Western Park Design Reopened at CCAC Meeting

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Dave Stoner addresses the crowd at the October CCAC meeting. Photo: Mike Marshall.

A plan to develop Albemarle County’s “western park” in Old Trail was reopened by County Parks and Recreation Department officials at the Crozet Community Advisory Committee’s well-attended Oct. 15 meeting in the Crozet Elementary School cafeteria.

Parks and Rec Director Bob Crickenberger said, “It’s time to revisit the [western park plan] to make sure the community is all in synch with what’s proposed. Do we need it to be revised?” There is no formal process for how to change the plan, he said.

No one was sure how to answer because there was no copy of the standing plan on hand to look over. No one could remember even the outlines of the plan.

Western park was a proffer to the county in 2000 when the allowable densities for the Old Trail project were in play. Beights and Co., then the developers, offered up 38 acres of damp lowland with one narrow buildable peninsula touching Old Trail Drive as a trade-off for higher densities. The deal was done.

The county next hired Rieley and Associates landscape architects of Charlottesville, a firm with many distinctions in their opus—including Walnut Creek Park and Darden Towe Park, to develop a plan for the park with $50,000 that came with the proffer for that purpose. After a series of public design meetings in the spring of 2008, Rieley submitted his plan.  At the time it was estimated to cost about $3.5 million to execute. The plan was incorporated in the revision of the Crozet Master Plan that the Board of Supervisors ratified in 2010.

David Anhold of Anhold Associates, landscape architects, was on hand to lead the discussion about the park. Anhold consulted in Rieley’s plan, designed the handicapped fishing piers at Mint Springs Park and the streetscape at the Dairy Queen corner. “We’ve lived in Crozet since 1990,” said Anhold. “I’ve had my office in Greenwood since 2000. We’re fully invested in the community. We’re here as a first step. We’ve done some site analysis and a survey.

“The property is fabulous. It’s a rich water resource, with springs and wetlands, and abundant native plants. It’s a wonderful land form surrounded by development.”

Current conditions at Western Park. Image courtesy Anhold Associates.

Anhold showed an aerial photographs and slides of the present conditions. “It needs to be opened up,” he said. “Ninety percent of the park is floodplain. There’s a small buildable area for a pavilion or shelter. About 33 out of 38 acres is unbuildable.”

Results of an online survey on the design for western park recently conducted by the county produced the following ideas: trails and paths, a playground, a soccer field, garden plots, a pavilion. In the category of “other ideas” were restrooms, tennis courts, a dog park, a basketball court, an amphitheater, Anhold reported. “We don’t see parking as viable in the buildable areas,” he warned.

Map of flood plain and wetlands at Western Park from the 2007 plan.

The floor passed to Craig Redinger, local council president for the Boy Scouts of America, who proposed the possibility that the council would lease the buildable area of the park and build a two-building Scout center. Waynesboro is the geographic center of the council, which takes in parts of the Valley and Central Virginia, and the council’s headquarters are now there. “We have an idea to build a new Scout center—a venue for meetings and activities,” said Redinger. “We’re also looking at properties in the Valley.”

He showed drawings of two barn-like buildings in a L-shape with a silo nearby. “We’ve been working on these designs for 18 months now. These are not conjectural. The silo is a climbing facility. The center includes a shop for BSA goods. It could be a wedding venue.” Its main room would seat 100, he said, and community uses would not be charged for.

He showed how the buildings would be placed on the site with 46 parking spaces. “The objective is a facility that is useable for Scouting, including camping and community-oriented activities.” He suggested that Scouts might work on park projects as part of Eagle Scout qualifications.

The crowd was then dispersed to tables where small groups were led by Parks and Rec staffers in a discussion of what should happen in the park.

“There was no money to proceed in 2008,” said Tim Hughes to the group at his table. “We want some development of some type on it. The idea is to include one regulation-size soccer field in the area that’s being practiced on now. There’s only room for one field outside of the wetlands, which can’t be built on.”

His group went for trailhead parking as a top priority and favored “passive uses” as opposed to athletic ones. For the buildable area, the usual things: a playground, a pavilion or shelters. They wanted garden plots to stay in. They seemed relieved to hear that the county’s code forbids camping in its parks.

Clover Carroll, Gary and Heidi Grassi and ACPR’s Tim Hughes in small group discussion.

The “report out” of groups showed that the tables generally agreed that the stress should be on “natural and quiet,” on having a “destination” playground, keeping garden plots and on the trail system. All the groups supported the existing soccer field. Restrooms were strongly desired. This list is essentially what the 2008 plan includes.

Anhold said the next public meeting on the park will be held in January or February and meanwhile he will develop a concept.

In other business, Milestone Partners developer Frank Stoner told the CCAC that his plan for phase 1 of the Barnes lumber property will go to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for approval in January. Phase I is 6.25 acres between The Square and High Street, the high ground of downtown. The plaza to be built there will hold as many as 1,500 people, Stoner said. The Downtown Crozet Initiative will apply for grants to help fund the cost of the plaza, estimated at $3 million.

Barnes Lumber Phase 1 from Frank Stoner’s presentation at the October CCAC meeting.

He said he will apply for VDOT funds to build the road through the property to connect The Square to Parkside Village. The county will apply for revenue matching funds. The project has moved up on VDOT’s priority list, Stoner said, because of its economic development potential, ranking just above the bridge over Lickinghole Creek needed to connect “eastern avenue” to Rt. 250.

Stoner said a rejection by VDOT would put the project on hold.

He said for now parking will happen on the undeveloped eastern portion of the parcel. When the time comes for phase 2, it will have to include a parking garage, he said.

Stoner said two properties must grant easements over their edges to allow the extension of Library Avenue. He said he is willing to contribute to the cost of installing a traffic light at Library Avenue.

Construction could start in 2019 and the first buildings could be occupied in 2020, he said. Two boutique hotels are interested in being on the plaza, if it happens. “The idea is to create a miniature Downtown Mall,” Stoner summed up.

In an update on the push to renovate The Square parking lot, CCAC chair David Stoner (no relation to Frank) reported that the draft plan shows 5-foot sidewalks where 10-foot ones are required and that streetlights have been left out. He said the development of Oak Street (from The Square to Library Avenue) is now included in the project. He also called for the relocation of the gate to the CSX lot, worth about 5 parking spaces, noting that the plan results in 29 spaces, which is probably fewer than are there now.

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