Population Concern Tops Survey Results

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To download the complete results of the Crozet Master Plan questionnaire in Excel format click here.

aerial-crozet-downtownCrozet residents don’t want to see the small town quality of life they enjoy sacrificed to growth pressures and therefore identified future population limits as their top agenda item in the current master plan revision process. They also confirmed their support for the original goals of the 2004 plan, which placed the first priority on the vitality of downtown Crozet and discouraged growth along Rt. 250.

Seven hundred people filled out the June questionnaire prepared by the Crozet Community Advisory Council and Albemarle County to learn what concerns dominate public opinion about the Crozet Master Plan. About 21 percent of those who responded did not live in the area when the Master Plan was being developed in 2003 and 2004. Of those who did live here then, two-thirds said they did not participate in that process, so only one-quarter of those answering had a personal memory of the plan’s creation.

About 65 percent of respondents said they live in the Crozet Growth Area. One-quarter said they moved to western Albemarle within the last five years, 16 percent have lived here all their life, and a third said they have lived here for 11 or more years. Those who moved here recently cited “overall quality of life,” the reputation of the schools and natural beauty as their three main reasons for choosing Crozet. Other important factors were job or family-related, the proximity to mountains and recreation, and safety of the neighborhoods.

The questionnaire identified 47 Crozet neighborhoods as well as surrounding villages that respondents could identify as their home, and responses showed a broad mix of new and old neighborhoods and town and rural views. Western Ridge produced the single largest group of responses, 64. Next was Old Trail with 32, followed by Highlands and Grayrock with 31 and 30, respectively. All together, respondents said their households contain 1,791 people, but that figure likely contains an indeterminable number of double-counted people. The Crozet current population is estimated at 5,500.

A five-member subcommittee of the CCAC, composed of Tim Tolson, Bill Schrader, Barbara Westbrook, Meg Holden and Terry Tereskerz, drafted the questionnaire after the CCAC membership as a whole (15 people) submitted possible questions and issue areas. Two CCAC meetings in April and May were devoted to refining the form. Fortunately for the Council, and Crozet, Tolson’s Ph.D. minor was in quantitative methods (for years he was a statistical consultant for U.Va.’s Information Technology and Communications department, where he still works as a security and policy analyst) and he was trained in survey methods.

“Seven hundred people filling out a questionnaire that is just advertised as ‘tell us what you think about Crozet’ with no other inducement is a fantastic number,” said Tolson. “The demographic numbers show we got a good sampling, the kind of thing you would aim for if you were doing a scientific survey. Newcomers showed as much interest in the future as older residents.”

The questionnaire was not scientific because there was no control over how many times the same person might fill it out. But an investigation of the IP addresses of the computers that submitted the information and dates and times of submissions “suggests that no ‘stuffing’ of results was attempted,” Tolson said. In instances where the same computer was used, perhaps at Crozet Library, for example, varying responses were given. “There is no evidence that any one attempted to skew the results,” he concluded.

Questions also offered comment boxes where respondents could elaborate on their view of the issue. Not counting suggestions for new types of business or descriptions of where exactly they live, respondents volunteered 1,782 comments on issues raised in the questionnaire.

Some respondents commented that they objected to questions in which they were forced to choose between competing priorities in the same general topic, such as transportation, commercial development or green space and recreation, but the CCAC was seeking those fine distinctions. “In the world we live in, you have to do something first and then the next thing,” Tolson noted. “So you have to give a rank even when all the options are important to you.” The maximum value a selection within a question could have was predicated on the question’s total number of options. For a question with four options, the scale was 4.0; for five options, 5.0. [See selected data charts on pages 15,16, 25, 26, and 35.]

“Forcing the respondents to rank their choice establishes a community ranking,” Tolson explained. “In the one question [about small town feel] where ranking wasn’t forced, responses show folks saying that ‘It’s all important’.”

“Every place already existing, such as downtown, when asked about, emerges as the highest priority,” he said. “Respondents are saying their emphasis is ‘preserve what we’ve got. Don’t kill it in the process of developing Crozet’.”

In the transportation category, 46 percent ranked pedestrian safety in Crozet as their highest concern. Thirty-five percent called for bike lanes along highways and more bike paths, and more than 73 percent said a commuter bus service to Charlottesville is important (26.5 percent said it is essential). Sixty-two percent expressed an interest in commuter rail. But nearly 56 percent said they wouldn’t actually take a bus themselves and almost 64 percent admitted they would not carpool. Thirty percent asserted that they would use a commuter train.

In the commercial development category, 61 percent said the viability of existing Crozet businesses is of greatest importance to them. In a subsequent question, 90 percent said they shop at a Crozet business at least once a week, 54 percent said several times per week and almost 20 percent answered daily.

In the growth category, population density scored at 3.61, making it the highest concern of 61 percent of respondents, with the safety of the water supply as a close runner up. Protection of existing neighborhoods was also rated a close third by 58 percent.

Preserving wooded areas and developing walking paths ranked first and second respectively in the parks and recreation category.

Among public building needs, Crozetians put the greatest emphasis on school capacity and redistricting issues and the construction of the new library.

Asked to rank the important factors in creating Crozet’s “small town feel,” a question that allowed for an unlimited use of the “essential” vote in 11 subjects, respondents put safety/low crime at the top of their essential list. Next in the order of essentials came the library, followed by open spaces and parks, and downtown. Residential development was rated “not important at all” and the availability of jobs in Crozet also mattered little. If the choices “very important” and “essential” are combined, 83 percent of respondents selected safety, followed by 72 percent for the library, 66 percent for parks and fields, and 56 percent for downtown.

On the crucial matters of residential density and population limits, 90 percent of respondents opposed new rezonings without adequate infrastructure being in place; 74 percent described their opposition as ‘strong.’

Eighty percent opposed an expansion of the Crozet Growth Area boundary, with 61 percent characterizing their opposition as ‘strong.’

Sixty-seven percent believe new housing density should be concentrated around commercial centers such as downtown or the new Old Trail stores.

Sixty-eight percent agree with the main principle of the 2004 Master Plan: downtown should get first priority in commercial and residential development and development along Rt. 250 should be discouraged.

Fifty-eight percent oppose–45 percent say ‘strongly’—new commercial or industrial development in the vicinity of the Yancey Mills Interstate 64 interchange.

Respondents’ strategy for dealing with these priorities is to focus on the population allowed by zoning. Seventy-six percent said that sticking to an ultimate population of 12,000 that the 2004 Master Plan envisioned is important; 44 percent call it ‘essential.’

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