Developer Frank Stoner requested additional funding to support the construction of roads leading to his future Crozet Plaza project at the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors’ April 20 meeting. Stoner’s company, Crozet New Town Associates (CNTA), entered into a public-private partnership with the county in 2019 in which the board agreed to provide $3.2 million in cash contributions and future loan forgiveness to facilitate the project. Stoner came back to the board in April to ask for another $2.5 million due to construction costs that have increased over the last few years as CNTA has wrangled with VDOT over the design and placement of connecting roads.
Deputy County Executive Doug Walker presented the case for Stoner’s request to the board. “Community engagement surveys consistently say that the public wants a new and expanded downtown area, including a public plaza, road network, and aesthetically pleasing downtown in one of our core development areas,” said Walker. “In 2019, the county agreed to partner with the developer by investing in new roads and a public plaza, as the developer indicated that he could not construct roads, build a plaza, and still hope to make a profit. The project as it was contemplated is consistent with Comprehensive Plan and the Crozet Master Plan, and it will help to grow the commercial tax base for all of Albemarle County.”
Walker displayed examples of storefronts and plaza layouts to help board members envision the types of activities planned for the site. He explained that the Crozet Square project—in which the county will construct improved parking, drainage, and curbs and sidewalks for Crozet Square and Oak Street and build a road with roundabouts extending eastward to Hill Top Street—and the project to revitalize the dormant Barnes Lumber site and build the Plaza are separate but interdependent plans. Lance Stewart, Facilities and Environmental Services Director, said the county will manage the Crozet Square project and work closely with CNTA on the plans.
“The roadway concept has shifted a bit, and now includes an additional multi-use path that will connect other neighborhoods to the Plaza,” said Stewart. “It’s interesting to note just how much needs to be graded and cleared, demolished, in the path of this roadway [connecting to Hill Top]. It’s quite an involved project.”
Stewart displayed slides showing the financial shortfall, and he also explained an “unanticipated” change in the order of activities on the Plaza project. “We realized that it made sense for the developers’ utilities, namely the water and sewer utilities, to be put in before we finished installing the roads, instead of building the roads and then ripping up the roads and installing the utilities and repairing the roads. So, we’ve agreed in principle to do that [$1.1 million] work for the developer and we’ll be reimbursed in full for that work.”
Between 2019 and now, construction and project management costs for the road connectors have risen by $2.5 million, leading to CNTA’s request. In exchange, Stoner has agreed to slightly reduce the amount he’s charging the county for right-of-way incursions on property CNTA owns, from $500,000 to $380,000, and to construct public restrooms in the Plaza at his cost. Stoner also offered to give $50,000 of seed funding to bring on an executive director for the Crozet Downtown Initiative, a group that will ultimately manage the Plaza.
In the request, the county would cover up to $2.5 million, but any additional cost overruns would be covered by the developer or VDOT. “The funding source for the county’s contribution would be $1 million from the county’s $10 million American Rescue Plan Act reserve, and $1.5 million from the Economic Development Investment pool,” said Walker. “[The Plaza project] is not just a land use program but an infrastructure development that will help our future economic plans. Also, the county may submit a request for more Revenue Sharing funds from VDOT, since this is ostensibly a 50/50 program [with the county].”
Walker also noted that the Municap report, done by an independent third-part investment analysis group, projects that the county will recoup its total $5.7 million investment, via future tax revenue, in 8-9 years. The project is estimated to generate $21.1 million in net new tax revenue over 15 years.
The Supervisors were entirely supportive of the additional disbursement and the project as a whole, and the amendment passed unanimously. However, Supervisor Diantha McKeel of the Rio district used her time to point out that Crozet is receiving “another” investment from the county.
“Just to be clear, for the public, this continues a history of the Supervisors and staff supporting the Crozet community infrastructure through Albemarle County dollars, to be very simple about this,” she said. “We hear sometimes from the folks in Crozet saying that we don’t support them, and I just have to go on record to say that this is the continuation. I don’t know that it’s necessary to give totals, but I think at one point we were up to about $116 to $119 million over the last six to eight years. This is another investment in Crozet which we’re supporting, and I just think somebody has to say that.”