Board of Supervisors approves Willow Glen despite industrial land concerns

Plans for the approved Willow Glen subdivision


Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

has voted to approve the 234-unit Willow Glen residential development off Dickerson Road near the Hollymead Town Center. The developer needed a Comprehensive Plan change from a mixture of industrial service and urban density residential to all urban density residential, as well as an accompanying rezoning.

The land’s proximity to the airport had triggered concerns from the County’s Business Development Facilitator about a lack of industrially zoned land in the County.

At a September 5, 2007 work session

,  Supervisors said they wanted to see more analysis on the County’s inventory of light industrial land. After further review, staff recommended against the comprehensive plan change.

At the work session, Supervisors had also rejected the developer’s plan to get credit for proffering “moderately” priced housing, opting instead to receive cash proffers to pay for projects in the Capital Improvement Plan. That means Sugaray2 LLC will pay close to $2.5 million dollars in proffers.

In his report to the Board, Planning and Community Development Director Wayne Cilimberg pointed out that the County has 266 acres of available land zoned as industrial service in the Places29 area. He added that the County currently could see 6,500 more residential units built in the same area according to the existing

Comprehensive Plan


“Industrial is much more limited than residential in terms of its availability for future development,” Cilimberg said.

Most of the entire area around the airport was at one point designated and zoned for industrial use, but has slowly been converted to residential and mixed-use over time as part of the Hollymead Town Center.

“One of the ironies here is that because we’ve changed these other parcels out of the Light Industrial, we have arguably had an impact on the speculative value of this parcel of land,” said

Supervisor David Slutzky

(Rio). “And if we conclude that in fact there’s a dearth of sufficient light industrial land to satisfy our market place, than in the context of our master planning exercises, we clearly should be addressing that need.”

But Slutzky questioned whether it was necessary to deny this land use redesignation based on that logic. “[The land] has probably been priced because of our earlier actions, to the point where it’s not actually going to work as light industrial when we’ve rezoned everything else around it,” he asked. “I’m not denying that there’s an insufficient amount of light industrial potentially available but I’m not sure the solution to that is to deny this application on that grounds.”

Supervisor Ken Boyd

(Rivanna) said he agreed, and

Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier

(Scottsville) suggested a work session to look at other ways to address the issue.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker

(Jack Jouett) questioned if the requested land use re-designation were a wise idea, due to its proximity to the airport and the . Research Park.

“What we have before us is a report from staff that’s pointing out the existing deficit, and we’re about to take an action to worsen that deficit. I don’t know where we’re going to make that deficit up unless you’re talking about increasing the growth areas,” he said.

County Planner Judy Wiegand says the

Places29 Master Plan

is expanding the types of industrial designations allowed to give different kinds of industrial users more choices. If adopted, industrial zoning will be divided into three categories – heavy industrial, light industrial, and research and development office.

Rooker asked the developer, George Ray, if he and his partners purchased the land with an intent to redesignate the land as residential. Ray, who once worked as Charlottesville’s economic development director, said that he had the price he paid for the land far exceeded what an industrial user would have been able to afford.

“We set out from the get-go, Mr. Rooker, to try to meet the affordable housing need in Albemarle County,” Ray said. “While we took a look at some of these alternatives way to develop the property, it wasn’t our vision to do an additional office park.” Ray and his team are pledging to try to keep some of the units moderately priced, but without proffer credits, they will have to let the market set the price.

“All of the additional costs that have been stacked on these units by actions of the County have made it not practical for us to try to build something at $235,000,” Ray said, referring to the cash proffer expectations.

Attorney Valerie Long

Attorney Valerie Long represented the developer before the Board. Since the September 5 work session, she and her staff put together an analysis of recent demand for industrial service land.

She said she understood the County’s wish to keep an inventory of available land for light industrial, but said her research shows that there is enough inventory of land already zoned light industrial.

“We just feel strongly that the way the Willow Glen area, Hollymead Town Center and beyond has developed, that this is not the appropriate location for industrial land given all those other actions that have taken place over the years,” she said, adding that the project would be a good example of the County’s Neighborhood Model plan.

Rooker eventually came around and announced he would support the re-designation. “There is a substantial amount of light industrial to the south of this that is more in a large block of property,” he said. “We need to think long and hard about taking any of that out of light industrial.”

No one spoke at the public hearing, and the Supervisors voted unanimously to vote for the comprehensive plan change, as well as the rezoning.

Sean Tubbs