Albemarle County Planning Commission
March 13, 2007
The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and public hearing on Tuesday, March 13, 2007, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Members attending were Bill Edgerton, Jon Cannon, Eric Strucko, Duane Zobrist, Pete Craddock, Calvin Morris, Vice-Chairman and Marcia Joseph, Chairman. Ms. Joseph arrived at 7:05 p.m. Julia Monteith, AICP, Senior Land Use Planner for the University of Virginia, was present.
Other officials present were David Benish, Chief of Planning; Jack Kelsey, County Transportation Planner; Elaine Echols, Senior Planner and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney.
CPA 2005-009, Southern Urban Area B Study amendment and CPA 2005-005, Granger Tract CPA: The proposed amendments would modify the Land Use Plan and Transportation elements of the Comprehensive Plan. Revisions to Neighborhood Five and Neighborhood Six include: updated housing and population information, revised land use designations/recommendations, new and revised recommendations for road and transportation improvements, including a new Fontaine Avenue-Sunset Avenue connector road and Stadium Road connector road and alternative alignment options for the Southern Parkway consistent with the recommendations of the Southern Urban Area B Study. The proposed land use amendments would change the land use designation for Tax Map 76, Parcel 24 (Granger tract, approx. 70 acres) from Neighborhood Density Residential (3-6 dwelling units per acre) to Office Service which would allow a mixed-use office oriented development. Recommendations regarding the mix of uses and intensification of development are also proposed for the area that includes Tax Map 76, Parcels 17B, 17B1-B8 and 17W and 17BX (Fontaine Research Park). Amendments to the Transportation element of the Comprehensive Plan include incorporating recommendations for new road improvements including a new Fontaine Avenue-Sunset Avenue connector road (generally located on parcels noted above), and Stadium Road connector road (generally located on Tax Map 76, Parcels 4, 5, and 8). (David Benish)
Mr. Benish summarized the staff report and presented a power point presentation.
· Based on some phone calls he had recently he prepared a long presentation. There is some public interested in this based on the recent public notification. The public has not participated in the prior work sessions. Therefore, he would provide some background so that they understand where they are in the process.
· The County has been in the process of amending its Comprehensive Plan to incorporate the recommendations of the Planning and Coordination Council’s Southern Urban Area B Study. About the time that they began that work they had an applicant’s request for a Comprehensive Plan Land Use Amendment on the 69 acre piece of land referred to as the Granger Tract. The requested change was to change the land use designation in our current Comp Plan from Neighborhood Density Residential to Office Use. What is in the Area B Study was an Urban Density Residential recommendation. They had 3 different recommendations on that site. One is in the current Comp Plan, another in the proposed Area B Study and the other is the applicant’s request.
· The study area is generally bounded in the County by Fontaine Avenue and Sunset Avenue and the Redfields Development. It goes on into the City into the Fry’s Spring/Jefferson Park Avenue area. The Planning Coordination Council Area B Study recommended a framework plan. The framework plan recommendation focused primarily on transportation improvements. Although they did make some land use recommendations that encouraged a more mixed use and more urban higher density of development. By and large their work to date has focused in on incorporating the transportation recommendations and has paid particular attention to 2 land use changes. One is for the Granger Tract, which was a request by the applicant. The other site is the Fontaine Research Park and recognizing the potential expansion interest on that site. But, those are really the only two substantive land use recommendations or changes that they are recommending.
· The infrastructure and transportation recommendations focus in on the construction of the Fontaine/Sunset connector road. It discusses the extension of Stadium Road from Fontaine Avenue and also a connection within the City of Maymont Lane. It also recommended a new connector north of I-64 from Fifth Street to Avon Street. That is already incorporated in our Comprehensive Plan. It also encourages building the Southern Parkway, an extension of that to Fifth Street. That is also already in our Comp Plan. It will add a new east/west connector south of I-64 between Sunset Avenue and Old Lynchburg Road. That is a project that staff is not recommending including in the Comp Plan.
· The study also makes recommendations regarding transit service in the area in completing the sidewalk system and bike way system. Many of those recommendations are also identified in our various planning documents. A reference to this study in the Comp Plan will allow this document to be used as a reference tool in looking at those recommendations.
