Stream Crossing Approved to Allow New Development of 70 Houses

Crozet Crossing resident Robin Lueke at the Powells Creek dam.
Crozet Crossing resident Robin Lueke at the Powells Creek dam.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved a Special Use Permit for a stream crossing of Powells Creek linking Orchard Drive and Cling Lane at their meeting September 14, enabling the development of 70 houses named West Glen adjoining Crozet Crossing. The vote was 5 to 1 with White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek objecting that the decision undermined the county’s stream protection rules. Those supporting the idea saw compensation in having Southern Development take over the potential environmental clean-up of a small dam that was built to impound water for filling pesticide sprayers at the time the area was an orchard.

The new road will pass over the creek on three 10-by-10 box culverts and require filling of the flood plain and slicing through steep slopes. The capacity of the culverts is expected to be large enough to maintain base flood plain levels.

“To me, our stream protection ordinance says we shouldn’t be doing this,” said Mallek. “We should be putting our roads on high ground and not covering every inch of the high ground with houses.”

When Crozet Crossing was developed in 1990, which also required a Special Use Permit to extend Cling Lane across Powells Creek, the original request had been for 60 houses. But because of fire/rescue access standards, the number was cut to 30. A condition of that permit was that to build additional houses a second connection to Orchard Drive would have to be built.

Southern Development offered to remove the dam and restore the stream bank. Southern Development vice president Charlie Armstrong told the supervisors that the Army Corps of Engineers had written the firm to say that removing the dam is a benefit to the stream and “more than offsets any impacts from the proposed road crossing.”

Detail from Southern Development’s plan (Click to view complete document as PDF)
Detail from Southern Development’s plan (Click to view complete document as PDF)

The new road is on the Blue Ridge Avenue parcel that The Vue, a 126-unit apartment complex being built by Pinnacle Construction and Development, will be built on. The West Glen and Vue land is owned by Piedmont Housing Alliance under the name Crozet Development Solutions. PHA is a silent partner in both projects. Fifteen percent of the houses in West Glen will qualify as affordable housing.

The land where the road will go was originally in West Glen’s parcel, but a boundary change attached it to The Vue. Because the county calculates housing density on the gross acreage of a parcel, rather than its actual buildable land, the effect of transferring the floodplain between parcels was to double the allowable units in The Vue, which initially had 65 apartments planned.

Six speakers opposed the SUP. Crozet Crossing residents said the road ruined their neighborhood, where children play in the cul-de-sac, by turning it into a through street. “It’s a quiet dead-end street,” said Penny Chang. “We hear Screech Owls. We were told the stream could not be developed. The Crozet Master Plan makes a principle to preserve neighborhoods. This will completely change the neighborhood. All the reasons we moved here would be wiped out.”

They offered the idea that the 1990 SUP be amended to allow 30 additional units by extending Cling Lane and having a bollarded fire/rescue access off McComb Street.

But that would not address the dam and the possibility that toxic sediments are trapped behind it. Southern Development’s next steps is soil sampling on the parcel to see if lead arsenate is found. That chemical was used as a pesticide. In 2006, 8 lots in Orchard Acres were remediated by the EPA in a Superfund project because lead arsenate was found on them.

Mark Graham, the county’s community development director, said that Southern will have to address the potential problem because “no bank will touch this project with a 10-foot pole until this is done. Once they loan money on it they are in the chain of title and under Superfund law they have some responsibility for the land and they are scared to death of the liability.”

The dam Southern Development has offered to remove from Powells Creek.
The dam Southern Development has offered to remove from Powells Creek.


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