From the Editor: Gaming the Rules for Greed


Gaming the Rules for Greed

The Vue site layout plan.
The Vue site layout plan.

It’s time for the county to change its ordinance that allows developers to include unbuildable land in their density plans for their actually buildable land. Floodplain, stream buffers and critical slopes (those greater than 25 degrees) are considered “constrained land” but they still get to count when developers add up potential units.

The poster child for abuse of this policy is a new by-right apartment project called The Vue on Blue Ridge Avenue. On land zoned R6 and designated at that density in the Crozet Master Plan, Pinnacle Construction and Development of Charlottesville will build nine 14-unit apartment buildings, a clubhouse and swimming pool to create a total of 125 apartments with an effective density of R18. This cynical and exploitative move is an act of sabotage to the master plan and destroys a happy 125-year-old neighborhood.

This is possible because a parcel boundary line adjustment supported by former property owner Piedmont Housing Alliance attached 20 acres of floodplain along Powell’s Creek to the parcel facing Blue Ridge Avenue.

The location two blocks west of downtown, with about seven buildable acres, should properly have about 20 single-family houses on it to fill in vacant area in the existing neighborhood, or if the townhouse expectation held out in the master plan was followed, perhaps 40 to 50 units.

The project makes no attempt to offer road connections with adjoining parcels, and instead envisions its streets as one big parking lot. The plan seriously undermines the potential market for apartments on the Barnes lumber yard where the Master Plan calls for them and makes the prospect of finding investors in downtown buildings that will be partially paid for by apartment rents that much more difficult.

It is, in the opinion of your editor, whose has 25 years experience with Crozet development, the single worst plan ever advanced here. Execrable is the word that come to mind.

The county should promptly correct this loophole in policy before other neighborhoods are similarly destroyed. Unbuildable land is just unbuildable land.

The historic home on Blue Ridge Avenue that the developer plans to demolish to make way for the Vue.
The historic home on Blue Ridge Avenue that the developer plans to demolish to make way for the Vue.


  1. This area really needs affordable housing. It looks like a rather busy plan, but at some point in the near future, the way to attract high paying business ventures to the area will require action, not prolonged posturing for the perfect plan (i.e. – Barnes Lumber Property). If people want this area to continue to be a bedroom community for Charlottesville employers only, it truly limits the possibilities in the downtown Crozet area for living wage jobs and some good paying blue collar jobs. Companies looking to locate here, want housing to be diverse as to support a wide range of income ranges. I think we need to focus on the acceptance of diversity, our community leaders publicly advertise, but privately limit. This area can’t be only an area for upper middle class people in subdivisions. How about we focus on what is best for everybody who calls Crozet home and welcoming some changes for the better. I am all for smart development… I am not for fighting all development, because it is not “perfect” and discussed for years.. without any measurable action. Find a reasonable compromise with the developer and move forward. There is a greater cost of doing nothing (i.e. – a completely neglected Barnes Lumber plot for the past 14 months is one example).

    • I think the issue here is more of what residents were attracted to as opposed to what it has become. My family has long, long roots here, and have remained because it is home. It isn’t home anymore. Had my family wanted to live in the suburbs, we would have relocated. The first wave of newcomers came because they liked the rural area and what it provided. Those provisions are long gone. Now it’s no longer Crozet. It’s a suburb of an eventual metropolitan area. Before all the development, Crozet was a very diverse location, with housing for all incomes, ethnicities, genders, identities, belief systems, and dreams. With development, that diversity was pushed out, and a more homogeneous community developed. Therefore, a thriving diverse community was broken by development….and NOW, you want to fix it? It seems to me that if you couldn’t identify the original community as being diverse, you probably aren’t equipped to put diversity in place now. Gentrification isn’t known for diversity.

      • Ann,

        No disrespect, but most everybody in this world has long roots from where they grew up. I am sorry you don’t feel it is home anymore. I don’t want this area to look like a purely gentrified community. I want to help improve diversity and we all have dreams. I would disagree with the general sweeping statement you make “With development, that diversity was pushed out”. I believe when people learn to grow, they start to accept change better. Don’t shoot the messenger focused on compromise.

        I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. My family is from rural NC and I completely understand what happens if development is not smart in a community. I am just not that cynical about righting the ship around development in Crozet. On a positive note, Me and my family moved here in August 2014 and we love this community and the schools. I will try to keep an open mind, a firm grip on what I care about and try to influence positive change in community. Change happens regardless. How we influence and adapt to it, is much more important. Peace.

  2. Boo, hiss! I can’t believe this beautiful house will be destroyed. It is of the era of the Bargamin / Bain house. Such a shame!

    • I agree we need affordable housing. But this is a greedy move. If the community is considered (which it should be), the historic house should remain and the original 72 unit plan. should be honored. This is a sneaky move. People were willing to accept 72 units but now we are looking at destroying a beautiful old home and creating a very crowded urban developement which many of us moved from the city to avoid. I have lived in this community over 22 years and raised my children here. Many of us would like to increase the diversity of this community but this is not about diversity this is about greed!

  3. You don’t have to look at too many pictorial history books to know that ripping down that beautiful old home for high density housing (that is bending to the point of breaking the intent of development codes meant to support a master plan that works for the betterment of all) is a crime in this day and age. The rules are clearly being gamed for greed. Elected officials need to be held accountable to bring this kind of practice to a stop before Crozet winds up with yet more development unsuitable for adjacent neighborhoods and yet another lost historical treasure.

  4. Why is this property not being built at the site of the closed motel in Crozet on route 250? It would be closer to the existing more affordable housing in the area and is more than likely zoned for such a development.