· They touched on the Granger proposal, which is on about 70 acres of land just north of I-64 west of Sunset Avenue and northeast of the railroad tracks. It is a project that is designated in our Comp Plan for Neighborhood Density Residential and the proposal is for Office Service. It does propose a mix of uses. The mixes are of neighborhood scale commercial and the potential for residential. The traffic modeling work that the applicant has done and the range of square footage of the site generally falls within the perimeters noted there of 540,000 square feet and 20,000 square feet of supporting commercial and 440 residential.
· One of the important components of the Area B Study recommendation was the Inclusion of the mix of uses that provided for the Neighborhood Services. That was one way to address traffic impacts by allowing for convenience services within the residential areas that exist and are emerging in that area. Staff has discussed this item a number of times with PACCT. The primary issue has been the traffic impacts of the change in land use designation. Since traffic was an important component to this proposal in looking at a change that differed from the Area B Study PACC particularly wanted them to pay attention to not blowing the transportation system out of the water by allowing for too much use inconsistent with the network that was proposed. They were also concerned about other infrastructure issues and how they treat the environment of this site since it is an important site with some significant resources on it.
· The findings for the Granger proposal, which was the specific applicant’s request for non-residential, was that proposal as modeled would add between 3,800 and 5,300 trips to the system as studied in the Area B Study. Again, it was modeled at a certain level of development, which was the mid- to mid-high range that is proposed in the applicant’s request for the Comp Plan Amendment. An important issue is that Fontaine Avenue is a roadway that is pretty close to capacity in terms of the traffic volumes on it. There is limited potential to upgrade that road based on City interest and also based on just physical limitations as it moves through the City neighborhoods. So that is an important issue in balancing traffic generated from new land uses.
How the Comprehensive Plan Amendment that was submitted to the Commission has addressed these major recommendations -
· Staff is recommending that the Fontaine/Sunset Connector road be include as a recommendation within the Comp Plan.
· The extension of Stadium Road is a situation where County staff may have overstepped a little bit in not getting good clarity on what was actually the intension of the recommendations in the Area B Study. So staff will need to go back and discuss this a little bit more with the University and the City. Stadium Road is in one aspect seen as a very important opportunity to address that problem on Fontaine Avenue because of the limitations on Fontaine for a significant improvement. At this point in time the recommendations that staff have put forward in the Comp Plan are not necessarily what the University has agreed to. One of the purposes of the PACC process and the Area B Study is that they all come together with a mutual recommendation and they move forward with that mutual recommendation. So he does not want to put something forward that is not consistent with that recommendation coming out of PACC. So they need to get a little more clarity on that and get some better direction from PACC. There are very clear specific recommendations about constructing the Stadium Road Connector. If the Commission is going to act tonight he would ask that they not act on that particular item. They may very well not be ready to act tonight anyway. But, if they are he would recommend that they not act on that particular item until staff gets more clarity on that.
· The Avon/Fifth Street Connector is already one that is in our Comp Plan and they are reviewing it as part of another rezoning request. The Commission recently had a work session on it.
· The Southern Parkway is already a recommendation of the County’s Comp Plan. The Area B Study did note as sort of an alternative alignment or a neighborhood system that might link to that Southern Parkway. Staff has suggested that they simply reference that as a possible alternative to consider as they do further planning for the Southern Parkway.
· The connection south of I-64 between Sunset and Old Lynchburg road staff is not recommending at this time.
· Staff distributed the actual draft language proposed for review. It is the specific language that implements those findings or recommendations that he just went over. He asked if the Commission had any questions since his overview covered the substance of all of those recommendations. He noted that when staff went in and updated the profiles for Neighborhoods V and VI there were some corrections that they included. Some corrections were typos and others included updated information. One in Neighborhood VI there was a specific statement. There is a reference in not widening Route 250 west past the bypass towards Ivy. That was simply a housekeeping item. That is a recommendation that is already in the transportation section of the plan. It never got amended in the profiles. Therefore, that is not something new. That has been a long standing recommendation. He asked Ms. Monteith if his comments had reflected the issues that came up.
Ms. Monteith replied yes, that in general that in the previous draft of the Southern Area B Report the Stadium Road Extension was talked about as a possibility and nothing beyond that was ever consulted with the University. They will need to have some consultation before there is any forward movement on that.
