By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, February 7, 2010

A proposal to bring 184 acres of western Albemarle land into the county’s development area to create an industrial park will continue to be considered as part of the Crozet Master Plan , despite the concerns of one supervisor who wants to expedite the decision.

“The problem I’m having is I’m not sure why it’s taking so long for the Crozet Master Plan to be reviewed,” Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said. Boyd also said the county needs to foster more commercial activity in order increase county revenues.

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In August 2008, Will Yancey submitted a request to Albemarle to amend the county’s Comprehensive Plan seeking the ability to create a light industrial business park on mostly rural land that borders Interstate 64 and Western Albemarle High School.

The Planning Commission and staff have both recommended denial of the proposal , but the Board of Supervisors directed staff in December 2008 to evaluate the proposal as part of the revision of the Crozet Master Plan.

Community and staff recommendations on the revised plan will not come before the Board of Supervisors until July. In the meantime, the board heard a report Wednesday on the county’s supply of available industrial land that could be immediately occupied by businesses looking to expand or relocate here.

The report by business development facilitator Susan Stimart says that while there are 900 acres designated in the county’s Comprehensive Plan for industrial use, only about 100 of those acres carry the proper zoning and are available for development.

“All the measurements indicated that we have a shortage of light industrial and heavy industrial [lands],” Stimart said.

Stimart said the land is needed by companies that start here, but outgrow their existing location. She told the board the county will soon lose BOSS Medical Technologies to Fluvanna County because they could not find enough land that was affordable on which to build a new facility.

The report also states that most of the 900 acres are located along U.S. 29, which is not as desirable because of congestion and lack of access to Interstate 64. That view was also held by at least one supervisor.

“My view of light industrial is that it needs to be located in a usable place,” said Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas during the work session. “Let’s have [land] available so we can open the door for these people that want to come here.”

Stimart’s report included several recommendations. The first would protect land currently zoned for light industrial use by removing office and other uses from the zoning ordinance. The second would be to preemptively rezone land designated in the Comprehensive Plan as light industrial. Stimart said this would only be done with the permission of individual property owners.

The report’s final recommendation would be to allow additional uses in rural areas near interchanges with I-64 in both the Yancey Mills area and along U.S. 250 in Shadwell. This would require the creation of a “Light Industrial (LI) light” designation to allow storage yards and other uses that would not require access to the water and sewer system. Benish said it would take a year to develop ordinance language to bring the “LI-light” category before the board.

That timeline bothered Boyd.

“I can’t sit here and say that I think we need another year to jumpstart this economy,” Boyd said. He added that the “LI-Light” concept might prevent a fair hearing of the Yancey project, which offers a different vision of how Crozet’s interchange with I-64 might be configured.

“These people want to move forward with this project,” Boyd told fellow supervisors. “I think they deserve their chance in front of this board to do that.”

Benish said he did not think the community or staff would recommend the addition of the Yancey land to the growth area, but he said the board would have the final say.

Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said the Crozet Community Advisory Council has been strongly opposed to the project. However, he added the board had the power to remove the Yancey proposal from the Crozet Master Plan revision process if it wanted to.

Benish said if the board did not want to wait until July to make a decision on the Yancey proposal, it needed to direct staff as soon as possible. That direction did not occur on Wednesday.

Thomas suggested the Yancey proposal continue as part of the Crozet Master Plan. Board Chairwoman Ann Mallek said that was essential, given the importance of trust between government and residents.

“The community put their heart into [the revision] and they believe it,” Mallek said. “I think that in all the various [magisterial] districts, people need to have confidence in the master planning process.”  Mallek said Crozet’s priority was to invest in its downtown area, and not to create new development areas on the edges.

Will Yancey, representing the Yancey family, said in an interview that he would be happy to have his proposal considered outside of the plan’s context, and he hopes supervisors would consider more than just Crozet when making their decision.
 

“Fundamentally, the lack of light industrial zoning is a county-wide issue that shouldn’t exclude input from the broader community beyond Crozet,” Yancey said.

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