Master Planning Update Continues: Commercial Land Use in Crozet

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Phase 2 of Crozet’s Master Plan Update proceeded apace in a January 13 meeting held at Western Albemarle High School on the subject of commercial land use. The meeting’s goals were to begin to answer questions about what Crozet’s mixed-use centers should look like, how they should be used, and how they should transition to nearby neighborhoods.

After an introduction by county planner Andrew Knuppel, who outlined the history of the development area boundary and its Rt. 250 edge, his colleague Michaela Accardi described what land use means in residential areas. “Land use doesn’t carry the force of law,” said Accardi. “It carries the vision and informs decisions on future policy changes such as zonings.” She explained the concept of “centers” as being focal points of activity that serve the surrounding area.

For Crozet, the centers under discussion were Downtown, Old Trail, Clover Lawn, and the Starr Hill/Music Today complex. Smaller breakout groups of the 70 or so attendees met in classrooms to discuss how these centers should look and be used, both now and in the future. Groups were asked to identify the type of each center—Neighborhood, Village, Town, or Urban—based on its function and size, and to discuss whether each was appropriate for its purpose and how it related to adjacent areas.

Most residents agreed that none of Crozet’s centers fit the “Urban Center” description of a “high intensity, high level of activity” hub with vertical mixed use, especially when the examples given were of Pantops, Hollymead Town Center, and 5th Street Station. Crozet’s centers seemed to fall in the “Town” or “Village” center category, either “a focal point for cultural and commercial activities in a walkable, compact development patterns,” or an even smaller scale.

In one breakout group, several residents discussed what Downtown should look like, some suggesting a “vibe like downtown Warrenton or Smithfield,” “historic, eclectic,” and “like what’s there now.” The Music Today area was envisioned as a place for flexible uses. “There could be artificial wetland people in one part and a greenhouse for hydroponics people in another,” said Albemarle Supervisor Ann Mallek. “Perhaps a maker space would be suitable there, and also labs for future R&D.”

Attendees noted that Downtown has a historic component to it, while the Old Trail and Clover Lawn centers are newer and more planned, but a priority for all is connectivity and, hopefully, walkability. Most residents agreed on a desire to avoid big box superstores on Rt. 250 and to restrict business growth to Downtown. “I’d hate to see Lowes come in and displace MWP Blue Ridge Building Supply, for example,” said one. “It would really negate the aesthetics of the area.”

However, CCAC member Valerie Long suggested that the south side of Rt. 250 might be amenable to businesses that need a little more space than Downtown offers. “Do we have enough space for institutional uses?” she asked. “Where do churches or funeral homes or community centers go? I don’t know if we want those uses in Downtown Crozet, but we want to make sure that those places have somewhere to go. Who knows what else might come along?”

Crozet Gazette editor Mike Marshall suggested that the focus be kept on Downtown for now. “I think that is an idea for the next revision of the Master Plan,” he said. “We have to let Downtown get its legs, and then we’ll see what we need after that.”

The next Master Plan Update meeting, which will examine housing and residential land use, is scheduled for February 6 at 6:30 p.m. at WAHS. 

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