CPA-2004-002, Pantops Master Plan

Public hearing on proposed amendments that would modify the Land Use Plan section of the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan for Neighborhood 3 (Pantops) with new land use policies, guidelines, recommendations, goals & strategies for future development within the Pantops Development Area, which includes an amendment to the boundary of Neighborhood 3 (Pantops) to remove a parcel (Wheeler Property, approx. 77 acres, Tax Map 62 Parcel 31). The amendment will include a guide that identifies the purpose & major findings & recommendations resulting from the Pantops master plan study; provide strategies for implementing the proposed Pantops master plan, including strategies for transportation, parks and recreation, illustrated on the map entitled “Pantops Master Plan Green Infrastructure”, redevelopment, funding improvements, & for implementing the plan; & provide guidelines for the form of development within the Pantops development area through narratives, maps, and illustrations. This amendment also will establish new comprehensive plan land use designations (Urban Mixed Use, Employment Mixed Use, Commercial Mixed Use, Institutional, Parks, and Green Space) for the Pantops development area & change existing designations throughout the Pantops development area, as shown on the map entitled " Pantops Master Plan: Framework Plan (Land Use).  (Rebecca Ragsdale)

Ms. Ragsdale summarized the staff report and gave a power point presentation.

Ms. Joseph asked if there were any questions for staff. She asked Mr. Benish about the Wheeler property proposal and if staff was suggesting that they were coming up with some sort of different sort of land use.

Mr. Benish replied that what staff understands from a recent conversation with the property owner is that there is some concern on their part about the deletion of that property from the development area.  Staff had not clearly understood that was the case.  They want to be very comfortable with that and want it to be a win/win situation.  They want to have a follow up meeting with Ms. Wheeler to see if there is a way to work that out and then come back to the Commission with an alternative concept. The current Comprehensive Plan designation would be Neighborhood Density – Residential.  There may be other ways to solve the concerns.

There being no further questions for staff, Ms. Joseph invited public comment.

Clara Belle Wheeler, a land steward for 77 acres, said that there have been several misunderstandings that need to be clarified.  She had no intention of developing her property for high density. However, there has been a misunderstanding of what she had requested the designation to be.  She has not made any requests to change the designation as it stands.  Several months ago she received a casual telephone call and at best the conversation was misinterpreted and placed before the Board of Supervisors.  However, subsequently there have been written and verbal connections made between her farm and a piece of property on 29 north. Respectfully, she requested that these misunderstandings be cleared up.  She requested that her farm stay the way it was and not be changed.  She asked that they separate in time any perceived use of her farm to change the destination of any other land on 29.  She asked that her property be left the way it is.  She would like to come back and talk with the Commission after she meets with staff.

 R. G. Dimberg, resident of Glenorchy, asked that as the Commission looks at the Master Plan that they not lose sight that Glenorchy, the oldest residential neighborhood in the Pantops area, was under threat.  Some maps show the absolute destruction of the neighborhood.  The construction of the road shown on the map would only leave the neighborhood partially intact. The integrity of the neighborhood would be destroyed by entrance road to a privately developed shopping center on Hansen’s Mountain.  He asked that they keep the integrity of Glenorchy at the top of their list of priorities as they consider these plans.

Ms. Ragsdale noted that Randy Salzman had to leave the meeting, but left his comments in writing for the record, which she would pass around.

Ron Cottrell, Vice-President of the Martha Jefferson Hospital, noted that the proposed hospital to be constructed by 2012 was currently in the schematic design phase. They hope to begin construction in 2009.  Proceeding this phase of planning they spent more than a year looking at a comprehensive master plan for the site.  They worked diligently with many land planners and architects.  They brought a plan for revision forward, which has been adopted by the County that gives a long term build out for their community hospital.  In the revision they were able to create more open space in the plan and respect the natural terrain on the site by placing the buildings in the side of the hill and having less land disturbance.  They are committed to being environmental sensitive as they build. In the Comprehensive Plan long term it has suggested that they have residential infill next to the hospital.  The hospital is currently in a residential neighborhood and over the year has experienced the conflicts that exist between residential neighbors and an institution like a hospital that needs to continue to grow over time to meet the health care needs of this community.  Additionally there is a road network that conflicts with the application plan.  Again, thinking long term they think they will run into conflict what the hospital needs are and the plan.  His request tonight was to try to match the application plan with the Comprehensive Plan so they don’t find themselves in a conflict or a misunderstanding long term so that they can gel these two plans together to serve the greater good of the community.  He appreciates the Commission’s evaluation of matching the application plan with the Comprehensive Plan.

