At their meeting on August 26, 2008, the Albemarle County Planning Commission spent an hour in a work session reviewing a proposed development in the Pantops Mountain area. Riverside Village would be built on 18.6 acres between Free Bridge Lane and Route 20, north of Route 250.
The applicant, Dominion Development Resources (on behalf of Southland Homes), is seeking a rezoning from R-1 to Neighborhood Model District in order to build 102 residential units, 30,000 square feet of office space, and 5,000 square feet of retail. Up to 26 units can be built by right, if bonus density provisions are requested. The applicant also has requested a special use permit to allow for a portion of the flood plain to be filled in.
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Planning staff sought input from the Planning Commission on several questions:
A previous work session was held in December 2007. Since then, the project has been slightly reduced in size, and less development is now planned in the flood plain. Regarding the special use permit, Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) said he did not think any of the flood plain should be developed at all.
“I don’t see any reason why they can’t pull this plan back a little bit just to really respect the flood plain and to really let nature take its course,” Edgerton said.
Kelly Strickland with Dominion Development Resources said his firm has worked on developments along the river corridor, and wants to put a public space near the river. He disagreed with staff’s interpretation of the Pantops Master Plan and felt that the limit of 20,000 square feet of commercial space shouldn’t apply to this project, because many of the individual businesses will be designed as buildings similar to the residences on site. He asked the Commission to interpret this guidance as no more than 20,000 square feet per building.
Regarding Block 3, Strickland said there would be two or individual businesses in the space. He’d like to see a restaurant with a river overlook, as well as a canoe rental business or some other fitness-related operation. Strickland also said that he did not see the need for additional amenities in the development itself, given the proximity to Darden-Towe Park as well as the future park being donated to the County by the developers. The type of amenities offered in the park will be decided by the Parks and Recreation Department after the rezoning has occurred.
Commissioner Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) agreed that the developer shouldn’t be required to build more amenities on-site, but did express the concern that the donation of the land in the flood plain as a public park might encourage it to be developed. Strucko also said he was pleased to see the applicant willing to proffer the park, as well as to conform with the County’s affordable housing expectations. However, he was concerned that no cash proffers had been specified to assist with roads, schools and other infrastructure needs. He calculated that the applicant should pay just over $1 million to help offset infrastructure needs.
Wayne Cilimberg said many developers are now making equivalent donations, rather than cash, in order to satisfy the County’s requirements. The Pantops Master Plan calls for a park in the general location of the development, so Cilimberg argued that Dominion Development Resources is providing something the County wants.
Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) said she could see the benefits to the park, even though it is in the flood plain. “It’s something that’s being given to the County, and I’m really happy to see that you’re facing the river instead of facing away,” Joseph said. “We’ve had so many of the areas along the Rivanna River thrown away, and it’s been the back door. In this you’re actually setting the stage here maybe for people who come after to actually use this river and this walkway so I appreciate that aspect.”
Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) said she thought the residential density was too high for the site, and Edgerton agreed. Commissioner Jon Cannon (Rio) said while he thought the density was an issue, the land is in the growth area.
Porterfield was concerned the applicant had not provided enough parking. Senior Planner Rebecca Ragsdale said she had asked for more information on the topic. Further information on the project’s impact on traffic volumes on Route 20 will be presented as the item makes its way through the planning process.
On the issue of the rain gardens, the Commission asked the developer to re-orient the buildings that face Route 20 so that they are parallel to the road, rather than being diagonal to the road. This will mean the rain gardens will be moved internal to the development.
Chairman Cal Morris (Rivanna) said he thought a four-story building against the river was “over-powering” but he could not decide if it was appropriate because the exact uses are not yet decided. Loach agreed and said he would rather see it lower. Ragsdale said only the ground floor would be commercial, and the upper floors would be multi-family residential. Edgerton said he wasn’t opposed to the size, but did want the massing to be broken up.
The item will return to the Planning Commission at a date to be determined.
Sean Tubbs and Brian Wheeler