One of the largest commercial developments ever built in Albemarle County appears to be in violation of a land disturbance permit issued by the city of Charlottesville.
Stonefield is located in Albemarle County, but all of the rain that falls upon the 65-acre site drains downstream into Meadow Creekthrough the city of Charlottesville.
State law required the developer, Edens, to obtain an erosion and sedimentation permit from the city’s department of Neighborhood Development Services in order to ensure massive amounts of stormwater do not damage the watershed following heavy rainfall.
“We simply said when they construct the outfall … we want it to be done correctly so it doesn’t blow out Meadow Creek,” said NDS director Jim Tolbert.
Before construction began, all rainwater from the site’s stream drained through a 42-inch pipe underneath U.S. 29.
Part of Edens’ stormwater management plan is to build a second 72-inch pipe further north that leads into a drainage channel within city limits. The channel crosses properties owned by the U.S. Post Office, Pepsi and the Seminole Square Shopping Center.
The approved plan called for Edens to place rocks known as “riprap” on both sides of the channel in protect the banks by slowing down the velocity of stormwater.
The city claims the new pipe was to remain closed until that work was complete.
Edens received permission from the U.S. Post Office to install riprap improvements on their property, but Tolbert said the company did not get approval from either Pepsi or Great Eastern Management Company, the owner of Seminole Square.
“They don’t have permission to put the riprap all the way to tie into the creek,” Tolbert said. “The plan very clearly says they have to tie the riprap into the existing riprap and the stream.”
However, Edens opened up the pipe anyway, prompting the city to serve the company with a violation notice on June 1.
An attorney representing Edens responded with a claim that his client was in compliance with the city’s permit.
“Since all of the requirements of Phase 1A and Phase 1B have been met, it was proper for the 72-inch pipe to be unplugged,” wrote Jason Hicks of the firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice.
Hicks also claimed that the plan never called riprap to be installed on adjoining property not under Edens’ control. His letter also noted that there have been several storms since the pipe was unplugged.
“At no time did the outfall from the 72-inch pipe pose a threat to public health, safety and welfare or cause erosion and sediment control issues,” Hicks wrote.
Tolbert said that is irrelevant and that Edens is not in compliance.
“If this was all in Charlottesville, we would just put a stop-work order on the project,” Tolbert said.
Edens has appealed the violation to the City Council. The Charlottesville Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the matter Tuesday.
Edens is in compliance with Albemarle County’s stormwater regulations, according to community development director Mark Graham. However, he had no comment on the city’s claim that a violation has occurred.
“I do not offer opinions on how the city administers their E&SC program and the city does not offer opinions on how we administer our program,” Graham said. “Both of us follow the same set of State regulations and both of our programs are verified as being in compliance with State regulations by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.”
The commission will also hold two other public hearings Tuesday.
Milestone Development is once again seeking a rezoning of 25.6 acres near Pen Park to allow for a 204-unit development called Lochlyn Hills. Milestone had asked for a deferral when it appeared the commission was set to recommend denial on June 12.
A couple is seeking a rezoning to develop a former fraternity house on Rugby Road into an inn and event center. And developer Bill Atwood is seeking permission to increase the height of the Waterhouse building on Water Street by an additional 12 feet, for another story of residential units. The building is currently 70 feet, the maximum allowed without a special use permit, and houses the headquarters of Worldstrides.
The public hearings begin at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers.