An effort to organize residents from areas all around Crozet has been quietly gathering steam, motivated by concerns about dense development and water protection in local neighborhoods. The group is called the Crozet Leadership Team (CLT) and is comprised of local neighborhood leaders who say they are listening and learning from each other, communicating information, and working to advocate for change on issues that affect the quality of life in Crozet.
“The CLT was developed out of dire necessity because of the gross negligence and blatant disregard for the environmental protections in place for Crozet,” said founding member Kimberly Gale, who is the Western Ridge HOA president. Almost two years ago, a half dozen homeowners’ association and neighborhood leaders came together over the proposed Montclair development at the corner of Rt. 240 and Park Ridge Drive, which called for 157 units on 17 acres. The neighbors wondered about the status of a small waterway that snaked through the property, which was in danger of being built over by developers.
“We were getting inundated with questions and concerns from our communities, and no one was standing up for Crozet to stop it, so we got together and set out to fix the problem,” said Gale. They began working to engage other residents, civil engineers, attorneys, and county officials in a year-long effort to protect the stream, an effort that continues today.
Foothill Crossing HOA president and founding CLT member Ron Wade said the CLT has grown organically as issues have arisen, working with the environmental protection group Crozet United and speaking up at local Crozet public meetings as well as Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings. “We started looking at the development going on west of Eastern Avenue,” said Wade, “all of the trucks coming down Park Ridge and all of the traffic being created, and now the [the 134-unit proposed] Oak Bluff in there, and we knew [the group] needed to expand.”
The group invited presidents, vice presidents and other leaders in neighborhood HOA’s to join the CLT and quickly grew to almost a dozen associations with a combined email circulation of over 2,000 households. The organization keeps a close eye on issues that affect the Crozet community. “We look at the bylaws and covenants for the communities we represent and our mandate is to protect and enhance those communities,” said Gale. “So, for example, if home values diminish as a result of a clogged entrance where you can’t get in and out, or [because of] overcrowded schools, then our goal is to represent those concerns.”
Even as neighborhoods combine their voices to generate strength, however, Gale says the CLT is mindful of its limited role. “We have to walk a very fine line,” she said. “We know we don’t speak for all neighbors, so we have to make sure that any actions we take are meant to benefit our own areas, and we don’t get out of our lane. Everyone has worked so hard, it’s really a very diverse group of people, all of whom are the type who see something that needs to be done and say, ‘I’ll take care of that.’”
Gale said that another important function of the CLT is to exchange helpful news about how the various associations work. “We’re sharing a lot of information about our communities, from what dues we pay and what do dues cover, to insurance needs—like what are you doing for insurance and what’s your coverage?” she said. “How are you handling Airbnbs in your neighborhood? Does everybody get their trash collected and does the neighborhood pay for that? We’ve got an amazing attorney who helps us navigate HOA issues as well.”
Most recently, the CLT took on the job of coordinating a town hall forum in September for those Board of Supervisors and School Board candidates for whom White Hall residents will be able vote in the upcoming November election. “We felt like we should be part of that conversation,” said Wade. “Some of [how the event came to us] was probably serendipity, but I think the idea was, how are we going to engage in a meaningful way?”
The CLT held hours of strategy sessions and walkthroughs and coordinated many volunteers to arrange and host the forum at Field School on September 11, a community event that was attended by over 300 citizens who were engaged and respectful. “The event was an incredible amount of work, but we knew it was important for Crozet residents to have their questions answered,” said Gale.
Looking ahead, Wade said how the group evolves will depend on the issues the Crozet community deems important, but he also hopes it can serve lighter purposes as well. “One of the things that I was interested in when I joined Foothill Crossing leadership was becoming more connected to the communities right around us,” he said. “Because, yes, we’re 82 houses in here, but there’s Wickham Pond over there, and all these other little communities and we could do things together that would be fun.” Wade mentioned that residents are interested in a gardening club and he himself has proposed a bourbon tasting club. “I will certainly push for those kinds of things that are sort of beyond the political and [development] issue kinds of stuff.”
At a September Planning Commission meeting on the fate of the proposed Montclair development, Crozet residents attended and voiced their concerns once again. “One by one, members of the Crozet Leadership Team stood up with a simple request: ‘Please push the pause button on new development until you are able to provide us with the necessary infrastructure that has been promised to Crozet for years,’” said Gale. “Our town’s way of life, the safety of our families, and the protection of our natural resources are going to depend on our community speaking up and working for change.”