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Crozet Park expansion approved

An expansion of Claudius Crozet Park can move forward once the nonprofit that owns it raises enough funds.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved an amendment Wednesday evening of a special-use permit for the park to expand.

Supporters of the park have said that the expansion would allow more recreation opportunities, but some neighbors don’t think the expansion should happen due to the lack of sidewalks and potential for increased traffic.

The plan will add a two-story, 34,200-square-foot recreation building, which is set to include exercise areas, sports courts, community meeting spaces and a pool expansion. A second phase of the project would include an indoor pool facility adjacent to the existing pool deck.

In March, the proposal was deferred after county Planning Commissioners and community members had concerns about greenspace, traffic and the size and scale of the expansion. The project was ultimately recommended for approval in September. After the first meeting, the park board shifted the north entrance of the park to the east to intersect with Indigo Road and shifted the main community center building, including the indoor pool, 25 feet to the south.

The park’s contractors also will now use a secondary park entrance off Park Road as the construction entrance — which the nearby Parkside Village Homeowners Association had asked to happen. In addition, 150 new trees will be planted on the site to offset the loss of about 45 trees and new pedestrian paths/sidewalks will be added.

The approval comes with nine conditions, including sound and lighting limitations and a number of fencing and screening requirements.

The commission added a 10th proposed condition that the park should include additional on-site bicycle infrastructure, such as bike racks, bike lockers, bike lanes and other on-road or adjacent bicycle access. They also recommended that the county prioritize the installation and/or repair of sidewalks along High Street, Hill Top Street and Park Road.

The park is about 22.8 acres and is owned by Claudius Crozet Park Inc., a nonprofit. According to its website, the park generates revenue from contracts for operations of the aquatic and fitness facility, festivals that use the property, project-specific grants and donations from community members and businesses. It also has a restrictive covenant agreement with the county that has helped fund some projects and maintenance.

The site already has a special-use permit from the county but needs an amendment to add the building.

The park board and its developers said new facilities are needed to serve the growing population in the area.

Kevin Schafer, with architecture firm Design Develop speaking on behalf of the park, showed a map diagramming the other parks in the area, such as Mint Springs Valley and Beaver Creek, which are more focused on “natural activities such as hiking, biking and fishing,” and Crozet Park is in the center.

“When you contrast that with Crozet Park, which is a much more urban park, programmed with ball fields, workout facilities, the dog park, … as this natural hub for Crozet, it’s suited for the kinds of programs that is proposed with this project and is needed in this growing community,” he said.

After the Planning Commission meeting, the board revised the concept plan to depict the proposed site for the relocated playground, and provided additional information on existing and proposed pedestrian and bike infrastructure in this area.

Schafer said the park board did reduce the amount of onsite parking as much as allowed by zoning to encourage other means of transportation to access the park.

“We’re taking advantage of a 10% parking reduction allowed for urban parks, and we’re utilizing a 50-space reduction with an improved cooperative parking agreement,” he said.

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said one of the biggest needs in the school/family category in western Albemarle is afterschool care.

“There are hundreds of children on a waiting list for the elementary schools, because there are so few places available and I understand even for summer camps, even if it’s an outdoor camp in order to be licensed, you have to have a place for the children to be safely indoors if there’s lightning and thunder etc.” she said. “So can someone address how this larger building would be able to help in that category?”

Kim Guenther, the park board president, said they currently have about 30 spots for summer camp and also for afterschool programs due to those restrictions.

“This new facility with the much larger afterschool area and summer camp area, we can bring in as many as I think about 300 kids,” Guenther said.

“It’s going to be dependent on how the operator wants to program that space and the programs for the kid, but it must be at least 10 fold. It’s significant.”

In 2019, a park board member came before the Board of Supervisors and asked for $2.4 million from the county for the expansion, but that funding request has not been publicly discussed in recent years.

According to Crozet Park’s website, the expansion project will cost $10.6 million and funding will come from multiple sources including donors, grants and sponsors.

“The Crozet Park Board is also requesting funding from Albemarle County,” the website says. “A bank loan will finance all remaining project costs. Although an operator for the new facility has not yet been decided, the eventual operational lease along with community donations and Park festivals revenue will be used to pay off project debt.”

During public comment, more than 14 people spoke and most were in favor of the amended permit, citing the need for afterschool programs, more swimming space and options for seniors in the area.

“The facilities in the current park are in very, very bad shape and in desperate need of replacement,” said Bryan Garey, who said he has been using the park for more than 10 years.

“The park continues to grow with the many developments in the area and it is a local resource. It’s a community center. It’s a way to come together and exercise, enjoy nature without having to drive all the way into Charlottesville or across the mountains, so it’s environmentally friendly to have a park optimized right in the center of Crozet.”

Those who spoke out against the expansion live in Parkside Village, a housing development north of the park. Sarah Kasen, who said she was representing the Parkside Village Homeowners Association, said the relocated entrance on Indigo Road will need to get approval from the neighborhood’s Architectural Review Board before it can build the entrance.

“The deed provides that this parcel will be considered a lot in our neighborhood and is therefore subject to the Parkside village covenants, conditions and restrictions,” she said. “Our association respectfully requests that the Board of Supervisors either one, delay its decision regarding the special-use permit until the park submits its application to our ARB and the ARB has an opportunity to make a decision or two, condition any approval of this special use permit on the park obtaining ARB approval for the access road.”

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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