An expansion of the Albemarle Greenway and Rivanna Trail System has come to fruition.
New Belvedere Inc., the developer for the Belvedere neighborhood, announced Wednesday the dedication and proffered donation of a 31-acre parcel of land along the Rivanna River to Albemarle County.
“That donation was proffered when Belvedere was rezoned many, many years ago, so it has been challenging and arduous and lengthy to get this done. We’re very excited to do it,” said Steve Krohn, New Belvedere Inc.’s chief operating officer, at an event in the neighborhood.
In 2005, the property that is now the Belvedere neighborhood was rezoned with proffers that included a greenway land dedication; the trail expansion is adjacent to the new development.
County Board of Supervisors Chair Ned Gallaway said that a trail system along the Rivanna River has long been a priority for the county.
“To have trails accessible to us is something that we are committed to and throughout the entire county, but having trails accessible in an area that is so close to our urban and growth area is even more important, so that we can have quick access to this around where we live,” he said.
Gallaway said the trail will be open to the general public.
More portions of the development will open in the coming year. The Center, formerly The Senior Center, is relocating to the area and is scheduled to open in the spring. On Wednesday, the Soccer Organization of the Charlottesville Area also hosted a groundbreaking for its new Field House, which is scheduled to open around Labor Day.
“I think having SOCA here and The Center coming in, it’s really going to add to the vitality of the neighborhood and make this a special place,” said SOCA Executive Director Matt Wilson.
He said the organization has been working toward a permanent home and an all-weather playing field for more than a decade. In 2018 SOCA completed a $200,000 Challenge Grant issued by the Perry Foundation for the remaining funds needed to start the project, and the organization has raised over $1.5 million toward the facility.
Belvedere isn’t done growing with homes either, Krohn said in an interview after the announcement. About 58 lots have already been sold to homebuyers and more are on the horizon.
“We intend to do two phases in very short order, which will roughly double what we completed there in order to try and get ahead of this curve,” he said.
With all the growth, there has been pushback related to a project at 999 Rio Road, which could add more residential units to the area. Residents of the new development, if approved, would exit and enter the development via Belvedere Boulevard.
Earlier this year, more than 450 residents of Dunlora, a single-family home development next to Belvedere, signed petitions opposing development of the Rio Road-U.S. 29 corridor, and more specifically, against two projects — Parkway Place and 999 Rio Road — and sent them to the county Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission. The residents want road improvements done along the corridor.
The developer of Parkway Place has proposed more than 300 apartments on about 27 acres near the intersection of the John W. Warner Parkway and Rio Road on the Wetsel family property. That project has not been presented to the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors.
In September, the Board of Supervisors deferred the 999 Rio Road project, citing issues with the proposed commercial space and traffic concerns.
Many who have spoken out against the 999 Rio Road project at meetings are from Dunlora and other developments outside of Belvedere.
An eventual traffic signal was discussed to be installed at some point at the Belvedere Boulevard and Rio Road intersection when the Belvedere development was approved, and the Virginia Department of Transportation has been meeting with neighborhood representatives, county staff and developers about what, if any, changes could be made.
“I don’t know how to solve that,” Krohn said. “I know there are a lot of options on the table.”
“To get something like the entrance of Belvedere done in the VDOT world is a several-year project,” he said. “Nothing’s going to happen in the next several years and hopefully it won’t be needed. Fixing Dunlora’s problem, nothing, full stop, nothing will ever happen until the Wetsel property is developed. They have to go together because that’s where the money’s going to come from.”
The county has marked the 999 Rio Road area for high density in its Comprehensive Plan, and some residents in Belvedere have supported the project, he said.
“It’s what we say we want, man up and prove it, or stop saying that’s what we want, either is fine… we just can’t have both ways,” Krohn said.