The Crozet Community Advisory Council voted May 17 to name street and sidewalk improvements to The Square as Crozet’s top priority for spending the County’s Neighborhood Improvement Funding Initiative, a $1.4 million pot that the county supervisors will divide among the seven areas in the county that have advisory councils. Crozet should receive about $200,000 from the fund once supervisors decide which projects will be awarded.
This was the third consecutive meeting in which the committee had dealt with the subject of which projects to recommend. Vice chair John McKeon had the reins in David Stoner’s absence.
White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek told the CCAC that the Board of Supervisors discussed the fund the week before. “Everybody is very appreciative of the level of engagement,” she said. “The feeling was we must have done the right thing because look at all the great ideas we got. We want to maintain the support for each neighborhood.”
Supervisors will make their funding choices June 14.
Meanwhile county planning staff have worked up cost estimates for the various finalist ideas.
“The Square would need about $300,000, but the $200,000 would qualify for matching funds from VDOT to make the project go,” Mallek said.
The Square had come out on top in a point tally made at CCAC’s April meeting, but just one more than beginning work on “western park,” the county’s undeveloped 36 acres along Lickinghole Creek in Old Trail, mainly floodplain offered to the county as a proffer during the rezoning of Old Trail in 2006. The next priority was a walking path along Three Notch’d Road, Rt. 240, from The Highlands to Starr Hill Brewery.
“The Square would mean spending all our money on one project,” noted Tom Loach.
“But it got the strongest vote from the community,” answered Doug Bates. “It might be best to focus on one thing and put the community behind it.”
“The Square is our best bet for leveraging more money,” said Jennie More, White Hall planning commissioner. “It might help with attracting a hotel.”
Shawn Bird asked, “Could we cap the Square at $150,000 and add a second project?”
“So long as it doesn’t cost us qualification for matching funds,” said Loach.
“This is county property and they have to fix it,” said Mallek. “We need a ready-to-go design, biddable documents that are shovel–ready. We [the supervisors] have to take the work of the advisory committees and marry it to what the staff has done.”
She asked the CCAC to pass a formal resolution stating its first priority.
“The majority voted for The Square,” said Kostis Alibertis.
“Western park needs a needs-assessment,” said Mallek. “The plan is old and the county has changed. Now perhaps it should be more of a natural area and less built up with playing fields. “
The county first investigated development of western park in 2008 when landscape architects came up with a scheme estimated to cost $3.2 million.
Old Trail Community Association President Jim Neligan argued for the importance of the park, saying it needs to be developed because the county waived its normal requirements for play spaces and pocket parks in accepting the land for the park.
“We have to get the park redesigned to get it started,” said Neligan. “If our population doubles in the next 10 years we’ll need more facilities. We need to get the plan revised.”
The Square is not in the county’s capital projects list, said Mallek, but western park is. “County Parks and Rec is looking at the western park plan now.”
Later she wrote the CCAC to correct herself. Parks and Rec has it on its to-do list for next year.
Alibertis made a motion to choose The Square project as the top priority. Loach seconded.
“The Square is more important than the park because the park has other sources for money,” said Kim Guenther. “The Square has no other source now.”
“Barnes sort of depends on The Square being improved,” added Loach.
“The thought is there’s matching funds available,” said Alibertis.
“Let’s add [to the resolution] that all the priorities are important to the community,” said Bates.
There was a show of hands vote: 11 ayes, 2 nays. The nays were Phil Best and Sandra Mears, who disagreed not over its main point but because they wanted the resolution to say a second priority, too.
Shawn Bird made a motion to declare a second priority and suggested crushed stone for the trails. The cost is relatively cheap and the idea got a lot of support before, he pointed out.
Allie Pesch seconded.
“It’s very flexible to available funding,” said Bird. “You can put down however much you can afford.”
“It benefits everybody by improving connectivity,” said Leslie Burns.
“We’ll start at the dog park and go east toward Western Ridge,” said Best, a stalwart of the Crozet Trails Crew.
“One mile of stone in the right location would do a huge amount for connectivity,” said Terri Miyamoto, president of the CTC, rising from the public seats.
“The Square is county property,” said Mallek. “I’d like to get money to make it shovel-ready and to have some money left for another priority too.”
The CCAC paused, unsure of its tactics. The going idea was to not give the Supervisors an idea about another option, for fear they would find a way to choose it.
Bird tabled his motion, anticipating that a second priority might yet be needed. Meanwhile the point about firming up the trails had been made.
The adopted motion was written into a resolution to be sent to the supervisors.