Survey Shows Wide Community Agreement on Key Growth Issues

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Shawn Bird presenting the answers to the question “How long have you lived in Crozet?” at the CCAC meeting Jan. 17. Fifty-five percent of respondents from the scientific sample moved to Crozet within the last ten years. Photo: Mike Marshall.

The Crozet community survey shows wide and deep agreement on several growth issues, survey committee member Shawn Bird told the Crozet Community Advisory Committee at its meeting Jan. 17, where he presented a 25-part slide show of survey results (click for PDF). Bird, also a CCAC member, holds a Ph.D. in political science and his occupation is political opinion polling.

Among the take-away conclusions: Crozetians overwhelmingly favor the development of downtown as the town’s primary commercial and cultural center; correspondingly, they oppose more commercial development along Rt. 250; Crozetians are strongly opposed to an expansion of the Crozet Growth Area; Crozetians support greater limits on residential growth; Crozetians are frustrated with the lack of pedestrian and cycling improvements; and Crozetians place a very high value on “small town feel” and don’t want it lost to growth.

A volunteer committee formed in January of 2017 to execute the community survey on growth issues and held public planning meetings leading up to the posting of the survey in June. The survey response period was open until September.

While various members of the public sat in on planning meetings, the core group of the effort settled out to be: Bird; Tim Tolson, Crozet Community Association President; Tom Loach, a CCAC member and retired Planning Commission representative from Crozet; Mike Marshall, editor of the Crozet Gazette and president of the Crozet Board of Trade; Jennie More, White Hall District Planning Commission representative; and Tom Guterbock, Director of U.Va.’s Center for Survey Research.

“The aim was to begin the process of updating the Crozet Master Plan,” Bird explained. “We want to get the community thinking about the issues that will come up in the revision. We tried to make it as rigorous as possible—could we do a scientific sample for the survey?”

Guterbock, founder of the Center for Survey Research and a local resident, was on hand for Bird’s slide presentation about survey results and assured the CCAC that he had joined Bird in providing technical expertise for the project.

“I pointed out to them that they could do a scientific sample,” he said.

The 2009 community survey sought volunteer responses and the powerful community response created a base of data large enough to enable statistically valid conclusions to be drawn, but that was merely fortunate and not designed.

“The scientific sample gave us knowledge of who responded—we know where they live.” Two-thirds of responses came from households—one response per household—in the Growth Area and one-third came from the nearby areas surrounding Crozet. That gives us the weight to say that biases did not get in, such as ‘survey stuffing.’”

The scientific survey sampled opinion in the Crozet Growth Area and in the four adjoining U.S. Census Tracts. The committee sent 3,000 solicitation letters inviting participation to a random list of local households, each with a unique identification number that allowed the committee to know the geographic area the responses were coming from.

The survey was also published in the Gazette—as were the final raw numbers of the question responses, (see the January issue)—so that local residents who did not receive a mailed invitation to participate could weigh in on the survey questions. Those responses, referred to as the volunteer survey, were kept separate from those in the scientific sample. Only responses in the scientific sample were reported to the CCAC. The survey also had an open-ended question that allowed respondents to express personal opinions about growth issues. Some 688 statements were made, but those comments were not reviewed by the CCAC. They are being examined for ideas that should be investigated in the Crozet Master Plan revision.

The cost of the survey, mainly mailing and printing expenses, were raised by donations to the Crozet Board of Trade, a civic group that raises money for community causes such as the Fourth of July fireworks show, and previously, the creation of the Crozet Historic District.

“There’s no influence there about survey questions,” said Bird. “We sent them the bills and they paid them.” The survey was conducted at a total cost of about $4,000.

The scientific survey drew 701 responses and the volunteer survey received 592, for a total of 1,292, an impressive turnout for a town with about 2,600 households in the Growth Area.

“That’s a 23 percent response rate, which is very impressive,” said Bird. “Those results give us a 4 percent margin of error, plus or minus. We did our best to produce something that would not be biased.”

“Sixty-nine percent of responses came from inside the Growth Area and 31 percent from outside,” he said, so the response rates were very nearly on target with the populations the survey was designed to sample.

“We got dozens of paper samples back from the Gazette and we entered the responses digitally [in the volunteer data],” Bird said.

“Seventy-five percent of respondents say they follow civic issues closely and 80 percent say they participate regularly in civic organizations.”

Bird characterized some the survey’s questions as “small-town feel” questions. “These are off-the-charts numbers on these questions. On the question ‘Why do you live here?’ the numbers are really overwhelming. Ninety-five percent want thoughtful town planning and good schools. They made a really conscious choice to move to Crozet.

“Ninety percent want downtown as the commercial center. Eighty-six percent are concerned about parking. Only 33 percent would be okay with commercial growth on Rt. 250. Ninety–eight percent care about protecting the town water supply. Eighty-four percent want limits on residential growth. Fifty-four percent want more jobs in Crozet. Seventy-three percent are opposed to an expansion of the Growth Area.”

Bird said that the survey could distinguish opinions held by those who have lived in Crozet for more than 10 years—that came to 45 percent of respondents, “long-timers”—and those who have lived here fewer than 10 years—“newcomers,” about 55 percent of respondents. While responses from both group are in agreement, long-timers tend to hold slightly more resistant attitudes to growth, while newcomers are somewhat more receptive to commercial development, for example at the Interstate 64 Exit 104 interchange.

“Sixty-six percent of newcomers are opposed to Growth Area expansion,” Bird said, offering an example, “and 81 percent of long-timers are opposed.”

“On the question of downtown, 94 percent want downtown developed as the primary center of Crozet,” said Bird. “Everyone wants downtown to flourish. There is overwhelming support for downtown. It didn’t matter how you slice the data. Support from outside-the-Growth-Area respondents was just as strong. People are looking for a strong downtown Crozet.”

As for commercial development along Rt. 250—the survey identified the stretch from Foxchase to Pro Re Nata Brewery as the section in question—69 percent were opposed and 31 percent were in favor, with long-timers being even stronger in their opposition.

Somewhat of an outlier from other attitudes, the question about development of the Exit 107 interchange showed that 55 percent would entertain a proposal and 45 percent were opposed to any development.

“What worries people most is the main strip of 250,” Bird said. “Some people were supportive of the interchange itself. The question is somewhat vague because there is not a specific alternative proposed to the lumber yard.”

“People do not want Rt. 250 to turn into Rt. 29 north,” observed CCAC member Phil Best.

“In the volunteer survey, the support [for interchange development] was less, 50/50. The volunteer survey showed people with more civic engagement,” Bird noted.

“In the Crozet Master Plan revision, we would really explore this dichotomy,” said Tolson. “For instance, a hotel versus light industrial uses there.”

“The patterns [in responses] stay the same when the questions are analyzed according to whether the respondent is a long-timer/newcomer or lives inside or outside the Growth Area,” Bird said.

“It’s not really surprising,” said White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek, “because people here want to work together.”

The complete 25-slide presentation Bird made to the CCAC can also be seen at the Crozet Community Association’s website, crozetcommunity.org.

Shawn Bird

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