A new commercial space is planned for a triangular patch of land on Ivy Road across from the Ivy post office, just east of the train bridge near Duner’s Restaurant. Developer BMC Holdings Group held a community input meeting along with county planners to introduce the project, dubbed “Ivy Proper,” to its neighbors. BMC proposes 6,500 square feet of multi-tenant office space anchored by a small-animal veterinary office. The veterinary clinic would occupy 2,500 square feet, with the remaining 4,000 square feet intended for general office use.
The project requires a Special Use Permit (SUP) under commercial zoning regulations because veterinary use is not one of the myriad by-right uses allowed by the county for C-1 (commercial) zoned property. “We’ve been working with a vet for a long time trying to find an ideal location, and our client loves this spot, but the use requires a SUP,” said Reid Murphy, a partner with BMC. “Before we build, we need to know what is the attitude from the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors about having that type of business in Ivy.”
Under veterinary use rules, the proposed structure requires an SUP because it will be closer than 200 feet to residential lot lines. BMC project documentation filed with the county notes that “to the south the residential lot lines are separated from the property by other commercially zoned properties and Rt. 250, and to the north by Buckingham Branch Railroad. The closest residentially zoned dwelling is over 300 feet from the proposed structure [and is] separated by 16 feet of elevation and the railroad, both of which will mitigate noise.”
In addition to a permit, BMC is also requesting a special exception for the disturbance of critical slopes, as the proposed parking area behind the office will be constructed in part on the slope that leads up to the railroad tracks. The proposed building has been pushed towards the front of the property as much as possible to minimize disturbance, and zoning documents note that the slopes themselves are the result of fill dirt placed during railroad construction rather than natural land formations.
“There will be no outdoor kennels or runs with the vet’s office, so no barking or noise issues,” said Murphy. “The application process for a SUP requires a fair amount of site planning involving a civil engineer and traffic studies, and so the process in this case is a little bit backwards.” Normally an existing building owner would request a special use for a vet who wants to lease space, rather than a developer designing a building to house a vet before knowing whether that use will be approved.
Local community members who called or messaged in to the June 4 virtual meeting raised concerns about already-congested traffic on Ivy Road between Owensville Road and Ivy Depot Road. The neighbors noted that adding another commercial entrance along that stretch would increase wait times for cars trying to make turns across traffic. BMC projects an additional 93 vehicle trips per day associated with the project, to be added to the 13,000 daily trips at this location.
Supervisor Liz Palmer called in to clarify that BMC should not refer to the Ivy Depot area as a “crossroads community” (as it did in its county filings), which is a specific designation in the county referring to rural business clusters that provide essential goods and services to their communities while encouraging the preservation of historic buildings. The small commercial areas in Batesville, White Hall, and Greenwood are examples of crossroads communities. “This is stale zoning,” said Palmer, “left over from the 1980 down-zoning, and we have this kind of commercial activity in various places in the county. This is just a thoroughfare from town to our development area of Crozet.”
County planner Mariah Gleason said the special exceptions and Special Use Permit for this application will be brought before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for approval. “[The next] meeting date is not yet known as the Planning Commission continues to work through a backlog of meetings that had to be cancelled in light of COVID-19,” she said.
Crozet resident and architectural engineer Chris Fuller’s dream of establishing a “pocket neighborhood” on Orchard Drive cleared an important hurdle in June, as his plan received unanimous approval from the Planning Commission and will now advance to the Board of Supervisors. The Bamboo Grove project would be sited on a 1.25-acre parcel of which only .65 of an acre is buildable, and Fuller received a zoning amendment to build six units (instead of the four allowable by right) in a cluster layout so the development remains financially viable. (See the Gazette’s March issue for more details.)
“It went really well,” said Fuller of the Planning Commission meeting. “The planners were very familiar with the proposal and knew all the provisions that the staff had recommended for me, and they ended up unanimously approving the project. [White Hall representative] Jennie More was so helpful in amending the final requirements and being aware of what might be difficult for us.” The two additional units were allowed as they qualify as “affordable housing” under county guidelines.
Fuller, a newcomer to the process of asking for a zoning amendment from the county, is learning as he goes. “The staff report [that advises the Planning Commission] initially recommended only four dwelling units for the project, and at first I was confused and worried, but they explained that they have to recommend what’s ‘by the book’ according to the master plan and then the planners can allow changes if certain conditions are met.”
For Bamboo Grove, the planners required that Fuller keep the building lots outside of the 100-foot stream buffer and ensure that 100% of any stormwater be treated on site. “We’ve shown that on the site we have a huge rain garden planned as a feature, and all the water goes into that, so I believe we’re fine on all of the requirements,” he said. The project is currently scheduled to go to the Board of Supervisors for review on August 15.