ARB seeks smaller scale for Crozet self-storage facility

The winter storm yesterday ended up canceling all three of the government meetings scheduled including the Albemarle Architectural Review Board. That group last met on December 20 when they weighed in on a self-storage facility proposed for the intersection of U.S. 250 and Crozet Avenue. Margaret Maliszewski is a planning manager who works with the ARB. (watch the meeting)

“The proposed building is three stories tall with a 30,000 square foot footprint,” Maliszewski said. “The building as shown on the plan measures 260 feet by 120 feet.”

Staff is concerned about the size of the building in relation to what’s around it. Maliszewski said the developer submitted a design with architectural treatments intended to break down the design, but continued to have concerns with the preliminary design. The property is zoned for highway commercial, so the use is allowed but must comply with entrance corridor guidelines. 

Existing conditions at the site. The buildings on the right side of the road would be demolished (Credit: Albemarle County)

Doug Bates, a member of the Downtown Crozet Initiative and the Crozet Community Advisory Committee. During public comment, he said the project is not consistent with a Crozet Master Plan that seeks to build larger structures closer to downtown and now on U.S. 250.

“I can’t think of a more important corridor to deal with Crozet and I would urge this Architectural Review Board to consider your broader responsibilities to keep the community coherent,” Bates said. 

Another member of the public urged the county to deny the whole proposal. 

“I think we’re giving too much importance to by-right and not enough to what really needs to go there,” said Brenda Plantz. “It’s a Scenic Highway.” 

However, Virginia law is clear that property owners are entitled to uses laid out in the zoning code as explained by ARB Chair Dade Van Der Werf. 

“I think I can speak on behalf of the board to say we certainly appreciate and share the appreciation that this is a significant intersection on these entrance corridors and I think our charge on the ARB aligns with the desire for coherence in the order of the county,” van der Werf said. “We are not empowered to affect zoning or use. That’s kind of the responsibility of the Planning and other commissions.”

However, ARB members did express concerns such as this one from Frank Stoner.

“I took struggle with the scale of this building,” Stoner said. “It’s very close to the intersection. If there was a way to push it back on the site and make it sort of an ancillary use to something more appropriate that was on the corner, I think I could be supportive.” 

ARB member Fred Missel also wanted to look very closely to see how the entrance corridor guidelines could be applied at this location.

“In my opinion, this project is precisely an example of what the guidelines are designed to help us guard against,” Missel said. “I think we have to not only take our guidelines seriously but also ask the applicant to spend some significant amount of time looking through our guidelines, really understanding them, reflecting on them, and addressing them both visually and also narratively  the next time we speak if its in a work session which I think is probably smart.” 

Missel said the ARB cannot comment on the use but said the scale is incompatible with the county’s guidelines. The ARB voted 4-0 on a resolution stating their lack of support with one member recusing himself. Recommendations including trying to make the building seem more like a two-story building and looking at other buildings along the corridor to find compatibility. 

A massing concept submitted by Urban and Associates

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 January 4, 2022 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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