Project Heron Project (to build the Eastern Connector?)

The Project Heron Project from Crozet United is an interesting one. The “Publishers: Eric Schmitz, Brad Rykal, and Jeff Stone” are doing an enormous amount of work to find out what is happening with the Oak Bluff + Eastern Avenue project.

Read the whole series — it’s a remarkable effort.

I don’t have conclusions other than these:

  • The perception of backroom dealing is counterproductive to good public policy; people should know better.
  • The connector needs to be built, we need more dense (read: attached) housing (median price of new construction single family home in Crozet since 1 January 2023 is $713K – 67 homes, median price of attached homes since then is $460K – 147 homes), and we need appropriate future-proof infrastructure.
  • The County needs to do things transparently at the appropriate times, while acknowledging that some things necessarily need to be done behind closed doors. When coming from a position lacking trust, perception is more important than ever.
  • Albemarle County – and Virginia – have not built the necessary infrastructure in Crozet; that is inarguable.
  • AND we need sidewalks along Park Road from Westhall and points east to Crozet Park. Why is this so hard?
  • Build the road, and build it with its original alignment where it’s been expected for decades.

I got into it a bit on Twitter when I was asking for the “who” was behind Crozet United. Who the publishers are matters. There’s a reason journalists put their names on what they write, and I’m glad the authors put their names on one post after the Twitter exchange, which I’m sure is purely coincidental.

PS – Here is the RSS feed for Crozet United.

Roads, Herons, Moving Green Olive

Once again, I’m grateful for the Crozet Gazette. A few stories from July’s issue:

Road Widening at 240/250 (the one with the stoplight)

via email –


Crews in Albemarle Co. will be working at the intersection of U.S. 240 and U.S. 250

CULPEPER – Beginning Monday, July 8, a contractor for the Virginia Department of Transportation will begin work to widen the southbound turn lane from U.S. 240 (Crozet Avenue) onto U.S. 250 (Rockfish Gap Turnpike) westbound in Albemarle County.

Workers will set up a flagging operation to extend the width of the turn lane, adding more space for drivers waiting to turn westbound. This allows southbound traffic to move more efficiently through the intersection.

While drivers in Crozet will have access to the turn lane during construction, the work will cause delays during rush hour in the morning and the evening. The latest average traffic count reports 12,000 vehicles travel U.S. 250 through that intersection daily. Please add some extra time to your commute to allow for congestion.

The work is expected to finish by July 19.

Roundabout at Old Trail

Here’s hoping!

Via Charlottesville Community Engagement

Old Trail Drive and US 250 West Intersection Improvements – “This project would construct a 2 and 1 hybrid roundabout at the Old Trail Drive/250 intersection with pedestrian crosswalks and appropriate safety features on the northern and eastern legs of the roundabout.”

Assuming the 250/Old Trail roundabout gets built, it will be a great addition to the traffic flow, and hopefully more will walk or ride from Old Trail and the neighborhoods along Jarmans to the schools.

I suspect the kids will be the ones who will have to fight for their right to not get in cars or buses.

These things take time; good to see Albemarle advocating for more roundabouts and more pedestrian improvements.

Read more about all the Albemarle County Smart Scale applications in the County’s PDF.

Building a Bridge to Shape the Future of Crozet

“Plant trees the shade of which you’ll never enjoy” thinking —

The Eastern Connector and Downtown Crozet redevelopment — These are the two moments/projects that will shape and define the future of Crozet. We as a “town” and County have an opportunity to shape how people get around Crozet, how we interact with our neighbors, how we shop, how we do everything.

Building a bridge that connects 250 to 240 without providing protected bike lanes (paint is neither protection nor infrastructure) and functional sidewalks will be a failure to seize the opportunity.

Imagine, if you will, if the Eastern Connector bridge became a sign of Crozet’s future. Protected bike lanes for the entirety of Eastern Avenue, grade-separated sidewalks, a thoughtful way to show that Crozet is looking to the future, building things for our kids’ kids rather than for ourselves.

More housing – dense housing – that bring more people to Crozet, which will bring more business, more retail, more vibrancy. (the arguments about “it used to be better!” fall flat — we are all immigrants from somewhere)

We say we care about our neighbors, we say we care about climate, we say we care about our kids and their mental and physical health. The Eastern Connector bridge is the opportunity to demonstrate what we say we value.

People will walk or ride bicycles if the route is accessible and they feel safe. Kids want autonomy. Parents (say) they want their kids to have autonomy. Give the kids the space and the infrastructure do live.

And make the Park Ridge/Eastern Connector intersection a roundabout.

Or nah, just build the bridge for cars and for the giant SUVs that idle when picking the kids up at school and practice, because walking or riding a bike for 1.5-2 miles is an impossible task because … why?

