The Crozet Community Action Committee met at the town library November 15 and listened to a presentation made by Albemarle County principal planner, Elaine Echols, regarding the area’s residential development pipeline, patterns, zoning, and proposed land-use. Echols brought along a detailed map, reviewing with committee members development projects currently underway, potential re-zoning concerns, and presently undeveloped areas.
While remaining possibilities for development are limited, various committee members expressed concerns. John McKeon questioned the need for any new development, stating the town’s maximum population—18,000, according to the current Crozet Master Plan—could potentially be exceeded upon the completion of projects already planned or underway. The objection stemmed from a perceived discrepancy between a multiplier (residents per unit) used by county officials to estimate future population and thereby approve prospective development projects.
“I don’t agree with the current multiplier,” said McKeon. “I think it’s clear that Crozet is an area people move to because they either have a family or they’re planning one. If you up the current multiplier of 2.49 to three—which I think is a more accurate reflection of our population dynamics—and consider only projects that are currently underway, that puts us above the maximum population without any further development.”
“What we don’t want to see here is another Old Trail,” added committee member Philip Best. “With Old Trail, in the beginning, we were expecting a population of people over 50, and the area ended up being attractive to young people… That oversight altered projections substantially.”
In response, Echols assured Best, McKeon and a number of other frustrated representatives that the county was contracting with U.Va.’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service to ensure calculations were accurate. The concerned committee members responded that there was an underlying, macro-level issue of infrastructure that remained unaddressed. As the town’s population increases, schools and roads currently in place won’t be able to handle the additional demands.
“The schools have contracted to do some extra studies to look at how many households with children can be projected for the short and long-term future,” said Echols. “They’re looking at a very detailed level—at how many students are in each school right now, how many are in each classroom, and how many can be expected to come in in the future… The water and sewage people also look at this, but they’re looking at it from a vantage of how many people are living where, and where growth is occurring… This data is also used by transportation authorities to seek to predict how many people will be using what roads and where.”
The second order of business on the meeting’s agenda concerned zoning—specifically, the difference between county calculations regarding net and gross housing density. By looking at these figures, the CCAC sought to understand the county’s objective to “review zoning standards for calculating density, and, if necessary, amend the Zoning Ordinance to better align density allowances with the Comprehensive Plan.” For the CCAC, the question was: Should zoning and Master Plan calculations be the same?
To better explain the discrepancy, Echols provided committee members with an illustrated print-out. On the print-out, two representations of an 81-acre property slated for development were used to show how results for density calculations differ depending on methodology.
“Under the zoning, we take the entire 81-acres—the gross density calculation—and then we look at what the potential of that property would be—and developers do this all the time—looking at whether there’ll be a better return on their investment if they go on existing zoning or the land-use plan… So looking at the same parcel, under zoning, the full 81 acres would be used, whereas, under land-use, there’s only 53.”
The difference in results would be considerable, with the former method yielding 648 dwelling units per acre, and the latter 318. Furthermore, should the hypothetical developer involved with the above example request rezoning, density would at that point be calculated using the net formula.
During this discussion, Echols revealed that the Village of Rivanna Advisory Committee recently passed a resolution asking that the gross v. net density issue be put on a high-level of the county’s community level work program for a zoning text amendment. “This is how they’re communicating to the board of supervisors that this issue is of a high concern to them and should be addressed,” said Echols.
As a show of support to the Village of Rivanna Advisory Committee, the CCAC offered a show of hands, unanimously agreeing to adapt a similar stance and subsequently draft a resolution to the same effect.
Lastly, the CCAC voted to support a temporary re-zoning measure that will expedite Perrone Robotics, Inc.’s move into a former millwork building on the Barnes Lumber property. The request came as a result of the company’s receiving an unexpected boost of venture capital making the move possible earlier than expected. According to White Hall District Board of Supervisors representative Ann Mallek, PRI wanted to ensure citizens wouldn’t feel threatened by an accelerated process.
“The zoning is already in the works,” said Mallek. “They’re trying very hard not to charge ahead and apologize later, they want to follow the process and be respectful.”
While an official resolution won’t go into effect until December, committee members expressed their support via a show of hands, with all voting in the affirmative.
“I think that this is exactly the kind of business we want to have coming into Crozet,” said committee member Dean Eliason. “We want to make sure we’re doing what we can to ensure they know that we want them here and are willing to do what we can to make that process as pain-free as possible.”