From the Editor: There Ought to Be a Law

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The Smith house before its demolition this February. Photo: Allie Pesch

The Vue, a 126-unit apartment complex about to be built on Blue Ridge Avenue by Pinnacle Construction and Development is now a poster child for exploiting not one but two holes in Albemarle County ordinances.

The Gazette has already objected to the project’s collaboration with the Piedmont Housing Alliance, then the owner of the property, to redraw parcel boundaries so that acres of unbuildable floodplain along Powells Creek became attached to The Vue, thus allowing it to game county rules about buildable and unbuildable land (the county refers to it as constrained and unconstrained land). That meant a project that was limited to 68 units by existing zoning morphed to 126 units. Current rules consider a whole parcel in calculating allowable density. Instead, unbuildable land—flood plain, steep slopes—should simply be subtracted off the top rather than allowing potential units to be squeezed onto whatever portion of the parcel actually is buildable. With this cynical move, The Vue went from being a bad plan in the wrong place to a philistine act that obliterates a charming 100-year-old neighborhood.

Next the project demolished the so-called Smith house, nicknamed for a family that owned it in recent memory. The house was a rare survivor from the period when Crozet began to enjoy prosperity as the Peach Capital of Virginia. Its origins traced to the Wayland family, notable for introducing orchards to the local economy and an energetic and civic-minded family that did a lot to improve the town, such as persuading the railroad to make it a stop.

The house had a well-thought-out design, employed the 1920’s latest developments in home technologies and used high quality materials throughout. Its surviving landscaping shows a desire to leave a deposit of beauty for the future. Crozet then was still a village and only a few houses striving for architectural dignity and permanence were erected. Earlier plans for the project incorporated the house, but in the final version it was flattened to be the location of a clubhouse. Could it not have been the clubhouse?

This lamentable and unnecessary loss points out the need for a county historic preservation ordinance that gives the rest of us a chance to hold on to the legacies our forefathers passed down to us and to maintain the integrity of established neighborhoods with deep generational roots. The features of this ordinance are already drawn up and are shelved awaiting action.

The Supervisors need to address these failings in our rules that result in the subversion of our zoning and planning policies and the needless loss of our heritage.

Shame on Pinnacle for exploiting them for the sake of greater profits.

The Smith house after its additions and wrap-around porch were demolished. Photo: Allie Pesch
The Smith house during demolition. Photo: Allie Pesch
The Smith house remains, before removal by dump truck. Photo: Allie Pesch
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