Albemarle County Planning Commission

July 29, 2008

 

 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting, work session and public hearing on Tuesday, July 29, 2008, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Lane Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

Members attending were Eric Strucko, Linda Porterfield, Thomas Loach, Jon Cannon, Vice Chairman; Bill Edgerton and Calvin Morris, Chairman.  Marcia Joseph was absent.  Julia Monteith, AICP, non-voting representative for the University of Virginia was present. 

 

Other officials present were Susan Stimart, Business Development Facilitator, Phil Custer, Engineer; Amy Pflaum, Senior Engineer; David Benish, Chief of Planning; Elaine Echols, Principal Planner; Bill Fritz, Chief of Community Development; Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning and Larry Davis, County Attorney. 

 

Call to Order and Establish Quorum:

 

Mr. Morris called the regular meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. and established a quorum.

 

Economic Development Policy – LI Land (Susan Stimart)

The work session was rescheduled from last week’s July 22nd Planning Commission meeting in order to obtain feedback from all Commissioners.

 

Mr. Morris noted that the discussion was deferred from the last meeting due to several Commissioners not being available. The discussion was continued to tonight.  Public comment would be taken.

 

Ms. Stimart, Business Development Facilitator, noted that the work session is to solicit comment from the Planning Commission regarding support for the two strategies and any other comments about light industrial land to address the shortage.  This is a continuation of the Economic Development Policy update on Light Industrial land.  Staff learned from the updated data that they have a shortage of LI land.  In looking through the policy it seemed as though the best place to address this issue was under the policy’s Objective V, Provide Local Business Development Opportunity.  She asked to review the two current strategies in the policy.

 

Mr. Strucko asked how staff made the determination about the shortage of LI land.

 

Ms. Stimart replied that it done when staff updated the data for the Economic Development Policy. 

 

Mr. Strucko asked what variables were in play.  He asked if staff was looking for enough currently zoned Light Industrial land to support a community of 140,000 people.

 

Ms. Stimart replied that was correct.

 

Mr. Strucko said that 140,000 people would be the population of the City of Charlottesville and the current population of Albemarle County.

 

Ms. Stimart noted that it really focused in on Albemarle County’s workforce population and the land under current Light Industrial zoning in the County.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if staff was looking at the currently zoned Light Industrial parcels in the entire county and not just within the designated growth area.  He asked if there were an explicit number of acres they were looking for.

 

Ms. Stimart replied that was correct, which was what she would cover in the presentation.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if staff made the determination that there was not enough LI land.

 

Ms. Stimart replied that was correct.  There is 111 acres that are both zoned Light Industrial and designated in the Comp Plan.  She presented a power point presentation and explained the staff report regarding light industrial land.  Comment was solicited from the Planning Commission regarding support for the two strategies and any other comments about light industrial land to address the shortage.  (See staff report and Power-point presentation)

 

·        The first strategy is to support existing businesses and industries through an open door policy, communication and exchange of information and concerns.

·        The second strategy is to coordinate with existing entities that assist new, small, locally owned and minority and micro-enterprises in their start up and early operation efforts.

·        The map shows where the vacant Light Industrial zoning is located.  She noted that the green stars indicate two light industrial parks that presently are outside of the development areas.

·        Staff looked at employment numbers from VEC by industry breaking it down into North American Industrial Classification Codes and identified all of the codes allowed in light industrial zoning.  Staff looked at the two digit macro level as well as the four digit more detailed level.  That showed a base of employment between 9,083 and 9,101 for all non-office uses.  If you include offices, which is currently allowed in LI zoning, that 2006 base jumps up to 13,477.   Again, looking at the updated data from a previous work session staff saw employment growth at an average of 3.5 percent from 2000 to 2006.  Applying that same percentage growth giving it a time frame of 20 years says that they have a resulting shortage of about 121 acres with no office uses.  It would be as much as 139 acres if office uses were allowed considering that they would have used up the 300 acres that presently exist.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if the 3.5 percent was the annual growth rate.

 

Ms. Stimart replied that it was the average annual growth rate between the year 2000 and 2006 for all industries.  That statistic is on page 11 of the updated data. 

 

In discussing recent trends with LI land she noted that they have seen what was designated in the Comprehensive Plan for Industrial Service convert to other uses. 

o       Thirty-five acres went for the Hollymead Town Center.

o       Sixty acres went for the Willoughby Fifth Street project. 

o       Forty acres went for Albemarle Place. 

o       Twenty-three plus acres went for Willow Glen. 

