Public hearing tomorrow night for Albemarle purchase of 462 acres

The decision by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to spend $58 million to purchase 462 acres of land near Rivanna Station has been pitched as an investment in the county’s future economy. On Wednesday, there will be a state-mandated public hearing on the acquisition as it pertains to business and industrial use. Supervisors got a briefing at their meeting on June 7.

“We are in a contract acquisition state thanks to the action the board took [on May 24],” said Trevor Henry, the deputy county executive. “We have made our escrow deliverable and met that within the contract terms and are in a 90 minute due diligence period.”

That means that the county is investigating several aspects to see if the land can actually handle the level of activity planned for the future. 

“We are going to look at conditions of the land itself,” said Lance Stewart, the county’s director of Facilities and Environmental Services. “We’ll also be doing some early conceptual developments, sketches, and models for infrastructure. That would be roads and utilities primarily.” 

A slide from the presentation made to the Board of Supervisors on June 7 

Albemarle will also inherit existing obligations on the land from the existing owner such as a parking agreement with Rivanna Station and the lease of a farm house. There are also agricultural uses underway but the county still has to determine who is renting the land. 

Some of the work is also being coordinated by the firm Line + Grade. Among other things, all of the land has to be surveyed.

“That effort will also include soil mapping,” Stewart said. “Drainage area mapping is important to his particular project because we anticipate subdividing one of the parcels where we retain half and the other half stays with the owner based on the fall line of one of the drainage areas.” 

An environmental assessment will also determine whether there any brownfields that may need remediation or whether there are cultural resources or endangered species that will require mitigation. 

Stewart also said initial talks are underway with the Virginia Department of Transportation regarding the extension of Boulders Road to provide a second entrance off of U.S. 29 to the military base. 

“We could find concerns in any one of these area that might influence cost or the buildable land within the development areas but ultimately no one factor is likely going to recommend against moving forward with this but we have to make sure we have all of the information we need,” Stewart said.  

Some of the land is outside of the county’s development area and would have to be added for the project to go forward under Albemarle’s long-standing growth management policy.

The acquisition will be financed through the sale of bonds on a five-year basis, according to interim finance director Jacob Sumner. The idea will be to shift to a different financing structure once more partners come on board but Sumner listed the bottom line for now.

“The annual debt service on that will be approximately $3.1 million,” Sumner said. “We do have in our FY24 [Capital Improvement Program] plan, about $14.4 million included in the economic development funding for public-private partnerships.” 

Those bonds would be issued through the Albemarle Economic Development Authority. Their Board of Directors are getting a briefing right at publication time.

Now, on to partners. Henry said there was a meeting facilitated by the Matrix Group at the North Fork Discovery Park on May 31 led by Craig Crenshaw, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs. There were nearly three dozen stakeholders from the military, academic officials, and members of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Defense Affairs Committee. 

“As the Secretary has said, he’s been keeping his powder dry in order to help sponsor this work now through the rest of the state,” Henry said. “We are spinning off to have engagement with the rest of the secretariats in likely the July timeframe with a goal of getting to the Governor on this project in late summer.” 

As for the public hearing, County Attorney Steven Rosenberg said it has a very limited purpose.

“When the Board approved its resolution on May 24, it approved the acquisition of the entire 462 acres of land and authorized the County Executive to take further actions to complete the acquisition,” Rosenberg said. “So there’s no further action required by the Board to acquire the land.” 

Rosenberg said the county will not actually purchase the land for several months as the due diligence continues. Public comment itself won’t persuade the county to change course, but staff recommended a public hearing because of the possibility it could be used for business use in the future. A resolution reaffirming the acquisition will be taken after the public hearing.

Will you speak? What will you say? 

One of the slides in a presentation made to the Board of Supervisors on June 7, 2023

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 June 20, 2023 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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