A housing development that could have brought 160 units to U.S. 250 near Glenmore has been deferred.
At its meeting last week, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors accepted the developer’s request to defer the rezoning request.
Southern Development and Roudabush Gale & Associates are requesting a rezoning of 84 acres from rural areas to R-4 residential to build 160 units for a project called Breezy Hill.
Residents of the Glenmore and Running Deer neighborhoods expressed concerns about the increase in traffic the proposal could cause along an already congested U.S. 250.
“When I put the density, the transportation and the impacts together, I simply cannot support an application that would increase the dwelling units per acre from one per acre, as the master plan currently exists, up to basically three times that number,” Supervisor Donna Price said.
The Albemarle Planning Commission in July voted 6-0 to recommend denial, citing concerns with density and traffic. Since that meeting, the developer made some changes, including prohibiting construction traffic from using the Running Deer Drive entrance.
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.
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.
At a work session on the project in July, commissioners were supportive of a less dense development than what is being proposed.
In a report, county staff said that based on one unit per acre, the site would have 84 units using gross density or about 65 units using net density, after factoring out areas designated for “parks and green systems.” With two units per acre, the site would have a maximum of 168 units using gross density or a maximum of 131 units using net density.
The proposed 160 dwelling units would be a gross density of 1.9 units per acre and a net density of 2.5 units per acre.
By-right, or without legislative approval from the Board of Supervisors, the developer could build about 24 units on the site.
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, an improvement to the bridge at Route 22, and only one other project — interchange improvements at Interstate 64 and U.S. 250 — is funded at this time.
In addition to the Planning Commission, county staff also recommended denial of the Breezy Hill project.
The developer has committed to providing traffic signalization improvements; $500,000 toward either transportation or school improvements; and affordable housing equal to 15% of total units constructed or $507,000.
Supervisor Diantha McKeel said she lives “in different worlds,” where she goes to Regional Housing Partnership meetings and they talk about how there is a need for affordable housing and housing in general.
“And then I come to the opportunity meetings like this, where I have the opportunity to support what we talk about with the state, with our staff and the lack of housing and the lack of affordability, and we don’t support it,” she said. “I guess I feel like I’m in silos at times. I’m not sure I really understand that disconnect, or that dichotomy.”
About 15 community members spoke against the proposal, citing traffic issues and the statement in the master plan about U.S. 250 road improvements.
Neil Means said the board has approved other developments in the Village of Rivanna in the past over residents’ objections about traffic.
“Let me remind you, you are not required to approve [zoning map amendments],” he said. “If you want to debate the language in the master plan, this is not the time. You should respect the master plan and deny the [rezoning request].”
Many speakers said the board should follow and “respect” the master plan, and that approving this project would be a “radical change.”
“Other people have talked about the integrity of the master plan, and I think you need to decide, yes, growth is needed and houses are needed, but perhaps not here,” Dottie Martin said.
No other master plans in the county mention that new residential development “should only be approved if and when transportation improvements” have been made.