The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has killed a request for a proposed housing development on U.S. 250 near the Glenmore subdivision.
Southern Development and Roudabush Gale & Associates requested a rezoning of 84 acres from rural areas to R-4 residential to build 130 units for a project called Breezy Hill.
On Wednesday, Supervisors Donna Price, Ann H. Mallek and Liz Palmer voted against the rezoning during the board’s virtual meeting, while Bea LaPisto-Kirtley, Diantha McKeel and Ned Gallaway supported the rezoning. Tie votes cause motions to fail.
“I am looking less favorably, and it is because of the impacts they will have on the existing and many longtime residents of the smaller neighborhood nearby, who have been trampled over many decades by residents moving in, by construction, traffic, etc.,” Mallek said.
A similar proposal was before the board in September, but the developers asked for a deferral.
Since the deferral, developers decreased the number of units from 160 to 130, which lowered the density from two gross units per acre and 2.5 net units per acre to 1.6 gross units per acre and 1.9 net units per acre. Also, the design and alignment of one of the main roads was reconfigured to discourage traffic from entering and exiting Breezy Hill on Running Deer Drive.
The Planning Commission recommended denial of both iterations of the project, first in July and again in November.
After the November meeting, another proffer was offered to install solar panels in the project equating to 200 kilowatts, which would’ve been on the rooftops of the homes.
The developer also would make signal timing and coordination improvements at certain U.S. 250 intersections; give the county $500,000 for transportation, transit or school capital projects; and build 20 affordable housing units or give the county $422,500.
“In fact, R-4 zoning does not allow a power generation array as a ground mount, so it would be impossible, even if we wanted to do that,” said Charlie Armstrong with Southern Development. “But we want them on rooftops where they will blend in and provide greatest benefit.”
The future land use plan in the Village of Rivanna Master Plan, which is part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, shows the area as Neighborhood Density Residential Low, which recommends fewer than two dwelling units per acre. But the future land use and transportation chapter says this area “will have the lowest density of this Development Area,” and shows one dwelling per acre.
In a 2019 work session, the Planning Commission supported county staff’s recommendation that one unit per acre would be appropriate on this site.
The Comprehensive Plan is the county’s guiding document for its long-term vision for land use and resource protection, and includes master plans for the designated development areas of the county. County staff and the Board of Supervisors look to the Comprehensive Plan as part of the rezoning process.
The master plan also states that “future residential development should only be approved if and when transportation improvements to U.S. 250 have been made and sufficient sewer capacity is in place to support that development.” The master plan goes on to say, “it is essential that all of the U.S. 250 improvements be constructed before new development occurs in the Village.”
According to county staff, only part of one of the six transportation projects mentioned in the plan is completed.
Price said she didn’t think that language was relevant.
“I don’t think that should be in there … but that does not mean that traffic concerns are not a legitimate consideration,” she said.
Armstrong said that based on comments from the last meeting, his team’s land planners did a study of the master plan and existing development patterns to make the proposal fit better with the existing area and the master plan goal of transitional density. Because of that, they restricted the density along Running Deer Drive to less than one unit per acre.
“On roughly 10 acres closest to Running Deer, as part of our project, there will be just seven new lots, and that’s adjacent to six existing homes,” he said. “So our proposed density in block five now matches the existing density adjacent to us and represents an orderly step down in density radiating all the way from the village center out.”
The Village of Rivanna Master Plan and the Comprehensive Plan have some conflicts in how they talk about edge areas.
In the master plan, it says developed land on the east side of Carroll Creek, where Breezy Hill was proposed, is “not expected to change in character, as it provides for a transition to the Rural Areas,” while the Comprehensive Plan states in multiple strategies “do not require transitional areas between the Rural Area and Development Areas.”
County Development Process Manager Megan Nedostup said there is language in the Comprehensive Plan that says the Development Areas and the Rural Areas should have a strong edge between them to delineate between the two areas.
“There is conflicting language there that maybe with our Comprehensive Plan update coming up we can resolve in the future,” she said. “Both are kind of discussed within the Comprehensive Plan and master plans.”
McKeel, who supported the project, said she thought the developers addressed the concerns of the neighbors as best they could.
“I probably would be more in favor of a ‘harder edge’ just because we need housing, but he’s addressed it, and I think that’s great,” she said.