Development Areas Initiative Steering Committee II

July 14, 2004-- ROOM 246

Albemarle County Office Building

12:00 – 1:30 p.m.



MEMBERS PRESENT:   Bill Edgerton, Tom Loach, Ivo Romensko, Steve Runkle, and Jeff Werner


STAFF:  Wayne Cilimberg, Margaret Doherty, Jack Kelsey, and Elaine Echols


1.                  Call to Order – The Chair called the meeting to order at 12:10 p.m.


2.                  Approval of Minutes from June 17, 2004 Meeting – On a motion by Ivo Romenesko and seconded by Tom Loach, the minutes were approved as written.  Prior to approval of the minutes, Jeff Werner asked for and received clarification on the intent of the first paragraph of the position statement as well as clarification of what was meant by “large lots”.


3.                  Brief Review of Board of Supervisors’ request for input on the Subdivision Text Amendment – Elaine Echols explained that on July 7, the Board reviewed DISC II’s comments regarding overlot grading and agreed with DISC II’s comments.  At the worksession, the Board requested additional input from DISC II.  Specifically, the Board wishes DISC II to recommend specific language for the text amendment as it relates to overlot grading.  Ms. Echols speculated that the Board might want the same help from DISC II for interconnections and private streets.  She said that staff would likely find out that information at the next Board worksession.


Ms. Echols told DISC II that staff would develop new language for overlot grading to bring to DISC II, once curb, gutter, sidewalks and street trees were discussed.


4.                  Discussion on Curb, Gutter, Sidewalks And Street Trees – Jack Kelsey made a powerpoint presentation illustrating the need for closed drainage systems in the development areas.  Jeff Werner asked how runoff from individual lots drains into the curb and gutter.   Staff and different DISC II members explained that runoff from individual lots is absorbed in many cases, flows over the curb in some cases, and flows onto driveways then into the gutter in other places. 

The group then began reviewing the different proposed text amendment.  For Section 14-422, Steve Runkle asked for clarification on the differences between the County’s sidewalk standards and VDOT’s standards.  He wondered if the County had different sidewalk depth requirements than VDOT.  Staff clarified that the differences dealt with width, not construction elements.


Mr. Runkle asked for clarification on the statement, “At the agent’s discretion, the sidewalk shall be dedicated to public use or conveyed to a homeowners association for ownership and maintenance.”  He said that sometimes sidewalks are put in open space rather than in the r.o.w.  He said this creates a problem related to having lots front on a public or approved private street.  He asked that this situation be rectified. The group agreed that language needs to be developed to address this situation.


Regarding Section 14-410 H, Mr. Runkle asked that the group discuss the waiver conditions to providing curb, gutter, and sidewalks.  He wondered if the frontage provision of 150 lineal feet was appropriate.  He suggested that there might be other exceptions, such as in commercial settings where the sidewalk is desired adjacent to the street.  Margaret Doherty suggested that clarifications could probably take place through changes to the definition section.  The group agreed to discuss this issue at a later meeting as well.


Ivo Romenesko said that he believes exceptions should be included for affordability.  Bill Edgerton said he disagreed.  Elaine Echols suggested that this issue be discussed at a subsequent meeting due to the absence of many members and the lateness of the hour.


5.                  Set Next Meeting Date --   The next meeting was set for Wednesday, July 21, from 12 – 1:30 p.m.


6.                  Adjournment – The meeting adjourned at 1:30 p.m.


Development Areas Initiative Steering Committee II

July 21, 2004-- ROOM 235

Albemarle County Office Building

12:00 – 1:30 p.m.



MEMBERS PRESENT:   Bill Edgerton, Marilynn Gale, Katie Hobbs, Tom Loach, Will Rieley, and Steve Von Storch.  Rex Linville of the Piedmont Environmental Council represented Jeff Werner


STAFF:  Mark Graham, Sean Dougherty, and Elaine Echols


VISITORS:  Katie Hayes, Josh Goldschmidt, Don Franco, and Dave Phillips, all representing the Blue Ridge Homeowners Association


1.                  Call to Order – Will Rieley agreed to be the acting Chair at the meeting in Steve Runkle’s absence.  He called the meeting to order at 12:10 p.m.