  5. My grand parents used to live on this street and my great cousins still do. Shame on the county commissioners! Tgis will fill your coffers now but create twice as many problems and require so much more fire, police, and health services. This is not “Sim City” . The goal isn’t to cram as many people as you can in your quaint burg! Think of all the farmland and peach orchards that made Corset what It is….or in this case a shameful was! Small town America is being squashed by folks wanting to live close to Charlottesville. Crozet is being enveloped by a city that doesn’t have the infrastructure to support itself. Look out small towns on the surrounding mountains of Crozet, you are next. If everyone doesn’t take a stand now the small quaint town or community you call home will be next. This type of land grabbing capitalism makes me sick!

      • I lived in this house from 1984 to 2007 with my ex-husband and daughters. This is where my 2 daughters were born and raised until they went to college. This house was built in 1905 by the O’Neil family. This neighborhood was orignally was called “Waylands Crossing”.
        This is house is 111 years old and should be preserved as the Bain House on Jarmans Gap Rd has been preserved. High ceilings, walnut floors in the livining room and formal dining room. 2 sets of stairs to the sceond floor. The attic is large and could be turned into another room or 2. Listening to the rain on the awesone tin roof adds to the character to this wonderful unique historical home. A wrap around screened in porch made for the perfect outside room on warm days. It was an excellent house to raise our daughters. I big yard and a quiet neighborhood with neighbors who look out for one another. This development will steal away the quiet and peacefulness of Blue Ridge Avenue. Our local history is extremely important to keep and share. When you destroyed historical buildings this takes away from our history. Money and greed do not care about what is important to a small community like Crozet where I have lived since my birth. The McCauley family has lived in Crozet for over 80 years. My Grandfather, Vivian McCauley started The Modern Barber Shop 82 years ago now going on 83 this coming October. History is important to me.
        I know we need affordable housing but not in the middle of an old established neighborhood with home over 100 years old.
        We need to change this so our history is not lost.

        • Thank you, Leigh for writing this: I truly and 100% agree with you. How can we, as the community here, assist in saving this beautiful, historic home?

          • Hi,

            These are all great posts. Not only do we need to try to preserve this house, but also the other homes on that street as well as the land. The plan that is presented is not safe, good for the environment, or helping anyone with low income housing. This is GREED pure and simple. If anyone knows of any way to help preserve this land and home, please post it here.

          • You’re welcome Elisabeth!!! I am going to contact the National Historical Society and see what we can do to protect these 100 year plus homes in Crozet. I have friends that have gotten their places on the registry.
            This is a solid house.

    • Protest possibly with your vote at local, county, state and federal levels in November?

      2 questions:
      Will this project accept Section 8 vouchers?
      Does Albemarle County take federal grant money?

      Curious because I just read this a day or two ago about Julián Castro, the HUD secretary. (In the news because he is on Hillary Clinton’s VP short list.)

      Castro made new regulations last year that pressure all suburban counties taking federal grant money to change local zoning laws to build more low-income housing, and landlords of such properties are required to accept Section 8 vouchers. HUD has a planned Section 8 reboot this fall, super-sizing vouchers to help urban poor afford higher rents in pricey areas, while assigning them government real-estate agents called “mobility counselors” to secure housing in the exurbs. The article suggests it “forcibly desegregates inner cities and integrates the outer suburbs.” The concern is a similar program tested a few years ago in Dallas has been blamed for shifting violent crime to affluent neighborhoods.

      I managed to find the link again, here it is:

      I don’t know if this is what is happening in Crozet at The Vue, but it might be relevant.

    • Being envious of another’s station in life, their abilities, initiative and talents ( most often identified by a person calling the other “greedy”) is a very ugly and mean spirited sentiment. Labeling others as being “greedy” may be pure and simple, but it’s not very nice.

      “If anyone knows of any way to help preserve this land and home, please post it here.”

      I do; and the solution is quite simple really.

      Buy the developer out. Give the developer his purchase price, plus 20-percent, and the developer will gladly sell all of this to you. Then, you can do exactly what you want with the land. If it means so much to all of you, buy the property yourselves; which by the way, you could have done at any time over the past several years.

      You don’t have to rely on the government and other peoples money, you can fix it yourselves quite quickly.

      • Hey Kenn,

        Residents backing up a truck full of money sure does sound simple enough.
        But you would actually need to buy the additional 16 acres of unbuildable land on the flood plain attached to it as well.
        That is what they are leveraging to exploit zoning loopholes…

        …But wait, they are still able to use this unbuildable land for access roads for other poorly conceived /environmentally unsound developments. They are already partnered with The Glen for this hideous double dip, so therefore we would need to buy all of the land associated with at 80 unit development too. We would need a fleet of cash filled dump trucks. I am fresh out of those.

        I have been to the meetings & heard from the developer directly. The sentiment in this article is correct, there is no envy for Pinnacle. The development is cynical & mean spirited. They have not been nice to us.

  6. What is appalling to me is the people making these decisions (majority) are not from this area. When you have been here since birth it is very depressing. I will be selling and moving out of state as Albemarle county has made sure retirees of this area can’t retire here. The cost of living is outrageous. I am so sad to see a wonderful area being made into another mess created by greed. I love the comment that this area needs affordable housing. Renting is not affordable and it does not bring prosperity to the area. Shame on Albemarle county government.

  7. I certainly understand the position of those living on that street.. but I hope to hear a compromise is reached with the developer… This will take considerable effort and an open mind, but it can be done. If no real compromise can be reached, buy the developer out and register it as a historical location with the state and/or federal government. That way, it can be protected long term. The developer has a responsibility to respect and work with the neighbors of this property.


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