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A developer wants to change a previously approved rezoning to allow for a biotech manufacturing facility near the intersection of Fifth Street and Old Lynchburg Road in Albemarle County.
Developer Kyle Redinger said with office space needs changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more people working from home, he started to think about other options to build on this site.
“After a bunch of homework, it became apparent that there’s a big need in the biotech manufacturing sector for space,” he said. “…We want to go after a larger company, something that’s well funded, that wants to make Albemarle County its home.”
A rezoning was approved for the project, called Albemarle Business Campus, in October 2020, including allowing for Office/Research and Development/Flex use, but Redinger said the current Code of Development does not support the building typology needed for a biotech manufacturing facility.
The proposed changes are mostly around one building on the back of the site, including allowing an additional 25,000 square feet, adding an additional 15 feet of building height, removing building front setback and building stepback requirements and removing a requirement that R&D/Flex and Light Industrial building footprints be limited to 20,000 square feet. The application also included adding allowances for parking structures in two areas of the site.
If the changes were approved, Redinger could build a 125,000 square foot, four-story building that has a building footprint of 30,000 square feet in the back right section of the site. That building would not need to be spaced away from the internal road on the site.
The approval in October 2020 rezoned two parcels of land and a portion of a third parcel from R2 residential, R10 residential and commercial office to Neighborhood Model District, which is intended to be a flexible zoning district that allows a mix of residential and non-residential uses.
The Board of Supervisors in April 2020 approved a public-private partnership for the project — that was contingent upon the rezoning receiving approval from the board — where Redinger would reserve 25,000 square feet of Class A office space for a “primary business.” Albemarle considers that to be a business that generates more than 50% of its revenue from outside of the region.
Under the agreement, Redinger would receive $100,000 from the county Economic Development Authority through synthetic tax increment financing.
In both the current Code of Development for the site and the new proposed code, Office/R&D/Flex is a by-right use, meaning it doesn’t need legislative approval from the Board of Supervisors. Light Industrial requires a special-use permit, which has to be approved by the board.
If the proposed changes were approved, Redinger said, he would still not build a building like this without a tenant and a signed lease, as it would be too expensive.
“We don’t need to build a building this big if a tenant doesn’t want it,” he said. “We just didn’t want to go and market to these pharmaceutical companies with a size that was maybe too small for their needs.”
A community meeting was held last week during the 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee meeting, and area residents questioned the need for the changes to the proposal.
CAC member Shawn Brydge said he thought this proposal “slid significantly away from what was originally the intention.”
“I understand there had to be a pivot because of COVID office space but I think we’re sliding dangerously close to something we don’t want on this site, given the location and given the county’s guidance for redevelopment of this spot,” he said.
Roger Johson, the county’s economic development director, said Redinger was working with local and state economic development officials.
“While Kyle is going at this alone financially, for the most part, he’s not going at it alone in terms of finding an appropriate tenant,” Johnson said. “He’s had conversations, that I’m aware of, not only with us, but with the Central Virginia partnership for economic development as well as the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.”
Public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors have not yet been scheduled.