Some Crozet residents are still agitated by the final draft of a plan to help guide future growth in the area, and some want to seriously look at what it would take to become a town.
In 2019, the community and Albemarle County began updating the Crozet Master Plan, which helps to guide decisions about land use, transportation and parks in the area, and the draft will be the topic of a county Planning Commission hearing next month.
An online questionnaire is available until Sept. 14 for community members to view and provide feedback on the draft at publicinput.com/M8451. Comments also may be submitted directly to Albemarle Planning Manager Rachel Falkenstein at email@example.com.
The Planning Commission will hold its public hearing virtually at 6 p.m. Sept. 14. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold its public hearing virtually at 6 p.m. Oct. 20.
At a recent meeting of the Crozet Community Advisory Committee — a group appointed by the Board of Supervisors to provide assistance, feedback and input to county staff and the board on efforts around the area’s Master Plan — several members and area residents expressed dissatisfaction with the process and the final draft of the updated plan.
When adopted, the Master Plan will be part of Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan, which guides the county’s long-term vision for land use and resource protection. County staff and supervisors look to the Comprehensive Plan as part of the rezoning process.
Some Crozet residents have expressed frustration with the area’s growing population and infrastructure issues around roads, schools and sidewalks.
Crozet CAC member Sandy Hausman said she had arranged for Drew Williams, with Harrisonburg-based local government consulting firm The Berkley Group, to provide information about what would be involved for Crozet to become a town.
“I think we need to do some sort of analysis of what would happen if Crozet had a governmental system similar to what Scottsville has, where we would control our own planning for the future,” Hausman said. “I feel that the county is too big, it’s too populous, it’s too diverse to be effectively governed.”
Albemarle, with a population of 112,395, is the eighth-largest county by population in Virginia, according to 2020 Census numbers. The counties with larger populations are Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Chesterfield, Henrico, Stafford and Spotsylvania.
In Scottsville, the only town in Albemarle, town revenues are generated by utility taxes, meals tax, business and professional licenses, bank franchise taxes, locality share of sales taxes collected by the state and transient occupancy tax, among others. The town’s meals tax generated the most local revenue in fiscal year 2020, according to budget documents, at $163,329. The next-highest revenues that year were from business licenses and the town’s cigarette tax.
Real estate and personal property taxes in Scottsville are still collected by Albemarle or Fluvanna County, depending on the county the property is located within, and are not given to the town.
White Hall District Supervisor Ann H. Mallek, who represents Crozet, and other CCAC members said it might be bad timing to have a meeting regarding town status ahead of votes on the Master Plan and with other Crozet-area projects in the pipeline.
“I’m not sure it is bad timing, Ann, explain that,” Hausman said. “Here we are saying to the county, ‘Look, give us something — you dumped all this population in our community without providing the funding for infrastructure, without funding our schools adequately’ … Why would they walk away from providing what we’re asking for? I think, frankly, that we’ve been just too namby pamby all along.”
Albemarle is in the process of building a $20.4 million, 28,000-square-foot expansion of Crozet Elementary that will add about 340 seats to the school and address overcrowding in the division’s western feeder pattern.
Some CCAC members said it also might be in poor taste to have a meeting discussing revenues Crozet could get if it became a town during a county-sponsored meeting, and suggested that a meeting of the Crozet Community Association, which is not affiliated with the county, could be a better venue.
Tim Tolson with the Crozet Community Association said he has reached out to Williams, the consultant, about presenting at the next CCA meeting, which will be held virtually at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9, but Williams has not yet confirmed that he’s available.
Mallek said she’s received comments from community members about whether the county is “really writing an affordable housing plan instead of a Master Plan and should they be separated, so the board should adopt an affordable housing policy that’s countywide first — or along with this — which preserves existing and proffered affordability.”
The Board of Supervisors in July adopted a new housing policy to help tackle affordable housing needs across the county. New affordable housing requirements and definitions — including that rezonings/special-use permits must have 20% affordable housing, as well as changes to home price limits, rental prices and extended periods of affordability — are included in the policy, but will be delayed until an incentive plan for developers is approved.
Some community members have taken issue in particular with a future land use designation called Middle Density Residential, which would allow for six to 12 units per acre on a site, or up to 18 units per acre to accommodate additional affordable housing.
According to the draft plan, the designation is to bridge the gap between single-family housing and multi-level apartment buildings, and would allow for small and medium multiplexes, small single-family cottages, bungalow or cottage courts, live/work units, accessory dwelling units and tiny houses.
Land use categories are assigned to properties and serve as a marker to community members and developers about which kinds of potential projects the community wants to see on a site. Land use categories are not zoning categories. Ultimately, a developer would need approval from the Board of Supervisors to change the zoning of a property to allow for any designated land use denser or different than existing zoning.
CAC member Joe Fore pointed to a previously discussed land use overlay, the Downtown Neighborhoods Overlay, as something he thought would address supervisors’ concerns about wanting more middle density and affordable housing.
County staff had proposed it as a way to try to address concerns about loss of historic homes and future development pressure for homes located adjacent to downtown Crozet, and provide a broader range of “missing middle” housing types. Ultimately, after opposition from most CAC members and some on the Planning Commission, the overlay was removed from the draft future land use plan and replaced with a recommendation for a Downtown Neighborhoods Architectural and Cultural Resources study.
Fore said he felt the board was “brining an axe to a problem that needed a scalpel.”
“The neighborhood overlay was the scalpel that could be used to have smaller-scale, piecemeal redevelopment — that was that added density on a smaller scale and in keeping with the character of those historic and downtown neighborhoods without destroying affordability in those areas, and the fabric of this community,” he said. “I hope as we go forward that Ann will really push and remind the board that this neighborhood overlay is in there. It’s an idea.”
Earlier this month, board members said they still want to see the possibility of properties that could support smaller units spread throughout Crozet as part of the update of the Master Plan.
“The neighborhood overlay is really the answer that kind of melds those two — density in ways that fit the community, in places where it can actually go,” Fore said.