The Vision of the People
Last year about this time, Barnes lumberyard developer Frank Stoner, who was feeling bucked by the Crozet Community Advisory Council (as it was then called), asked the CCAC to express just what it was the community desired would happen on the property. The CCAC went into three additional late-night meetings that June debating whether they were getting their words right. They gave him their report and that was the last anything came of it.
We want a downtown that’s got a proud heart beat and that’s got a fair chance. There’s more to that than just whatever happens on Barnes. But with some imagination, with some prudent attention to whatever plan comes forward, we can help downtown’s likelihood of real success.
We expect downtown to be the town’s cultural/commercial center and to have a nugget of businesses, at least, that pack some jobs. Yes, we could stand a deeper inventory of apartments. There’s a donut circle of neighborhoods within a half-mile walk of the lumberyard. It’s a sure pedestrian destination if the design is handled smartly.
This year the public came out—its representatives on the CCAC not being sufficient—at two mass meetings in local schools and the people of Crozet spoke up for the vision of the downtown articulated in the Master Plan, again. There, they say anew, is our enduring will and statement.
We know about the road confinement problems caused by the railroad—that’s old news in Crozet—and the traffic questions that those pose for the lumberyard acres. Those are best solved with intelligent circulation possibilities and that means parallel streets in some kind of blocks. Landscaped areas along avenues will surely pay off. Given the site’s higher calling to a cultural duty, a shady plaza/park area is a necessity. These vital elements should be a given in any plan that asks for a rezoning to get the lumberyard inside the downtown zoning district.
To improve the prospect of things on the east end of the yard, the developer posits a new tunnel, just for cars, under the tracks. A second underpass in front of the firehouse is ideally desirable, but it is implausible, and likely not worth the expense. The public would be smarter to fund a bridge over Lickinghole Creek to tie east Crozet to Rt. 250 at Cory Farm.
In transportation matters, the developer thinks of something less costly to him than grid streets, and he thinks that public space ought to be developed at public expense. He takes these features as undue and avoidable burdens on profits that can be ameliorated by taxpayer dollars. Meanwhile, citizen, you of course see this is a for-profit venture.
So far, we people of Crozet haven’t seen a pitch worth swinging at yet.
In fact, it’s these amenities that will secure people’s loyalty to the place and draw them to it, and thus they should be intelligently improved and optimized.
It’s time to think like Italians. The lumberyard is a blank slate, still pregnant with possibilities. What if Crozet had a corso? It could be a way to walk off dinner, to see what people are up to. It could get us together. It could take in some views.