Crozet Survey Finds Residents Enchanted with Area, Yet Worried about Growing Pains

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Map of Crozet (designated growth area shown in grey) prepared by Albemarle County for the Crozet Gazette in September 2016.

If there’s one broad, irrefutable conclusion to draw from the 2017 Crozet Community Survey it’s that the people who live in the Crozet area really, really like living here. They treasure the history of the area and are complimentary of many different facets of present-day life in Crozet. Yet the survey also reveals that local residents recognize, quite clearly, that the area is rapidly growing, and with that come both opportunities and challenges.

In overwhelming numbers local residents are in general agreement that the Crozet area is blessed with a wide range of qualities that make it a great place to live. They point to the area’s physical beauty, its low crime and high sense of safety for families, and the high-quality schools. But locals also understand that what makes Crozet so special is not by happenstance; it is a product of thoughtful planning and hard work on the part of all community members. We are a very engaged community, and we ensure there are deliberate, inclusive channels that invite all in the area to help shape Crozet’s future.

This is the principal purpose of the 2017 Crozet Community Survey—to allow local residents to be heard and have input into the upcoming revision of the Crozet Master Plan. In this piece, we will share the main findings of the survey. In the coming months the survey committee will hold several public events where we will dig deeper into these numbers and discuss their meaning vis-à-vis the Master Plan.

Complete results of the scientific sample are available in the January 2018 Crozet Gazette and in PDF by clicking here.

How was the survey conducted?

This last summer the Crozet Community Association (CCA) sponsored the second comprehensive survey of those living in and around Crozet, under the direction of a small volunteer survey committee (the first survey was conducted in 2009). The 2017 survey was split up into two methods—a scientific sample and a volunteer sample. The scientific sample represented a fine-tuning of the 2009 survey in that the survey was distributed by mail to a random selection of households inside the Crozet growth area, as well as to a smaller sample of households in areas adjacent to the growth area.  This method reached all corners and sectors of the community. In technical speak, the 2017 scientific sample followed a strict protocol, including mailed-out reminders, that ensured the community members invited to participate would be representative of the community as a whole.

The volunteer sample, in comparison, consisted of those who were not singled out to participate but filled out and returned questionnaires on their own initiative. A comparison of the results of the two surveys finds that, for the most part, answers were quite similar. This is encouraging; it boosts the validity of the scientific survey. However, what did vary more was the composition of who took the volunteered survey. Specifically, we found in the volunteer sample a higher percentage of women and those who are civically engaged. This is not surprising, but it was different enough that we concluded that the samples should be kept separate. For reporting purposes, we will be concentrating on the scientific sample of the 2017 survey. (Both sets of results will be available on-line at the CCA website at a later date. Here are the results of the scientific sample, which were published in the January Gazette alongside this article.)

Who took the survey?

In total, for the scientific sample there were 701 questionnaires returned, yielding a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points on the survey results. The gender breakdown was 55% female/45% male (a fair approximation of the actual population). More than half of the sample (55%) have lived in the Crozet area for 10 years or less, with one-third living here five years or less. We purposely drew most of the sample from within the designated growth area of Crozet, so about 7-in-10 of the scientific sample live in the growth area, leaving about 30% residing in surrounding areas such as Greenwood, Batesville, Ivy, and White Hall. Finally, 35% of the sample reported that they currently have at least one child in the local public schools.

Downtown Crozet, October 2017. Photo courtesy Piedmont Place.

General impressions

The survey started by asking respondents a series of general questions about what they most appreciate about the Crozet area. Large majorities of residents consistently cited a number of attributes: low crime, the area’s beautiful surroundings, being family-friendly, and the ease of getting around (versus regularly stuck in traffic). All of these give Crozet that “small town feel” that so many of the survey respondents appreciate. Also registering very strongly with people is having a vibrant library and downtown. Many also feel the numerous local wineries and breweries give the area a positive identity.

High level of engagement

Beyond physical and infrastructural traits, the survey found that an overwhelming majority of local residents praise the area’s community-mindedness; 95% say it is important to them that Crozet has “thoughtful town planning.” The area also enjoys robust public engagement. Three-quarters of those in and around Crozet report that they either “very closely” or “somewhat closely” follow local civic and growth/development issues. Moreover, about 30% say they regularly participate in local community or civic organizations, and another 50% say they take part, but not regularly. That’s an impressive 8-in-10 rate of engagement—a level that would be the envy of most other communities.

The 2017 survey did find that just 15% in the area say they were involved in the Crozet Master Plan process in either 2004 or 2010—for example, going to a meeting, taking the 2009 survey, or talking to elected officials. This modest level is somewhat explained by the fact that a sizable proportion of current residents (27%) say they didn’t live here then. This underscores the imperative of revisiting the Master Plan soon, since we have so many in the community presently who did not have input in the last one.

The Crozet Avenue Streetscape project was completed in 2015. Photo: VDOT.

Downtown Crozet as the Hub

Local residents could not be more in agreement that downtown Crozet is and should be the centerpiece of the area’s economic and communal development. A nearly unanimous consensus (94%) strongly agree that the Master Plan should preserve the central vision of having downtown be the main center for social and business activities.  In addition, 80% share a belief that downtown should be the top priority for development over other parts of the area.

Wariness about 250

While there is little disagreement that downtown Crozet should be revitalized, there is a high level of concern about further development along Route 250. The 2017 survey asked a number of questions on the topic. One question finds that two-thirds of the community think that increasing commercial development along Rt. 250 is either “not very important” or “not important at all.” Another question asked specifically about further development in the main stretch of Rt. 250 from Blue Ridge Supply to Pro Re Nata, and 70% were opposed.

The public is more conflicted about the area near the Rt. 250/I-64 interchange. When asked about whether the Crozet Master Plan should be changed to allow more residential and commercial development near the interchange, 55% back the idea of changing the plan, while 45% are against it.

The downside of development

Many in Crozet welcome the progress of the area and the many new opportunities available to residents and businesses. However, they also recognize that the area is suffering from some growing pains. A very large majority of locals want to buffer existing residential communities from further development and to limit growth in general. And close to three-quarters (73%) oppose the idea of expanding the current development area’s boundaries.

The survey finds that many in Crozet feel it is important to address traffic management in the area and the inadequacy of parking spots in commercial areas (particularly downtown). There is also a widespread sentiment that they area is not very pedestrian- or bike-friendly.  Also, with more and more people moving to the area, it is broadly agreed that the local schools are dealing with serious capacity issues.

Next steps

The survey committee will continue to analyze the survey data more deeply and share findings at a series of public meetings in the first few months of 2018. We invite all community members to attend and share their own thoughts helping to inform the next steps we take toward an updated Master Plan for the Crozet area. The dates and times of the public meetings will be announced soon.

Shawn Bird and Tom Guterbock, experts in survey research methods and interpretation, and both Crozet residents, provided technical assistance on the 2017 Crozet Community Survey.

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