 

They have seen some recent plant closings, which included Avionics Specialties and Badger.  Among the cottage industries, which are basically those home occupation class B, they have seen some zoning violations as those businesses have grown beyond what the class B allows for.

 

In the discussion of the general characteristics of a light industrial use and the economic policy direction in the Power-point presentation staff noted the reuse of older buildings for flex space.  That is something seen in the Badger building, which is now on the market for flex space. 

 

This work session tonight is to ask the Commission to discuss important supporting strategies that they could look at in meeting Objective 5, Provide Local Business Opportunity.  Staff has looked at several options as noted in the staff report. Staff recommends the following:

 

o       Option 1 - As part of the master planning process designate and practically rezone development land to LI zoning somewhat similar to the Crozet Downtown Project.

o       Option 2 - Modify the zoning as regards to allowed uses in the LI and other zoning districts.  It would involve looking at that perspective comprehensively.

o       Option 3 – Staff is seeking Commission input if there are certain location conditions that if met the Planning Commission would support modifying the growth management policy to meet LI need.  Some of the conditions might be adjacency to the development area, locations approximate to an interstate interchange and availability of water and sewer.

 

Mr. Morris invited Planning Commission comments.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if staff has considered the option of continuing to look to the designated growth areas for all development opportunities both residential and non-residential.  He suggested that they look for redevelopment opportunities within the designated growth area for light industrial and also rezoning opportunities within the designated area for light industrial.  He was not convinced that they have to go outside the designated growth area to accommodate this perceived need for additional light industrial land.  He felt that within the designated growth area there may be rezoning opportunities to go from what is currently there, whether it is R-1, etc. to light industrial if an applicant so desires to do so.  That should have been one of the policy options for staff to recommend because it is consistent with County policies.

 

Mr. Morris said that sounds like options one and two.

 

Mr. Benish said that what he was asking for is what staff recommended as options one and two.  What they would do is in the master planning process

 

Mr. Strucko noted that it says proactively rezone.  He questioned why they should have to go out and proactively rezone land light industrial.  They did something similar to that in the Downtown Crozet area, which was in response to a master planning process.   He suggested perhaps just stating the course should be an option.

 

Mr. Loach said that it has to be done within the context of the master plan.  The community has to look at this and see within that area where they would like it.  He felt that it has to be within the context of the master planning.

 

Mr. Benish noted that the best parallel is the Downtown District for Crozet where there was a designation for a certain activity and the county essentially zoned that land to allow by-right activity there.  Staff’s suggestion here is that it be part of the master plan process.  In order to address some of the market issues in which there is a history of the property tending to move to its highest and best use, which tends not to be industrial, staff suggests putting an inventory out there that may get better utilized for that purpose.  The second option is to create some restrictions on the zoning to sort of continue to force by-right to be used for true industrial purposes.

 

Mr. Strucko noted his concern about the assertion that there is not enough light industrial land.  He was not sure what is included in numbers.  From what they have heard, they are looking at currently zoned vacant land zoned light industrial.  He would like to include a census of the growth area land to see what is currently a redevelopment opportunity or a vacant parcel that could be rezoned light industrial within the designated growth area.  He truly believed that if the county is going to meet this objective of providing local business development opportunities that the growth area is that economic development area.  That is where the infrastructure exists and that is where they are all willing to consider rezonings.  He did not see the emphasis placed on that in this recommendation.  Therefore, he would like to express his view that he did not think they have to encourage sprawl by going outside of the designated growth area.  He suggested that they look inside the designated growth area for these light industrial opportunities.  That is what they ought to encourage.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that the only one referring to having some flexibility of going outside of the growth area is option 3.  The first option actually says in the development area.  He did not believe that option 2 for modifying the by-right uses was intended to be outside of the growth area.  He felt that it was a healthy way to go to be consistent with the Comp Plan until they hear from the Board, who would get their direction from the citizens, that the Comp Plan needs to be changed.  The challenge that they have been facing in recent years is the market value of this land that is in the development area.  If the County is serious about preserving the option of light industrial zoning within their development areas, they need to figure out a way to remove from the existing light industrial use the option to develop it in a less sympathetic way.  If offices are allowed and something they don’t need, then maybe they should take that use out of the by-right use of LI land.  If they are serious about this, then they have to be serious about not allowing light industrial property to be used for other uses.  There have been instances due to the economics of an applicant not being able to get a market return for typical light industrial use because of the land cost that the county has allowed another type of use.   This was done at Willow Glen.  If they are serious about this, then they need to make sure not to make exceptions like that in the future.

