Map of proposed Riverside Village

The Albemarle County Planning Commission recently recommended approval of the 69-unit Riverside Village project on Pantops.  

For the majority of commissioners, the development near the banks of the Rivanna River just south of Darden Towe Park, between Route 20 and Free Bridge Lane, is a good fit with the Pantops Master Plan.

“From the Pantops Master Plan view, this is very advantageous,” said Commissioner Cal Morris at a meeting last week. “It’s moving us towards what we want.”

Other commissioners said the rezoning request needed more work.

“To me, this in an incomplete application,” said Commissioner Russell “Mac” Lafferty. “I’m disappointed that they haven’t done proffers, they haven’t done the traffic study.”

Justin Shimp, of Shimp Engineering, said his client, Gordonsville Realty Investments, had downsized its plan since it was last reviewed in April.

The revised plan consists of 69 residential units, down from 112, and 46,000 square feet of commercial space, down from 50,000 square feet. Shimp said the project would include what he called “a live over, work under scenario.”

Riverside Village also would feature a “pedestrian mews,” a design concept that places residences facing a common area.

“This mews connects the civic plaza or the entrance to the neighborhood on Route 20 to the river corridor in the back,” said Shimp. “It is part of what we hope will make this neighborhood desirable.”

At first, members of the commission expressed hesitation about this idea. Concerns were raised focusing on emergency vehicle access to the residential units along the mews.

“What I understand is that the residents’ cars will not be going up and down that street, but firetruck and ambulances will have access,” said Commissioner Don Franco.

“That’s correct,” Shimp said.

The rear of the site is made up of a mixed-use building and parking.

“We are trying to build a mixed-use building that addresses the river as an entrance,” Shimp said. “In our neighborhood, you have two corridors. People travel on the greenway and people travel on Route 20, and it’s important to be able to connect those two and have an entrance to both.”

However, in order to construct this segment of the development, about half an acre that lies within the flood plain would need to be filled in.

“We just went over a Comprehensive Plan that says you will not fill in the flood plain. And here we are saying it’s OK,” Lafferty said. “The effect is not just on-site when you fill in the flood plain; it’s a cumulative effect downstream.”

According to Shimp, the area in question would not affect the height of flood stage at all.

Commissioner Julia Montieth stressed the fact that the development is right next to Free Bridge, among the area’s biggest traffic concerns.

“We never said there would be no effect from traffic,” said Shimp. “We certainly said that we will pay the cash proffers, and those are designed to allocate for those sort of things for a development like this.”

David Benish, chief of planning for the county, noted that a traffic study had been done, although it was not submitted in time for review.

The Riverside Village rezoning was recommended for approval on a 5-2 vote with Lafferty and Commissioner Richard Randolph voting against.

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will review the proposal at an upcoming meeting.