The Crozet Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) met virtually on August 11 to hear about local water issues and to discuss the Crozet Master Plan as it winds down to its final stages of approval.
Water Supply Update
The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) presented an update on our drinking water supply and production, wastewater treatment, and local projects in progress for the Crozet area. RWSA Executive Director Bill Mawyer described $41.5 million in projects, ranging from those just completed (such as improvements to the water treatment plant and filtration system) to those on the horizon such as a new Beaver Creek Reservoir pump station and improvements to the Beaver Creek Dam scheduled for 2024-2026. These projects are paid for by all customers of the Albemarle County Service Authority via their water bills.
The Beaver Creek dam, pump station, and piping modification needs are driven by upgrades required by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s dam safety standards. The project will replace the major infrastructure elements that carry water to Crozet’s water treatment plant and will install a new labyrinth spillway in the dam at a total cost of $27 million.
Mawyer noted two bits of news that may alleviate the concerns of Beaver Creek area residents.
One issue is the construction-related closure of the road that runs across the dam, which would send traffic from Browns Gap Turnpike on a long detour via White Hall Road. “We’ve had some meetings and conversations with our consultants about closing that road and we are now thinking we can build a temporary road actually on the water side of the dam and maintain traffic during construction,” he said. “There was talk about building a detour road around the lower side of the dam that was going to be very difficult and expensive, but now we’re much more optimistic that we can build a road on the inside of the dam. We’ll keep you informed about that.”
Mawyer also discussed potential sites for the new raw water pumping station that will have to be located just off shore in the reservoir just above the dam. “At one time we were looking at a site adjacent to the Clark family’s property but we’ve done more research into the property, the topography, and the cost and now we’re focusing on two other sites [that sit closer to the dam], so hopefully that will work out.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will also weigh in on the new site locations as the RWSA is asking that agency to foot 65% of the bill for the dam project.
As for Crozet’s water supply, Beaver Creek Reservoir’s water pool is currently two feet below normal levels, and is 85% full with about 430 million gallons of water (usable supply). The community’s water demand is 0.5 to 1.1 million gallons per day, and Mawyer said the reservoir currently holds about seven months’ worth of storage with no additional inflow.
“This raises no red flags,” he said. “We do hope to continue to get these afternoon showers that help to replenish the flow, so we are monitoring that, but we feel we have adequate supply in the reservoir to serve the community for the next fifty years at its current volume and usage rates.” He explained that storage varies among each of the county’s reservoirs based on their size and local demand. “The South Rivanna Reservoir has a 60- to 90-day supply when it’s full, whereas at Ragged Mountain, even though it’s two feet down, we have over nine months of supply. Totier Creek in Scottsville has years of supply because demand is so much lower.”
On the wastewater side, the RWSA is building a flow equalization tank to deal with excess rainwater in the sewer system to avoid sanitary sewer overflows. The storage tank will be a one-million-gallon concrete structure located off Rt. 250 near the 250/240 intersection, will cost $5.4 million, and will be completed by November of 2022.
Master Plan Process
White Hall District Board of Supervisors representative Ann Mallek made a couple of comments on Crozet’s Master Plan progress ahead of its final Planning Commission hearing on September 14. “I’ve received lots of communication from citizens both on and off the CCAC,” she said. “One person asked whether the board has discussed, held a hearing, and voted on Middle Density as a new zoning category, and the answer to that is no. But that really does have to happen to discuss whether it is actually such a great idea.
“Another question I heard was, are we really writing an affordable housing plan rather than a Master Plan?” she said. “That’s a good point. We really should be adopting a countywide housing plan and policy that preserves existing and proffered affordability.” She noted that while the first owner of such housing benefits from its affordable status, that benefit is not usually carried forward in subsequent sales.
Several CCAC members commented on their disappointment with county planners’ last-minute inclusion of the downtown area bounded by Tabor Street, High Street, Dunvegan Lane, and Crozet Ave. as a Middle Density residential area, which allows for 6-18 units per acre on land that is now zoned for two units per acre. Commenters were disturbed by the Board of Supervisors’ (excluding Mallek) willingness to suggest at their last work session that they’d like to see Middle Density in lots of places around Crozet, without regard for commensurate infrastructure to support population increases.
“I felt a little misrepresented as far as the CCAC members’ support of the Tabor property designation,” said chair Allie Pesch, “because we were shown it [by county planners] at the very last minute and it was shown as, in my opinion, ‘this is what we’re bringing to the board.’ So, I just wanted to say that I support Ann’s request for that area to be taken out of the Middle Density designation in this plan if that wasn’t clear last time.”
Mallek also pointed to other uncounted but planned developments that she urged everyone keep in mind during discussions of the need for dense, pedestrian-friendly development. “We never mention the 150 units that will be put on the lumber yard property [in conjunction with the Downtown Crozet plaza project], which is as walkable as it gets in the downtown area,” she said. “So there are still more that are coming.”
Town Status Consultant
CCAC member Sandy Hausman exhorted Crozet citizens to more seriously consider becoming a town. “I think the fundamental problem that Crozet has right now is a political one,” she said. “We are just outgunned on that board. There’s too many people who don’t live here and don’t really know what’s going on. I think we need to do some sort of analysis of what would happened if Crozet had a government system similar to what Scottsville has. There would be certain tax revenues that we would be entitled to, and we would control our planning for the future.”
Hausman said that Harrison-based local government consulting firm The Berkeley Group, a group of mostly retired city planners, have agreed to consult on this question. “They can give us an analysis of what it would look like if we were to have a different relationship with the county,” she said. “For example, it would still be in charge of our schools, fine, but we would have money to oversee our future. So this guy is going to speak to us next month.” Hausman proposed that the consultant speak at the CCAC’s September 8 meeting.
Ann Mallek corrected Hausman’s assertion that Crozet would be entitled to any portion of county tax revenues. “Scottsville has an additional town tax levy on top of the county tax levy and that’s where their money comes from,” said Mallek. “They do not get money from the county. We do not put any budget money into government operations in Scottsville except for the community center and school. They have their own police department and a town manager and staff, but they pay for that on top of the taxes they pay to the county.”
Several CCAC members expressed discomfort with the optics of inviting a consultant to discuss establishing Crozet as a town (with a separate government from the county) the week before asking for Planning Commission approval of the Master Plan. “I don’t think it will help our cause,” said Valerie Long. “I suggest that before we do this, we have a broader conversation about precisely what our objections are to staying as part of the county.”
Mallek suggested that Crozet residents consider the impression such a move would make on the county at this juncture. “I’ve been working for 15 years to get the Lickinghole Bridge project going, and now that we’re about to apply for it, this would really sandbag that effort,” she said.
Marc McKenney said, “As members of a body that county has appointed, to have a public meeting about separating from the county is not appropriate. It should be a meeting of citizens, not this [official] body.”
Shawn Bird objected to the idea of a backlash. “This all sounds pretty undemocratic to me,” he said. “Are were scared that the Board of Supervisors going to punish us for exploring all our options as citizens, for exercising our God-given right of self-determination?”
Ultimately the CCAC agreed to suggest that the Crozet Community Association or another local community group host the town consultant. Since then, the Crozet Community Association has arranged to host Drew Williams at their September 9 meeting.
See the Gazette’s March issue for an in-depth look at the issues connected to having official designation as a town.