2.                  Approval of Minutes from July 14, 2004 Meeting – On a motion by Tom Loach, seconded by Steve Von Storch, the minutes were approved as written. 


3.                  Presentation by Blue Ridge Homebuilders – Don Franco made a powerpoint presentation on behalf of the Blue Ridge Homebuilders entitled, “Timberwood:  A case study of development options under proposed Neighborhood Model regulations, June 21, 2004.”  Using the existing Timberwood Development in Forest Lakes as an example, he showed different development scenarios, which reflected principles of the Neighborhood Model.  He showed four development scenarios for the development to illustrate the difference in the cost of lots (using actual sales figures from 1990-1995) when open space is added to the development, when different unit types are used, and when different roads are used.  His presentation showed that a different, more compact development with different kinds of streets and interconnection types could result in a $5,000 increase in per lot cost.  Mr. Franco said that it might even be possible to reduce this difference further by picking up more lots.   He said that his firm would prefer to do the type of development shown in Alternative D; however, the subdivision and zoning regulations prohibit him from doing this and need to be changed.



Mr. Rieley opened the floor for questions and answers of the presenters.


Steve von Storch said that he heard Mr. Franco say during the presentation that housing costs have to be higher in order to keep lenders happy with a standard ratio of lot value to housing value.  Mr. Von Storch said that he believed that this ratio is important but there are many examples, especially in north downtown Charlottesville and in the rural areas where the ratio of land to building is much higher than the percentage quoted.


Mr. Franco said that the purpose in the presentation was to raise questions, not take issue with the Neighborhood Model.  He asked if DISC really thought that new homebuyers were going to be willing to pay $5,000 more for a smaller lot with a higher amenity package rather than go to an outlying area where a homebuyer could get a larger lot.


Katie Hobbs said that she thought that the developers could market more affordable houses on the small lots in Alternative D, which showed a variety of lot types.


Mr. Franco said that the issue relative to affordability was land supply and market demand for single family detached homes.  He said that in some cases, the only affordable housing is in attached housing or townhouses.  He asked  if the choice is a single family detached lot in Fluvanna County or a single family attached lot in Albemarle County, which will people choose?  Mr. Franco further stated that the problem is with the availability of cheaper housing on larger lots in adjoining counties making it difficult to market smaller lots in Albemarle County.


Other members of DISC II made several comments.  Mr. Rieley summarized the comments as follows:


1.      Amenities have an impact on the cost of the development.  Everyone knows that adding amenities to a development will cost more money per lot; however, from Alternative D shown, the cost can be spread some with greater density.

2.      The real figures shown in the presentation really help to show the impacts well and the Homebuilders should be commended for doing this analysis.

3.      The ratio of the cost of the lot to the cost of the house is important; however, people looking to buy a house look more at the context of the house and the amenities to decide the value rather than the lot to house ratio.

4.      It is hard to say that a similarly priced attached unit with amenities in the Development Areas can be competitive with a single family detached product in the rural areas or within commuting distance in a nearby county.

5.      The existing housing stock is going to have to help fill the affordable housing niche.


The conversation continued and Mr. Von Storch said that we might have to stretch the limits of what the lenders are willing to do about the lot to house ratio.  Mr. Franco said that the presentation was not about trying to change the ratio; however, it was done in Forest Lakes. 


Mr. Loach said that the County should go back to the reasons for DISC – the Board wanted to find ways to create higher quality neighborhoods.  Neighborhoods in the Development Areas should be the stepchildren to expensive housing in the Rural Areas.


Mr. Rieley thanked the Homebuilders Group and commented that the conversation will be ongoing with regards to affordability and quality of neighborhoods.  He said that we need to find a way to make it work. 


The presenters left and the meeting continued.


