By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A split Albemarle Planning Commission has approved a preliminary site plan for a 2-story gas station and convenience store on U.S. 250 in Crozet . Crozet residents once again came out and raised concerns about the scale of the project.


Rendering of the Re-Store’N Station
by Charlottesville Tomorrow

View a slideshow of other 3D visuals for this project

The Re-Store’N Station is proposed to be built 0.3 miles west of the entrance to Western Albemarle High School . The 4-acre parcel owned by Michelle and Jeff Sprouse was previously the location of a small-engine repair shop and is zoned for highway commercial use.

Crozet resident Frank Calhoun shared his concerns about the project as a member of the board of directors of Scenic Virginia, a statewide environmental group.

“We are very concerned that this proposed [gas] station is on scenic Route 250,” Calhoun said. “It does lead to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. It is a scenic route and should be protected.”

County staff recommended approval of the Re-Store’N Station’s preliminary site plan, but said several issues would have to be addressed before a final plan is authorized.

“There are two main issues we have identified, the entrance location and the building design,” said Bill Fritz, Albemarle’s chief of current development. “I have received verbal comment from [the Virginia Department of Transportation] … that they have approved the location [of the entrance] where it is.”

According to the staff report, the gas station’s proposed entrance is too close to the adjacent Free Town Lane’s intersection with U.S. 250. Albemarle staff said the developer could seek to consolidate their entrance with Free Town Lane’s access or appeal to VDOT for a waiver.

Jo Higgins , speaking on behalf of the property’s owners, said that she had recently received written approval for a waiver from VDOT.

“The exception has been approved by VDOT,” Higgins said.

On the second matter, Albemarle staff determined that the proposed 2-story building had a footprint of about 5,000 square feet and was out of compliance with the past conditions set by Albemarle supervisors. In a previous meeting , the project was described as having a 3,000-square-foot first floor with a 1,000-square-foot office on the “partial” second floor.

Fritz said he expected the size of the building to be adjusted downwards in order to receive approval.

“At the time this site plan was prepared … the building [shown] exceeds the footprint,” Fritz said. “This is not a condition that should result in denial.”

Higgins said the building in the final site plan would have a footprint of only 3,000 square feet. Neighbors, and some planning commissioners, said the second floor was much bigger than what had been previously presented.

“The new plan breaks the deal made between the supervisors and the applicant,” said Mike Marshall , a member of the Crozet Community Advisory Council . “This isn’t what was supposed to come out …. You should send it back to the supervisors. The second floor is now the issue because they changed the second floor.”

Commissioner Linda Porterfield asked Higgins if she would consider shrinking the second-floor office as it appeared to her that there had been a “miscommunication” about its size.

“Just maybe we can get a little closer to what you and the community have been negotiating for so long,” Porterfield said. “This appears to be a mistake you are ramming down the community’s throat.”

“I don’t believe the office is even a detail before you tonight,” Higgins responded. “We ask that you recognize [what we have already done]. I can’t speak for Mr. Sprouse.”

The Planning Commission voted 3-2 to approve the preliminary site plan. Tom Loach and Linda Porterfield voted against and Commissioners Don Franco and Duane Zobrist were absent.

“I believe applicant has done what Board of Supervisors has asked them to do,” said Commissioner Ed Smith . “It will certainly look better than any other facility adjacent to it.”

The project has been in development and under review for more than two years. In that time, the project’s scope has shrunk dramatically, including the number of gas pumps, the parking area, the building footprint and even the allowed hours of operation. The changes have been made to accommodate both neighborhood concerns and also directives of the Board of Supervisors.

A group of neighbors was unsuccessful last week in a complaint heard by the Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals. Residents argued that the proposed building was too large and that the site plan varied significantly from an earlier one reviewed by the supervisors. The BZA found the plan was in “general accord” with earlier versions.

Because U.S. 250 is an Albemarle entrance corridor, the project also must be approved by the Architectural Review Board. The ARB’s review of the Re-Store’N Station is scheduled for Monday. After review by VDOT and the ARB, the project will return to the Planning Commission for final approval.
 

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