STAFF PERSON:                                                                  SUSAN E. THOMAS, AICP

PLANNING COMMISSION:                                              JULY 20, 2004

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:                                              AUGUST 11, 2004

 

ZMA 2003-005:  The Meadows Expansion

 

Applicant's Proposal:   The Jordan Corporation, applicant, proposes to add 40 new dwelling units to the Meadows, an existing low and moderate income residential community for seniors in Crozet, for a total of 98 units on 26.843 acres.  Access is and would continue to be from Crozet Avenue via Meadows Drive, an existing public road.  Seven of the proposed new fourplex units would front this road, with the other units located near the existing apartment building at the rear of the site.  The applicant has submitted no proffers with this request.  (see Attachments A, B, and C)

 

A work session was held September 16, 2003, at which discussion focused primarily on the requested density (considered to be appropriate for the site) and the connector road recommended by the proposed Crozet Master Plan (considered to meet a significant component of the transportation network within the Crozet community).

 

Petition Request to rezone 26.843 acres from PRD, Planned Residential Development and EC, Entrance Corridor to PRD, Planned Residential Development and EC, Entrance Corridor, to allow the addition of 40 new dwelling units at the Meadows residential community.  The property, described as Tax Map 56 Parcels 14C and 14C1, is located in the White Hall Magisterial District on Crozet Avenue (Route 240] approximately 1/4 mile north of the intersection of Crozet Avenue and the Rockfish Gap Turnpike (Route 250 West).  The 1996 Comprehensive Plan, Land Use Plan designates this property as Neighborhood Density Residential (3.01 - 6 DU/acre) in the Community of Crozet.

 

Character of the Area:  The Meadows neighborhood lies between Crozet Avenue and the as-yet-undeveloped property to the west known as Old Trail.  Nearby to the southwest is the Brownsville/Henley school campus, and across Slab Town Branch due north is the White Oaks subdivision.  East across Crozet Avenue are older residences and small farms.  Although it is centrally located, it has no connections to adjacent properties other than a community walking path leading west to the natural area behind the schools.  

 

RECOMMENDATION:  Staff has reviewed the proposal for conformity with the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Ordinance and cannot recommend approval at this time.

 

Zoning and Subdivision History: 

7/6/77              ZMA 77-07     Approval of a rezoning request from the Charlottesville Housing Foundation (subsequently conveyed to the Jordan Corporation) from A-1 to RPN/RS-1 to allow a maximum of 27 units for occupancy limited to persons of age 62 or older.  All areas not utilized for structures, streets, utilities or other such improvements to remain undisturbed.

4/17/85            ZMA 85-05     Approval of a request to amend the approved PRD to increase the number of dwelling units from a maximum of 27 to 58, for occupancy limited to persons of age 62 or older, low and moderate income elderly and elderly deaf occupants. All areas not utilized for structures, streets, utilities or other such improvements to remain undisturbed, with a buffer of trees to be left along the property.

 

Comprehensive Plan:

The 1996 Comprehensive Plan, Land Use Plan designates this area for Neighborhood Density Residential (3-6 dwelling units per acre).  The proposed Crozet Master Plan recommends this property for CT 4 (“Crozet Transect” 4), which can be either a general Neighborhood/Village place type supporting a Neighborhood Center with a variety of residential types (including village, cottage, duplex, townhouse, and live/work units) and some mixture of uses, a Center for a Hamlet, or part of a Corridor place-type.  In this case, the Meadows is located within one of two Corridors in Crozet (Corridor 1), which is described as an “Arboreal Gateway” and intended to preserve the historic rural and agricultural character of Crozet Avenue.  That portion of the property immediately adjacent to Crozet Avenue is recommended for CT 1, a Development Area Preserve not appropriate for development.  The Place-Type Map and Site Development Guidelines describe CT1 (and CT 2) as: “Preservation of open space and agricultural history.  Clearly defines the edge of development as opposed to a “sprawling” boundless pattern of development.”  Under this recommended concept structures would be pulled back from the road to maintain the appearance of the historic country road, an approach that differs from the Neighborhood Model’s emphasis on pulling structures to an urban street.