Mr. Morris asked if there were any questions for Mr. Benish.
Ms. Joseph said that it did not change anything with public water and sewer. She did not know if in the light of what they know now in what is going on with the Service Authority and whether that should be amended at this point in time.
Mr. Benish said that it might be a good idea even if it is only a general reference to ensure that utility infrastructure is at adequate capacity and available for the proposed use. In other sections of the Comp Plan it is actually addressed in our utility section. But, it is probably something worth mentioning here. His understanding is that the Authority has not completed their assessment of their Rivanna Service Authority’s infrastructure. That will be forthcoming very soon. They have not completed the entire study,
Ms. Joseph noted that this just references small internal system upgrades. They don’t know if that is true anymore or not.
Mr. Benish said that they do know that the Moore’s Creek interceptor line is a pretty old line. Therefore, he would not be surprised if there were some infrastructure improvements necessary. He was not sure what the capacity issues are. But, at least age and infiltration are issues in that line.
Ms. Joseph complimented Mr. Benish for his fine work on the staff report since it was very easy to follow.
Mr. Benish noted that Neighborhood Service is capitalized. From the previous work session they may recall that implies a more Village or smaller scale than a larger Commercial Service Grocery scale, but clearly a very small scale.
There being no further questions for staff, Mr. Morris opened the public hearing and invited applicant comment. There being none, he invited general public comment.
Bruce Claw, resident of Redfields, pointed out that they had just recently found out that this has an impact on their community. They did not understand based on previous public notices that there was a proposed change to the intensity of use of Sunset Avenue Extended and repurposing it as a connector rather than a local road. There are a few people present tonight, but many people are unaware of it. Those that are aware have schedule conflicts and will not be appearing this evening. The road is already fairly heavily used. Recent developments at the Woodlands, Eagle’s Landing and Jefferson Ridge have created a moderately hazardous traffic situation along the existing road near the stop sign near the stop sign at Old Lynchburg Road. In a safety sense the road is already at capacity. Therefore, he discouraged the Commission from acting until they have taken a closer look at the traffic from both from the capacity level and the safety of the road. With respect to the Granger tract generally he was a bit curious why this was being acted upon now rather than being incorporated into the Comp Plan revision, which would be expected in 1 to 2 years in any case. He encouraged the Commission to provide an opportunity for interested parties in Redfields and the local neighborhoods to become aware and to make their own individual comments.
Cathy Cassidy, resident of Redfields, said that she just became aware of this. She added that the road is definitely unsafe right now. Exiting Redfields there is a hill to the left where one cannot see approaching traffic. There is a very high volume of traffic, particularly with the addition of Eagle’s Landing and Jefferson Ridge. Those are generally students that drive too fast while talking on cell phones. It is very unsafe. It is much safer to enter Redfields at night when one can see headlights coming up over that ridge. The kind of additional traffic they are proposing putting on the road with this, which would feed from Biscuit Run and Route 20, would make this a more dangerous traffic situation. With the proposal the Fontaine Avenue/Fontaine Connector could even take traffic all the way from Route 20 in Scottsville. It is a huge volume of traffic on a very under sized road. It would not be wise to entertain this kind of connector until that road can definitely be funded to be widened and upgraded to be graded down so that the site lines are better. Second, she did not see why there was any benefit to the County to put in more office space on the Granger Tract as opposed to more mixed use space. It does not make any sense to drag people to offices there versus housing them there. The housing makes more sense in that location and to provide the services for communities like Redfields, Mosby Mountain, Biscuit Run, Woodlands, Eagle’s Run and Jefferson Place. They have no real places to buy anything or get a bottle of milk. It would be great to have that type of services there.
Sandy Lambert, resident of Redfields, said that he was actually coming here trying to figure out how he could like what is being proposed. He thought that the County has spent a lot of time and effort planning transportation needs. He did not want to be a detriment to that. The issues were now coming out. If it were a high density use they would have a number of people living towards the University who possibly might not come by Redfields if they were employed towards the University. If it goes to an office use then they now have destinations generating the number of trips that Mr. Benish mentioned earlier. So they just need to understand what that really means. Right now it means that everybody is going this way past their subdivision in the morning and coming back this way at night. With Biscuit Run and offices on this site there is going to be traffic towards their subdivision both in the morning and at night. There are some road improvements needed. The bigger concern is that there is not enough money. So quite frequently they don’t get everything that they should get. The report says that basically Granger should not be developed without the road improvements being made. The improvements from Granger towards Fifth Street might never occur. It has taken the County 30 years to build the Meadowbrook Parkway. He questioned how long it would take to build the Southern Parkway. This road is probably peanuts to those major roads.
