On November 11, 2008, the Albemarle County Planning Commission held a work session on the proposed Yancey Mills Business Park in Crozet. The Commission came close to recommending that the development be reviewed as part of the upcoming Crozet Master Plan update, however, the discussion concluded with a 6-1 vote to end all further consideration of the matter. Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) was the only Commissioner who supported further study.
In an interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow the day after the decision, Will Yancey described what he had hoped to accomplish at the meeting.
“What we wanted was an endorsement from the Planning Commission that they believed our project was worth further study.” Yancey said he wished he had described in more detail what he sees as the benefits of the project.
“That is mostly my fault and I undersold some of the most beneficial aspects of our project which can solve a myriad of problems in the community,” said Yancey.
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Yancey knew he faced an uphill battle when he submitted his Comprehensive Plan Amendment two months ago in an effort to create a new industrial park on 184 acres of mostly rural land near the Interstate 64 interchange with Route 250 West. The park would include 36 acres of land that is currently home to the Yancey Lumber Company which has operated for nearly sixty years processing yellow pine into lumber products.
Yancey made the case that the business park would support the County’s economic development goals by creating locations for light industrial businesses near the growing residential neighborhoods in Crozet. Yancey said in his application that the business park would be a boon to downtown Crozet, not a competitor, and that the site could also include recreational amenities for the community.
Interviewed by Charlottesville Tomorrow, Yancey described other benefits he wishes had been emphasized further in his presentation. “Another problem we could help solve is the County’s current budget shortfall,” said Yancey.
“The County’s 5 year revenue projection show tax rates on homes being increased. A business park catering to light industrial users…will certainly alleviate the pressure to raise tax rates on home owners. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, we could add substantial acreage to the County’s low inventory of light industrial land without cost to the County.”
One supportive business owner that spoke during the public comment period was Pete Wildman. He told the Commission that as his construction company has grown it ultimately had to relocate to Charlottesville to find an affordable place to store his equipment. “I support this [project],” said Wildman. “I think in general this would be beneficial for the County. I think it provides a good business tax base.”
Shannon Franklin, owner of Crozet Eye Care, also came forward to support the Yancey Mills Business Park and she described the benefit of having businesses and jobs in Western Albemarle. “Many residents are no longer interested in driving to Charlottesville for services, and I feel the same is true for jobs,” said Franklin.
Multiple community members heavily involved in the Crozet Master Plan spoke in opposition to the business park. Mary Rice is a member of the Crozet Community Advisory Council (CCAC), the council charged with advising the County on the implementation of the master plan.
“Consideration of this [proposal] would go counter to most of the thrust of the Crozet Master Plan,” said Rice. “If there is determined to be a deficit of light industrial land in the County, I would ask the County, ‘Why Crozet?’ [This is] an area which has had to sacrifice rural [land] for an incredible residential density [increase]… I would ask that the County consider…another area of the County.”
Mike Marshall is Chairman of the CCAC and Publisher of the Crozet Gazette. He told the Commission that if the review of the business park was to move forward, the Advisory Council unanimously felt it should be done so as part of the Crozet Master Plan update. He reported that some Council members were supportive of the project. Marshall indicated that he, however, was not a fan of the business park.
“Frankly I think this is a bad idea,” said Marshall. “I hope that the Planning Commission will nip it in the bud now….In my opinion, the concept blows up the Crozet Master Plan.”
PLANNING COMMISSION REVIEW
In their discussion, Commissioners cited concerns that included the park’s location in the water supply watershed and its location outside the Crozet growth area in land largely zoned for rural use. Some Commissioners opposed the project because it would represent an expansion of the County’s designated growth areas. Currently 5% of the land in Albemarle County is designated for growth and the Planning Commission recently recommended to the Board of Supervisors that any new industrial projects take place “within the designated development areas.”
Those recommendations are under review by the Supervisors as they consider updates to the County’s Economic Development Policy . County staff have presented data indicating Albemarle only has about 111 acres of designated and vacant light industrial land with an average parcel size of 4 acres. Yancey intended his proposal to be responsive to what County staff believe is a limited supply of light industrial land. However, while discussing the business park, Commissioners expressed a preference for improving the industrial zoning within the existing growth areas rather than expanding it into the rural countryside. They also questioned the data on the industrial land inventory and suggested that the Board of Supervisors get better information about that need.
When it seemed a majority of the Commission favored submitting the project to be reviewed as part of the master plan update, Commissioner Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) weighed in with what he described as “principled problem” with that approach. Strucko has regularly spoken in favor of maintaining a hard boundary between the growth areas and rural areas and he has opposed projects that would cross that boundary and, in effect, expand the County’s growth area.
“I do still question where this notion of a deficit [in light industrial land] comes from,” said Strucko. Were modifications to be made to the light industrial zoning ordinance to limit office space as a use, for example, Strucko said “parcels inside the [existing] designated growth area could handle any economic situation today or in the future.”
Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) and Tom Loach (White Hall) came around to Strucko’s point of view and made the motion, which passed 6-1, to end review of Yancey’s comprehensive plan amendment.
Unlike a rezoning request, the proposal does not automatically move to the Board of Supervisors, though the Yancey family could seek a sponsor on the Board to restart the review process. At the end of its meeting on the evening of November 12, 2008, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors asked staff to provide an update to them on the status of the business park at a future meeting.
Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) raised the matter under other business. “This is a project that I am interested in,” said Boyd. “It certainly deserves some discussion at this level…This is a county wide issue, I don’t think it’s just something that we should leave to the residents of Crozet. It’s an economic development issue for this County.”
Charlottesville Tomorrow asked Will Yancey where he thought the family would go next with their business park proposal.
“The Yancey family is going to spend the next couple of weeks speaking with our advisors and the community. We will reach out to the Crozet community and try to reassure them that have been in the area for a long time, well over a hundred years, and we intend on keeping our word and to do what we say. The notion that we want to put in a shopping mall with a Stuckeys and a Cracker Barrel there is not what we have in mind at all. We will make a determination if we should go forward and bring this to the Board of Supervisors.”
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