Supervisors Give the Go-Ahead for Historic Cabin Relocation
By Eric J. Wallace
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved Matt Lucas’s request to rezone his 1278 Crozet Avenue property Feb. 1, effectively allowing him to finish restoring the historic cabin he dismantled and moved into town last spring. The request came as the result of an effort by White Hall supervisor Ann Mallek to preserve the Yancey Mills cabin, which is thought to date from the American Revolution and was slated to be demolished to make room for a new Froehling & Robertson building.
“Ann knew I had a thing for old Virginia buildings, so she came to me and asked if I’d be interested in the Yancey cabin,” said Lucas, who is in the telecommunications software business and is in the last stages of renovating 1278’s historic farmhouse. “I went and looked at it and thought it would really look great as an accompaniment to the farmhouse…. So the owners ended up giving it to me and we went over and dismantled it log by log—it took quite a lot of work and time to get it moved.”
But the existing zoning only allowed for one dwelling on his property, so while he got a building permit for the 25-by-20-foot, two-story cabin’s reconstruction, he couldn’t add plumbing, electricity, or any other amenities.
Despite expressing wariness about infringing upon a 50-foot stream buffer and concerns over what may happen to the property in the long-term future—once rezoned, if sold, the site could be redeveloped—county officials cited Lucas’s commitment to preservation as a primary factor in their decision.
“When 1278 was up for sale, we had a lot of conversations with potential purchasers who wanted to tear down the farmhouse and put in townhomes or apartments,” said Albemarle County’s principal planner Elaine Echols, addressing the board. “Mr. Lucas didn’t do that and instead renovated the historical property… We’re recommending approval [for this rezoning], mainly to provide the opportunity for a historic house to remain on the site.”
Concerning protecting the stream buffer, Lucas presented plans for mitigation that Echols said the county staff deemed satisfactory. As for future development, after looking at the shape of the lot—it’s long and narrow which, factoring in the stream buffer requirements, would make it tough to build on—and considering that the property fell with the Comprehensive Plan’s development area, the board voted unanimously to grant Lucas the rezoning.
“It’s been a ton of work and expense, but I think that the result is really amazing, and I don’t think I’m alone in that,” Lucas told the board. “I get tremendous positive feedback from the community, and I think that it’s really cool we could save this structure in Crozet, because it wasn’t going to make it. It was teetering as it was, but we got it back and now it’s alive again, and hopefully it will be for hundreds of years to come. I think that’s not only good for Crozet, that’s good for Albemarle and the state of Virginia as well.”
Citing the fact that a photo of the cabin is displayed on the webpage of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources as an example of the kind of canonical structures the state is seeking to preserve, the board expressed pride in being able to lend their support to the project.