 

Mr. Strucko questioned how they decide if there is a need. He was not in support of the county proactively doing this.

 

Mr. Edgerton recalled the recent Faulconer Construction Yard situation, which was a LI grandfathered business, which had serious problems in finding a new light industrial location.  It was an eye opening experience to realize that they were looking at a million dollars an acre for properties zoned light industrial within the development area. It is a problem when they have a locally based employment base or organization that wants to be here and can’t find land.

 

Ms. Stimart noted that she had asked Nora Gillespie, Director of the Small Business Development Center, to share some of the information she has gained from our local business owners in trying to figure out how they can grow to the next business level.

 

Nora Gillespie, Director of Central Virginia Small Business Development Center, said that they are an agency that is in part funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and by local sponsors. 

o       Albemarle County is one of those sponsors.  With that financial assistance what they do is one-on-one counseling in a confidential nature with small businesses.  Albemarle County businesses and residences are just under 40 percent of the businesses that they counsel with.  Most of their clients are existing business owners who are expanding their business operation.  They also do some training, which includes about 300 persons per year.  About 40 percent of those are from Albemarle’s existing businesses. 

o       What their clients encounter after two or three years of business operation is that they are outgrowing the space in their home.  They need more flexibility in their space at home or they need more employees, which causes them to be in violation.  When the clients seek assistance the agency does not do anything with real estate or financing.  The clients are looking for space that is small and flexible that they can grow into and is affordable for them.  Moving a business from a home base to outside the home creates many concerns, such as how they can afford the rent and utilities on a regular basis and accommodates the needs of their employees. 

o       They typically see about 200 business clients per year.  She has to be vague in her descriptions.  Many clients come from downsized businesses and need warehousing space.  The businesses have ended up having to go outside the county due to the high cost of warehouse space.  There have been caterers looking for commercial kitchens.  When the business owners are coming to them they are finding that there is not enough availability or enough alternatives for them to find cost effective solutions to operate outside of their home.  She sees that there is a need that is not being met on a regular basis from the 6 to 10 cases they get per year and the inquiries.  Many of the warehouse needs are met by looking at sites as far away as Goochland, Augusta and Rockingham County.

 

Mr. Morris thanked Ms. Gillespie for identifying the magnitude of the problem.

 

Mr. Benish agreed with Mr. Strucko’s suggestion that redevelopment is something that should be added.  It needs to be made clear that it is not just new land they are looking at, but redevelopment potential.

 

Ms. Monteith suggested looking at the slide about the three concerns of the Planning Commission.  In terms of the three points, which are not exclusive, she suggested adding the concerns of adjacent land uses and/or view shed issues. On option one she suggested, “As part of the master planning process consider designation of LI zoning within development area land.”  That might be too weak and need to be amended.  But, she thought that the suggested change would make it less confusing.

 

Mr. Strucko asked staff if HC or any other kind of commercial land was included in this study that could be converted into light industrial.

 

Ms. Stimart replied that staff looked at land that was in the development areas zoned RA and R1.  There would not be any concern with downzoning.  There is roughly 6,000 acres in the development areas.

 

Mr. Strucko noted that Highway Commercial is a very close use to Light Industrial in terms of permitted uses.  He asked if Highway Commercial zoned land was in the inventory calculation.

 

Ms. Stimart replied that staff just looked at the LI zoning.

 

Mr. Benish noted the pattern staff has seen is that it does not become useable for what they see as the types of industry that they are trying to locate.  It may become an office type of use that is more of a service use.  But, that is really not what our needs are.  It did not include the Highway Commercial.

 

Mr. Strucko asked what are the uses they are looking for and how do they determine that.  He questioned if they are addressing a problem that is out there.  He suggested that they define the problem and then they could come up with some policy solutions.