 

The proposed Crozet Master Plan also shows a connector road between Crozet Avenue and Western Avenue (now called Old Trail), along an alignment to the south of the existing Meadows community.  Staff notes that the location of this road on the Plan is not intended to be precise, but rather to demonstrate the need for a connection between two major north/south roads within the community.  It is one of a series of eventual connections between Old Trail and Crozet Avenue recommended by the Plan.  As a result of field investigation, County and VDOT staff recommend that the connector road utilize the present intersection of Meadows Drive and Crozet Avenue, since sight distance and horizontal and vertical curvature are best at that location, and then swing to the south of the Meadows along the boundary with Brownsville Elementary School.  Traffic modeling is currently underway to investigate whether it would be possible to link the Henley/Brownsville entrance road into this connector road, thereby relieving pressure on Route 250 in the vicinity of the schools.

 

Specifics on the Proposal:  Site layout is shown in Attachment B, the rezoning application plan.  The proposed design continues the existing development pattern, with seven new fourplexes fronting the entrance road, and four additional duplexes proposed along the driveway to the existing apartment building toward the rear of the site.  A new fourplex would also be constructed in the southeast corner of Parcel 14C1, between the Meadowlands 30-unit apartment building and the Brownsville Elementary School property.  The new units continue the style of existing units.  Proposed amenities are two handicapped accessible picnic shelters located behind each of the new groups of units along Meadows Drive, and six proposed yards distributed throughout the new complexes.  New units would be supported by sidewalks, completing the sidewalk system in the developed portion of the property.

 

Applicant’s Justification for the Request:  The applicant has asserted that there is a need for low and moderate senior housing in this portion of the Designated Development Area.

 

By-right Use of the Property: The property is limited by an existing proffer to 58 units.

 

Comprehensive Plan and:  Requests for rezonings in the Development Areas are assessed for conformity with the Land Use Plan and the Neighborhood Model.

 

1996 Land Use Plan, Crozet Master Plan 

As noted above, the Land Use Plan shows this area as Neighborhood Density Residential (3 – 6 dwelling units per acre).  The (proposed) Crozet Master Plan designates it CT1, Development Preserve, along Crozet Avenue, and CT4 , Urban General, in the interior of the site.  The CT1 designation is intended to maintain the country road/Entrance Corridor character through a buffer between structures built on the site and the road. 

 

CT4, Urban General, permits diversity in housing type and land uses beyond that represented in the applicant’s plan.  Staff has urged the applicant to consider allowing for a small amount of supporting neighborhood commercial use in the future, when appropriate from a density and market standpoint.  The applicant has indicated that he is not interested in allowing for this potential.

 

Staff has attempted to communicate to the applicant the need and desirability of the connector road recommended by the Master Plan, emphasizing that the County is requesting a reservation only at this time.  The applicant is not being asked to construct this road, but merely to design the application plan to allow and reserve an alignment for it.  The applicant’s most current design does not include a reservation for the connector road, nor would it permit connection to Crozet Avenue via the existing Meadows Drive entrance without the need to remove structures.  The applicant’s plan is inconsistent with the proposed Master Plan in this area.

 

The Neighborhood Model

The ways in which the proposed project meets the twelve principles for development in accordance with the Neighborhood Model are provided below.

 

Pedestrian Orientation

A sidewalk system connects the residential units to each other and to parking.  Few residents drive, so those who wish to exercise often walk around the property.

Neighborhood Friendly Streets and Paths

 

No new streets are proposed as a part of the application plan.  Staff recommended construction of a perimeter path for the use of the residents as an amenity, noting that this path could also allow community residents to access the existing Brownsville, Henley and Old Trail trail system without the need to cross the interior of the Meadows property.  Some Meadows residents also use the school trails, and the perimeter path would extend this recreational system for them.  The applicant has not included this path on the plan. 

Interconnected Streets and Transportation Networks

The Crozet Master Plan recommends a connector road from Crozet Avenue to Western Avenue, along the south side of the Meadows.  In addition to vehicular traffic, the connector road would include pedestrian facilities.  The application plan does not show this connection.  As noted previously, another interconnection - the perimeter trail – also is not included. 


 

 

Parks and Open Space

 

Proposed recreational amenities are two handicapped accessible picnic areas and six yards.  Staff notes that residents who are able to walk recreationally will have access to an extensive trail system when the Old Trail network is added to the existing Brownsville and Henley trails.  The existing community center, operated by Albemarle County, also meets the recreational needs of the residents. 

