The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board, which oversees the aesthetics of buildings that are in view from what the county has designated as “entrance corridor” roads, such as Rt. 250 and Rt. 240 in Crozet, found little to object to in the latest design for Re-Stor’N Station at its meeting August 1, but will require applicant Jeff Sprouse to submit more detailed drawings at a workshop session before voting on a final certificate of appropriateness.
Sprouse’s development consultant Jo Higgins told the ARB the station’s developers hoped the session could be the last time the plan had to come before the panel, pointing out that they had been working on it for some time.
“I bridle when I hear people talk about how long they have been working on something,” said White Hall Supervisor Ann Mallek, who attended the meeting and came forward during public comment. “I and the other supervisors as well were surprised by the enlarged second floor design after we had set the conditions [to grant Sprouse a special use permit over water use last October].”
Neighbors who commented to the board said the store should look more like Greenwood Gourmet, which the original design for the store did resemble.
The new design with an enlarged second floor features a second story front porch, a cupola and awnings over the windows on the lower floor. The lower floor will be brick and the second floor will have wood siding. The first floor is now 2,700 square feet and the floor above contains 1,900 square feet. The Board of Supervisors limited the station to a footprint of 3,000 square feet in its SUP decision.
Higgins told the ARB the cupola was added because the Crozet Dairy Queen has one. “We wanted to emulate that,” she said. “We cut its size by one-third. We think it adds to the character of the building.” She presented photos of other buildings in the Crozet area with cupolas.
County staffers who reviewed the plans had suggested that it be removed to reduce the impression of the station’s new height. ARB members seemed indifferent to the feature, but as a condition of approval required that the cupola have a steeper roof in order to improve its proportions.
When board members asked for clarifications about materials and design features, Higgins took away some samples she said were no longer under consideration. ARB member Bruce Wardell said he had no strong objections to the design but, given the history of the project and the unforeseen interpretations that had been made of board decisions, he was reluctant to give approval without more details being provided. He called the plans “a moving target” and said he was “having a tough time getting over that [approval] threshold.”
Charles Lebo answered that the building was “not an eyesore” and that with a few minor conditions imposed, he was prepared to approve. Bill Daggett agreed the plan had “come a long way.”
Paul Wright said, “This is the first building in this process I’ve thought was approvable.”
At that point Lebo made a motion to approve, with conditions, and was seconded by Daggett. But the vote tied 2 to 2, and so the motion failed. Wright and Wardell wanted the details spelled out before the approval is final.
“I can’t support it because I don’t understand enough about what will actually be built,” Wardell said. “Our goal is not to establish a bottom level, the lowest bar possible, but a positive response to the context. I guarantee you the details make a difference.”
Daggett contended that the details Wardell want to know about really wouldn’t be visible from the highway.
The solution of one more meeting was settled on, at which Higgins will provide clarification. It was clear, however, that no real obstacles to the design remain.
Neighbors of the station have filed a lawsuit in Albemarle Circuit Court challenging the May 3 decision of the Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals that backed a ruling by County Zoning Chief Ron Higgins, who had determined that the enlargement of the second floor of the project from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet is in “general accord” with the Albemarle Supervisors’ attempts to reduce the scale of the project in their action on it in October 2010.
The suit, filed on behalf of Richard Brown and Bruce Kirtley, who had challenged Higgins’ ruling before the BZA in the first place, as well as Chris and Ann Suh, owners of Brownsville Market, and Marcia Joseph, was prepared by attorney Thomas W. “T.J.” Aldous of the Zobrist Law Group. Duane Zobrist had represented the neighbors in the appeal before the BZA. Aldous, a Republican, has since announced his candidacy for the 25th District seat in the Virginia Senate, which has been held since 2001 by Democrat Creigh Deeds.
The 20-page suit retraces the procedural history of the project through county review and, with extensive examination of the transcript of the Board of Supervisors’ discussions of the project, attempts to show that the enlargement of the second floor from a dormered “family office” space into a 3,000-square-foot second level of rental offices cannot be consistent with Supervisors’ many conditions on the project, which were designed to limit its scale, water use and impact on neighbors in Freetown.
In his first revised plan for the store, Sprouse converted the second level to a full story over the first, essentially placing the rejected addition on top of the approved first floor. The suit argues that this change violates the expressed goals of the Supervisors and that Higgins’ ruling of “general accord,” as well as the BZA’s, which neighbors felt gave only a perfunctory hearing to their argument, should be overturned by the Circuit Court. As a remedy, the suit seeks the restoration of the original plan for the second floor of the store.
No court date for hearing the lawsuit has been set yet. If the court rules in favor of the neighbors, the design will have to come back to the ARB.