Two of these photos are from Portland, Oregon.

More reading

Eastern Connector May be Built After All

Pretty sure this is where the road will go

This from Charlottesville Community Engagement is an absolute must-read, from start to finish. Read it, and ask questions. It’s long, as it needs to be.

May 31, 2024: Albemarle County working on public-private partnership to complete long-awaited roadway in Crozet

A single-story edition of the newsletter on an important topic: How do things get built to support growth?

MAY 31, 2024

In today’s installment:

  • A group associated with an unsuccessful political campaign in Albemarle County has launched a newsletter
  • One article they wrote this week claims Albemarle is working to create a public-private partnership to complete a key piece of transportation infrastructure
  • Albemarle County confirms this is happening and points to the recent adoption of guidelines by the Board of Supervisors to govern such partnerships
  • The project is not related to economic development, though Albemarle has a recent history of giving names to projects in negotiation”

I posted on the RealCrozetVA Facebook page about the Crozet United story, and there was actually a good conversation there.

If Eastern Connector gets built, great — it’s been planned for *decades.* Things take time, and it should have been built long ago.

One question that Sean rightfully raises — who are the people behind Crozet United?

A pink survey flag in a field

It’s all going to change, and while we love the Crozet Trails, it would be fantastic to have the promised road. Maybe they will build the road with protected bike lanes and sidewalks, to really build for the future.

Paulowlina Trees – Purple and Invasive

Paulownia tomentosa (Thunb.) Sieb. & Zucc. ex Steud. (ITIS) Common Name Princess tree, empress tree, royal paulownia

Riding up to Mint Springs (one of the great parts of Crozet)the other day, and we wondered, “what kind of trees are those?” The purple ones that stand out, and look out of place?

Those trees are Paulowina Trees, or Princess Trees, and they are an invasive species.

“As pretty as they are, they’re unfortunately problematic as an invasive tree that aggressively displaces many of our native trees and plants.”

Regarding what to do about them, “This is a tricky one because it repeatedly sprouts even when cut down. Pulling seedlings early helps, but very careful, targeted application of an herbicide is often called for on the cut stumps.”

Summary: Paulownia tomentosa can be controlled most effectively using an integrated management approach. Cutting or girdling trees with power or manual saws are effective at preventing seed production, but repeated cutting or a herbicide treatment is necessary following cutting since Paulownia readily resprouts.

Thanks to Jessie and Traci for answering my question!

Montclair and the Albemarle Planning Commission

The journey to build housing continues. Connecting a few threads here about a housing, growth, and proffers.

We do a disservice to our community by not building connected neighborhoods. #crozet

“British Journal of Sports Medicine published a study about managing depression that will make Americans uncomfortable.

They found physical activity to be 1.5x more effective than counselling or the leading medications.”

via email this morning (I’m posting the full document at the end of this post). Bolding is mine

PROJECT: SDP202400023 Montclair Initial Site Plan
TAX MAP/PARCEL: 05600-00-00-091A0 & 056E0-00-00-00200 (portion of)
LOCATION: 5055 Three Notch’d Road
PROPOSAL: Request for initial site plan approval to for eighty-eight (88) proposed dwellings units that would feature single-family detached, single family attached, or other dwelling unit types as allowed by the Application Plan and Code of Development of ZMA202000012. Total site acreage is 14.48 acres and the proposed density is 6.1 units/acre. 74 market-rate units and 14 affordable dwelling units are proposed. Site plan includes creation of new public and private street rights-of-way, landscaping, and 6.34 acres of open space. Water, sewer, drainage, and stormwater utilities are proposed.
ZONING: NMD Neighborhood Model District – residential (3 – 34 units/acre) mixed with commercial, service and industrial uses
OVERLAY DISTRICT: EC Entrance Corridor Overlay District, Managed & Preserved Steep Slopes Overlay District
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN: COMPREHENSIVE PLAN: Middle Density Residential – Residential densities of 6-12 units per acre, up to 18 units per acre for affordable housing or for construction of small-scale housing types: bungalow courts, small and medium multiplexes, accessory dwelling units, live/work units, small single family cottages, and tiny houses. Secondary uses include religious assembly uses, schools and child care, institutional, and commercial/retail; Neighborhood Density Residential-Residential densities of 3-6 units per acre, housing types including townhomes, single-family attached, single-family detached, accessory dwellings, Secondary uses include religious assembly uses, schools and child care, institutional, and commercial/retail; and Green Systems – parks, greenways, open space, environmental features within the Crozet Master Plan.

