To the Editor: Don’t Include “Constrained Land” in Housing Density Calculation

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Don’t Include “Constrained Land” in Housing Density Calculation

At a recent Crozet Community Advisory Committee meeting Elaine Echols, principal planner for Albemarle County, was kind enough to address us and inform us about how, in a Growth Area like Crozet, potential build-out is calculated.

In measuring buildability, she explained, planners take both “constrained” land—floodplain, wetlands, critical slopes— which is unbuildable, and unconstrained land alike into calculating the number of allowable units. In some cases, developments like West Glen for example, the roads themselves are on constrained land.

The policy now allows developers to include constrained land in their building density. For example, if a developer owned 10 acres zoned R6, or a maximum of six units per acre, and 5 acres are in flood plain (constrained) the builder can build 60 houses on the five acres that are buildable, rather than 30, even though this ends up with a density of R12 on the buildable acreage. This is a density the R6 zoning intends to prevent.

I strongly urge that the policy be changed. If constrained land and unconstrained are to be treated alike, why put overworked planners on the job separating them out, only to use the gross number as the multiplier? Clearly this policy undermines the zoning already imposed on behalf of the people. Developers should not be allowed to maximize the return on their investment no matter how lives and homes in adjoining neighborhoods are negatively affected.

Protecting streams and wetlands from pollution is not elitist but beneficial to the residents of Crozet. Please join me in urging the Supervisors and the Planning Commission to forego the use of gross acreage rather than subtracting the constrained acreage in calculating Crozet’s capacity for growth.

According to County estimates, Crozet’s current population is 6,850. Estimated maximum population for the growth area is 18,000. Can Crozet absorb such numbers of residents in the schools, parks, or libraries? School Board member David Oberg visited the CCAC weeks ago bemoaning the overcrowded state of western Albemarle schools, so long prized for their excellence, that are now reverting to averageness.

Lisa Marshall
Crozet

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