A less-dense version of a controversial housing development is now being proposed on U.S. 250 near the Glenmore subdivision.
Southern Development and Roudabush Gale & Associates requested a rezoning of 75.6 acres from rural areas to R-1 residential to build about 80 units for a project called Breezy Hill.
A proposal for 130 units was denied by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in January. Originally, the developers had proposed 160 units, but later deferred. The Planning Commission recommended denial of both iterations of the project, first in July and again in November.
During a Monday night Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee meeting, community members expressed concerns with a proposed road connection to Running Deer Drive and the density of the proposal.
“I will say to you that, again, going to net density and reducing the number of units in that density would meet the master plan requirements, and again go a long way towards approval,” said committee member Dennis Odinov.
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 future land use and transportation chapter says this area “will have the lowest density of this Development Area,” and shows one dwelling per acre.
In a 2019 work session, the Planning Commission supported county staff’s recommendation that one unit per acre would be appropriate on this site.
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.
Previous proffers — that the developer 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 — were no longer included in the proposal. A proffer that Running Deer Drive would not be used for construction traffic was included.
The new proposal has a net density of approximately 1.39 units per acre according to county staff, as about 57 acres are outside of the parks and green systems category in the master plan.
Charlie Armstrong, with Southern Development, said he disagreed with the Planning Commission’s interpretation of the Village of Rivanna Master Plan, and that the plan mentions gross density for this area.
“It says in this particular area 115 units for 115 acres, so that’s a gross density calculation,” he said. “And beyond that, quite frankly, I think it’s bad planning to put lower density in our development areas. That’s a philosophical difference that I think we have with some of you.”
The proposed development’s main entrance is on U.S. 250, but it would also have a connection to Running Deer Drive, which is a public road.
According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, two road connections are required for the development. County Development Process Manager Megan Nedostup said she was told by the Virginia Department of Transportation that waiver of the requirement would not be supported.
The future land use plan in the Village of Rivanna Master Plan shows a proposed access point in this area from Running Deer into this property.
Armstrong said their first request for it was to have emergency access only on Running Deer and that they would be willing to make that request to VDOT.
“I don’t have high hopes VDOT will change their minds, but maybe when they see detailed engineering on it when we get to the point of doing detailed engineering on the road, maybe that would change their mind,” he said.
Odinov asked if the development could be made with private roads, instead of public roads.
“We generally try to avoid private roads because [public] roads have potential benefits for everybody,” Armstrong said.
Two parcels close to Running Deer were no longer included in the proposed rezoning, and Armstrong said they do not plan to seek rezoning of those parcels.
The proposed development also includes primitive trails and a pocket park, and Village of Rivanna CAC member Neil Means asked if those would be open to the public.
“I’d be open to the county taking that land and making it public if the county wanted that,” Armstrong said. “I don’t think that’s likely unless it connected further to other places. So I think the short term anyway would be that it would be a private open space and a private preserved area with trails in it.”
Means said the master plan talks about internal connections, and pointed out that the roads were proposed to be public.
“There are other developments within the county — Fontana, for example, has public streets, but they have a private trail system,” Nedostup said. “… I would have to check with Parks and Rec to see what kind of trails plans they have for this area, to see if it would make sense for their trail planning to have portions or all of this be public.”
Public hearings with the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors have not yet been scheduled.