Ricky Patterson, a UVA worker at McCormick Observatory, raised the issue of the impact of the development once they put in these new roads in this area what. The County has been their best friend in terms of enforcing the lighting ordinance. Since this is a 3 party agreement area he just wanted to raise the concerns that are not always listened to by the University concerning the lighting impact. The Fontaine Research Park is probably the worse inhabitant in that area. If things go forward he encouraged everyone to continue to strictly enforce the lighting ordinance that the County has so graciously put into action.
Frank Cox, representative for the New Era Properties, said that they have the primary interest in the Granger application. He asked to bring a couple of things to light counter to a couple of things that the speakers have said. The Area B Study has been going on for several decades. There have been basic iterations of it. But, this particular one has been in the mill for the last 3 years. The Comprehensive Plan Amendment that they submitted for the Granger Property was submitted some 20 months ago. They believe that the language that has been brought forth for the Office Service Mixed Use is appropriate. He thought that in light of the fact that the owner contrary to one of the slides that said that the owner has not consented or agreed to a residential component. Their documents provided in the past certainly have represented that this is truly going to be a mixed use project. The Area B Study is complex and there are a lot of institutional issues that are involved, as well as political ones. The one issue that he thinks is fairly clear is that the staff’s recommendation for the change in the land use designation for Granger. Given the fact that the applicant has certain contractual matters to deal with along with the fact that the Comprehensive Plan Amendment really only gives them the footing from which to depart with a number of other studies, not the least are some fairly complex studies related to finalizing the appropriate design for the Fontaine/Sunset Connector they would certainly encourage the Commission to act tonight at least on the designation for the Granger property.
There being no further comment, Mr. Morris closed the public hearing to bring the matter before the Commission.
Mr. Craddock asked Mr. Benish if he had gotten any response from the City about opening the Sunset Avenue Bridge.
Mr. Benish replied that was not likely to happen. In the Study City staff recognizes that one day when they have a more integrated system there may be a value some day to come back and reopen and make connections because those connections may actually improve the conditions on the other side where the connections are not made. But, at this point in time that is probably a ways down the road. The City is not interested in opening the Sunset Avenue Bridge even with the construction of this roadway and certainly not without the construction.
Mr. Craddock asked about the interconnectivity to Stribling. They had talked about the changes of a road was probably null, but what about a bicycle path.
Mr. Benish replied that he had heard interest from residents in that area for pedestrian connections. He did not perceive the pedestrian and bicycle connections as problematic, but a vehicular connection would be similar to Sunset. There is a real concern about Stribling being connected to the Fontaine/Sunset Connnector Road at this time.
Mr. Benish noted that there were two typos that should be changed as followed.
1. On page 13 in the third to the last hyphen, consider transit, bicycle and pedestrian recommendations should actually not be in there. It is in the next hyphen added to the old existing language. Therefore, it is just redundant.
2. The last hyphen on that page should say to provide transit service to Fontaine Avenue Corridor, including the Fontaine Research Park.
Mr. Cannon asked if staff has a response to several comments made about the Sunset Avenue Connector and the prospect that would bring additional traffic on a road that may be at or near capacity now and presenting dangerous conditions. Will the connector change the conditions on that road such that crowding or those dangers will be alleviated.
Mr. Benish replied that that the existing condition of that roadway is probably not going to be adequate for a significant increase. When they evaluate the transportation system for significant increase in development that road is really under designed right now. It is probably going to need some level of upgrading. Staff tried to reflect that both in neighborhoods profiles, but if they are still on page 13 the reference about midway up is to construct Fontaine/Sunset Avenue connector road as recommended in the Southern Urban Area B Study, specifically Alternative IV, and improve the existing alignment of Sunset Avenue from the new connector road to Fifth Street. It is really intended that really completes what would be that new road system to bring that road up to a standard that would carry the traffic on it. Under its existing condition, they project out through by right development out to 2025 there will be additional traffic on that roadway regardless of whether the connector road is made or not. As development occurs on that undeveloped land it certainly could increase it. But, the connection to other roadways also allows for the traffic to distribute better. So the 2025 projected increases are actually balanced and improved a little bit with that interconnection.
