A community newspaper serving western Albemarle County

To the Editor: Ann Mallek’s Response to Public Criticism About the Adelaide Decision

Criticism has been leveled at the process and decision to deny rezoning of the Adelaide property on Rt. 250 in Crozet. I stand behind my vote to deny Adelaide to uphold important features of the Crozet master plan. I encourage residents to study the facts about this project and the background on zoning and the zoning process. Hopefully this information will provide some answers and a broader understanding of the decision-making factors involved. I welcome questions from constituents.

Did we vote “against inclusivity” in Crozet?

Assertions have been made that the extra 40+ units being requested for Adelaide (for a total of 80 instead of the approximate 35 by-right) would have been available for use by people of moderate and low income, starter homes for young families, police and fire staff, and retirees.

While fifteen percent (12) of the units to be constructed in Adelaide’s 80 units would have met the guidelines for affordability, with a purchase price near $220,000, the remaining 68 units would not have been “affordable” by county guidelines, as their offering prices would have been $300,000 to $400,000. In addition, there is no affordability requirement beyond the first owner for any of these residential units.

There is no county rule which prevents construction of more affordable units.

Supervisors who voted to deny the application have been criticized that they “voted against inclusivity and against the recommendations of experts they appointed.” There are different interpretations of the elements of a master plan by different groups involved in the process. The staff makes a recommendation to the planning commission. The planning commission is a hard-working and dedicated group of citizens who study the plans and the recommendations of the planning staff and make their own recommendation to the supervisors. Their recommendation may or may not agree with that of staff about emphasis on the elements of the master plan.

These combined recommendations come to the Board of Supervisors to help them evaluate the plans and if the expectations of the greater community are met. As staff have said, it is up to the Board to decide the most important elements of the master plan for a particular application.

Does this vote “prevent Albemarle from building trails and connections”?

Supervisors who voted to deny the application have been criticized that their vote “prevents Albemarle from building trails and connections and it pressures growth in the rural areas. It forces us to build closer to our neighbors and environmental features.”

I disagree with these points. The Crozet Trails Crew members have built miles of trails through older neighborhoods and over easements dedicated by forward-thinking applicants, who understand that amenities such as these are of small cost and great benefit to the sale of their properties.

There are no rules that force an applicant to build closer to environmental features on a property. On the contrary, there is plenty of encouragement to be as protective as possible. By-right development provides flexibility to the applicant to make a community a better place, for new residents and current residents. A by-right development can be done using the current density (for example, one unit per acre) without any zoning process if the application meets the applicable zoning and subdivision regulations.

Two recent examples in Crozet of by right neighborhoods are Foothills Crossing 1 and Westlake. These projects have included many features of applications for rezonings because the applicants wished to do an exemplary job, but they were not required to do so to build their neighborhoods.

Some examples of this above-and-beyond design are:

  • Building connecting roads outside the project to further the long range road network;
  • Building or dedicating land for trails to connect new residents to their greater community;
  • Protecting established forests and stream greenways to an extent greater than required;
  • Providing sidewalks and vehicular connections to other neighborhoods; and
  • Providing street trees for the enjoyment and increased attractiveness of the neighborhood to residents and prospective buyers.

Does this vote “permanently eliminate the opportunity for affordable housing”?

Supervisors who voted to deny the application have been criticized that denial of the Adelaide rezoning “permanently eliminates the opportunity for affordable housing.” The fact is that there are already many units of affordable housing in Crozet. An exciting new development is that Habitat for Humanity is building affordable units in Wickham Pond. The Wickham neighbors are planning to join the construction crews as volunteer builders and are working to assist their new neighbors. Since Habitat will hold the mortgages, these units will be permanently affordable, rather than just to the first owner.

Some other examples affordable units are:

  • Apartments over offices and stores in Old Trail Town Center and Clover Lawn;
  • A soon-to-break-ground apartment project of 123 units of affordable homes with a range of rental costs at the Vue on Jarmans Gap;
  • A soon-to-break-ground apartment and town house project of more than 100 units at Old Trail; and
  • An approved town house project on Orchard Road with fifteen percent of units affordable.

In a November 2016 report to the Planning Commission, the housing officer reported results of County affordable housing policy from 2004 to 2016 – that more than 1000 affordable units were proferred.

  • 387 of those 1000 units are in the Crozet Growth Area. (Including the Vue, Old Trail, and West Glen, the affordable count jumps to more than 500 units in Crozet.)
  • $1.5 M in cash contributions County-wide were accepted, most of which occurred prior to 2007.

There were more than 4000 residential units approved for Crozet between 2004 and 2008.

Development of these units has been slow, with only 20 percent of the affordable units countywide constructed to date. A bit more than 50 percent of the proffered cash has been received. This delay is due to the recession and the large number of approved units that have not yet been constructed. Cash proffer balances are due at intervals as the project is developed. Remember, 4000 units were approved for Crozet between 2004 and 2008.

The primary reasons for my vote were stated in the resolution I read as part of my motion to deny. Three supervisors thought the density was acceptable at the high end of the range. Three thought the density should be at the low end of the range. A 3-3 tie results in denial of the application.

Additional reasons for my vote:

  • New density on the edge of the growth area, surrounded by forest and rural uses, should be at the low end of the range suggested in the comprehensive plan and master plan for Crozet.
  • The site of this application is constrained by slopes, streams, and limited points of visibility for entrance onto Rt. 250. There are hills in both directions that limit the time when a vehicle entering the roadway can be seen by a driver on 250.
  • There were no vehicular and pedestrian connections to other neighborhoods, so every trip for services would need to access Rt. 250. VDOT revenue-sharing improvements to the area are years away.
  • The highest-density buildings were placed at the highway, further encroaching on the rural nature of the State Scenic byway.

Ann Mallek
Supervisor, White Hall District

 

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful response Ms.Mallek. It is great to hear the “other” side of this argument.
    As a long time resident of crozet (25 years) who has seen the lower income (and native!) families effectively kicked out of Crozet’s market, I appreciate your clarification and assertiveness on what “affordable” means here, as well as your advocating for long-term affordability (beyond the first owner)!

    Thank you to Crozet Gazette as well.

  2. I’d love for Albemarle to reconsider what affordable means. To a person like me, making the National median income, $220,000 is an impossible figure. And I am far from alone in my salary range. That’s why I had to leave the County to buy a home. I would have love to stay in Western Albemarle but found nothing in my price range.

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