Elaine Echols noted that Ivo Romenesko wished to discuss whether requirements for curb, gutter, sidewalks, and street trees should be waived for provision of affordable housing.  Both Tom Loach and Bill Edgerton strongly said “no” to the concept of waivers for this reason. 


Marilynn Gale said that the subdivision text amendment needs to provide for the kind of development shown in Alternative D and that currently, it does not allow for the kind of streets shown in that scenario.  Ms. Echols said that the real issue with Alternative D is that the streets shown on the plan do not meet County engineering recommended standards for Neighborhood Model type streets.  Mr. Franco was requesting that “alleys” be used as streets for primary access; however, what he is looking for is a private street that looks like an alley and provides rear access.  Ms. Echols said she thought that his issue was with the street standards, not with whether the design could be accomplished.  Ms. Gale suggested that perhaps the zoning ordinance is the place to address this issue.  Ms. Echols said she would relook at the subdivision ordinance language to make sure that the design could be approved.


Several members noted that the conclusions of the presentation could be taken several ways and to support several different positions.  Bill Edgerton noted that it really supported DISC II’s conclusion that density done well does not have to be prohibitively expensive, even when providing single family detached housing.


Ms. Echols said that she thought the Homebuilders real issue was with the desire to fill a niche in the housing market that is being filled in nearby counties.  She said that the Homebuilders feel like they can’t compete with cheaper land and larger lots in Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and Augusta and they would like to be able to compete with these localities.


Mr. Edgerton said that the reason housing is more expensive in Albemarle is that the cost of raw land is greater and the cost of labor is more.  He said the cost of the materials is the same and that at least 1/3 of the cost of the housing actually goes to cover the cost of the real estate, the land, the developer, and the realtor.  He said that the market decides what prices people are willing to pay.


4.                  Set Next Meeting Date --   The next meeting date was changed from July 22 to July 21, from 12 – 1:30 p.m.


5.                  Adjournment – The meeting adjourned at 1:30 p.m.


Comments from DISC II Regarding

Curb, Gutter, Sidewalks, and Street Trees



DISC II strongly supports requiring urban improvements such as curb, gutter, sidewalks, and street trees in the Development Areas.  We would like to work on clarifying the circumstances under which agent approval of waivers can be granted before making any additional recommendations on the subdivision text amendment to the Board.


DRAFT Minutes

Development Areas Initiative Steering Committee II

July 27, 2004-- ROOM 246

Albemarle County Office Building

12:00 – 1:30 p.m.



MEMBERS PRESENT:   Bill Edgerton, Marilynn Gale, Katie Hobbs, Will Rieley, Steve Von Storch, and Jeff Werner


STAFF:  Mark Graham and Elaine Echols


1.                  Call to Order – The meeting was called to order at 12:10 p.m.


2.                  Election of Co-Chair – Bill Edgerton was selected as co-chair by acclamation.


3.                  Approval of Minutes from July 21, 2004 Meeting – On a motion by Katie Hobbs, seconded by Will Rieley, the minutes were approved as written. 


4.                  Discussion of Curb, Gutter, Sidewalks and Street Trees – Elaine Echols provided copies of the existing and proposed subdivision language relative to these items.  Members asked questions about the “agent discretion” concerning dedication to the public in Section 14-422 and decided to recommend that this section be clarified. 


Staff illustrated several conditions in which waivers to Section 14-422 and 14-410 could be requested.  DISC II discussed the illustrations and potential for waivers at length.  The group concluded that it strongly supports the requirement for these urban street improvements including sidewalk, but the section on waivers needs more work.  They acknowledged that key members of the committee were missing and the perspective of those members is essential.  They decided to ask the Board for more time to work on the waivers section before making a recommendation on any changes.


5.                  Set Next Meeting Date --   DISC II decided to wait until after the August 4 Board meeting before continuing work on the subdivision text amendment.  Katie Hobbs and Bill Edgerton noted that they would not be available for the next two weeks.  Staff noted that the next meeting would likely be in mid-August.


6.                  Adjournment – The meeting adjourned at 1:45 p.m.

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