Albemarle Planning Commission briefed on build-out analysis

For the past six months, Albemarle staff have been working behind-the-scenes on the update of the Comprehensive Plan, which will be conducted in four phases.  

“And the first phase is Plan for Growth where we are evaluating the current growth management policy and we’re using the theoretical maximum build-out of the county’s development areas based on the current land use plan from our 2015 plan to determine what the maximum build-out could be of those development areas,” said Rachel Falkenstein, one of Albemarle’s planning managers. 

Falkenstein told the Albemarle Planning Commission at a May 24, 2022 work session that the question is whether there’s enough land to accommodate the population growth expected over the next 20 years. There is also an effort to look at whether there’s enough land to meet the county’s goals for economic development. 

This is the first time the county has contracted out the build-out analysis to a third party. 

Kimley-Horn was hired and Jessica Rossi is a planner with that firm. She explained some of the methodology. 

“Our first step was to identify parcels that may have development or redevelopment potential,” Rossi said. “The way that we did this is we looked at a very high level the value of land and the value of improvements.” 

If the land value was greater than the improvements, Rossi said that designated it as land with development potential. A second step was to factor in location, environmental constraints, size of the land, and who owned it. Another was to look at the list of projects that are in the development pipeline.

“We removed properties that were either approved or under review from our model and inputted what we know the yield of those projects, the maximum build-out yield of those projects are,” Rossi said. “One, to avoid double-counting of those projects but [also] to use the total build-outs that we know have been approved.” 

Then forecasts were developed that take into account the past ten years of development activity, combined with real estate performance as well as three sets of population projections. 

Rossi said the growth area currently has about 9,377 units that are approved but not yet built. They also looked at the number of units currently under review which totals 5,504. 

“That led to a total buildable unit figure of over 14,800,” Rossi said. 

Rossi said when you look at land that has not yet been through the rezoning process, there are an additional 9,265 units. 

“When you put these two numbers together, that total exceeds 24,000 residential units,” Rossi said. 

A summary of units that are approved in Albemarle’s development areas but not yet built 

Between 2010 and 2021, the average number of units built is 646. The ten year forecast anticipates between 6,000 and 7,500 new units, and the twenty year forecast is between 11,500 and 13,500. 

Rossi said not all development areas are the same. What’s known as Neighborhood 6 has no units pending for review whereas the Hollymead community has the potential of about 6,350 new units. 

That figure of 9,265 units assumes that development comes in at the maximum allowed under the current Comprehensive Plan designation. Rezonings or special use permits would be required to make that happen, and those approvals are not always guaranteed. 

“Looking at rezonings approved from 2016 through 2021, the total density approved was approximately 58 percent of the maximum density recommended per future land use designations,” said county planner Tori Kanellopoulos. 

For instance, the Rio Point project approved by Supervisors last year could have had a maximum of 624 units but only 328 were approved. Old Trail in Crozet was approved in 2005 for between 1,600 and 2,200 units, but the final build-out will only be around 1,200 units. 

Hunter Wood of the United Land Corporation said it is very difficult to get the maximum amount of units available under the Comprehensive Plan.

“Costs have gone through the roof and a lot of that cost is two years of rezoning to go through the county and to start off at 500 units and you get beaten and come in here and get whipped and beat and you walk out with 250,” Wood said.

Wood said he would love to be able to build those 6,000 units in Hollymead and his company still has a lot of undeveloped land there. 

“I personally, probably a little biased, think the growth area needs to be expanded,” Wood said. “I have some property that water and sewer is away from me yet I have a road that has a boundary that no one wants to cross.”

Wood referred to Somerset Farms, a 1,900 unit development on Route 20 south of I-64 for which a growth area expansion was recommended to be voted down by the Planning Commission in October 2011. 

Commissioners were asked one simple question: Does our current Growth Management Policy provide opportunities to meet housing and non-residential needs for growth over the next 20 years?

Commission Chair Karen Firehock said unit amounts are often reduced during the rezoning process because of concerns brought forward by other community members. 

“A lot of times it has to do with schools and traffic and I really can’t answer this question without knowing what kind of traffic would that put on our roads, how many schools would be needed to realize X number,” Firehock said. 

Commissioner Julian Bivins said one question is whether people who live in Albemarle really want density.

“Everybody comes out and talks about how they don’t want to walk their dog next to those people, or they don’t want to get run over when they cross that street,” Bivins said. “So the whole idea is that the community has got to get better with density. If that doesn’t happen, we have all we need.” 

Bivins said he would like to see conversations about creating transition zones that are between rural and growth areas. He also certain projects could have been much taller to allow more units. 

Commissioner Daniel Bailey suggested the county also needs to better understand how the lack of available land could be forcing people to live outside. 

“I’ve employed many employees that live in Lake Monticello and drive in and would love to live in Charlottesville but it’s too expensive,” Bailey said. “I don’t know how we get to that understanding.” 

Another growth management work session will be held with the Planning Commission next month. 

Luis Carazanna and Corey Clayborne were not present at the meeting. There is a vacancy for a representative of the White Hall District. 


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 May 25, 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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