Opposes Cell Phone Tower at WAHS
At its March 28 meeting the Crozet Community Advisory Committee agreed to draft a document that will state five principles for managing the coming stage of the town’s growth while Crozet waits its turn for a Master Plan revision process.
The Master Plan was slated for revision in 2015 but has been delayed while county planning staff work on plans for other sections of the county. It is not expected to happen before 2020. Meanwhile the CCAC will take five themes that are strongly agreed on by citizens in the Crozet Community Survey and state them in a resolution to be presented to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors for ratification. The idea is that the themes will sufficiently guide Supervisors’ decision-making while the community waits for a chance to do a detailed plan revision. The presentation of the resolution will also include a presentation of the methodology and results of the Crozet community survey.
They chose the first theme to be treated as a mission statement—to maintain Crozet’s “small town feel” in the face of continuing growth—and the four others as supporting concepts for that goal. They are:
No alteration of the Crozet Growth Area boundary.
Ensure that downtown Crozet remains the focus of development.
Limit development along Rt. 250 and at the Interstate 64 interchange.
Expand transportation options, especially pedestrian and biking options.
“The [survey] data we have is very good,” said CCAC member Tom Loach. “I would like to see Shawn and others present it to the Board and lay out the standards of development that came out of it. We want to see that our standards are upheld.”
“Let’s not get into real detail about text changes in the Plan,” said Planning Commissioner Jennie More. “Hold off on those until the formal revision.”
“The Board does not have to take an action,” said Loach. “The ‘action’ is us going to the Board to say these are the principles we want observed while we wait.”
Loach again called for the CCAC to invite the chairs of other county community advisory committees (there are seven in all) to a meeting in Crozet where issues that have countywide implications can be addressed. “There has to be cohesion of the advisory committees,” he said. “One community can’t change things.” He called for unity among the committees.
Members held up the gaming of the county’s density rules regarding buildable and unbuildable land by The Vue, a 126-unit apartment complex now under construction on Blue Ridge Avenue, as an example of a rule that needs to be repaired. It is present in situations across the county and involves property rights issues. Another is the tension between growth and supporting infrastructure needs, road construction lagging behind traffic congestion.
“There’s only so much in-fill left in Crozet,” noted More. “The last spaces are getting snatched up. Then the question of expanding the Growth Area will come up.”
White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek added, “When the easily developable land is gone, they will want to redevelop older areas into high density projects.” She predicted that older neighborhoods near Crozet Park will be likely areas for such pressure.
“The people living here now have the right to decide what the density here will be,” she said.
“We have really good survey data, “ said Brian Day, who becomes a CCAC member officially this month. “We should take a stand on that and then build allies in the county.”
“Yes to that,” answered More, expressing the general approval of others who nodded in agreement.
“I see the five principles as a line in the sand,” said Loach.
“They are taken from the survey and taken from the Plan,” added Mallek, referring to a presentation of the survey results at the CCAC’s February meeting by Crozet Community Association President Tim Tolson, who connected survey results to pertinent passages from the Master Plan text.
In other business, the CCAC took a straw poll vote on the question of whether a cell phone antenna tower should be built at Western Albemarle High School and the show of hands was 7 opposed, 2 for, with Loach abstaining. The question goes to the Planning Commission April 10 and then the Supervisors on May 19.
John McKeon wondered if approval would set a precedent for tower height in the county.
Phil Best said he had safety concerns and withdrew the support he had expressed last month.
Doug Bates said he thinks Crozet needs more infrastructure, especially as more people move in, and supported the tower.
Allie Pesch said that the income to the schools—$40,000 per year–is not worth the possible health risk, and she repeated her skepticism about whether the 400 students in Crozet in the tower’s coverage area currently do not have Internet access. That figure was advanced by school officials in their presentation of the tower plan in February.
David Stoner said, “It’s difficult for me. One pro is improving connectivity for students. That’s a real positive. On the other side, what do you do when the county has worked so hard on its ordinance and then allow an exception?”
Bird said he was “very hesitant to support it” because County approval would carry an automatic right to extend the tower 20 higher as well as extend its five arrays (each with three antennas) farther outward.
The current position of the county planning staff is to recommend denial.
Mallek noted that two fiber optic cable projects are coming to Crozet and Greenwood that will help expand high speed Internet access.
The CCAC elected Allie Pesch as chair and Shawn Bird as vice-chair for one-year terms. CCAC members David Stoner, Phil Best and Martin Violette have completed their terms and are leaving the CCAC.