Facing the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, the developers of Stonefield had simply hoped to get an extension on the deadline to plant vegetation. However, the mixed-use development got more scrutiny Wednesday on the water below ground level than the plants above.
The board took the opportunity to discuss the developer’s alleged violation of a Charlottesville-issued erosion and sedimentation permit. The county’s water protection ordinance requires developers to plant vegetation on graded property within a specific timeframe and Edens has been unable to meet deadlines because of various delays.
“This project has already received an administrative extension which took them to July, so now they are requesting a board extension which would take them … until the end of October,” said county engineer Glenn Brooks.
Brooks said vegetation cannot be planted until the land on the 65-acre site is in its final graded state. That will require a basin that is currently retaining stormwater to be filled in.
Stonefield’s Trader Joe’s and Regal Cinema are well underway as the first buildings approved for a development with a footprint twice as large as Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.
Before development of the site, stormwater on the northern end of the property drained through a 42-inch pipeline underneath U.S. 29 into a drainage channel on property in the city owned by Seminole Square Shopping Center, the Pepsi-Cola bottling factory and the U.S. Post Office.
As part of its post-development stormwater management plan, Edens has built a second 72-inch pipe to carry water that drains from 108 acres of land west of the Stonefield property, as well as excess stormwater for when the 42-inch pipe backs up during heavy rainfall.
The city’s department of Neighborhood Development Service issued a violation notice to Edens on June 1 after the pipe was opened this spring. The city claims the pipe was to remain plugged until Edens made certain improvements to the drainage channel. Those improvements require permission from the owners of Seminole and the Pepsi facility.
Brooks said the city’s action may mean further delays that would cause Stonefield to miss an Oct. 26 deadline to plant vegetation and complete grading work.
“[They] may have trouble now that the city is delaying that because we’d have to be able to open that pipe and reduce the size of the basin in order to get to some semblance of final grade on that side of the project,” Brooks said.
Some supervisors wanted to know the extent of the potential hazards.
“My concern is whether there is anybody downstream that agrees with the fact that this is not disturbing their property at all,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd, referring to representatives from the Seminole Square Shopping Center who were in the audience.
Frederick W. Payne, an attorney representing Seminole Square, said he did not object to the granting of the extension for vegetation, but wanted the supervisors to be aware of his client’s concerns about the 72-inch pipe. He specifically raised concerns about what Stonefieldwill look like when a final grade is achieved and if Edens is not allowed to keep the pipe open.
“That means, for our purposes, filling in that basin,” Payne said. “That basin is there … to accommodate potential stormwater problems as long as that 72-inch pipe is not in service … If that pipe is closed, and this basin is not there, then you have uncontrolled stormwater off this property, and that’s a major hazard.”
Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said he believed the issue was one between two property owners and the board meeting was not the appropriate location to mediate the dispute.
“I don’t see us as a forum for arguing a private case that will probably end up in court,” Rooker said.
“The violation of the permit in the city is that a certain amount of riprap was not put down … along the sides of the ditch,” Rooker said to Payne. “Your client actually would not permit that riprap to be put down.”
Payne disagreed and said his client has been seeking negotiations with Edens about the conditions under which an easement would be granted to do that work.
“When these negotiations have been attempted before, Stonefield has turned to stone wall,” Payne said. “We are prepared today to discuss an overall resolution to this matter.”
The board voted unanimously to grant the extension, but said they want to be informed before permission is given to fill in the basin. The conditions of the extension require Edens to plant vegetation and complete rough grading of the site by Oct. 26.
“What’s being recommended by staff does require that rough grading be completed,” said county attorney Larry Davis. “I think we all agree we do not want to have a plugged pipe and no drainage basin there.”
When asked what would happen if that were to be the case, Albemarle’s director of community development said Edens would have to amend their stormwater management plan.
“They would have to demonstrate in some other way that there’s an adequate outfall for the drainage, either by maintaining the existing basin or amending their plan to provide it in some other way,” Mark Graham said. “There are a large number of options they can use to amend their plans.”
Edens declined to comment for this story.
Edens is currently appealing the violation to the City Council, which is set to make a determination Monday.