By Sean Tubbs


Thursday, January 13, 2011


Richard Spurzem

’s bid to build 562 homes at the corner of Hansens Mountain Road and U.S. 250 on Pantops has received a cold reception from the

Albemarle County Planning Commission

, though commissioners welcomed his decision to abandon plans to build a shopping center there.

Commissioners on Tuesday said they could support residential uses for the 37.5-acre property, as called for in the

Pantops Master Plan

, but not at the scale the developer was proposing.

The commission voted 5-1 to recommend denial of the rezoning, in part because of the number of homes and in part because a plan of development had not been submitted with the application.

“We’re all very happy with the idea it’s not going to be a shopping center and going to be residential,” said the commission’s new chairman,

Duane Zobrist

. “The question is, what are the components going to be? This is a good idea, just not the way it’s presented.”

In 2005, Albemarle lost a court case with Spurzem that sought to deny the by-right shopping center development known as Gazebo Plaza. Transportation capacity and safety were among the concerns raised by the county and VDOT at the time.

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Development of Gazebo Plaza has stalled in part because VDOT has threatened to close off the U.S. 250 median — preventing drivers from turning left — because of safety issues. As part of the new plan, Spurzem would close the existing entrance leading from Hansens Mountain Road, also used by nearly 130 homes in the


Neighborhood, and relocate the road so it connects with Viewmont Court in the Glenorchy neighborhood. That would direct traffic through a signalized intersection at Peter Jefferson Place and U.S. 250.

“There is no doubt that residential use is more consistent and in keeping with what we propose in our land-use plan,” county planner Claudette Grant said in an interview. However, she added the current request is for double the amount called for in the Pantops Master Plan.

Valerie Long, an attorney for Spurzem, urged commissioners to support the rezoning to achieve long-held county objectives.

Attorney Valerie Long

“We think what’s important to keep in mind is the big-picture issues,” Long said. “No one wants a shopping center, not even the applicant. … We’re proposing an extremely less intensive use. … Most importantly, we’re proposing to fix an incredibly challenging road and traffic situation.”

Several neighbors spoke out against the project during the public hearing. Ashcroft resident Stan Lapekas questioned whether Spurzem could even find a buyer for the shopping center given VDOT’s threat to close off the median.

Viewmont Court resident Ron Dimberg said the road re-location would harm his property.

“To reroute Hansens Mountain Road through Viewmont Court will for all practical purposes destroy the community,” Dinberg said.

Long acknowledged that the Glenorchy neighborhood would be affected, but said that decision was made by the Board of Supervisors when it approved the Pantops Master Plan.

“The owner is proposing to build that relocation at his expense entirely, which is estimated between $3 million and $4 million,” Long said.

The six members of the commission who were present Tuesday all opposed the development of a shopping center, but disagreed over whether the submitted plan was ready for their review.


Calvin Morris

said he could support residential development on the property, but not at the density requested by Spurzem.

“There is no clear measurement in this [application] that says how many acres of the overall plot should be urban, how much should be green space, so on and so forth,” Morris said.


Tom Loach

said he could not be convinced 562 housing units would work on the site unless he knew how the development would be designed.

“Without good design, it will fail, and what we’ve seen here is not one scintilla of design that’s consistent with the master plan that the neighborhood spent a considerable amount of time on,” Loach said.

However, Commissioner

Linda Porterfield

said she thought Spurzem should get the density requested because of his willingness to relocate Hansen Mountain Road.

“I think it is very important we work with this applicant,” Porterfield said. “Everything is not wonderful, but the ability to build Hansens Mountain Road where it can be brought out to a signalized light is very important.”

With four commissioners unwilling to support the requested density, Zobrist suggested the applicant request a deferral in order to submit a plan that could win approval. However, Spurzem opted to seek a full vote by the commission. Commissioner Don Franco negotiated with commissioners in writing a motion that would explicitly tell the Board of Supervisors why they voted to recommend denial of the application.

The vote to recommend denial was 5-1 with Porterfield dissenting. The rezoning will move to the

Board of Supervisors

later this year.


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