By Tracie Cabler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board has given final approval to a controversial gas station and convenience store in Crozet.

Representatives of the Re-Store’N Station were pleased with Monday’s unanimous vote in favor of the project.

“We will proceed to construction plans, submit our building permit and then hopefully start construction within two months,” said the project’s developer, Jo Higgins .

“I’m fine with what I see,” said board member Charles Lebo. “I think they’ve addressed all the issues we talked about last time .”

The two-story building will be located on U.S. 250 West on a four-acre site 0.3 miles west of the entrance to Western Albemarle High School. Since 2008, county officials and residents of Freetown Lane have questioned the station’s appropriateness within the Crozet community. Issues such as water usage, the station’s size and its exterior appearance have all been scrutinized, including the final question of building material choices.

However, following the station’s positive review with the Architectural Review Board two weeks ago , the project seemed to finally be on track toward approval. That was followed by the Albemarle Planning Commission’s unanimous vote last Wednesday to approve its street entrance and location.

Some residents of Freetown Lane however, still remained unsatisfied with the review process.

“There’s a faithful few of us that always show up, and we always lose,” said resident Sandra Meyers last Wednesday following the commission’s decision. “I think the faithful few of us who keep coming have kept it down to a manageable state.”

Other residents are continuing a legal challenge. In early March, neighbors of Freetown Lane filed an appeal with the Board of Zoning Appeals challenging the determination by Deputy Zoning Administrator Ron Higgins that the site plan proposed in December 2010 was in general accord with county conditions. When the BZA upheld Higgins’ decision on May 3, residents then filed an appeal in Albemarle County Circuit Court.

Residents involved in the suit — Richard Brown, Bruce Kirtley, Chris and Ann Suh of Brownsville Market and Marcia Joseph — are being represented by the Zobrist Law Group. In the lawsuit, residents state that the station’s second-floor office is not in compliance with conditions set by the Albemarle supervisors.

However, when the Re-Store’N Station appeared before the Architectural Review Board in early August, the second floor had been reduced to 2,700 feet and the first to 1,900 feet.

At Monday’s meeting, one resident reminded the ARB that they should take their time reviewing the project.

“Ms. Higgins indicated at the last [ARB] meeting that they’ve been in this for a long time,” said resident Frank Calhoun. “I would like to say to you all and to her that this will be here after we are all gone.”

The ARB reviewed a revised landscape plan as well as component drawings of the proposed column piers, awnings, and second floor porch overhang on the station’s exterior. Details for the materials of the latter had been a topic of discussion at the ARB’s prior meeting.

“My only concern [now] is the columns,” said Board member Paul Wright. “I think the conditions that I was concerned about, being one of the two votes against it, I do believe have been addressed.”

Albemarle staff told the ARB that they were uncertain whether the columns would be wrapped in PVC plastic or some other material.  PVC does not meet county standards within the entrance corridor. Developer Jo Higgins assured the board that PVC was not under consideration.

“They’re not shiny and it is a composite material,” said Higgins. “They come in white so we thought they were a good application [and] they have a nice detail.”

Upon the condition that a material sample for the columns be provided to staff for approval, the ARB unanimously approved the station’s certificate of appropriateness.

No trial date has yet been set for the resident’s case against the station in circuit court. If the court rules in favor of the residents, any revised design for the Re-Store’N Station would have to be reviewed again by the ARB.


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