 

Ms. Stimart pointed out that just this week they had a data center inquiry for 40,000 square feet.  That is potentially a 50 million dollar operation that they could not accommodate.  But, that is a new business.  In terms of expanded businesses they have a pretty good growth rate among the bio-tech companies and not all of them fit within the research parks.  So to be sensitive to their future growth needs in the county they just want to make sure they have enough resources for those types of companies.  One of our major transportation and shipping companies, UPS, is fairly well constrained at this point in their current location and, as noted in the newspaper, is taking on the DHL market for the North American Continent.  So they are going to be continuing to grow and how do we accommodate them. 

 

Mr. Benish pointed out what they are hearing is that there is a competitiveness for the land that is creating a difficulties for true industries, those that assembly and manufacture or are industrial in character such as contractor storage yards, to achieve a site in the county because of the investment that they need to make.

 

Mr. Strucko said what they are considering here is looking to provide pre-zoned affordable land for businesses to locate.

 

Mr. Benish noted that it was an inventory of land that helps adjust the market so that they have more of a competitive chance to compete in the market.  It is not for Kinko’s or for contractor’s necessarily that serve NGIC.  It is office uses that do that.  By contractors he meant consultants and engineers.  It is not that space, but those that are assembling or doing research at a start up or small scale that are having difficulty competing as staff understands.

 

Mr. Cannon noted that this seems to be in some way like affordable housing.  This is an activity or use that they want to exist in the county, but it is not competitive economically.  So they don’t have people coming forward with rezonings because they would rather do something else with their land because there are higher returns.  It seems that it is more than just a rezoning.  It is really a subsidy program as they are creating a special economic space for people who have these uses so they can come into our community and work here.  It seems that Option 2 comes closer to that because that would basically establish a light industrial zone that would exclude other uses.  Therefore, the land would only have value as light industrial.  So in a way they would be stacking the deck competitively so that they rule out other uses and therefore make the land available for that.  There might be other options associated with large new developments that would bring in some requirement for providing light industrial or contributing to some space for light industrial at some central area.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that it would be similar to the affordable housing proffer.

 

Mr. Cannon agreed that it could be something like that.  It does not seem like a typical zoning problem of what use is where.  It is how to stimulate, support or make space for a use that is not competitive otherwise.  That requires another more elaborative device.

 

Mr. Morris suggested that it needs to be so they can say yes to that 40,000 square foot operation.   One thing that he found in option 2 that he liked is to take down the current 40 uses that are available for the LI zoning area.  As expressed by Mr. Strucko, he questioned what they are looking for as something they could get their hands on.

 

Mr. Strucko said like affordable housing, he felt that they have been very consistent with following the policies.  They never changed the growth area boundaries to accommodate affordable housing.  They looked for other mechanisms.  He would not be in favor of a policy change that would look to change the growth area boundaries to accommodate this perceived need for light industrial zoning.  There are plenty of opportunities within the designated growth area for that.  In fact, that is their economic development policy as he stated. The designated growth area has the infrastructure in place, all roads lead to it, water and sewer and it is the area that this community is willing to rezone fairly readily for uses.  They have done that consistently over the last several years for mixed use residential.  They could certainly do that for light industrial.  The Commission worked on an application in Crozet not that long ago for Watkins Landscaping where they were able to work something out.  

 

Mr. Edgerton said that it would have been a lot easier to work that out if they went back and were able to amend the Comp Plan in such a way to state that they want to respond to a perceived need here.  He agreed with Mr. Strucko that until they totally exhaust the use of the current development area he would like to try to keep the focus there instead of expanding it.  There may be exceptions to that possibly with properties adjacent to the development area.  He felt that they need to go back and have some strength in the Comp Plan to encourage this.  As long as they are allowing in Neighborhood Model developments large scale retail outlets he did not see why they could not include structures that could serve very adequately as light industrial units.  It could serve all of the needs that they have heard about tonight.

 

Mr. Strucko noted that to do this in good faith they had to figure out whether the growth area can accommodate it.  That is his concern with the study.  He thought that the study was too narrow in its focus.  To just look at vacant currently zoned light industrial land does not really grasp the whole picture.  There are rezoning and redevelopment opportunities within the growth area that should be counted towards the inventoried space that could accommodate this.  They can argue about the variables and whether there is a 3.5 percent annual increase in employment.  He asked are more of the existing population working since our population growth rate is not that high per year? 

 

Ms. Stimart agreed that it is not.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if that was strictly the University or does that include Charlottesville.  He believed that they should really look at what is in the designated growth area, look at highway commercial designations as well as other commercial designations and look at redevelopment opportunities.  Then maybe they can conclude there is enough light industrial potential to handle this perceived need.

