Many Crozet Community Advisory Committee members feel frustrated with comments made last week by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors regarding the area’s Master Plan update.
During a work session last week, supervisors expressed concerns about the Crozet plan’s draft land use chapter and notions around affordable housing; the committee — which is advisory — taking votes; and how potentially limiting development in one designated growth area could affect the rest of the county.
On Wednesday night, the community advisory committee met to discuss certain chapters of the Crozet Master Plan as part of the update process, but also discussed what went on at the board meeting.
Crozet CAC member Joe Fore said they’ve invested years of work and attended many meetings around the Master Plan update, and have made compromises between those who want no more development and supporters of maximum development.
“But then for people who don’t live in Crozet, who we don’t have the opportunity to vote for, swoop in at the 11th hour and attempt to commandeer the plan, I think people can understand why that would be very frustrating,” he said.
The community and county began updating the Crozet Master Plan, which helps to guide decisions about land use, transportation and parks in the area, in 2019. It ultimately will be part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which guides the county’s long-term vision for land use and resource protection. County staff and the Board of Supervisors look to the Comprehensive Plan as part of the rezoning process.
The last few months of the update process have been contentious between staff and community members around land use issues and the possibility of adding more housing in Crozet. A proposal for a Middle Density Residential designation in the plan’s future land use map recommended six to 24 units per acre, but that was reduced to six to 12 units per acre, with up to 18 for additional affordable units, after community feedback.
Since 2007, Crozet has seen the most new homes added of any of the county’s development areas. A majority of the new units — 80% — have been single-family detached, single-family attached or townhouses.
At last week’s work session, supervisors questioned the capping of middle density, among other things.
Fore said he thought a former Crozet CAC member’s previous comments regarding the Master Plan being the county’s plan, and not the community’s, were “inappropriate.”
“But if the Board of Supervisors swoops in and does this, I mean, look, it starts to feel like that, in some ways, when the board does that,” he said. “I was offended, personally, disappointed and offended as a member of this committee, who’s invested — as we all have — years into this plan.”
Crozet CAC chair Allie Pesch said the committee took votes in order to clarify and make their input simpler to understand for people who weren’t at the meeting.
“I’ve spent four years on this committee, and many years before that attending, and I felt very insulted by the comments that afternoon,” she said.
Committee member Matthew Slaats said he thought there was a tendency by board members to want to compare all of the growth areas at the same level.
“I appreciate the efforts in the plan to try to bring all the language under comparable ways, like creating a nomenclature for how planning should happen across those spaces, but they’re just not comparable spaces,” he said. “There’s very different tensions going on in the different sites, and to [not] recognize that, that’s what was difficult for me to listen and to hear about … like, if we showed up at other sites and started saying, ‘you can’t do that,’ they would be in the same position.”
Committee member Brian Day questioned if the committee was not going to be listened to, why does it exist?
“There just isn’t an excuse for public officials to treat citizen advisers that they’ve appointed in such a despicable way,” he said. “It was just crazy.”
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said Crozet has achieved “tremendous success” with the draft of the plan so far, but it’s been a challenging discussion.
“I have repeatedly described to other board members the reason that Crozet is special because it has descendants of the same people who were here in 1810 and it has thousands of new residents who have all been welcomed in, dragged into public meetings within 12 months or 12 days of getting here, because that’s the way the community is,” she said. “So don’t criticize when people are engaged and jump up and down — it’s because they care.”
Mallek said she was bringing the two newest members of the board — Supervisors Donna Price and Bea LaPisto-Kirtley — on tours of Crozet in the coming week. She suggested that once the committee has finished the draft, if pandemic restrictions allow, that they have a big outdoor meeting to invite the wider Crozet community out to see the draft.
“That kind of celebration, I think, would really give everybody great momentum to go forward to the public meetings,” she said.