County planner Andrew Knuppel presented data on current and projected housing development and population estimates to the Crozet Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) at its January 8 meeting. Using U.S. Census Bureau data from 2000 and 2010 and census estimates for 2018, Knuppel described strong population growth in and around Crozet.
Crozet’s population doubled between 2000 and 2010, from 2,820 to 5,565 residents. To estimate the current population, planners used data provided by the American Community Survey (ACS), which does interim year sampling between the decennial census counts and thus is not as accurate as the official census. Those samples indicate Crozet’s population is now between 8,185 and 8,370. Knuppel’s group also analyzed the data reported by residents in the 2017 Crozet Community Survey, and from that data estimated 9,638 residents.
In demographic terms, Crozet is currently 93.5% white, 2.9% black, and 4.6% Asian, with a median age of 41 and slightly more women than men in residence. Both its over-65 and under-18 age populations are growing as a percentage of the total. The percentage of owner-occupied housing units fell from 85% in 2000 to 73% in 2018, as renter-occupied units gained ground during the period.
Turning to housing capacity, Knuppel described various scenarios to estimate “full buildout” in future years, using July, 2019 housing unit numbers as a starting point. At that point, there were an estimated 3,146 dwelling units in Crozet, and 1,308 dwelling units remain to be built in 16 ongoing (currently approved) projects. Knuppel added to the 1,308 pipeline units an estimate of how many units could be built on vacant land or infilled under current zoning, which ranged from 435 to 1059 additional units, for a total buildout on the high end projected to be 2,367 units.
“We’re using a reduced estimate for Old Trail Village, which was originally approved for max of 2,200 units, but builders have indicated they will build only about 1,200, so we’ve subtracted 1,000,” Knuppel said. The planning department reports the number of units currently built in Old Trail is around 400, using certificates of occupancy as its measure.
Finally, based on the projected 2,367 housing unit buildout, Knuppel used an estimated multiplier of three people per dwelling to reach a total of 7,101 additional residents expected to live in those new units. He then added that total to the Crozet survey estimate of current population to reach a projected Crozet population of about 17,000 residents when all future buildout is complete. (Knuppel also presented other models which used both lower (ACS) current population estimates and lower persons-per-dwelling multipliers, and reached projected population totals as low as 13,000.)
CCAC co-chair Shawn Bird questioned whether using the narrow growth area boundaries accurately reflects Crozet population estimates. “How many neighborhoods include people who would generally define themselves to be living in Crozet but are not in the formally defined growth area?” said Bird. Other attendees noted that, for example, Laurel Hills, Emerald Ridge, and Fox Chase are not included in Knuppel’s estimates.
“So, could these numbers really be double—a community of 9,000 is more like 15,000 [current residents]?” said Bird. “Could they be fifty percent more? My worry is to some degree you could be deceived in looking at this data, because for those who are using the infrastructure of the town and the schools and services and are in the traffic, you’d need to add on to these numbers significantly to understand the scope of the challenges that face people who live here every day.”
Knuppel noted that the models are based on the development areas because the way the county plans for the future is to assume that growth will happen inside them. “Albemarle County has a growth management strategy of funneling new development into designated growth areas,” he said. “Looking at the data we have, the trend is that growth of, for example, single family housing is happening for the most part within the development area.”