 

Mr. Morris felt that both options one and two, and a combination of them, really address what Mr. Strucko is saying.  They need to look at what they have right now, but consider option 3.

 

Mr. Loach said that he had a problem with option 2.  From a growth area perspective, like in Crozet, what he was looking for in his community is jobs so that the people are living and working in the same town.   He would hate to say that they specifically set a piece of land for LI and then wait for someone to come.   In the meantime he could put in something like the Joiner building in Crozet that was a high tech firm, which rents the top floor and a physical therapy department business in the bottom.  So he is looking for the best thing that is going to come to his community that is going to provide jobs. They have not talked about the infrastructure.  Additional infrastructure is going to be needed for LI if it is manufacturing. 

 

Mr. Benish agreed with Mr. Loach.  One of the reasons staff wanted to emphasize the master plan is that as you look at those areas there may be unique needs within the community.  That is what they would want to take into account.  The whole transportation system for Crozet was built on the fact they had some employment out there that they are not getting.  It might change the dynamics of when they apply these general guidelines.  He asked to step back to bring us all back and make us all aware of where.  They are beginning to set broad planning policies and this does not turn into an implementation step tomorrow.  They will take this and weigh it with other recommendations including the Comp Plan.  They are all very good points that they need to be aware of.  The next step is not to craft a rezoning to up-zone or change properties tomorrow.  They are trying to get an understanding of what is an acceptable type of approach by the Planning Commission and the Board.

 

Mr. Morris noted that there were a lot of good questions, but he wanted to back off and ask for public comment.

 

Ms. Porterfield noted that she had received a lot of emails.  She wanted to commend staff for coming up with this particular slide.  This is looking at some areas that are not designated in the Comp Plan.  It is looking out of box and trying to see if there is anything that might work.  She is the Planning Commissioner for the Scottsville District and there is lots going on. She has had some land that has been looked at this year already that meets some of this. It is adjacent to the development area and approximate to the interstate I-64.  There is water that goes by it.  There is a possibility of a sewer plant or boring under I-64.  It is the land on the north side of Route 250 running from the VDOT Headquarters west to I-64. It has a lot of old zoning.  Obviously, it has VDOT Headquarters, the Hunter’s Way section, a hotel, the trailer park area and a parking lot that is used for all kinds of different things. In between are a lot of parcels that are rural.  There is also the land on the south side of 250 running from I-64 to the new Jarman’s Motorcycle Shop. That is what she is talking about. She is not talking about extending it          way to the east.  She suggested that they look at some land that fits into this kind of a parameter. There may land in other parts of the county, but this is the land that she hears about all of the time. 

 

Mr. Morris invited public comment.

 

Will Yancey, representative for the Yancey Family of Albemarle County, presented a power-point presentation.

·        This is a preliminary conceptual proposal. It has been demonstrated by Ms. Stimart that the county has a need for more light industrial land with there only being 111 vacant buildable acres left in the county.  At least three members of the Board of Supervisors agree that the County has a deficiency of LI land based on their comments just within the past year.  Maybe they can help.  Located behind RA Yancey Lumber Corporation and Western Albemarle High School on Rockfish Gap Turnpike the Yancey family property is 148 acres in four parcels just outside of the development area all zoned RA. 

·        If their plans were approved, they would lose about 40 acres to stream buffers and floodplains.  They propose a Comprehensive Plan Amendment followed by the rezoning from RA into a PD-IP, Planned Development – Industrial Park catering to LI uses that currently have a difficult time finding a site from which to operate in Albemarle County.

·        They understand that the rezoning of 148 acres outside of the growth area is at odds with the Comprehensive Plan.  The land already borders the single largest (by far) area of HI-zoned land in the entire county.  Given the County’s need for more LI zoning, a contiguous extension of land already zoned HI is both logical and appropriate.  Out of the other PD-IP District Characteristics – it meets three of the four characteristics: Conformity with Comprehensive Plan; Water & Sewer Available; Served by Major Highway and 50 Acre Minimum Area Requirement. 