Andrew Dracopoli, representative for Worrell Land and Development Company, noted that they had been the developer of Peter Jefferson’s Place.  Since the original application plan was approved in 1982, which was amended in 1996 they have been developing Peter Jefferson Place in accordance with the plan that was approved by the county then.  It is a suburban office park.  That was the character that everybody felt was appropriate at the time.  This master plan calls for the character of Peter Jefferson Place to become more urban with more infill and the greater use of retail and residential within Peter Jefferson Place.  He went to all of the public hearings that were held in 2004 and 2005 and more recently in 2006 and he did not hear anybody from the public saying that they wanted more density at Peter Jefferson Place.  In fact, what they said was the opposite in that if Peter Jefferson had to be developed they were glad that it was being developed the way that it was and not the way that it was being developed on the other side of the hill.  Therefore, he did not think that there was any impetus from the public or the owners of the land to put increased density at Peter Jefferson Place.  They think that it is inappropriate and like the way it is.  The community seems to like it the way that it is.  Some parts of this plan are impractical, particular the road network through Peter Jefferson Place.  It does not bear any resemblance to the topography of the site. It goes right through existing buildings.  As part of the approved application plan for Peter Jefferson Plan they have an approved road network that does meet the topography and does provide connection between the buildings.  They feel that should be the basis for the planning for Peter Jefferson Place.  Our concern is down the road they are going to have a conflict between an approved Comprehensive Plan amendment that covers Peter Jefferson Place because it is in conflict with the approved application plan, which they have been developing for the last ten years.  That conflict could cause problems down the road.  They strongly urge that they revert back to the approved application plan for both the uses and road networks within Peter Jefferson Place. 

Neil Williamson, with the Free Enterprise Forum, said that he was very concerned with certain aspects of this master plan.  He draws citizen attention particularly to pages 57 and 58.  This is first master plan that they have “priority areas” within the development areas.  The development areas consist of five percent of the county.  These “priority areas” are the areas focused public infrastructure funding as well as impact redevelopment outside of the “priority areas” and the level of proffers required of rezoning.  His fear is that what they will end up with is fewer rezonings and more by right development, which is the opposite of what the Comprehensive Plan is suppose to do.  Under the transportation section of the plan the report cites Route 250, Richmond Road functioning at a “D” level of service today.  The cause of this level of service failure is VDOT and Albemarle County failure to fund transportation solutions.  They all know that transportation money is tight.  It is indeed today.  The master plan tries to have it both ways.  First it suggests that unless one lived in the “priority areas” or the development area one would not get any public infrastructure funding.  It then goes on to suggest facility and service improvements throughout the neighborhood, which are necessary to provide a minimum adequate level of service to the existing population in developed areas.  Folks, this is not being done today and this master plan is not going to change that.  The Free Enterprise Forum proposes dropping the priorities of this section of the master plan. Failing that the Free Enterprise forum suggests that all development area property owners outside of the new “priority area” receive a post card letting them know their infrastructure needs are not a priority to Albemarle County.  

