CCAC Casts Wary Eye on Interstate Interchange Development

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Reacting to the possibility that the Growth Area Boundary at the interchange of Rt. 29 and Interstate 64, Exit 118, near Charlottesville will be enlarged by County Supervisors to accommodate a potential commercial user who is interested in property on its southwest quadrant, the Crozet Community Advisory Committee considered whether to re-issue a 2012 resolution it passed opposing development of the Exit 107 interchange at Yancey Mills.

The possibility was raised by White Hall District Planning Commissioner Tom Loach, who noted that the Yancey Mills interchange had been brought up by a supervisor in the discussion about enlarging the boundary at Exit 118.

Development of the area was considered and rejected in the review of the Crozet Master Plan in 2010. The Yancey Mills location is not eligible for public water and sewer service—“That’s the way we want it to stay,” Loach noted—but the Exit 118 property is already within an eligible area for service.

“I’m concerned this will open up something we don’t want opened up,” explained Loach. “The fact that it was mentioned is what gives me concern. We’ve already resolved this issue.”

A change to the exit 107’s development status or a change to a growth area boundary would require a formal change to the County’s Comprehensive Plan.

“I agree we need to restate our resolution,” said CCAC chair Jennie More. “We always have to be watchful.”

The CCAC also passed a resolution opposing development of Exit 107 in 2008, when a proposal to create 180,000 square feet of light industrial space there (an area three times the space of Fashion Square Mall in Charlottesville) had been proposed on 182 acres adjoining the Yancey Lumber Co. mill.

White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek spoke up to say that since the county’s “big study of light industrial [zoning], possible changes to growth areas should be close to the city.

“[Other interchanges] are not on the table and will not be on the table,” she said.

Loach suggested that the CCAC connect with other advisory committees in the county to assert the authority of ratified master plans.

Mallek said the future of Exit 118 “is weighing on my mind.”  She said that residential and commercial uses saturate the urban ring around Charlottesville, implying that a light industrial use could be desirable.

“We’re getting information now about what would happen at that intersection.”

A public hearing on the Exit 118 boundary enlargement is set for August 18.

CCAC action to restate its resolution will come at its August 19 meeting.

The CCAC was introduced to a new visualization technology created by Bob Pineo of the firm Design Develop. The Charlottesville firm has developed a technology that allows a plan that exists only as two-dimensional drawings to be rendered in three dimensions that can then be examined from virtually any point of view and “toured” as if it had been built.

“It’s a tool for community engagement,” noted More.

Pineo, trained in architecture at U.Va., went to Boston to become a real estate developer.

“I know how hard development is,” said Pineo, “and I know how much capital it takes. I’ve shown lots of graphics to municipalities.”

Pineo made his way back to Charlottesville and settled on a career in architecture. He noticed again and again that clients could not follow his plans or drawings. They didn’t have the nomenclature of architectural design elements; for example, the symbol for a door did not communicate the location of a door to an untrained client.

“I needed better graphic communications. We couldn’t get to resolutions [of design issues] without understanding the symbols.”

The firm developed a 3-D video of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir project for Charlottesville Tomorrow. “We told the story,” said Pineo.

They did a similar visual explication for the proposed Rt. 29 western bypass.

“Modeling really revealed its size,” said Pineo.

They did one for Katurah Roell’s proposed Claudius Place in downtown Crozet, a project which subsequently stalled and whose location has passed to new owners, and for the new Marriott Hotel that is being built opposite the Lewis and Clark statue in Charlottesville. The firm has also developed presentations for many projects, including Charlottesville’s market plaza and the Low Line Park project along the James River in Shockhoe Bottom in Richmond.

“This is a testing and unfolding process,” said Pineo.

Animation can show cars moving on streets past proposed buildings and show a structure’s scale compared to human size. It’s as if a drone-mounted camera were flying around in an imagined space.

“It shows the scale and the community can see what’s happening,” said Loach, who suggested that visualization would be a valuable tool for assessing a plan for the Barnes lumberyard property.

“You can test these things and see their implications immediately,” said Pineo. “The impact of The Flats [on West Main Street in Charlottesville] could have been seen in advance.”

Pineo said the cost of the visualization would depend on how elaborate it needed to be, but he volunteered that a visualization done for Rivanna Village, a 32-acre residential project near Glenmore, cost about $10,000.

In other business, Loach described the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department’s efforts to replace its decades-old front yard sign, which runs temporary messages of community interest (and occasionally birthday greetings for firefighters) with an electronic sign. Because it would be only the second electronic sign in Albemarle and it’s on an official entrance corridor and therefore falls under the authority of the county’s Architectural Review Board, the ARB is cautiously aware of how it sets precedents. The ARB has said it wants higher image resolution on the sign, Loach said.

The four-by-eight sign would be set in a brick case, use LED technology (but show text only) and is expected to cost $40,000, Loach said. The sign adjusts to prevailing light conditions. It would not carry commercial messages. He asked the CCAC for a resolution of support for the sign project. The CCAC will take up the cause again in August.

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