At its meeting July 20, the Crozet Community Advisory Committee deputized its chair David Stoner to join a steering committee that will plan a series of public town hall meetings to get community input on what points in the Crozet Master Plan [CMP] need updating or alteration. The meetings will be a joint effort of Crozet civic organizations, namely the Crozet Community Association, formed in 1978 to be a forum for town issues: the Crozet Board of Trade, an organization of area business owners that fundraises for local charitable causes; and the CCAC, formed by the Albemarle County Supervisors to advise it on implementation of the Crozet Master Plan.
The terms of the CMP call for it to be reviewed every five years to ensure that it addresses prevailing conditions. The plan was begun in 2004 and ratified by the county after two years of heavily attended public meetings. It was the first community master plan in the county. It was officially updated in 2010 after another series of county-organized meetings. By schedule, review meetings would have been held in 2014 or 2015 but county planning staff were occupied with planning efforts in other sections of the county and predicted that the review of Crozet’s plan would not occur before 2019.
White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek had twice suggested in CCAC meetings that Crozet citizens take on the task themselves, since they are familiar with the process and generally informed about the plan. The Gazette editorially endorsed the idea in its July issue. The aim is to produce a document that recommends specific textual and map detail changes that will be forwarded to county planners for their review and then to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for official adoption.
The push to take up the task was energized by recent opposing recommendations on pending projects from the CCAC and county planning staff. Staff recommended approval of Adelaide, an 80-unit residential project on Rt. 250; a tripling expansion of the Restore’N Station of Rt. 250, which operates under a special use permit for water; and a Special Use Permit for a stream crossing of Powells Creek near Orchard Acres for a new 74-unit housing project called West Glen. CCAC reviews had resulted in negative recommendations, or suggested restrictions, for each project.
The CCAC judged Adelaide too dense, that Restore’N Station should be held to the terms of its deal, and that the county should not violate its stream protection rules in the case of Powells Creek, citing the CMP in each case. The Planning Commission denied Restore’N Station, but followed staff advice in approving Adelaide and West Glen. All three projects are still pending before the Board of Supervisors with action expected in September.
Monthly town hall meetings to review the plan are expected to start in the fall and continue until winter. The process will start with a new survey of community sentiment on growth issues. Crozet responded strongly to a similar survey conducted in 2008 before the first revision. More than 700 forms were submitted (Crozet had about 1,200 households at the time) and some 1,200 comments expressed. Current CCA president Tim Tolson designed the survey in collaboration with the CCAC membership of that day and the survey was available online through Survey Monkey and was printed and distributed in the Gazette. The survey will be updated and the same procedure followed this time as well. The 2016 version should be available in September and will be open for six weeks. The first meeting of the revision process is expected to examine survey results.
The steering committee to plan the meeting dates and present an agenda includes CCAC chair Stoner, CCA president Tolson, current CBT president Mike Marshall, Planning Commissioner Jennie More and Supervisor Mallek. In proposing the process to the CCAC, Marshall said that he would suggest to the CCA at its September 8 meeting that it choose retired planning commissioner Tom Loach, who served for eight years from 2008 to 2016, to chair the town hall meetings and join the steering group. Marshall said county planners would be invited to participate in the meetings and that the idea was to substitute volunteer Crozet manpower for what the planning staff lacked. He said the update process could involve many new Crozet residents who are unacquainted with the plan that would lead to a greater sense of their ownership of it.
Former CCAC chair Meg Holden responded to Stoner’s posing the question of how the CCAC should proceed by saying, “It’s a critical function. This is a unique community and I feel strongly this community should fight hard to be the place it wants to be. We don’t want it to be Rt. 29 North.”
Mallek noted the discrepancy in views between Crozet citizens and planning staffers. “They have very strong opinions that do not agree at all with what’s come out of this group in the 10 years I’ve been listening.”
CCAC member Mary Gallo, a veteran of both CMP processes, said, “I think it’s a great idea. We thought we were on the same page but we find out maybe we are not.” She asked for clarification about the CCAC’s role. “When we’re talking about looking at the master plan, to be clear, we’re not talking about that being driven by the CCAC, is that correct? We’re talking about this being driven by the Community Association and the community with our participation and attendance.”
The CCAC agreed.
Mallek suggested a CCAC meeting with county planners to talk about disagreements in views.
Loach answered, “We need data before we entertain a meeting with staff. I went back and looked at the last report. The only real data that ever existed was the 12,500 population [forecast]. We are probably near our build-out population. What happens when we reach it? We could be victims of our success. There could be pressure to expand [the growth area].The greatest tool I ever had was the community survey. As planning commissioner I had a very clear idea of what the community wanted.”
CCAC member Dean Eliason agreed. “I think he’s absolutely right. We need to be as clear as we can be.”
“When we had [planning staffer] Elaine Echols here [in February],” said CCAC member John McKeon, “she really couldn’t put a number on it. If I you add up all the approved [rezonings] and the by-right projects we’re probably near 12,000 now.”
CCAC member Kim Guenther said, “I think we need a tracking list of the development underway. They come in and talk to us but we don’t know what’s happening next.”
“Don’t add that to staff’s load of things to do,” suggested Loach. “It will keep them from doing other things we need. We can do that for ourselves through the developers’ contacts.”
“We need to go through the Master Plan and see what phrases we think are vague,” said Eliason. “What does ‘human scale’ mean?”
Stoner asked members to follow through with this suggestion so that the update process could have starting points.
“We should represent all the Crozet community,” said longtime member John Savage. “We’re a forum and we should be proactive in areas. Without this group and Build Crozet Library [a volunteer fundraising committee] we would not have this library we’re in today. We shouldn’t be seen as a group that’s against development. Managing development is what this group’s for. We need to keep the idea that we are a voice for the Crozet community.”
Loach suggested that the CCAC invite the chair of other county advisory councils (there are now seven in various stages of maturity) to a meeting at Crozet. “We’ll find we have a lot in common. Advisory councils now cover a lot of the area of the county. Together we can have say-so. The development areas are carrying the burden of growth.”
Mallek said that the revision process needn’t come up with finished language for the CMP update. “We can point to the crisis element [in the text] and at that point the planners can work on it.”
Members suggested that the CCAC develop a protocol of what information it wants to hear from developers so that meeting time is not wasted and pertinent questions are asked.
Mallek said, “The CCAC does not need to be persuaded about a project, it needs information about it.”
Loach added, “We have to know about them as soon as possible. Once a developer spends money developing plans they will be reluctant to make changes.”
The CCAC discussed moving its meetings to a location that didn’t impose a time limit, such as it’s former home, The Meadows’ community room, but decided to stay at Crozet Library because of it audio/visual equipment and good acoustics.