Final County Vote on Montclair Coming This Month

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A rendering of the revised layout for 122 dwelling units in the Montclair development on Rt. 240. (Courtesy Shimp Engineering)

The county’s deliberations over the approval of Montclair, a proposed development that envisions 122 condos, duplexes, and apartments on 11.5 acres on Rt. 240 next to Wickham Pond, have reached their endpoint and the plan’s fate will be decided at the Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting on February 21. Originally scheduled for a January 10 hearing, the announced date was flagged by Crozet United president Eric Schmitz for not following county procedures on community notification, which require 21 days’ advance notice. The county acknowledged an error in its public notification database system and rescheduled the hearing.

The county Planning Commission recommended approval of Montclair on a 5-2 vote at its September 2023 meeting. After commissioner Luis Carrazana suggested that Crozet’s lack of infrastructure—such as an Eastern Avenue bridge and other safety measures—made it difficult for him to recommend approval, commissioner Julian Bivins rejected what he called a “moratorium” on development in Crozet. Carrazana replied that he was not suggesting a blanket moratorium, only a way to expedite needed improvements in Crozet. The proposal advanced to the BOS unchanged.

Schmitz, along with Western Ridge neighbors and other local concerned citizens, led a year-long effort to force Montclair’s developer, Vito Cetta of Weather Hill Homes, to recognize and protect a small stream running through the parcels. That effort was ultimately successful and reduced the available buildable acreage on the site. Now Crozet United is urging the BOS to reject the rest of Montclair based on the plain language of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. “The Montclair proposal is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, which defines where and when phased growth should occur,” said Schmitz in documents prepared for the upcoming hearing.

The Comprehensive Plan’s “Objective 9” says that new development should be matched with infrastructure availability, especially in Priority Areas, which for Crozet are its downtown sections. The plan’s language reads: “Do not approve proposed rezoning and special use permits outside of Priority Areas when planned facilities are not in place to support the project and existing neighborhoods, unless the project will provide significant improvements to ensure adequate infrastructure and services are available to the area.”

In addition, Crozet United argued that Albemarle County does not need to approve developments outside the Priority Areas of Crozet for the foreseeable future because housing needs will be met by units already in the pipeline. Schmitz pointed to a recent “land use buildout analysis” that predicts the county will need 12,000 new homes built over the next 20 years to accommodate population growth by 2044. 

“The county has already approved 12,389 housing units in the last several years that are not yet built,” he said. “Yet another 6,368 units are in the county’s current development pipeline, such as UVA’s North Fork and Samuel Miller’s Sieg development, and are likely to have public hearings in 2024. If any one of these major proposals are approved … they will have an unbuilt housing backlog greater than the housing demand the population will require for the next 20 years.”

These arguments leave room for debate over whether or not Crozet’s current infrastructure can support further dense growth, and about the rate at which approved and pipeline housing turns into actual dwellings in Albemarle. Neil Williamson of Charlottesville’s Free Enterprise Forum argued in his “Density Deferred, Density Denied” report that proposed high-density development projects are often eventually reduced to lower density or denied outright. To illustrate, Williamson described three cases of projects in Charlottesville and Crozet that resulted in an average of 56.6% of density lost during the county’s approval process. 

Those interested in attending the February 21 Board of Supervisors meeting can check the board agenda at the albemarle.org website a week before the meeting for the approximate time the Montclair development will be discussed. 

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