Neighborhood Centers

The property is isolated from both existing and proposed neighborhood centers, and the applicant has indicated no interest in allowing for even a modified mix of uses in the future.  It will become more difficult for residents and visitors to access the Meadows as traffic on Crozet Avenue increases three or four fold at full build-out.  In staff’s view, the location’s isolation will become a serious disadvantage to residents over time.  In addition to benefiting the community as a whole, the connector road recommended by the Master Plan would provide another means of access to goods and services available in the village center at Old Trail. 

Buildings and Spaces of Human Scale

The cottages, existing and proposed, reflect a human scale.  The existing apartment building is significantly larger and might be considered out of scale with the rest of the neighborhood.  With increased density and a more urban character to the site, however, the apartment building may blend better with the rest of the structures.

Relegated Parking

The plan partially relegates parking, shown at the side of and/or between the front seven buildings.  The rear buildings, existing and proposed, do not relegate parking.

Mixture of Uses

There is no mix of uses on the site, existing or proposed, other than the community building.

Mixture of Housing Types and Affordability

The proposed development provides a mixture of unit types in the form of duplexes, fourplexes and multi-family apartments.  Residents are low-income seniors and/or deaf and blind individuals

Redevelopment

Development on the site is intensified through infill, but no redevelopment is actually occurring.

Site Planning that Respects Terrain

The proposed 40 units are sited on the most level portion of the undeveloped acreage. 

Clear Boundaries with the Rural Areas

Not applicable – the property doesn’t border the Rural Area.

 

Architectural Review Board

In her staff report to the Architectural Review Board, the Design Planner recommended that the proposed new buildings visible from the Entrance Corridor reflect a balance between the historic architecture of the County and existing development on Crozet Avenue.  The surrounding context of nearby buildings was considered to be important.  In its June 10, 2004 advisory review letter, the ARB did not carry forward that recommendation but it did support staff’s recommendation that the front two structures be relocated to the rear of the site, to preserve this front open lawn area and better preserve the character of this portion of the EC.  It further agreed that the second pair of buildings should be moved forward slightly so that parking could be relegated behind them.  Thirdly, the ARB recommended strategically placed plantings close to the front buildings to reduce the visibility of buildings from the corridor while preserving the lawn.  The applicant’s most recent plan does not reflect any of these three recommendations; it maintains the front buildings in their original location, encroaching into the recommended CT1 buffer.  Staff believes that maintaining the historic rural appearance of this portion of Crozet Avenue is important to the beauty and functionality of the community’s southern gateway.  This corridor contributes in an integral way to the village quality for which Crozet is famous, a quality which the Master Plan works hard to preserve in the midst of very significant growth.  (see Attachment D)

 

STAFF COMMENT

Relationship between the application and the purpose and intent of the requested zoning district As set forth in the Zoning Ordinance, the PRD, Planned Residential District, is “intended to encourage sensitivity toward the natural characteristics of the site and toward impact on the surrounding area in land development.  More specifically, the PRD is intended to promote economical and efficient land use, an improved level of amenities, appropriate and harmonious physical development, and creative design consistent with the best interest of the county and the area in which it is located.  Toward these ends, the PRD provides for flexibility and variety of development for residential purposes and uses ancillary thereto.  Open space may serve such varied uses as recreation, protection of areas sensitive to development, buffering between dissimilar uses and preservation of agricultural activity.”

 

This rezoning application would increase density on the site by approximately 68%.  Staff believes that the additional density is appropriate and desirable, particularly in meeting the need for affordable housing.  However, the applicant’s design is not consistent with the best interest of the County and the Community of Crozet in its lack of accommodation for the connector road, nor is the proposed land use economical and efficient without connections to adjacent properties beyond the existing intersection with Crozet Avenue.  The County Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance emphasize connections between and among adjacent properties, and there appears to be no justification for making an exception in this case.

 

Public need and justification for the change -- The County’s policy for encouraging development at higher densities within the Development Areas provides a public need and justification for the request.  Form, design and consistency with the Comprehensive Plan are also important aspects to a successful project.  The current plan is inconsistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan and proposed Crozet Master Plan for interconnectivity and Entrance Corridor protection.