This is relevant re: proffers

From the Crozet Gazette’s story on Ann Mallek’s town hall last month (bolding is mine, again)

A Pleasant Green questioner asked if developers could be forced to build connecting sidewalks between their projects and nearby connecting sidewalks, and the answer was no. “We require developers to build that infrastructure within their developments, but in 2016 the state legislature severely restricted the county’s ability to require what’s called ‘proffers’—commitments to provide additional surrounding structures,” said McDermott. “We’re working right now to catch up throughout the entire county with all those areas that really need sidewalks, and we’re focused right now on ones that are high priority where people are getting injured or those that get a lot of use in high density residential areas. It’s a long list.”

From Charlottesville Tomorrow in 2016, when proffers went away.

Legislation signed this week by Gov. Terry McAuliffe will change the way Albemarle Countyand other Virginia localities negotiate with developers during the rezoning process. 

“It effectively renders our cash proffer policy [invalid],” said Bill Fritz, Albemarle’s chief of special projects. 

Fritz made his comments at a meeting Thursday of the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee, a group created to advise the Board of Supervisors on how development affects the county’s operating and capital budgets. 

The committee was briefed Thursday on the impacts the new law would have on a county whose population has increased from 68,040 in 1990 to an estimated 105,000 in 2015.

The Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia projects that number could climb to more than 150,000 by 2040. 

To help cover the costs generated by population growth, the county developed a policy over time that evaluated the impact each rezoning would have on school population, area roads and other government services. 

However, the county formalized a cash policy proffer in October 2007 that established specific amounts all developers would pay per unit to help offset Albemarle’s need for increased real estate tax revenue. 

“The methodology used was more of a broad approach where [staff] would calculate all the costs of impacts and come up with an average,” said Bill Letteri, deputy county executive. “That approach won’t work at all [anymore].” 

The formula adopted then would require developers to pay $20,987 for each single-family detached unit, $14,271 for each attached unit and $14,871 for each unit in an apartment complex. 

The fiscal impact committee already has recommended drastically lowering those amounts in response to legislation passed in 2013, but the new law calls those figures into question. 

“The new legislation requires such a degree of certitude in identifying impacts [of new development] that the averages that we use in the cash proffer policy won’t work,” said Greg Kamptner, deputy county attorney. 

Kamptner said the new law requires that any cash collected in a rezoning can only be spent on infrastructure that directly addresses the impacts of that new development. Localities will have to demonstrate that connection and possibly defend it in court. 

Fritz said the county likely will move back to evaluating each rezoning application on a case-by-case basis. 

“What used to happen [before 2007] is that the model would generate a number and then there would be negotiations about that number,” Fritz said. “With this legislation, we’ll have to be much more careful about what that initial number is.” 

The new law, which goes into effect July 1, does not apply only to cash proffers. Developers have proffered other conditions in previous rezoning, such as land for libraries, courts or schools. 

“The new standard is that for any on-site proffer, such as a dedication of a school site, they now have to be specifically attributable,” Kamptner said, but added that there’s no strict definition yet for what that means. 

“If we have a project that dedicates a school site for an area large enough to handle 400 children, but it turns out the project will only serve 200 children from that project, that school site is now larger than what was specifically attributable to that project,” Kamptner said. 

“That proffer is then in complete jeopardy,” he said. 

240/250 Roundabout – Construction Winter 2024?

Fingers crossed …

“We anticipate the project will be awarded next month. There will be a period of final design required and some Right of Way to be acquired, but I expect construction will begin this coming winter.”

From VDOT – 5/2/24

From VDOT’s project page for 240/250

Preliminary engineering is underway on five intersection projects in Albemarle County, which have been combined into a single design-build bundle. The projects will be funded by a combination of SMART SCALE, Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) and Albemarle County funds. With this project bundle, the following will be constructed:

  1. Roundabout at Routes 240/250/680 VDOT will reconstruct the existing intersection of Route 240 (Three Notched Road), Route 250 (Rockfish Gap Turnpike) and Route 680 (Browns Gap Turnpike) as a four-leg, single-lane roundabout. Using HSIP funds, the proposed roundabout will improve traffic safety and more efficiently move traffic through the busy Albemarle County intersection. During construction, VDOT proposes to close Route 680 to through traffic between Route 250 and Route 802 (Old Three Notched Road) with a posted detour. Traffic would be detoured via Route 240 to Route 802 for about two months. The existing Route 680 single lane bridge over Lickinghole Creek, adjacent to this project, is being planned for replacement immediately after the roundabout is constructed.

We will see more of this until they’re finished, and when they’re finished with the project, it will be glorious, right?

I see no bike lanes there. Sigh.

Things could be worse. We could be the City of Charlottesville, which VDOT has now classified as “deficient.