Supervisors to consider waivers for Costco

The developer of the Shops at Stonefield will ask the Albemarle Board of Supervisors on Wednesday for a pair of special exceptions that will allow construction of a Costco in the northern portion of the development.

The overall concept for the Costco already has received initial approval from the county’s Architectural Review Board.

Albemarle planning staff are recommending supervisors approve the variations, despite an opposition campaign that claims doing so would go against the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

“The New York City developer promised us nice shops and restaurants, [but] instead they are trying to put up another… Big Box store,” reads a flier left at homes in the vicinity of Stonefield.

The flier identifies no group or individual as a source.

Edens, which is actually based out of Columbia, S.C., is the developer of Stonefield, which was originally rezoned as Albemarle Place in October 2003.

Edens changed the name of the project and began construction of the first phase in 2011. The first stores opened in November, and apartments followed. A Hyatt hotel will debut later this year.

When a property is rezoned in Albemarle, supervisors also approve an application plan and a code of development that governs what builders can do with the property.

However, Edens needs two “special exceptions” to vary from the code of development that was approved as part of the rezoning in order to proceed with the Costco. Fifteen such exceptions have been granted to date for Stonefield.

In the first, they seek adjustments in how the buildings will be laid out within the development. They also seek changes to the alignment of District Avenue and sidewalks in order to accommodate a bigger building.

“Without approval of this requested variation, the applicant will be unable to proceed with development of the Costco and this next phase of the Stonefield project,” reads Edens’ request.

The second variation asks for relocation of a plaza area and elimination of a café space in favor of an “enhanced pedestrian corridor.”

Variations to the code of development are usually handled administratively by staff and included on the board’s consent agenda for approval.

“There’s no legal requirement for a public hearing and there’s no legal requirement you hear from the applicant or from anyone who is in opposition to it,” county attorney Larry Davis said when supervisors discussed the matter earlier this month.

However, supervisors agreed to put the item on their regular agenda for Wednesday.

In effect, Stonefield is grandfathered and county staff has recommended granting the exceptions because the code of development, which is  part of the underlying zoning, allows for between 125,000 and 210,000 square feet in the second phase of Stonefield.

“While the proposed 155,000 square foot building footprint is not consistent with the generally recommended maximum building footprint of 80,000 square feet in Places 29, it is allowable under the approved zoning which Places 29 defers to,” reads the staff report for Wednesday’s discussion.

Also, the county’s director of community development, Mark Graham, said in an interview that supervisors had an expectation that the two halves of Stonefield section would be developed differently.

“The southern end was going to be more of a town center development, whereas the north end was always envisioned as more of a typical retail center,” Graham said.

Edens is also the defendant in a lawsuit filed by the owners of the Seminole Square shopping center and the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. across U.S. 29. Those business owners allege that Stonefield knowingly filed a stormwater management plan that would lead to flooding on their properties. The suit also names Charlottesville and Albemarle County for granting stormwater permits.

A hearing in the case will be held Oct. 28 in Albemarle Circuit Court.