 

 Anticipated impact on public facilities and services

 

Transportation –VDOT is requiring a new left-turn lane northbound with this project, as indicated on the application plan.  As noted, the application plan fails to reserve right-of-way for a future connector road.  This road will not only be critical to disbursing traffic and improving circulation with Crozet as a whole, but it will become valuable to the residents of the Meadows and their visitors as traffic increases on Crozet Avenue.  (see Attachment E)

 

Water and Sewer - Water and sewer are available to serve the site. 

 

Schools – Because new residents of this complex would be seniors, no impacts are anticipated to schools in Crozet as a result of this development. 

 

Stormwater Management – Two proposed stormwater facilities are shown on the site.  (see Attachment F)

 

Fiscal impact to public facilities – A fiscal impact analysis is provided as Attachment G.  The analysis indicates that there would be a positive net fiscal impact with approval of this rezoning, probably because there is no school impact. 

 

Anticipated impact on natural, cultural, and historic resources – The central portion of the site is the most level, with steep slopes dropping to Slab Town Branch to the north and another, gentler hill descending to a drainage to the south.  There are no recognized cultural or historic resources located on the property which would be affected by this rezoning.  If approved, existing wooded areas would be left largely undisturbed since it is in the meadow area that new development is proposed.

 

SUMMARY

Staff has identified the following factors, which are favorable to this rezoning request:

 

1.      The proposed residential use is supported by both the 1996 Land Use Plan and the Crozet Master Plan in this location.

2.      The existing Meadows development is a successful neighborhood which meets a need for affordable housing for seniors and persons with disabilities.

 

Staff has identified the following factors, which are unfavorable to this request:

 

1.      The application plan does not provide for a future connector road and thus is inconsistent with the Crozet Master Plan.  This and other connector roads are vital to continued functionality in the Crozet Community as it grows.  Furthermore, in addition to the lack of a reservation for the recommended road, under the applicant’s current plan it appears that removal of at least two of the proposed structures would be necessary to retrofit a connector road in the future.

2.      Site design does not conform to the Neighborhood Model principles for neighborhood friendly streets and paths, interconnected streets and transportation networks, and neighborhood centers.

3.      The application plan does not reflect the ARB recommendation for protecting the Entrance Corridor and southern gateway by moving the eastern-most units back away from the road, relegating parking and adding plantings to minimize visibility from the road.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION

 

Staff understands the applicant’s desire to continue developing the Meadows as a self-contained, protected neighborhood separate from surrounding properties, but notes that at best the project can be only marginally successful in accomplishing this goal in the face of significant population increases in Crozet.  Furthermore, this approach does not acknowledge the very real need for connectivity on the part of larger community, and the public good that would be served by the connector road.  The Master Plan calls for additional connections between Old Trail and Crozet Avenue at other locations to the north, and it is anticipated that as these are secured the relative volume and importance of the Meadows connector will decrease.  These additional connections might be more useful since they would be more central, and as these northern properties redevelop staff will similarly seek to obtain reservations for connector roads there.  In the interim, staff believes that a two-lane local road can be designed and engineered to cross this property without significant damage to the safety and/or quality of life of the Meadows residents.  In fact, staff believes that this road may be of great benefit to residents as they cope with a dramatically growing community and the impacts associated with that phenomenon.

 

In summary, staff believes that a residential use is appropriate for the property and applauds the applicant for his willingness to continue to meet the need for affordable housing.  The absence of elements reflecting the Neighborhood Model, such as the lack of a perimeter path connecting adjacent properties to the public trails or a mixture of uses on the site, weaken the proposal but might be acceptable if other, more important elements were addressed.  The applicant also appears unwilling to incorporate the ARB’s recommendations, which are valuable and necessary in preserving the corridor.  However, in staff’s view the critical deficiency is the lack of a reservation for a future connector road on the application, creating a conflict with an important recommendation of the Master Plan.   Without this need addressed, staff cannot recommend approval at this time.

 

ATTACHMENTS:

Attachment A – Area Map

Attachment B – Application Plan

Attachment C – Applicant’s Justification

Attachment D – June 10, 2004 ARB letter

Attachment E – VDOT comments

Attachment F – Engineering comments

Attachment G – Fiscal Impact Analysis

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