By Brian Wheeler
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Having been heard on their demands for lower population projections, no expansion of the growth area, and preservation of the downtown business district, the Crozet community appears to be largely in favor of the village’s updated 20-year Master Plan .

That has not deterred one area resident from continuing to advance his proposal to create a light-industrial business park just outside the Crozet master planning area near the intersection of Interstate 64 and U.S. 250.

Tuesday evening, Will Yancey appeared before the Albemarle County Planning Commission and asked for an “independent look” at his family’s 2008 request to add 184 acres to the county’s growth area to create a business park around the site of the Yancey Lumber Co. sawmill.

“Even though we attended every single [Crozet Master Plan community] meeting … it was rigged from the start,” Yancey said. “We think it is incumbent upon this commission, as well as the Board of Supervisors, to take this out of the rubric of the revision of the Master Plan and give it a hard, independent look on its own.”

Yancey said the Crozet Community Advisory Council had not reviewed his plan with an open mind. County staff, however, have advised the commission that there is “little community support” for Yancey’s proposal.

Later this year, local elected officials are expected to weigh the residents’ preference for growth to occur within Crozet’s current boundaries, as described by the Master Plan, against a desire by some leaders for increased economic development in new parts of Albemarle, specifically at the county’s interstate interchanges.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville)

“I think the interchanges in this county are a decision to be made by the entire county,” Commissioner Linda Porterfield said. “They are an economic provider to the entire county if we use them properly. No development area has the right to stand in the way.”

“It has been studied, it now needs to be pulled. Otherwise, it is going to pull the Master Plan process down,” Commissioner Cal Morris said. “It should be studied separately.”

When the Board of Supervisors asked that Yancey’s proposal be reconsidered in 2008 , the board said it did not have a position for or against the business park, it just wanted the plan reviewed as part of the community’s master planning process.

Tuesday night a majority of Planning Commission members indicated they agreed with Yancey’s request for an independent review process. Further, one planning commissioner thinks a majority of the Board of Supervisors may now be inclined to support Yancey’s business park, regardless of what ends up in the revised Master Plan.

“My sense is that what is happening at the board level is that they are saying they are OK with it and we need to find a way to allow it under some acceptable conditions,” Commissioner Don Franco said in an interview.

“I still think there is a win-win solution out there. I think the board is very open to seeing development take place there that is a quality development,” Franco said. “If it were to develop, under what conditions would [the community] accept development there? Right now the public just keeps coming back and saying they don’t want it.”

“We need to bring in entities that not only provide taxes to Albemarle County, but also jobs,” Porterfield said. “I am not comfortable with the Crozet Master Plan killing the possibility of that interchange being studied.”

“We have recently opened not one, but three commercial centers in Crozet, creating many new jobs,” countered Commissioner Tom Loach, who opposes Yancey’s proposal. “It is going to go around us anyhow, but it seems to me the community has given its findings and it doesn’t support it.”

After the work session, Yancey said he was pleased with the direction from the commission.

“We are pleased with their decision. It is what we have been asking for all along.”

In a separate process, the Albemarle supervisors are currently reviewing a draft economic development action plan. The current draft calls for consideration of “a modification of the Interstate Interchange Policy that might allow lower impact industrial and rural-serving uses at those intersections …” However, the county’s Comprehensive Plan emphasizes that new industrial development occur within the designated growth areas.

At a recent meeting, the board decided to hold roundtables on June 23 and July 1 on the action plan to get additional public input. In an interview, Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker addressed the question of whether the action plan opened the door for Yancey’s business park being located outside the growth area at the I-64 interchange in Crozet.

“The door is partially open. There is other language that says it has to be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan,” Rooker said. “My idea was to try and get some changes in [the action plan] that made it more consistent with the existing Comprehensive Plan …. When we last discussed [the interchanges], none of the uses given as examples were anything of the scale of what is being proposed by Yancey.”

“People from Crozet are welcome to come to the roundtables and make comments about specific language in the economic development plan,” Rooker added.

The Planning Commission has tentatively scheduled a public hearing on the draft revisions to the Crozet Master Plan for July 13.

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