·        Approval of their application will require some unorthodox or out of the box thinking.  After the last few months of working with the staff, the Planning Commission and the Board he had no doubt all engage in such thought on a daily basis.  Water and sewer is available via their 1,100’ border with the rear of Western Albemarle High School.  There are major highways available with arterial road assess on Route 250 as well as being 1,000’ from the I-64 on-ramps.  The 50-acre minimum requirement is not a problem.  Suitability is a little tricky because it is a subjective standard.  But, the existing sawmill has a 60 year history.  It is evident to him that it is suitable.  With water, sewer and roads all right there the infrastructure is all in place.  They are ready to work with anyone willing to contribute to making this ambitious undertaking successful for the county, the community and the Yancey family.

 

Morgan Butler, present on behalf of the Southern Environmental Center, said that the purpose of this discussion is to consider new strategies to increase the availability of affordable lands zoned for light industry or LI in the county. 

·        The staff report does a good job of identifying some of the possible options.  Perhaps more importantly it also points out the causes of the lack of affordable LI land.

o       First is the rezoning of industrial land to higher value non-industrial uses.

o       Second is the fact that the current LI zoning category allows a number of uses, such as office buildings, that typically generate more money for the land and therefore make it overly expensive for more traditional industrial users to try to locate there. 

·     The first step should be to address these underlying causes of the problem.  If the county continues to approve rezonings of its industrial inventory to non-industrial uses, and if the breathe of uses allowed in the LI category continues to mean that office parks can block out small businesses, they will not get anywhere by simply designating more land as industrial. 

·        Option 2a of the staff report suggests cutting back some of the by-right uses in the LI districts.  This seems to be a wise first step.  Option 1B, designating and rezoning privately owned development area parcels also offers some promise. The county is currently working on two growth area master plans and next year county staff will need to update the Crozet Master Plan.  This work presents ideal opportunities for designating growth area parcels that are appropriate for LI uses.  This would be setting the stage for the county to then initiate a rezoning of some of those parcels later on.  Notably, residential densities and recent growth area proposals are falling short of county goals.  So it seemed to be a win/win situation to set aside some appropriate growth area parcels for only light industrial use.

·        Although staff has not recommended going forth with option 3, expanding the growth areas or broadening the uses allowed in the rural area, staff has asked for the Commission’s thought on it.  Our general opinion is that this major policy reformulation should only be considered as a last result after all reasonable options have been exhausted.  Beyond undermining key county growth policies this approach would reduce marketing incentives for cleaning up and reusing vacant industrial lots where businesses have recently closed.  Setting aside rural area where existing industrial land sets with empty buildings make the reuse of those vacant parcels much less likely.  Option 3 may also end up doing little to address the affordability problem, as the staff report points out, because it could put all newly designated LI land in the hands of a very limited number of people. 

·        As a result the proposals for expanding grandfathered industrial uses into rural zoned parcels, like the one Mr. Yancey just presented, should be approached very cautiously.  They don’t want to suggest that there is no conceivable situation in which an individually tailored proposal like this might make some sense, but they think that the presumption should be the opposite and all other options for making LI land more affordable exhausted first.    

 

Peter Hallock, a resident of Keswick, said that as a community they had long and hard discussion on Glenmore.  They were promised by the Supervisors at the time that there would be no hook ups for water along 250 because they were opposed to trip zoning. It was his fear that if they make that light industrial the next person will come in with the land and say they just want to put a Walmart or other use there.  He asked that they please keep the word of the county that they would not allow hook ups along 250.  It is between two historic districts. The uses described by Ms. Porterfield are small uses that have grown there, but they don’t want Route 250 to look like 29 north. 

 

Neil Williamson, representative for the Free Enterprise Forum, asked to make three points.  He would like to hear the entire Commission discuss the philosophy of the conflict that occurs in some of the county, which is the development area. Mr. Edgerton mentioned the Faulconer case where there were intense conflicts between residential uses and light industrial uses in how we resolve those conflicts.  To be clear the Free Enterprise Forum has no opinion with regard to projects such as Ms. Porterfield’s and Mr. Yancey’s suggestions. 

 

Mr. Williamson continued that he did believe that each Commissioner is aware of small cottage industries that have moved out of the county.  He has seen several cases where a landscaper or an air-conditioning contractor has moved over the county line.  It is fine for that county to accept his business, but then their client base is still in Albemarle County.   That puts more trucks on the road and affects the infrastructure without having the businesses taxes.  It causes some timing issues on how fast the plumber can get to your house.  Finally, he suggested that the Commission have a discussion of strategic enterprise zones that would be adjacent to the growth area and to highways.  There are businesses that they want to keep in Albemarle County.  If that is true, they need to find some place for those businesses to grow.   Or, perhaps they don’t want industrial service in Albemarle County. 

