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Albemarle supervisors express interest in additional smaller housing units in Crozet

Some Albemarle County Board of Supervisors members still want to see the possibility of properties that could support smaller units spread throughout Crozet as part of the update of the area’s Master Plan.

During a work session Wednesday, supervisors expressed support that a new land use category — Middle Density Residential — be less concentrated and dispersed throughout the community.

“As I look at the maps in our materials, it strikes me that the middle density housing is being isolated into separate pockets, and I just don’t know if there’s a way to expand that farther throughout the community,” Supervisor Donna Price said.

Supervisors Diantha McKeel and Bea LaPisto-Kirtley said they agreed.

“For me, having pockets, like we have, can create other problems, and I would like to see it more spread out,” McKeel said.

Land use categories are assigned to properties to serve as a marker to community members and developers about which kinds of projects could be developed on a site in the future. Ultimately, a developer would need approval from the Board of Supervisors to change the zoning of the property to allow for the use.

The Middle Density Residential designation recommends six to 12 units per acre or up to 18 for additional affordable units. According to the draft plan, the designation is to bridge the gap between single-family housing and multi-level apartment buildings, and would allow for small and medium multiplexes, small single-family cottages, bungalow or cottage courts, live/work units, accessory dwelling units and tiny houses.

The Crozet Master Plan update process has been contentious between Crozet Community Advisory Committee members, area residents and county staff around land use issues and the possibility of adding housing in Crozet.

“I think what staff looked at is that a majority of Crozet is … Neighborhood Density Residential and while middle housing types could theoretically be built in those areas — perhaps an accessory unit here or there — you’re not going to get large-scale new housing built; it’ll be piecemeal here and there,” said Rachel Falkenstein, a county planning manager. “And so that’s why we looked at this middle density category and try to find places to apply it where it could possibly be used.”

Supervisors in April said they were concerned about the potential difficulties around affordable housing in Crozet, and county staff added more Middle Density residential near downtown Crozet.

“Certainly, there are other areas we can add middle density but as I’m sure many of you’ve heard, the community feedback has really not supported more growth, additional density, so we’ve tried to strike a balance with this last addition to the plan to respond to the board’s feedback but also be sensitive to the community feedback that we’ve heard,” Falkenstein said.

About 16 acres composed of seven parcels bordered by Crozet Avenue, Tabor Street, High Street and Dunvegan Lane were changed in the draft as Middle Density, up from Neighborhood Density Residential, which recommends three to six units per acre. While some Crozet CAC members were OK with the change, two of the property owners were not supportive.

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek asked that those properties be reverted to Neighborhood Density Residential in the draft plan before it goes to public hearings.

“There was no discussion in the community about this, and if it is left in, my fear is that it will really undermine confidence in master planning all over the county,” she said. “I have had calls from people in other master plan districts saying, ‘What’s going on here? I read about this in the newspaper, and is this going to happen in my neighborhood?’ and I said I don’t know, we’re working on this.”

“I just ask you to please support the good planning efforts that have gone on and take that one column out of the draft,” Mallek said.

Price said the board needs to be more supportive of developers who proposed multiple types of housing in one project.

“We have a responsibility when a variety of housing options are being proposed in a development to be supportive of that, because that, I think, would expand this middle density or other types of housing more broadly throughout the community, which I, as one supervisor, believe is better than having these pockets that are created,” she said.

Supervisors Price, McKeel, LaPisto-Kirtley and board Chairman Ned Gallaway said they were fine with those properties staying in the draft plan as Middle Density as it goes to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors for public hearings.

“I think there’s still public process that can play out here … but we do have to identify some areas that we’re saying where these things can exist, in my opinion, but I feel like I’m gonna have ample time to still speak to those issues as the process plays out,” Gallaway said.

In addition to the future land use plan, the draft master plan also includes chapters on transportation, conservation and implementation.

County staff said they will continue to vet the draft plan, and will tentatively have public hearings with the Planning Commission in September and the Board of Supervisors in October.


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