(First of two reports)

The developers of a new Whole Foods site in Charlottesville will revise their plans after getting a lukewarm reception for their preliminary site plan application from the

City Planning Commission

. The 66,000 square foot grocery store will also feature a three-story parking garage, which Commissioners said was too close to Hydraulic Drive and contained too many spaces.

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Before the meeting, Commissioners had the chance to discuss the project’s impact on traffic with City Traffic Engineer Jeannie Alexander.  Alexander was not able to attend the regular meeting, but gave her review to the Commission during the pre-meeting gathering which is held off camera.

Alexander told the Commission that Whole Foods would increase congestion, because it will generate 5,850 vehicles a day in an area that already has a Level of Service F during peak hours.  Because the project is a by-right development, there is little the City can do to require off-site mitigation. However, the applicant is also designing the southern terminus of the Hillsdale Connector and will be developing the various on-ramps and turn lanes providing access to the extended road parallel to Route 29.

“With good Intelligent Transportation System technology and getting our signals coordinated, we can manage it to a certain extent,” Alexander said. Commissioner Mike Farruggio asked if the applicant could be required to help provide offsite improvements, such a redesign of the westbound right-hand turn from the Route 250 Bypass to Hydraulic Road, given that the grocery store will attract many more vehicles per day. Alexander reminded Farruggio that the Whole Foods application is not a rezoning.

Alexander also said the most recent plan submitted by the applicant, MeadowBrook Creek LLC, showed the removal of a traffic signal at Kroger and K-Mart, because of its close proximity to the new signal that would be required at the intersection of Hydraulic and the Hillsdale Connector. The applicant’s design showed right-in, right-out only onto and from Hydraulic Road into both the K-Mart and Kroger parking lots, restricting left-turn access.

Farruggio said he didn’t think it would work, given the number of intersections on Hydraulic  Road between Routes 29 and 250.  “Without closing and eliminating a couple of them we are just doing poor planning, and it’s going to get much, much worse. We have to have the ability to look at it,” he said.

Jim Tolbert, Director of the City’s Neighborhood Development Services Department, said that the Hillsdale Connector will improve traffic flow when the road is built. Currently, that proposed road project faces an uncertain funding future. Commissioner Cheri Lewis asked what would  happen if the Hillsdale Drive extension is never built. Commission Chairman Jason Pearson said that discussion needed to be independent from the Commission’s deliberation on the Whole Foods preliminary site plan. Tolbert said the suggestions of the 29-H-250 Study are being implemented piece by piece, including the eventual grade separation of US 29 and Hydraulic Road.

“There is a plan that anticipates the development, and the thing about this development is it conforms to the adopted 29H-250 plan,” Tolbert said.

The site plan application was received by staff on May 20, 2008, and a revised resubmission was received on June 2, 2008 . Staff were not able to recommend approval of the plan because they had not had time to review the revisions, though they did indicate that the applicant had satisfied some of their concerns – including the realignment of an easement for the forthcoming Meadowcreek Interceptor sewer line replacement. Originally, the site plan depicted this easement travelling underneath the building.

At the end of the pre-meeting, the Commission opted to go ahead and hear from the applicant anyway, despite not having had a full review of the new site plan from staff. Charlottesville Tomorrow will post a report on that portion of the meeting later this week.

Sean Tubbs


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