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Draft of Crozet Master Plan update nearly ready; some worry too few residents know what's going on

After more than a year and a half, the entire draft of the updated Crozet Master Plan is nearly completed.

On Wednesday night, the Crozet Community Advisory Committee reviewed and gave feedback on the projects recommended in the plan — which implement the goals and recommendations of the land use, transportation and conservation chapters — as well as the plan overall.

“I’m pretty excited to be at this phase of this project,” said Allie Pesch, chair of the Crozet CAC. “We’ve done a lot of work, and I’d love for everyone in the community to feel part of it before it’s all said and done.”

County staff said they plan to get the full draft document out soon so people in Crozet can give more feedback at additional pop-up gatherings next week or online, ahead of a Planning Commission work session on June 22 and a Board of Supervisors work session sometime in August.

Based on community input heard throughout the master plan update process, as well as specific engagement on implementation projects, completing Eastern Avenue, including the Lickinghole Creek stream crossing, was the top capital project priority and the top “catalyst project” on the draft list. Catalyst projects are seen as community priorities that are anticipated to be completed or have made substantial progress within 10 years.

Other catalyst projects include downtown street improvements, an update and extension of the Crozet Connector Trail and a feasibility study of a Three Notch’d Trail.

“These are the draft projects that we have at the moment, and they are not in a finalized priority order since we’re still taking the feedback on prioritizing them,” County Senior Planner Tori Kanellopoulos said.

Crozet CAC member Joe Fore said he’d like to see a recommendation for a consideration of a service district, or a special tax levied on an area to pay for certain things, to help fund some of these capital projects.

“There’s only one mention of service districts in the entire draft and that’s in reference to funding ongoing activities and services at the plaza and downtown, but I would love to see a little bit more and maybe even a full policy suggestion saying this is something we ought to explore in Crozet to fund some of these capital projects so we’re not constantly having these things be future projects that are 10 years down the line,” he said.

Member David Mitchell said he was concerned about what would happen over the long haul if a service district were to be implemented in Crozet.

“Over time, we will start to be looked at by the other supervisors as, ‘They have their own money, they can do their own thing,’ and you’re going to slowly, over time, lose your share of the general fund,” he said. “It sounds great for a quick fix, but I just would caution that I don’t think that that’s a long-term choice that we should make.”

The Board of Supervisors in 2016 talked about potential service districts and used Eastern Avenue as an example project. No districts have been implemented by the county.

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said the projects would have to be appropriately sized and “fewer than five zeros.”

“Those are the things that might be reasonable, but I would really discourage our citizenry from burdening themselves,” she said. “I think David is right and we need to go toe to toe, to say this is a need … That’s my argument for the Eastern Avenue Bridge, is that we have made all these zoning changes, prior to 2007, that were counting on that bridge. And we absolutely have a moral obligation to build it. So, cough up the money is really my argument I’m trying to make here. I hope that we will get there.”

Finishing Eastern Avenue was one of the recommendations by county staff to be submitted for this year’s Virginia Department of Transportation Revenue Sharing program, but money would not be available for about five years after any approvals are made.

Mallek said she spoke with VDOT recently about the Three Notch’d Trail feasibility study, as funding was offered for it last summer, and that it no longer can take on the study this year, but there is the possibility to do it in 2022.

“While I am disappointed that we have not been able to do it right now, I’m at least optimistic that it may have an even better chance of flying faster if we begin in earnest in 2022,” she said.

Some committee members were concerned that there still needs to be more input collected from the community.

“It just feels to me like this is a relatively small group of people who tend to be paying attention to this stuff and everybody else will be unpleasantly surprised in year two when things start happening,” said Sandy Hausman.

Matthew Slaats said that levels of community engagement need to be continuous.

“We need to be thinking about what does community engagement look like after this plan is over with, and then how that leads to strengthening relationships in the community, so that we’re prepared to do the next master plan,” he said. “It’s never too late to think about planning, but doing another big push is always a good thing.”

Crozet resident Matt Helt said the county should canvass door to door about the master plan update.

“I really hope there’s a change in leadership in the county because you guys have been leaving dollars on the table and you haven’t been engaging the way you should be with the older residents,” he said.

Mallek said community members can give feedback on the plan directly at commission and board meetings up through the public hearings, which have not yet been scheduled.

“I know it feels like it’s too late to have people give feedback at the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors meeting, although I did that for 20 years before I was on the board, so you can make a great impact if you have an idea that needs to be considered,” she said.

Rachel Falkenstein, a county planning manager, said drafts can be made available at the Crozet Library and people can also make requests to the county for copies.

More information is available at publicinput.com/imaginecrozet.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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