A prospective buyer of the 19-acre former Barnes Lumber Company property in downtown Crozet has asked county planning officials for a rule change in the Downtown Crozet District zoning that would allow residential use of the first floor of buildings in the district following a special use permit process, county planning chief Wayne Cilimberg told the Crozet Community Advisory Council at their Oct. 17 meeting.
The rule forbidding residences on the first floor was extensively debated when the special zoning district was created in 2006. It was finally adopted as a way to discourage the development of downtown as a concentration of apartment buildings, rather than the real goal, which is to attract businesses, especially those that will offer jobs. The current rule allows residences only above the first floor, which must be either commercial or office space. The district limits building heights to four stories, though a fifth or sixth floor is possible if set back from the main façade.
White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek identified developer Frank Stoner, principal with Milestone Partners and formerly vice president of Stonehaus Development, as the person seeking the change. He is in conversations with the bank holding the property, Union First Market Bank, which foreclosed on Barnes Lumber in 2012, Mallek reported.
Cilimberg said Stoner is interested in putting townhouses on the southern and eastern sides of the property where it touches existing neighborhoods.
CCAC members had no objections to the idea, reassured that each case would have to be considered through the special use permit process and the change would not be general across the 50-acre district.
Mallek said she found the idea in agreement with the concept that use density should “taper” at the edges of the downtown district, a principle that was endorsed when the future of Carter Street on the west side of the DCD was contemplated during the revision of the Crozet Master Plan in 2010.
Mallek said Stoner will present his plan for the property to the CCAC should it advance with the rule change. She said it does not now include a pedestrian mall as was proposed in earlier concepts for the area.
Cilimberg told the CCAC that county planners will review any request for SUPs in downtown and that “nothing could get changed without the supervisors approving it,” which is not a consolation with much credibility in Crozet.
“We don’t want downtown to become residential rather than commercial,” Cilimberg acknowledged.
The proposal will go before the Albemarle Planning Commission Nov. 12.
In other business, the CCAC learned that local landscaping supplier Scott Watkins has offered to do a roadside beautification project in Crozet and asked for a site to be suggested. CCAC members said either the embankment on the northwest corner of the railroad trestle, near the intersection of Rt. 240 and Railroad Avenue, or in the triangular patch where Crozet Avenue meets Rt. 250 with a right turn lane.
CCAC member Bill Schrader said the Crozet Library is interested in adding evening hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays, open until 9 p.m. as on Mondays and Tuesdays, but that the longer hours will require more library staff. He asked local citizens to express support for the idea in the county’s current budget considerations.
Mallek said the county will proceed with shutting down the Ivy Transfer Center in an effort to control costs of solid waste handling and is looking for three locations in the county for “convenience centers” where residents will be able to drop off common household trash but not all the variety of items now accepted at Ivy. One convenience center will be near Crozet, she said, the others being in the northern and southeastern quadrants of the county. Mallek said she inquired about vacant parts of the Crozet water treatment plant parcel but was told by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority that it expects to need the area for expansion of the treatment plant.