J. Willow, Executive Vice-President of the Blue Ridge Homebuilders Association, echoed a bit of what Mr. Williamson just said.  As their name implies they are the residential builders in the area and they also are concerned about the issue of adding “priority areas” in to the growth areas. That changes a lot of the economics.  It changes a lot of the opportunities.  It puts an extra hurdle on builders and developers who want to work with the county on focusing on the growth that they are interested in the development written suggests that if a builder wants to build outside of that “priority areas,” even though it is in the growth extra penalties could be accessed in terms of more proffers or other kinds of things that would require the builder to bid up to get a project approved already in the development area, but just not in the “priority area.”    Even if they do that according to the plan in the “priority area” in the development and the county has not done its part to add the infrastructure necessary the plans says that the developer even under clearing all of those hurdles can still be then held responsible for providing that infrastructure before their project can be approved. They think that is an enormous burden on the development community that is not part of the deal.  It has gotten into the plan at this point and they urge the Commission’s very careful consideration of the impact of that kind of language. 

There being no further public comment, Ms. Joseph closed the public hearing to bring the matter before the Planning Commission. 

Ms. Joseph asked Mr. Benish to talk a little bit about the implementation chapter. 

Mr. Benish said that first the theme of it was to recognize that they have limited resources and to provide for all of the improvements necessary within our development areas is going to be difficult to achieve and to try to achieve some sort of focus on whether those logical areas are to prioritize improvements as they through the operating and capital budget.  This concept was encouraged with discussion with the Board of Supervisors in December, January and February.  There were some discussion with the Community Development leadership and the Board of Supervisors and the Board’s directive, by a majority vote was to establish “priority areas” for resource allocation within these plans and to utilize those in some form in decision making potentially in land use decisions.  There was a fair amount of discussion about what Mr. Williamson did speak to, which was the concern whether this type of methodology may have undesirable effects in terms of where growth could be channel zed.  But, this is the first plan that is coming forward.  The Place29 plan is in the process of working through a similar plan to do that.  The Pantops area is a rather small area and it may not be the best model to use for this sort of thing.  It is an area that has received a significant amount of development.  The area that they prioritized are generally reflective of the areas where they have already approved development where they fell like based on a major catalyst to grow at the hospital that immediately adjacent area needs a priority location to ensure that with the fund that are available they do the improvements necessary to essentially keep up with what has already been approved or the implications for what they have already approved in adjacent areas.   

Mr. Strucko noted that the traffic on Route 250 definitely needs an improvement. 

Mr. Benish said that what staff was expecting tonight was to find out if the Planning Commission was ready to vote.  Hopefully, the Commission is not ready to vote because of the outstanding issue.  Staff would like to get any particular items that the Commission wants staff to focus in on.  Therefore, staff will be able to determine if they can make the April 24 work session.  One thing regarding the road concepts that are long term, they are dealing with the same issue in the Places29 process.  To date there is a designation that they are using for possible future roadway beyond 20 years to identify idea areas so that they don’t foreclose by building a structure where one day someone might want the opportunity to do something.  They have not vetted that yet and have not seen how that plays out either.  But, it is one way to identify things that are real visions and long term that may give some sense for how important they are in the short term.  There are potentially ways to deal with things.  What is important for staff to know is if there are any issues that the Commission wants staff to focus in on for that work session.  Obviously, the consistency with Martha Jefferson and the Wheeler property they need to further address with the Commission. 

Mr. Morris noted that looking at tonight’s comment and back in 2003 they heard loud and clear at the meeting at State Farm that number 1 was the need to keep some green space.   

Mr. Strucko agreed that he had heard the concern from residents that in this area the park space and green space was very important to keep.  They were looking for reassurance of the green space.  The second issue is the traffic along Route 250 and what if anything the planning process could do to mitigate that.  The Pantops area is unique in some aspects due to the regional commercial area off of I-64, which generates a lot of traffic.

Ms. Ragsdale reiterated the Planning Commission’s concerns: 

§         Follow up with Ms. Wheeler; 

§         Peter Jefferson Place and Martha Jefferson Hospital concerns; 

§         Stronger language in the Community Facilities Plan; 

§         Review priority areas to see how they mesh with the CIP; 

§         Page 30 regarding environmental law; 

§         Like an update on Glenorchy area and the Eastern Connector; 

§         The Issue with the consultants regarding the addition of local connections in the Eastern Connector; 

§         With the Southern Environmental Law Center need more pointed language about the need for revitalization of the stream as it relates to development proposals; 

§         Review the 20 year plan with Mr. Dracopoli and Ms. Wheeler and discuss those issues. 