 

Mike Marshall, Editor of the Crozet Gazette, said that he came to the meeting to listen to Mr. Yancey’s presentation.  He was also the Chairman of the Crozet Advisory Council.  He agreed with Mr. Strucko that he did not think that the case has been made that this need is tangible.  If it is he would like to say that there is a lot of space at Con- Agra left.  The whole north side of the property is undeveloped.  Also, the vacant 60,000 square foot old Acme building is vacant with an enormous parking lot.  He noted that freight transport is growing rapidly. He suggested that they look at rail access as much as they look at interstate access for industrial use.   He pointed out that both of those properties did have rail use.  Also, Barnes Lumber still has a CSX spur on it that could be reactivated.  He supported Mr. Loach that this is something that should be looked at in the context of the master planning.  They may actually have enough available property now.  On the terms of subsidy he asked what definition of affordable is.  It is a very subjective term

 

There being no further public comment, Mr. Morris closed the public hearing to bring the matter back to the Commission for discussion.

 

Mr. Strucko asked that the first bullet be reworded to say, “Within the development area.”  Development adjacent to the growth area means suburban sprawl, which is how he viewed it.  He noted that Mr. Yancey’s conceptual proposal goes against his principle because it would extend the designated growth area south of 250, which was not envisioned during the master planning process.  He thought it was counter to county policy. He suggested that the Commission made a recommendation to staff as they work on this proposal to look within the development area.  He recommended deletion of the wording in the first bullet of the wording, “adjacent to.”

 

Ms. Porterfield disagreed with Mr. Strucko.  She would like for them to be able to look at land because there are some differences within that land that should at least make them willing to look at it.  The land she was talking about has a lot of old zoning.  Even though they say it is not in the designated growth area the old zoning has made a large chunk of it in the development area because that is what is there.  She felt that they need to at least have the ability to look at it.  In several discussions several Commissioners have suggested that they consider a comprehensive plan amendment.  There might be something worth looking at because the land is not exactly rural.  She suggested that there may be other areas like this in other parts of the county other than her district.

 

Mr. Strucko said that any land owner can propose anything they want on a rezoning before the county.  He did not think that the county policy should be opened in that regard here.  County policy on the Economic Development Policy should encourage strictly within the development area. 

 

Mr. Cannon agreed with Mr. Strucko that the focus has to be on developing opportunities in the growth area. He encouraged further exploration of Option 2 and maybe more aggressive options for basically, as Mr. Williamson said, in putting our money where our mouth is if they want these businesses here and they want them in the growth area how are they going to ensure that is going to happen in a realistic way that takes into account the market and realities.  He felt that there should be a strong presumption against opening up additional development in the rural area.  That is the underlying policy of the whole Comprehensive Plan.  He did not know why they would abandon it in any systematic way here.  They have not done it for affordable housing. They have not done it for other things that they want in the county.  They have tried to funnel all of that into the existing growth area.  If they get to the point where they have exhausted their options and can’t do what they want to do, then they could consider that alternative.   

 

Mr. Loach said that there seems that there is no problem in this county where there is not a growth area solution. Growth area residents now make up the majority of the population.  He thought that within the context of master planning they will make the proper decisions for the future development of their communities.  That is why he felt that Mr. Yancey’s proposal, which was outside of the growth area, should only be taken up in the master planning process.  It is a decision that the community should have a part in the decision making, if not the majority.  He worried about Option 2 where the county sets aside land.  He felt that was in the free market system and did not want to set aside property that could be used for something else that would put jobs in his community.  Taking into consideration the businesses in Crozet referred to by Mr. Marshall, they are a long way down the road from solving these problems.  To some degree it is the catch up in other growth areas to find out for them and letting them start making their solutions.  

 

Mr. Edgerton opposed Ms. Porterfield’s suggestion.  He felt that Mr. Hallock’s suggestion was well taken to not expand the growth area in that region.  He agreed with Mr. Cannon and Mr. Butler in that the modified uses in the light industry was a good step.  They need to look hard at it.  With some of the inclusiveness of activities that are allowed in other zoning districts it is making property too expensive to actually support the need that has been identified for LI.  They should try to start in the growth area as it exists right now.  He has not been convinced that there is a need or will be a need to extend the growth area in the near future.  He agreed with Mr. Loach that the folks living in the development area should participate.  He felt that the Light Industry could be integrated into the growth areas through rezonings in a sympathetic way that will no infringe on the Neighborhood Model concept any more than some of the large retail has already.  Regarding Option 3, until he felt a greater need to expand the growth area he would have a hard time with proposals to do that.

