“This is still private property and our client doesn’t know what he can do [with the land],” Blaine said. “Clearly this plan is a non-starter.”
He asked supervisors to reconsider their vote and instead defer the project, but was told no.
“When projects have been allowed to be reconsidered over and over, it works to be a disservice to the community as a whole,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek . “I encourage them to come back with something more compatible.”