Albemarle County is looking to re-designate eight roads such that they could require projects along those corridors to follow design regulations.
The county has 21 roads classified as entrance corridors, but eight roads or portions of the roads do not currently meet state code requirements to be in an entrance corridor. The county’s Architectural Review Board regulates the design of development along the corridors.
On Wednesday, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors supported staff’s recommendation that the county attempt to designate four of the roads under the state’s arterial status and consider making the rest county scenic highways, which would mean they all are eligible to be classified as entrance corridors.
Under state code, an entrance corridor has to meet two criteria: it must be designated or classified as an arterial street or arterial highway by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and it has to be a significant route of tourist access to the locality or to designated historic landmarks.
Staff recommend that the county pursue arterial status for Avon Street Extended, Barracks Road from the city of Charlottesville limits to Georgetown Road, Thomas Jefferson Parkway and U.S. 250 from Route 22 to the county line.
Margaret Maliszewski, a county planning manager, realized there was an issue with some of the roads in 2018, at which point the county stopped applying the entrance corridor regulations to those streets or segments of streets.
According to VDOT’s Functional Classification Comprehensive Guide, if the Board of Supervisors wanted to change the roads’ classifications, it would have to submit a request to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization, which would then either forward the request to the VDOT district planner or deny the request.
The final decision is made by the Federal Highway Administration.
Supervisor Donna Price said she’s received questions about Avon Street Extended.
“We have some serious concerns as to the impact that obtaining arterial status may have, specifically as regards things like speed limits,” she said. “We have Mountain View Elementary School up there, and Biscuit Run Park at the southern end of Avon Street Extended, so speed limits are definitely a major area of concern.”
Kevin McDermott, a transportation planner in the county, said the designation wouldn’t necessarily affect speed limits.
“Being an arterial is evaluated as a corridor that we would expect to carry more traffic, it’s looked at for the more the volumes than the speeds of that traffic and what kind of connections it’s making internally and externally between communities,” he said.
McDermott said that the area currently has a 45 mile-per-hour speed limit, and if it was reduced to 35 miles per hour it would still be within the range of speeds that would be expected on an arterial.
“If we started asking for it to go down to say, 25 — which I think is unlikely whether it’s an arterial or a collector for us to have any success of getting that to a 25 mile per hour speed limit — VDOT may question that because it’s an arterial, and it is intended to carry a significant number of traffic and if you lowered that that far I think it would have trouble meeting that,’ McDermott said.
He said school zones would not be an issue, and that there are “lots of arterials with school zones.”
The Supervisors also supported the county studying re-establishing a county scenic highway designation. Maliszewski said the previous scenic highway designation was eliminated when the entrance corridor overlay was established in 1990.
Barracks Road beyond Georgetown Road, Irish Road, Louisa Road from Route 231 to the county line, Route 20 from Proffit Road to the county line, Old Lynchburg Road south of Sunset Ave. Ext and Thomas Jefferson Parkway, if it does not receive arterial status, are staff’s recommendation for consideration for the county scenic highway designation.
“Scenic and historic designations would require zoning text and zoning map amendments,” Maliszewski said. “The work is not currently part of keeping Community Development’s work program. It would need to be added and prioritization established.”
She said 5th Street/Old Lynchburg Road is only an arterial road from the city to the intersection of Sunset Avenue Extended.
The Mosby Mountain Community Association sent a letter to the Planning Commission in 2018 saying they were opposed to the removal of that section of Old Lynchburg Road from the entrance corridor overlay, and that losing that would mean “neighborhoods in this area will have little to no recourse or notice of new development being proposed.”
“We think that given the exceptional pace of development in the 5th Street Extended/Old Lynchburg Road corridor, the significant changes planned for the Southwood Community, and the planning for Biscuit Run State Park, it is essential that the surrounding neighborhoods have the same opportunity as other communities that are within the entrance corridor overlay,” the letter says.
Supervisor Liz Palmer asked why the county couldn’t apply for the road to be an arterial.
“There are some specific categorizations for a road to be an arterial, and this segment didn’t really meet the requirements based on our discussion with VDOT, they didn’t seem to support the idea of changing that to an arterial,” McDermott said.
Palmer asked if the county could ask VDOT to consider making it an arterial down further to take in that major development, and McDermott said he could, but that they previously had difficulty identifying a reasonable place where the end of the arterial would.
“That would be wonderful, I think that the neighborhood would really appreciate that additional ARB oversight if we could manage that,” she said.