No Hope Soon for Traffic Relief

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Joel DeNunzio, VDOT, speaking at the September CCAC meeting. Photo: Mike Marshall.

Traffic congestion through downtown Crozet, especially at school travel times, is not likely to be relieved any time soon, VDOT’s Charlottesville resident engineer Joel DeNunzio told the Crozet Community Advisory Committee at its Sept. 20 meeting.

CCAC member Tom Loach, a retired Planning Commission representative for White Hall District, had raised the idea of installing a three-way stop sign at the intersection of Jarmans Gap Road and Crozet Avenue, where vehicles on Jarmans Gap have a hard time turning left into downtown. He suggested that creating gaps in traffic might relieve congestion at other nearby corners, too.

“We see a lot of these issues of short windows of congestion,” said DeNunzio, who lives in Crozet and is familiar with local traffic characteristics. “Two hours in the a.m. and two hours in the p.m. We have a congestion issue of less than an hour at Jarmans Gap. The situation at Old Trail Drive and Western Albemarle [High School] is getting better. I don’t know what to do right now. It gets into what’s going to happen at the Barnes lumberyard. We’re all going to miserable if Crozet Avenue gets filled up with stop signs and signals.”

“It would be a huge mistake to queue vehicles on Crozet Avenue,” said CCAC member Kostis Alibertis, the longtime chief of the Western Albemarle Rescue Squad.

“If you look at the data, emergency vehicles mostly have accidents at intersections that are controlled. The emergency vehicles have nowhere to go.”

“Most of the congestion I see in Crozet is caused by the four-way stop [at the Dairy Queen],” said DeNunzio. “Most accidents are not related to Jarmans Gap Road.”

He produced a map of accidents over the last five years on the stretch of Crozet Avenue that passes through downtown that showed a total of 24 accidents, seven of which produced injuries. Twelve of those were in the DQ intersection or under the railroad trestle. Three occurred at the Jarmans Gap intersection.

“We need to count volumes again,” he said. “The streetscape project did lower speeds on Crozet Avenue.” He said the last count in 2016 showed that 7,000 vehicles a day use the road. Ninety-eight percent of the traffic is cars and two percent is trucks. Jarmans Gap Road handles 3,700 cars a day and there are 108 left turns onto Crozet Avenue during peak times.

Speed bumps and traffic circles were raised as solutions, but neither was judged suitable for the location.

“The Library Avenue intersection with Crozet Avenues should be thought of as the main intersection [in future traffic planning],” DeNunzio said. “Stopping traffic sometimes causes more problems than it solves,” he noted.

CCAC meeting attendants voted with stickers on the possible proposed changes to county AirBnB-type rules.

County planner Rebecca Ragsdale briefed the CCAC on the county’s plans to tighten its transient lodging rules and, in a colored-sticker vote, asked for members to offer their opinions on four questions describing the range of control that should be asserted over temporary lodging offered in people’s houses.

The Board of Supervisors asked for the policy review in March. Ragsdale said the object is to balance the goal of preserving the rural areas with allowing transient lodging to go on. Current policy allows up to five rooms in a single house in a development area to be rented. The owner must be present during the period in which the transient use rental occurs. Rooms in townhouse or apartments cannot be rented. Rooms in detached structures, such as garages, cannot be rented out. Weddings or special events are not allowed without a special use permit.

The county charges a $108 fee to get a permit to offer transient lodging. The house is inspected and parking is considered. The fire marshal and the health department may also need to approve the location. Their charges total $90. House owners are required to collect the county’s transient lodging tax as well and pay it on a monthly basis.

There are 120 permitted facilities now, Ragsdale said, noting that an investigation of advertised rooms showed about 300 available in the county at the moment the market was surveyed, suggesting that many unpermitted rooms are being rented.

Ragsdale said the county is considering allowing whole house rental. She said there have only been 10 complaints to the county about transient lodging since 2005, most from disturbed neighbors.

The sticker vote of meeting attenders suggested that about a quarter of respondents thought no expansion should be allowed and most thought some use should be permitted.

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