Mr. Cannon said that in the recommendations for the Granger tract staff states that any rezoning or development of the site should be timed with the construction of recommended planned improvements to the road network, which provide an adequate level of service to support development in this area. He assumed that the intent of that is to say that any development of this site consistent with the amended Comprehensive Plan should they adopt or recommend the amendments. Any development of the site would be contingent upon the availability of the immediate prospect of that additional capacity.
Mr. Kamptner noted that would have to be tied to the rezoning.
Mr. Cannon asked to make sure that intent is clear in the way they framed the Comprehensive Plan Amendment.
Mr. Benish said that if it is not clear to other people, then it is not clear enough.
Mr. Cannon noted that it was clear to him, but he just wanted to make sure it was clear.
Mr. Benish said that by reference to the other road improvements in the area that the primary road improvements that they see are the connector road, the upgrade of Fontaine/Sunset and dealing with the issue of capacity on Fontaine Avenue, which right now functions between a level of Service E and F or will at certain points in time in the future.
Mr. Kamptner asked if that could be written into the Comprehensive Plan -- specifying the roads that are part of the network that are the triggers, and also the level of service that they are seeking. If a zoning decision is ever based upon the adequacy of the road network they will want the Comprehensive Plan to be as specific and objective as possible.
Mr. Benish replied yes, that he thought that they could probably do that more specifically in those land use recommendation areas as opposed to embedded in all of the other sections. His one concern is that as they are observing with the Biscuit Run study that there may be other improvements that are necessary beyond what they might be able to identify. Once they look in more depth at a traffic model at a rezoning scale there may be other things that could cause impediments. But, as long as they are comfortable identifying at the minimum what those expectations are.
Mr. Cannon noted that they don’t have the benefit of a provision like this in the Comprehensive Plan for Biscuit Run. That would at least give them some bench mark from which to work.
Mr. Morris asked if there were other questions or concerns.
Ms. Joseph noted that there was something in here on page 12 on water quality impacts. Staff says that it should be an important consideration and then that measures should be put in place to not only minimize stream impacts, but also improve the current condition. She asked staff if they could take that and then make the leap to thinking that would require someone to use infiltration or LID or something that would be a little bit better.
Mr. Benish replied yes, that he thought that they could. Actually one of the things that they were trying to address was stream bank erosion and restoration of the stream banks. That is part of what they were trying to get at and maybe they should be more direct about that. He felt that language allows us to use other innovative approaches.
Mr. Edgerton said that staff had done a great job. He thought that staff had captured all of the comments that had been made in previous work sessions.
Mr. Benish noted that what he had heard that the Commission would want in addition, whether they act tonight and direct staff to make those changes before the Board, or come back to then would be to provide greater specificity for those trigger roads and capacities within both Fontaine Research Park and the Granger proposal. There would be a specific reference to water and sewer utility with the same sort of infrastructure measure for capacity. He asked if there were any other changes.
Ms. Monteith said that staff needs to amending the language around Stadium Road Extended and/or consulting with the University. She added that some of the Commissioners may not be aware that there has been a discussion with the City about a new fire house being placed along such a road. That would remove the need for the planned fire house that is currently proposed close to Ivy and Route 250. In that discussion the general connection would be that if there were a road to go there that it would connect with Ray C. Hunt Drive, which is the road that currently goes into Fontaine Park. She just wanted to preference that has been the discussion that has been out there.
Mr. Benish said that to summarize that would be to delete those references at this point of time and then they will engage with the PACC group again and inform the Board of the direction on that.
Mr. Strucko said that those details become very important. If there is going to be a Fontaine/Sunset Connector, where would it connect to Fontaine. Would it be through the research park or around the research park? They talked about this point in their last session about the various options shown on Attachment D. All but one goes through the research park. He assumed that the research park has to be on board with this concept.
