Old Trail will build fewer houses than it first got permission for after the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved a request by the developers to lower its minimum number of units at the board’s February 10 meeting. According to its 2004 rezoning conditions, Old Trail had been obliged to build at least 1,600 houses south of Lickinghole Creek but will now aim at a minimum of 1,000.
“We took our time and worked through the details,” said attorney Valerie Long, an Old Trail resident, who represented the developers. “We call it a housekeeping amendment. Old Trail was one of the first Neighborhood Model developments. The rules were more detailed than needed. This simplifies the code and allows for the addition of cluster cottage homes.” Farm stands and Tier I, II and III wireless uses are also allowed.
The code revision folds all the variations that had been approved as new sections came on into one plan. The smaller number of units allows for larger lot sizes and more green space, Old Trail development manager David Brockman said.
Long said one question she is often asked around Old Trail is when will it get more commercial uses. “This process makes that easier,” she said.
But the Supervisors hesitated at Old Trail’s request to alter its sign rules by allowing it a quadrupling of its sign area. The current sign ordinance limits the area of the sign to 16 square feet. Old Trail asked for 64 square feet.
Brockman said the goal is to build three- or four-sided “pillar” signs at the intersection of Old Trail Drive and Rt. 250. The signs would be as tall as the traffic light poles, 16 feet high, with decorative theme panels above and below a main panel that refers to businesses in Old Trail village. Old Trail’s development code allows a sign up to 12 feet high. The pillar’s sides would be from 3 to 5 feet wide. The current sign would be removed. The county’s Architectural Review Board would still have approval authority over the new sign.
“Old Trail businesses need visibility on Rt. 250,” Brockman said. “It’s challenging to let drivers know the businesses are there.” Brockman said they compete with the Blue Ridge Shopping Center where the Harris Teeter supermarket is.
“Ultimately Old Trail will have 30 businesses in it,” Brockman said. “Our commercial area is about one-quarter built.”
“That [sign size] seems huge,” said Supervisor Ann Mallek. “It’s a dramatic change from what the sign ordinance says. We spent years on the ordinance. It won’t take five minutes before others want bigger signs.”
“I regret voting for this when I was on the Planning Commission,” said Rick Randolph, Supervisor from Scottsville District. “It’s an obelisk. It’s a major-size sign. I feel compelled to change my vote.”
“I don’t think it will set a precedent,” responded Rivanna Supervisor Norman Dill. “It’s extremely important for the success of Old Trail. I’ve been in retail all my life and I know how important signs are. I trust them to come up with something that fits.”
“It’s as tall as the traffic signal poles,” said Mallek. “I can’t get over that 16-feet high.”
“I think it’s too tall and I worry about the political presence,” said Samuel Miller District Supervisor Liz Palmer. “We’re trying to keep 250 scenic and undeveloped as much as possible. Let’s not make a special exception for this sign.”
“For years a four-by-eight panel, either upright or horizontal, has been the standard,” added Mallek.
“I heartily support the reduction to 1,000,” she said. “The community freaked out when the 2,200-unit figure came out. We’re getting back to where the people were bought in.”
She moved to approve the revised regulations but no motion was made on the sign change. Palmer, the current chair, said to Brockman, “We’re happy with the 12 feet.”
Long requested a deferral of the sign application, which will allow it to be brought forward again later.