Not Good Enough
Frank Stoner’s vague plan for developing the former Barnes lumber yard in downtown does not deserve rezoning approval. It’s a cheap version of downtown Crozet’s future, and if it proceeds, it will effectively sabotage the comprehensive vision of the Crozet Master Plan. The people of Crozet will get to decide on the fate of this property only once. Once it’s rezoned the prerogatives are with the developer. So we must be confident we are right in granting it. Stoner’s approach has been to be vague and promise details after the public turns over authority to him.
We must choose higher than Stoner’s vision. Downtown must be understood as something cultural, beyond even its commercial significance to the town. It shouldn’t be looked at as a few blocks of shops and houses.
Crozetians watched the growth of Charlottesville, and the master plan they (by way of the Supervisors) ratified for Crozet (twice now) tries to create something like the city’s downtown mall in the heart of our town, essentially on the lumberyard, and to prevent Rt. 250 from developing in the same fashion as Rt. 29 north. The plan tries to keep Rt. 250 as “the bypass” around the center of density in downtown.
Given the projected population of 17,000—there are about 7,000 here now, and 12,000 are expected circa 2020—a downtown of just 50 acres, with the built legacies of history in it—is a small downtown. Stoner’s plans call for 39 percent of the Barnes parcel to be residential. That reduces the remaining commercial area downtown to about 42 acres. When does small start to mean unviable?
If the prominent, tabula rasa location downtown is squandered, how soon should we expect pressure for commercial rezonings on Rt. 250? Development on Rt. 250 should not happen for another generation, after downtown is established and thriving. Only then would the south boundary of Crozet in fact be the logical place to grow. Should Rt. 250 grow before downtown it would likely mean a long-stunted existence for downtown.
Crozet has had a sense of its own identity as a place, as a community, for a long time. Crozet was a village. Now it’s a town. The Stoner vision challenges us with whether we are going to survive as a distinct place or become a suburb of Charlottesville. Stoner sees downtown as basically more bedrooms for Charlottesville workers. The Master Plan sees it as the place you find the heartbeat of Crozet and where people, we would hope lots of them, are going to work. Downtown is supposed to have magnetism. We should hold out for that future. Stone’rs gesture toward the district’s employment goal amounts to shrug.
Besides resorting to the greedy expediency of using the lumberyard for housing (when large empty parcels sit on the east and west sides of downtown already zoned for townhouses), you see the complete failure of the plan in the nonexistence of civic space in it. The highest ground in downtown ought to inspire something worthy of its views and, connected to The Square, a better plan would be aware that it is expected to carry on Crozet’s pride of place.
No single-family residences should be allowed on the lumberyard. A suitable plan would include more roads, maybe a grid, to handle the density of movement that should be expected downtown.
This is not the plan envisioned in the Master Plan. This plan has no vision and it’s not a pitch to swing at.