Hundreds of units pending in development process in Albemarle as county considers new affordability strategy

As we begin this story, a quick notification to you that a public comment period for Albemarle’s draft housing plan ends on Monday. Take a look at the county’s website to read the plan and to fill out a questionnaire. (draft plan website)

The first objective is to increase the housing supply to meet the needs of an Albemarle population projected by the Weldon Cooper Center to be 138,485 by the year 2040, up from a current estimate of 109,722. (read Feb. 9 edition for an update on population

“To accommodate this growth, the County will need to add approximately 11,750 new units to our housing stock over the next 20 years,” reads the plan. “The majority of this need—8,134 units or 69% of the required new housing – is projected to be met with units already in the residential development pipeline. This means the county must support the development of an additional 3,616 units to fully accommodate projected household growth through 2040.”

Objective 1 is on page 13 of the 75-page draft document

Members of the Places29-North Community Advisory Committee had the chance to ask questions last night. Bill McLaughlin sent a long list of comments and questions to staff about the plan. 

“A lot of them were coming from the concern about the health of the people that are going to be living in these developments in terms of how much density are we going to trade for low-income housing and I’m wondering if we get too much density, do we have a housing areas, housing developments that aren’t really good for anyone to live in,” McLaughlin said. 

McLaughlin questioned the county’s policy of restricting development to designated growth areas. 

“And that total is 35 square miles, and I don’t know how much of that 35 square miles is left,” McLaughlin said. 

The reason the county has community advisory committees is to shepherd the various master plans. The idea in general has been to encourage density. Here’s what the introduction of the county’s Comprehensive Plan says:

“A large part of planning for the future has been the County’s commitment to its Growth Management Policy,” reads the introduction to the plan. “The Growth Management Policy directs development into specific, identified areas for vibrant growth while conserving the remainder of the County for rural uses, such as agriculture, forestry, and resource protection.”

The Comprehensive Plan was last adopted in June 2015. Furthermore, objective 4 of the Development Areas chapter calls for the efficient use of land “to prevent premature expansion” of those areas and objective 5 calls for density to “create new compact urban areas.” 

As reported in the February 6 edition of this newsletter, Albemarle is just beginning a review of the plan. Here’s Rivanna District Supervisor 

Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley weighed in.

“We have two choices in Albemarle County,” LaPisto-Kirtley said. “Either we make full use of our developable area which probably means eventually going higher in density or higher in buildings. Maybe multi-story apartment buildings closer to the center of downtown. You don’t want to build them out in the middle of nowhere. You want to build them where people can go shopping, where people can go to the grocery store nearby. Or you go into the rural areas and if we crack that nut and go into the rural areas, which may happen eventually, if that happens, we lose Albemarle in my opinion.” 

The above slide comes from a presentation made to the Places29-North Community Advisory Committee on February 11, 2021 (download)

There are multiple apartment complexes and new development under construction or under planning consideration in the Places29-North area. 

RST Residences seeks a rezoning for redevelopment of the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park along U.S. 29.  The community meeting was held last July. The rezoning is for 244 apartment units and 108 townhome units.

“That’s a total of 370 units,” Accardi said. “Fifty percent of these units are proposed to be designated as affordable.”

The Planning Commission will take up the rezoning request on March 2. 

The Forest Lakes Community Association is organizing opposition to the request. Over 400 people have signed a petition calling for Supervisors to deny the request.  Scott Elliff is on the association’s board of directors.

“We’ve done a lot of research and analysis on it,” Elliff said. “It’s troubling to us in a lot of different ways and we’ll certainly be very active at the Planning Commission meeting.”

Currently under construction is the Brookhill development, which was approved by the Board of Supervisors in November 2016 and the new community is being built in phases. 

“This project is approved for a maximum of 1,550 dwelling units as well as 130,000 square feet of non-residential space,” Accardi said. 

Another development under construction is North Pointe, which was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2006. The land remained undeveloped for many years but infrastructure for the property has been constructed in the past couple of years.

“The project is approved to develop a maximum of 893 units as well as commercial and office space,” Accardi said. “None of the blocks have been approved to be built so far.”

That refers to approval of site plans, which is a ministerial function that requires approval by staff if the developer meets all of the conditions in the rezoning. 

There are still remaining units available allowed in Hollymead Town Center under a 2003 rezoning that have not yet been built. 

Other pending rezonings:

  • An amendment to the Hollymead Town Center original rezoning to increase maximum amount of non-residential space by 25,000 square feet in order to build a new 40,000 square foot building. Next step would be to scheduled a Board of Supervisors public hearing. 
  • The Albemarle Planning Commission has recommended approval of a special use permit request from Rappahannock Electric Cooperative to increase the height of existing poles for power lines. The item has not yet been scheduled for a hearing before the Board of Supervisors 
  • Request to amend previous rezoning at Willow Glenn on the east side of Dickerson Road to convert all housing units to multifamily units rather than the mix called for in the rezoning. This would increase the number of dwelling units to 324. A community meeting will be held at the Places29-North meeting in March. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the February 12, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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