§         Provide stronger language regarding the public facilities, which tie into other organization’s plans.  Staff may come back with some issues on that, particularly on the library plan, etc.  Staff will bring back some additional information on public facilities from other agencies.  Staff should talk with the post office since it is something that would be useful to this area.  

§         The Commission noted that this item was a good candidate for a 4:00 p.m. work session due to the number of people interested in attending that can’t drive after dark. 

In summary, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on CPA-2004-002, Pantops Master Plan to review the draft Pantops Master Plan and receive public comment on the draft.  The Commission prefers not to act on the request or to schedule the next work session until all of the outstanding issues have been addressed.  They would prefer a 4:00 p.m. work session due to the number of people interested in attending, including some residents that can’t drive after dark.  The Commission discussed the following issues and noted them as being important areas to focus on in the plan. 

§         The long term road concept for possible future roadways beyond 20 years needs to be explored to find potential ways to deal with feasibility issues.   

§         The consistency of the Martha Jefferson Hospital/Peter Jefferson Place Plans with the proposed Pantops Master Plan.  

§         Wheeler property proposal (for removal from the development area) needs to be further addressed (the owner has requested to be left in the development area). 

§         Reassurance that the natural beauty and green space of the Pantops area will be maintained. 

§         There need to be ways to mitigate the traffic along Route 250. 

§         Need to preserve the Monticello view shed. 

§         Stronger language is needed to set expectations for rezoning applications about public facilities, such as schools in the long term plan.  Add specific or more comprehensive language on fire/rescue services and community facilities and services, specifically recommendations for schools, fire station and libraries. 

§         Review ways to address the preservation of Glenorchy Subdivision. Staff to provide update on the situation with VDOT/Gazebo Place Shopping Center, specifically the status of planning and construction for connector road from Gazebo Place/Hanson Mtn. Road through Glenorchy to Rt. 250. 

§         Explore options for ways to get more connections.  Show some general way to provide for some other general access.  There were two potential roads to delete or put in caveats on due to significant topographic restraints located behind Westminster Canterbury and Luxor.   

§         Add some comment/recommendation/strategy relating to the protection and enhancement of the river (including water quality) and to support the wildlife.  Some acknowledgment should be made in the process of reviewing projects for attention to be made to mitigate some of those impacts.  Need to look for opportunities to improve the condition of the river. 

Staff reiterated the key issues to be worked on before the next hearing: 

§         Follow up with Ms. Wheeler and review the 20-year scope of the plan with her; 

§         Address Peter Jefferson Place and Martha Jefferson Hospital concerns and review the 20-year scope of the plan with their representatives; 

§         Stronger language in the Community Facilities Plan; 

§         Review priority areas to see how they mesh with the CIP; 

§         Review Green Infrastructure section starting at page 30 to incorporate comments from the Southern Environmental Law Center; Consider the Southern Environmental Law Center’s comments regarding the need for more pointed language about revitalizing the Rivanna River and providing greater environmental protections from development;  

§         Provide an update on the Glenorchy area/Gazebo Plaza and Hansen Mountain Road; 

·         Follow up on recent comments from the Eastern Connector study regarding the need for additional local connections to see if there are any implications to the Pantops Master Plan as proposed; 

§         Provide stronger language regarding the public facilities, which tie into other organization’s plans.  Staff may come back with some issues on that, particularly on the library plan, etc.  Staff will bring back some additional information on public facilities from other agencies.  Staff should talk with the post office since it is something that would be useful to this area.  

Note:  The April 24th work session tentatively will likely not take place, but staff will post that on the web site, A-Mail and other methods.  Anyone interested in the review schedule can Ms. Ragsdale to keep up with this. 

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