Last Big Acreage in Eastern Crozet Slated for Development

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A plan to build as many as 145 houses on what was formerly the Shifflett Farm, the last large undeveloped acreage in eastern Crozet, was considered at an Albemarle County planning department review meeting April 19 and the plan, dubbed Westlake Hills, has gone back to the drawing board for revision.

The by-right plan, one that the county may regulate but not deny, was put forward by Riverside Management. Their CEO Alan Taylor attended. By leaving 45 percent of the land in open space, mainly creek bottoms and the slopes along them, the plan is entitled to a six percent housing density bonus. Lots would be a half-acre, said Taylor, the same size as those his company is developing next door in Foothill Crossings, a by-right subdivision that is an extension of Park Ridge Road. Foothill Crossing and Westlake Hills will connect.

Part of the property has critical [steep] slopes and Riverside is asking for a slopes waiver in order to achieve the 145-lot scale. Some 27 lots in the plan are affected by critical slopes, according to county engineer Glenn Brooks.

Planning chief David Benish said that the county takes a more protective view of critical slopes when they are in growth areas and that the planning staff was not likely to recommend that a waiver be granted. The county engineer must also make a call. But the supervisors have agreed to reduced, 50-foot buffers along critical slopes in other Crozet projects, Benish said.

If Riverside Management wants to pursue the waiver it will have to make its case to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. County staffers have the authority to approve the plan if no waiver is sought.

Staffers asked that the locations of trails called for in the Crozet Master Plan be shown. Riverside granted trail easements as part of Foothill Crossing and Taylor said there was no objection to showing the trails in the new project. The property lies on the west side of the Lickinghole Creek pond. A park was once proposed for the vicinity. Taylor said he is aware of a stand of old beeches along one creek that he wants to protect.

Residents from Western Ridge and Westhall came to express apprehension over the implied growth in traffic through their neighborhoods. The plans made the connection to heavily-traveled Park Road and Tabor Street clear. Taylor reassured residents that the new project would not get started until Foothill Crossing builds out and a second eastward connection to Park Ridge Road exists. Taylor said Foothill Crossing, a 75-unit project, has been selling at a rate of one house per month and that unless the housing economy improves it will be another five years before Westlake Hills begins. Taylor said that they are using the time meanwhile to get plans approved so they are ready to go when the market seems favorable.

The plan constructs a segment of what is known as Eastern Avenue, conceived of as the main north/south artery in eastern Crozet that would connect Cory Farm on Rt. 250 with Rt. 240 at the brick-columned gate between MusicToday and the former Acme building. The south connection at Rt. 250 depends on a bridge costing several million dollars over Lickinghole Creek and the north connection depends on a railroad crossing, also a costly and difficult project. Foothill Crossing also creates a segment of the road.

County staffers reported that the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department had expressed some worry over the possibility that access through Westhall could be cut off by a fallen tree or power pole.

The plan shows Eastern Avenue as 80 feet wide and White Hall Supervisor Ann Mallek asked for more detail that would show bike lanes on the road and whether it could have a tree-planted median.

Riverside later pulled the plan to rework it. Taylor said the subdivision’s road plan may change and that a stem road with cul-de-sacs off it is the most likely thing to happen.

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