Work officially has begun on an update of a plan intended to guide future development of one of Albemarle County’s designated growth areas.

County officials held a community meeting Monday to begin gathering input on a revision of the Pantops Master Plan.

“This is not a complete redo,” said Cal Morris, chairman of the Pantops Community Advisory Committee. “It is a complete review.”               

Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan sets aside only 5 percent of the county’s 726 square miles for urban development. The rest is to be reserved for rural and agricultural use. The Pantops area has been designated as a growth area since 1971, when the first Comprehensive Plan was adopted.

The Pantops Master Plan was first adopted in 2008 and has not been revised since.

One big question going forward is whether the county should adjust the growth area boundary. Possible areas being reviewed for potential change, land around the Interstate 64 interchange at Shadwell and sections of the Ashcroft and Fontana neighborhoods.

“When we expand development-area boundaries, we look for a public purpose,” said Elaine Echols, the county’s principal planner. “We only extend public water and sewer within our growth areas.”

One of the principles in the Pantops plan is to create an internal road system that gives people on either side of U.S. 250 the ability to get around without having to cross the highway.

Other goals are to connect the Old Mills Trail along the Rivanna River to neighborhoods on Pantops, encourage the extension of bus service and to protect Monticello’s viewshed.

The goal is to have the revised plan before the Board of Supervisors in the spring of 2019.

“There are going to be plenty of opportunities for [citizens] to offer public comment,” Echols said. “Together, we will come up with something that will get recommended to the Planning Commission and then they will take their ownership because that is their role.”

Echols said development in master planning areas is encouraged to conform to the county’s neighborhood model, which calls for walkable communities and a mixture of uses.

“What the plan is saying is that new development should reoccur in centers,” county planner Cameron Langille said. These centers include the Pantops Shopping Center and Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Another goal is to have interconnected streets that allow for people to not have to use the main highway.

Echols said the Rivanna River provides a greenway for Pantops residents but the Old Mills Trail must be better integrated into the plan.

During the brief information session, Langille took participants through all of the chapters of the master plan.

Langille said five major themes have been identified as the revision gets underway. Each will be the subject of a monthly meeting of the Pantops advisory group.

The February meeting will cover growth-area boundary adjustments. Traffic and transportation will be discussed in March. Parks and greenways will be the topic in April and will be accompanied by walking tours. Economic development and the Shadwell interchange will be discussed in May.

One resident asked about the status of a proposed LIDL grocery store.

“We’ve done two reviews on their site plan and they’re at their final plan right now,” Langille said. “We sent them our comments in November and haven’t heard back yet.”

Another person asked what the county would do to make it easier for people to walk or bike across U.S. 250.

“We’re going to have to work towards how to make pedestrian crossings work,” Echols said.

Last year, the county opened a crosswalk at the intersection of State Farm Boulevard and U.S. 250. However, supervisors declined in January 2016 to pursue a study of where future pedestrian bridges might be located.