Ms. Monteith said that the agreed upon alignment was 4, which is the one that generally aligns with what is Stribling now. Therefore, it goes outside of the research park and not through it.
Mr. Strucko replied that was correct because that was not Ray C. Hunt Drive.
Ms. Monteith said that is correct. The University has discussed the idea of a connection, which they always proposed as a transit pedestrian bike connection and not as a vehicular connection. The connection was to go from Stadium Road to Ray C. Hunt Drive.
Mr. Strucko asked if that was in existence now.
Ms. Monteith replied that it was a pedestrian bike path now, but it does not accommodate the UTS Transit Service, which is the University’s Bus Service.
Mr. Strucko noted that the Sunset/Fontaine connector is pretty vital. His concern is how it will happen. If it is not going to go through Ray C. Hunt Drive then it will connect with Fontaine several feet several feet down the road from Ray C. Hunt Drive. He was not sure what kind of traffic impact that would have.
Mr. Edgerton said that Mr. Strucko was worried about two connections to Fontaine Road so close together and then the additional congestion that would occur. There was some discussion about trying to channel it through the edge of Fontaine Office Park and then bring it out on the same entrance. That would really jam things up in the Fontaine Park a little more.
Mr. Strucko felt that Fontaine Research Park currently housing over 2,000 employees. That is a conservative estimate. There is only one way in and one way out, which is Ray C. Hunt Drive. There is no connection to the Fontaine Research Park to the back end.
Mr. Benish noted that staff had included a recommendation in the Fontaine Research Park that called for additional accesses to the Fontaine Research Park.
Mr. Edgerton said that Alternative 4 shows it going along the edge of it.
Mr. Strucko agreed that it showed it not connecting with it. That is his point. With 2,000 employees all coming in roughly at the same time and leaving at the same time are going onto Fontaine Avenue and Ray C. Hunt Drive. The Sunset/Fontaine connector that skirts the research park connects only several hundred feet to the east of that, which would exasperate traffic on Fontaine Avenue.
Ms. Monteith noted that Mr. Benish was saying something else.
Mr. Benish said that they would have the Ray C. Hunt entrance and also the entrance to what would be the connector road. Staff has put language in referencing that issue to ensure that with the expansion of the Fontaine Research Park that additional entrances into the Fontaine Research Park will be constructed so that there is more than one way in and one way out. The Sunset Connector is really not seen as an entrance in or out. It would be another public road that would provide the opportunity for that access. That is in staff’s language.
Mr. Edgerton noted that the map on page 43 of Attachment D shows Alternative IV going to the southeast of Fontaine Park. He asked if the red portion part of Fontaine Park.
Mr. Benish replied yes, that it was. The area in red he was referring to is actually the bank that is actually past the parking lot. Alternative IV is shown at the edge of the parking lot. So it is not right next to the buildings, but next to the eastern most area of the parking lot. Then the topography drops off and the area is really going down to Stribling Avenue. Technically it is on property that the University Foundation owns, but it is not part of the built part of the University.
Mr. Strucko asked that they be careful with the depictions. He was glad to see that was explicitly stated that there should be additional connection to the research park.
Mr. Benish noted that Alternative IV was to the east of the built environment.
Mr. Strucko said that there has to be clear depiction that there is an alternative entrance point not connected to Fontaine Avenue at all into the Research Park, which would be the Sunset/Fontaine connector. Adding another employment center that connects immediately to it only 100’ or so down the road from Ray C. Hunt Drive, it would just make a bad situation worse.
Motion: Ms. Joseph moved, Mr. Edgerton seconded, to approve CPA 2005-009, Southern Urban Area B Study amendment and CPA 2005-005, Granger Tract CPA as staff recommends in Attachments A, B and C of the staff report subject to the changes that the Planning Commission suggested.
The motion passed by a vote of 6:0. (Mr. Zobrist was absent.)
Mr. Morris stated that CPA 2005-009, Southern Urban Area B Study amendment and CPA 2005-005, Granger Tract CPA, would go before the Board of Supervisors on June 13, 2007 with a recommendation for approval.
Mr. Benish pointed out that staff was not sure of the Board date due to schedule conflicts, but staff is trying to find the date that it can go. There will also be a work session earlier than the public hearing. Staff is trying to schedule that for May.
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