Since the day I moved in, people have told me that Crozet used to be better.
I’ve been told that decades of county mismanagement and poor planning were ruining a quiet rural village. That before long, Crozet would look like the sprawling McMansion hell of northern Virginia.
I am not the best voice to speak for the past of Crozet: I am a recent transplant. My wife and I purchased a home here in 2019. We were fortunate enough to find a designated affordable unit, one of the few actually proffered by a developer in Crozet.
But I can speak to the future. I plan to live here as long as I can; to make Crozet home for my family and friends. That requires generational thinking now. It requires looking ahead 20 years, as the Albemarle Comprehensive Plan intends to do, and then beyond—30, 40, 50 years.
I know what my 20-years-from-now Crozet looks like. I can see it when I close my eyes. It is a walkable, bike-able town, with employment centers near the square, with networks of trails and bike paths connecting homes to schools and stores. In my wildest dreams, it has high-speed rail connections east and west. It is a place where someone could live and work. It is a Crozet where grandparents can move back to be with their families. A Crozet where young people straight out of trade school or college can move home, get on their feet, and start their own Crozet lives, should they so desire. A vibrant intergenerational community, the kind of community that makes people say “oh, that’s how we’re meant to live.”
And that means we need more housing. More one-bedroom apartments, more studios, more small homes. More homes that aren’t three-quarters of a million dollars.
Crozet is a great place to live now. We’re minutes from some of the finest natural beauty in the world. There are breweries and wineries, farms and parks; we’re day-trip distance from the nation’s capital and Richmond, and commuting distance to Charlottesville and Waynesboro. All these things make Crozet a place people want to live, on top of the undeniable beauty of Crozet itself.
People will continue to build houses in and near Crozet if they can’t find one available to purchase. If that future development is carried out piecemeal, developing only by-right, we will end up with a soulless sprawl of suburbs—the exact kind of development that is most damaging to our environment and to our communities. Over half of the greenhouse gas emissions in Albemarle County come from transportation; so long as we build around a forced reliance on cars, traffic and air quality will both worsen. So, too, will our sense of community: poorly-planned suburbs lack the common gathering spaces we humans need to thrive.
In short: if we don’t plan for good growth, that won’t stop Crozet from growing. It just means we cede our future to suburban isolation.
I count myself fortunate: I live in a dense, intergenerational neighborhood. I see my neighbors informally and frequently. Crozet needs better bike and road infrastructure, but I’m already able to bike to buy groceries—or to the library, to attend CCAC meetings. This is what dense design means to me: living near my life, not a twenty-minute drive away. It means kids who can walk to school; it means being able to walk or bike to your job; it means public spaces and shared joys. That’s a Crozet I hope to see.