A slightly less dense version of a housing development proposed on U.S. 250 near the Glenmore subdivision has again been recommended for denial by the Albemarle County Planning Commission.
Southern Development and Roudabush Gale & Associates are requesting a rezoning of 84 acres from rural areas to R-4 residential to build 130 units for a project called Breezy Hill. They originally had proposed 160 units.
Commissioners this week voted unanimously to recommend denial, still citing concerns with density and traffic.
“This resubmittal neuters the [Village of Rivanna] Master Plan by proposing a much higher level of density than the Master Plan advises is appropriate as a transition from development area to rural area occurs,” said Rick Randolph, who represents the Scottsville District on the Planning Commission and lives in Glenmore
After the 160-unit proposal was recommended for denial by the commission in July, it went before the Board of Supervisors in September, when developers requested that it be deferred.
At a board meeting in October, Supervisor Donna Price, who represents the Scottsville District, asked the board to send the project back to the Planning Commission for a recommendation before it comes back before the board, which supervisors supported.
In addition to the decrease in density from two gross units per acre and 2.5 net units per acre to 1.6 gross units per acre and 1.9 net units per acre, the design and alignment of one of the main roads has been reconfigured to discourage traffic from entering and exiting Breezy Hill on Running Deer Drive.
More than 230 community members, nearly all against the proposed development, have reached out to commissioners and staff via email with concerns about the proposal. Many of the concerns were around language in the area’s Master Plan that says “it is essential that all of the U.S. 250 improvements be constructed before new development occurs in the Village,” and suggests less density on these properties.
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 chapter about future land use and transportation 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.
In 2019, the commission supported county staff’s recommendation that one unit per acre would be appropriate on this site.
“The Master Plan, as you probably know, is not a contract or an agreement, but it’s a guide to orderly development,” Deputy County Attorney Andy Herrick said. “It’s helpful, it’s informative and should be given the appropriate weight, but it’s ultimately not determinative.”
He said local governing bodies in Virginia do not have the authority to establish an “outright moratorium” on all zoning changes in a portion of a locality until highway improvements are made.
“However, current and projected traffic can be a consideration in individual applications,” Herrick said. “Along those lines, if traffic impacts do become a determining factor, it would be better to focus on statements on the current state of the road infrastructure — whether recommending approval or denial — than on the six transportation improvements listed in the Master Plan.”
Because it was an action item, not a public hearing, and the commission already had received many emails about the proposal, commissioners decided not to take any additional public comment during the meeting.
If approved, the developer also would make signal timing and coordination improvements at certain U.S. 250 intersections; give the county $500,000 for transportation, transit or school capital projects; and build 20 affordable housing units or give the county $422,500.
Randolph said the technology fix at the traffic signals was not going to solve the problem.
“I think you’re putting a bandage on an open wound that requires significantly more surgery than a million dollars is going to be able to address,” he said.
Kevin McDermott, the county’s chief of planning, said the signal improvements would not fix all of the problems along the corridor.
“But we did review the application, [the Virginia Department of Transportation] reviewed the data from the signal changes that the transportation engineer provided for us, and they did agree with the improvements’ ability to improve the congestion situation at those two signals,” he said.
The Board of Supervisors will make a decision on the proposal at a future meeting.