The Crozet Community Advisory Council cleared its March 20 agenda to discuss among themselves a proposal from developer Frank Stoner for the Barnes Lumber property after receiving the county planning staff’s report on Stoner’s plan.
“The CCAC needs more information,” began Bill Schrader. “Timing is key. We don’t have to jump at the first developer who comes a long.”
Chair Meg Holden praised planner Claudette Grant’s eight-page report. “It’s realistic and it takes into account the desires of the community in putting together the Master Plan.” Grant’s report notes that Stoner’s plan uses half of the property for 200 residences, attached and detached, whereas the plan calls for commercial, research and development firms and light industrial uses that bring jobs. To use the property for housing amounts to “a lost opportunity” for downtown, Grant said, and is against the Master Plan which considers residential use in downtown as secondary. In Downtown Crozet District zoning, residences are typically apartments on the upper floors of buildings. “This is a small downtown, surrounded by a fair amount of existing residential neighborhoods,” Grant wrote.
She noted that the proposal was vague on how the project’s road would tie in with The Square and that the project’s road designs deviated from the design defined in DCD zoning, which includes on-street parking, bike lanes and landscape strips.
Stoner’s plan calls for a “community plaza” on the four corners of the project’s main intersection where Library Avenue and High Street would cross. Grant calls this feature and its ownership unclear. “How will it function as a public place with a road intersection going through the middle of it?” she asked. The public plaza imagined for the parcel may have to be redesigned and proffered to the public, she suggested.
She also found the plan vague on how it plans for surface parking, and cautions that a parking garage may not be feasible now, but could be the right solution depending on the commercial or office uses that emerge over time.
White Hall District Planning Commissioner Tom Loach said three questions about the plan were critical to him. “Are we willing to accept a plan in which the developer says he will pay no proffers? That means we [taxpayers] help pay for the road. Are we willing to accept that the applicant does not emphasize job creation? Are we willing to accept a plan that is not mixed use but is a mixture of uses?
“There’s a lot more residential,” Loach pointed out. “The special use permit application asks for 200 units.” Stoner had put the number at 100 in his December meeting with CCAC.
“It takes the Stonefield example of mixture of uses,” he said, referring to a large project on the corner of Hydraulic Road and Rt. 29 North in Charlottesville where buildings have single uses but are near buildings with different uses. “The Square is actual mixed use,” with both business and residential uses in the same building.
Holden called Loach’s questions “cornerstone points” and said they deserved to be reiterated. “We appreciate that the report tries to protect the community and the plan we adopted,” she said. “Let’s stick with the Master Plan. We put a lot into it.”
“The emphasis should be on employment,” agreed Kim Connolly.
Steve Kostiw, who was listening from the side chairs, cautioned that “when you apply terms like ‘flexibility’ to the Master Plan you invite lawsuits because you deviate from the plan.”
“We don’t want detached single family houses on the Barnes property,” said Paul Grady, (who brought up the discussions he had participated in during the drafting of the Master Plan.) “We want residential on the upper floors of buildings.”
Stoner and Grant are expected to be at the CCAC’s April 17 meeting.
Parkway Pharmacy owner and CCAC member Brenda Plantz suggested that the traffic on The Square be made permanently one-way, headed toward Library Avenue or perhaps visa-versa, to relieve congestion there and allow for more parking places to be added in the empty travel lane.
It was the last meeting for veteran CCAC members Nancy Virginia Bain and Bill Schrader, who have served six-years and were not eligible for reappointment. Kim Connolly, Mathew Sposato, Janice Applebach and David Stoner (no relation to Frank) joined the council for two-year terms.
Jennie More was elected vice-chair with the expectation that she will run meetings in the upcoming year, the last year of chair Meg Holden’s term.