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It’s Time for a Moratorium on Housing Density Increases
When the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors first proposed development zones like Crozet to preserve the rural character of places like White Hall and North Garden, that seemed like a good idea. But over time one big flaw has emerged in this scheme. There is not enough money to provide the infrastructure to support a much larger population here.
Without higher taxes and fees imposed on developers, Albemarle County cannot pay for the services needed by the current population of Crozet, not to mention the growth that is already baked-in by current zoning.
Our schools are in desperate need of more space. Our residents are increasingly frustrated by traffic problems tied to a lack of road capacity. We have designated too little land for parks to serve a growing population, and we have made no provision for wildlife.
Last week, a developer in Crozet clear cut eight acres of wooded land adjacent to Crozet Park. I would guess most people thought that property was part of the park, but many neighbors were surprised to learn that 32 villas would be built there. That means about 64 more cars using already overburdened streets—Hill Top, High Street and Tabor—to access an already overburdened Crozet Avenue. This development was zoned for that many units, and I’m sure there are other projects that will be built “by right”—adding to this community’s problems.
Keep in mind that most new development does not pay for itself. Additional homes usually mean more children in our schools, but the taxes paid by new residents won’t cover the costs of public education. Builders might make more from high density housing, but their profit is our loss.
That’s why I’m asking the Board of Supervisors to deny any increase in the number of residential units allowed by right, and to refuse rezoning of land currently designated for other purposes until Albemarle County is able to meet the increased demand for services—schools, roads and parks.
Second, Albemarle should make growth in Crozet less profitable for developers and more beneficial to the people who live here. The board could do that by immediately passing a tree ordinance that makes developers replace or pay for the replacement of every tree cut down. We really should be thinking globally and acting locally–doing our small part to save the planet while making residential areas more attractive.
We might also ask, as part of their environmental impact studies, that developers consider the need for wildlife corridors so that we can minimize future deer-vehicle collisions.
Next, the Board of Supervisors should lobby the legislature to restore previous rules governing proffers, and ask Richmond to give the county greater taxing authority so that we can pay for new classrooms, parks, roads and sidewalks.
And, finally, increase community access to the board and awareness of plans for development. Every resident within a one-mile radius of new construction should be informed by mail of plans well before the board signs off.
Board meetings should be held in the evening when working people are able to attend, and the community advisory board should consist of local residents and business people but not of developers. Builders and their lawyers have ample access to decision makers and should not be part of the Crozet Community Advisory Committee.
Member, Crozet Community Advisory Committee