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A Not So Masterful Master Plan
When I moved to Crozet 30 years ago the community was going through a rough patch. The problem was how best to accommodate affordable housing in the Crozet growth area. The community ended up with a black eye as the result of their first encounter with the affordable housing issue. Help came from the U.Va. School of Architecture. Then-Dean Harry Porter introduced Crozet to architect and small-town planner Professor Mark Schimmenti. With the professor’s help, we created the first Crozet Community Plan, a format for how Crozet would grow. It also established the way Crozet would deal with the issue of affordable housing. No longer would there be affordable housing developments; rather, affordable housing would be included in the plan of each new development. To accomplish this, the community supported the county’s 15% affordable housing proffer with each new rezoning.
Prior to the Crozet Community Plan, development in Crozet was haphazard at best. Applications for new developments popped up on a regular basis. The typical response would be for the residents adjacent to the new development to run down to the county office building and object most vocally, while those not affected would breathe a sigh of relief. The new plan allowed for construction of multiple types of housing in each new development. Crozet downtown would continue to be the social and business center under this new type of planning, but the plan also allowed for “centers of activity” to meet the immediate needs of a new neighborhoods, all within walkable distance. All new development would be on a human scale.
The real change to Crozet came with the acceptance of Albemarle County’s “Neighbor-hood Model,” which incorporated many of the elements found in the Crozet Community Plan. The Crozet community plan morphed into the first Crozet Master Plan. The county, not having any experience in this new format, hired a firm composed of multiple consultants, including planners, architects, and landscape architects to develop the first Crozet Master Plan. Under the new plan community, county and developers would all play from the same set of rules.
Under the new master plan, Crozet would grow to a population of 12,000 and the county would provide the necessary infrastructure to meet the demands of growth.
Unfortunately, promises made are not always promises kept. Development has continued to the point where approved housing in Crozet will bring the population to well over the agreed 12,000. Both our elementary schools are overcrowded. We’re facing a massive traffic nightmare when they close Crozet Avenue for the replacement of the bridge, and the need for a bridge over the Lickinghole Creek, which has been on the books for over 30 years, is still not funded. No infrastructure solutions in sight. And the county’s answer to all this is to come up with a master plan update that will add still more density.
The Crozet community once again finds itself being accused of not supporting affordable housing. County staff wants to add a new zoning definition to accommodate multifamily housing it feels will provide additional affordable housing. I have reviewed the amount of affordable housing that should have been built during the period from 2000 to 2018 using county data. During that time and based on the number of homes built in Crozet and using the 15 percent affordable housing proffer, there should have been a total of 316 affordable units built, or, put another way a new affordable home built each month for the past 19 years. If the county can prove Crozet, as compared to other areas of the county, has been deficient in providing affordable housing, I am sure the community of Crozet will come up with an acceptable plan to improve the situation. That said, I believe Crozet has met its obligations as a growth area both in terms of accepting increased population and affordable housing.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for obligations made by the county and I see nothing on the horizon to improve the situation.
Mr. Loach represented the White Hall District on the Albemarle Planning Commission from 2006 to 2014.