 

Ms. Monteith pointed out that she had made several suggestions.  She agreed that it should be within the growth area.  Also she would advocate for what David Benish said to reinforce the concept of redevelopment and avoid the use of green fill sites.

 

Ms. Porterfield said that she did not disagree with the others on the other sections put out.  But, she firmly believes that they should look at other ideas, even if it does not fit in the Comp Plan, to explore the good and bad points in whether they have unusual land that could be considered.  Since part of her district was unusual she would like people to think about it and not reject the idea because it is not in Comp Plan.   She was just asking that they look at it.

 

Mr. Morris noted that he liked staff’s option one and two and some combination thereof. He agreed with Mr. Cannon and Mr. Strucko that Option 3 is not a viable option at this particular time.  They have plenty of land in the development area and they should really look at that.  He liked the use of areas that are almost dormant at this time.  He liked Mr. Cannon’s idea about subsidy.  At one point they have to look at it one way or another even if it was county land, which was an option he was not in favor of. 

 

Mr. Benish summarized the Planning Commission’s comments as follows:

 

·        The majority of the commissioners were comfortable with option two.  The next step would be to look within the development area for additional land.  This should be done in a strategic manner consistent with the master planning processes, which seems to be the next step in terms of priority.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if they are looking for policy language that explicitly states that economic development will happen within the designated growth area. 

 

Mr. Benish said that the policy basically says that now.  He did not know if they need to change the policy.  But, they could look in making sure that is reinforced.  He thought that was consistent with the current policy. 

 

Mr. Strucko noted that obviously agricultural and forestal uses would have to happen in the rural areas.  That should be explicitly stated as well and not light industrial.   

 

Mr. Benish said that the Planning Commission was comfortable with emphasizing the reuse of a component of that.  There is a consensus that they should be pursuing additional innovative approaches other than land use designation as an approach.  They should possibly be looking at this similar to affordable housing and use those types of approaches in investigating the options in the future.  He asked if there was a consensus on that.

 

Mr. Cannon said that he was not suggesting that should be the alternative they should take.  It is just an option.  They have a market failure problem here.  The question is how they can overcome it.   It is not just by traditional zoning.

 

Mr. Strucko said he did not know if they have a market failure.

 

Mr. Loach asked how he would define a market failure.

 

Mr. Cannon said that it was not a market failure problem.  The market is doing everything just right.  But, it was doing things right in a way that produces a result they don’t want, which is to exclude these uses to outside our jurisdiction.

 

Mr. Strucko pointed out that he was not sure it was doing that.

 

Mr. Cannon noted that if the economic analysis is correct, that is what is happening. 

 

Mr. Morris pointed out that is what they heard from the people who work with it.

 

Mr. Benish said that there are actually other strategies in other sections of the Economic Development Policy that address those types of approaches.  Staff will take a closer look at how they will work within those.

 

Ms. Porterfield agreed with Mr. Loach that there is a lot to be driven by the people who live in an area, what they are looking for and that type of thing rather than just saying they are going to have X amount of affordable housing or X amount of affordable Light Industry.  If they need it, it will be there.

 

Mr. Benish said that those are the areas staff will follow up on and will come back with revisions.

 

Mr. Morris pointed out that from just listening to everything that has been said this evening it was worth bringing it back from last week.  He thanked staff for going through this a second time.  It was extremely beneficial.

 

In summary, the Planning Commission noted the following for further staff work (as summarized by staff):

 

·        The majority of the Commission was comfortable with option two. 

·        The Commission recommended the next step would be to look within the development area for additional land. This should be done in a strategic manner consistent with the master planning processes, which seems to be a next step in terms of priority. The majority of the Commission asked for reinforcement of the policy language that explicitly states that economic development will happen within the designated growth area, which is consistent with the current policy. 

·        The Planning Commission directed staff to look at other options to assist businesses in affording sites (similar to methods used to address affordable housing), considering new approaches and re-examining existing policies.

·        The Commission asked staff to evaluate strategies that promote the re-use of LI buildings and properties.

 

 

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