A Proposal For the Preservation and Vitalization of Crozet’s Central Business District
“The community of Crozet has functioned as a distinct settlement with a unique history of agriculture, small business enterprises, and a dynamic civic spirit since it began in the mid 1870’s.” The population of Crozet as of 2003 was approximately 3,000 and while it had grown slowly over the years, with the completion of the sewer interceptor line, and the availability of major water local supplies from Beaver Creek and Sugar Hollow reservoirs, the presence of public schools locally and transportation access in place with U.S. Route 250 and Interstate Highway 64, Crozet was seen having the ability to handle increased population.
The community of Crozet was chosen to be the first of several designated growth areas to be established by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in a county-wide effort to address population growth which if not controlled and directed was seen as a threat to the desirability of Albemarle for its residents and which also threatened to strain the ability of the County government to provide desired services economically to county citizens.
A master planning process was initiated in 2001 and over the next few years involved considerable attention and thought by county staff, consulting experts and a broad and diverse representation from interested/concerned community residents. The resulting Crozet Master Plan represents the fruits of this effort and while certain conclusions are debatable, the challenge has shifted to the implementation of the Plan as well as revision of the Plan based upon our evolving experience and improved understanding of the implications of the Plan’s original language and design.
As an early part of the master planning process a Community Profile was compiled and “intended to build upon the Crozet community’s identity, which embodies a collection of unique places...and unique traits” and use these in the creation of a place that is distinctly Crozet” . Of special note in the thumbnail description of the history of Crozet is the statement that “the downtown area has been a vital part of the community since its inception”. The Master Plan goes on to describe the conditions necessary for these places to exist and thrive. First among these are the implementation strategies and recommendations for the success of the Downtown area.
Of the eleven “major findings and recommendations” embodied in the Crozet Master Plan final document (Renaissance Planning Group, December 1, 2004) , no fewer than four directly address the importance of Downtown Crozet to the successful implementation of the Plan:
The Master Plan document recognized that the Planned Development process is “generally more suitable for larger, vacant parcels where an overall plan of development is required prior to subdivision into multiple parcels. An area of particular concern is the lack of unified control of development for downtown Crozet. Because so many small developed parcels already exist, an overall rezoning of the downtown by a developer would be unlikely.” This same deterrent to coordinated development of Downtown Crozet applies under the Neighborhood Model as well since re-zonings on small parcels can not adequately address the central elements required of a “neighborhood” within the confines of the parcel.
The Crozet Master Plan report presented to the Board of Supervisors on 12/1/2004 by the Renaissance Planning Group does suggest several possible solutions to address this development problem faced by the existing developed areas of Crozet, and Downtown Crozet in particular. Of these, (1) creating a Zoning Overlay District, (2) creating a new Zoning District, or (3) creating a new Crozet Zoning Code, the option that appears to suit the development/revitalization needs of Downtown Crozet is the new Zoning District. Establishing an overlay district (option #1) fails to serve the need because it retains all the existing zoning requirements and “overlays” additional ones. Since a major deterrent to development in the downtown area lies in the existing zoning regulations which do not accommodate urban density, adding an overlay does not help. Establishing a entirely new Crozet Zoning Code (option #3), while it may result in a desired set of rules, is such a massive undertaking fraught with politics and power struggles and lawsuits that it is not likely to be able to serve Downtown Crozet’s pressing needs in the near future.
The need for a new zoning district within the County to serve Downtown Crozet is based upon certain fundamental underlying beliefs and tenets.
Recommendation and Petition:
In consideration of the importance of the Downtown commercial area of Crozet to the successful implementation of the Crozet Master Plan and to the continued identity of “Crozet” as a distinct community as discussed above, we the undersigned hereby request the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to take all necessary and immediate measures to establish a new Zoning District under the County’s Comprehensive Development Plan and County Zoning Ordinance to be known as the Crozet Downtown Development District.
This new Zoning District shall establish a set of regulations which will over-ride existing County zoning regulations in specific codes while retaining the majority of the County Zoning Ordinance and will be applied to a commercially focused area of central Crozet described in the Crozet Master Plan as “District”, and portions of “CT-6” and “CT-5” transect zones with the final boundaries of this Crozet Downtown Development District to be determined by further study but to include at minimum the areas east of Carter Street, north of Jarmans Gap Road and north of Tabor Street, west of High Street on the south side of the railroad tracks and the areas west of Firehouse Lane, south of Beaver Creek tributary and east of St. George Street on the north side of the railroad tracks.
Within this Development District specific regulations will be established to set standards for various development features to include at minimum:
· Uses by right and by special permit
· Building height
· Building setback (front, side and rear) and step-back requirements
· Parking (setbacks; onsite, offsite and shared space requirements)
· Landscaping requirements and tree canopy calculations
· Exterior Lighting requirements
Further, in conjunction with the creation of this Crozet Downtown Development District the requirements for onsite storm water management will be reduced. For the downtown area south of the railroad, the Lickinghole Regional Basin currently provides a portion of storm water management requirements. For this benefit, developments must pay an in-lieu fee to the County. Furthermore, an additional sub-regional storm water management facility is currently being planned to address, not all, but the majority of remaining onsite storm water management requirements. This benefit would also require in-lieu fees as compensation. For the downtown area north of the railroad, the County is exploring the construction of a similar regional storm water facility.
Further yet, coinciding with the creation of this Crozet Downtown Development District the portions of Route 240 (Crozet Avenue and Three Notched Road) lying within the District shall either be removed from the County’s Entrance Corridor Overlay District or the Architectural Review Board regulatory oversight authority and site review standards shall be modified within this area based on local Crozet community input.
And finally, upon approval of this Crozet Downtown Development District we ask the County to negotiate with the Virginia Department of Transportation to establish an elevated priority for transportation projects lying within the boundaries of designated growth areas (Crozet, in particular) and that they defer the imposition of their own separate requirements pertaining to building setbacks, turning radii, deceleration lanes, turn and taper lanes, and vehicle count studies within this District to County recommendations during site plan design review.
 Crozet Master Plan, pg 3
 Crozet Master Plan, pg 3
 Crozet Master Plan, pg 3
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