Public Involvement Matters as Crozet Grows

Neil Williamson has a solid editorial at the FEF (as noted on the RealCrozetVA facebook page): — make sure to click through and read the whole thing.

If a significant community engagement process happens and the project still gains approval, does the process have value?  What if the project is rejected out of hand, or the density reduced, then does it have value?  I anticipate it depends where you sit.  Please let me explain.

A week ago Sunday (July 3) I was surprised to find myself nodding in agreement with an opinion piece in The Washington Post written by Stewart Schwartz, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.  The piece entitled “Stop saying no to development in your neighborhood”  included the following:

“Yet wherever infill and walkable, transit-accessible development are proposed, existing residents are either saying no to development or forcing it to be cut back so much that the region isn’t producing the new housing we need.

Some of the most strident opposition comes from our wealthiest and most fortunate neighborhoods. This is the case even though these neighborhoods have benefited as their property values have soared by virtue of convenient access to Metro and all of the jobs, restaurants, grocery stores and services that transit-oriented development brings.

It is a good thing that people are passionate and actively engaged in planning decisions in our communities. We need everyone at the table, and we need to pay serious attention to good design, transportation, public spaces, affordable housing and other community benefits. We need to ensure we balance development, historic preservation, public parks and other community assets. But the intensity and hostility of the opposition are suppressing thoughtful discussion about the benefits of transit-oriented development for the community, transportation and the environment.”

One thing I’ll add: the minutes provided often are not as detailed or as timely as I would like; that’s ones of the big reasons I try to tweet (and often have help thankfully) the meetings. CCAC tweet summaries and agendas are here.


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12 Replies to “Public Involvement Matters as Crozet Grows”

  1. Mr. Williamson’s editorial is anything but solid. First the Free Enterprise Forum is nothing more then a front organization for developers. The most import facts regarding the Crozet Master Plan have not be addressed in Mr. Williamson’s article. For over 20 years the Crozet Community has made the protection of Rt 250 west one of its primary planning principles. The protection of Rt 250 was also supported in the results of a community survey done by the Crozet Community Association. This the reason the commercial center of Old Trail is interior to the development and not fronting on Rt 250. Mr. Williams leaves out the fact that the community supported the rezoning of the land and moving the development rights from property along Rt 250 to the north of the growth area. He also leaves out the fact that the community supported the rezoning of land adjacent to the clover lawn center along Rt 250 from residential to light industry , which now houses Watkins Landscaping because it meant less impact to Rt 250 then residential development. Again, all these actions were taken to protect Rt 250 and insure that downtown Crozet would continue to be the commercial center for the community of Crozet. The real fact is if you look at the development history in Crozet you would see that since the acceptance of the Crozet Master Plan most of the development has occurred without opposition by the CCAC. As for the targeted population of Crozet, this was determined in work done by county hired consultants who developed the Neighborhood Model and for Crozet that target population was slightly over 12,000. In short, the Crozet community did not pick this number, it was given to us.
    What Mr. Williamson really fears is the potential for the development of a alliance of Community Advisory Councils, which would have the potential to radically change the grow patterns in Albemarle County. Mr. Williams stated the following: “It is time for the Albemarle Supervisors to stand up for the Comprehensive Plan you endorsed, and stand down these unelected Community Councils that are preventing the community vetted vision from being realized.” Mr. Williams obviously fails to realize that when it comes the growth areas in Albemarle County, it will be the Community Advisory Councils, representing a significant percent of the population that will define the community vision on how growth will occur in the future.

  2. Tom, I appreciate your opinion, but I think you are missing some important points.

    – There is no support of any development from the CCAC in the last ~18 months or so that I’ve attended and followed meetings.

    – There are members of CCAC who even admitted that they hadn’t even read the Crozet Master Plan at multiple meetings.

    – If you read the planner’s comments, study the map, and read the entire plan (not just selected excerpts) they negate all of the specific interpretations you make. Route 250 has been protected, growth areas are defined by what’s in the map, growth is focused around designated centers, etc.

    – I encourage you to read the entire charter of advisory committees. Advisory committees aren’t meant to design their own plan. They can provide important help in guiding master plan implementation, but I’ve seen no support, only opposition over 2 years.

    – My personal experience is that the CCAC has been hostile to me personally and to other developers. That’s fine by me, but that hostility is not something I’ve ever experienced with the planning commission, County staff, or supervisors.

    Finally, the County is growing, regardless of a select few’s desire to stop growth. We need to design communities for a variety of different people who want to live here. I know it’s hard to change, but growth will never have mass appeal, especially in a County that is becoming more urbanized.

    Discourse is important to a healthy community, but not when it’s so polarizing it lends to hostility and to advisory committees not achieving their charter.

  3. Kyle,
    You haven’t been around long enough to know how Crozet has grown. As for you assertion that Crozet wants to stop growth you should know that it was Crozet who was the first growth area to have a Master Plan and agreed to grow from a small town of 2,500 to now a build out population of 17,000. A community that has agreed to more then quintuple in size is hardly a community that want to stop growth. What the community has always wanted and what the CCAC has attempted to do is to manage growth in our community. The fact that after listening to you on multiple occasions the CCAC did not support you development plan is consistent with a 20 year history of protecting Rt 250 from development. As for the support of developments in Crozet here are a few of the developments that have had the support of the community.
    Wayland’s Grant,
    Baragmin Park,
    Old Trail,
    Wickham Park I
    Wickham Park II
    Liberty Hall,
    Parkside Village,
    Clover Lawn,
    Gray Rock,
    Foothill Crossing,
    I would add Gray Rock, but the community did complain to the board that the development did not follow the master plan because there was not a diversity of housing types.
    As for affordable housing, the community of Crozet has always supported the 15% affordable housing in each of the developments in Crozet.

    1. Tom – I’ll wait for Kyle to step in and respond, but I’ve found condescension to be a less than respectful first response when debating, unless of course your intention is to merely be condescending rather than engage is a good discussion.

  4. I don’t get into arguments with people over the internet, but I will reiterate my prior points which are based on my observations and numerous conversations with people, including yourself.

    Please remember that the County has spent tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to support Crozet growth. That money certainly hasn’t been generated by the existing taxbase in Crozet, alone. We live in a County that is growing as a whole, not just in Crozet. We all pay taxes and support master plans in various parts of the community.

    The point is if you want to have a growth management or NIMBY organization, that is absolutely expected and welcome. I don’t write long comments about ASAPNow, PEC or SELC. We live in a free society and you are entitled to your opinion, just like these groups who serve an important purpose in our community. The difference is, they are not charted as a governmental body.

    The main point is that if you have a government-given charter that says one thing (i.e. “support Master Plan”) and you are pursuing a different charter of “growth management” then you are operating outside of your charter. That’s my opinion and is shared by many others who are afraid to speak publicly for fear of exactly the types of insults that come to people who speak against activists.

    You may see it differently, and I respectfully disagree with you.

    Please don’t devolve to insults about who has been here the longest. I am sorry I’ve only been living here 33 years vs whatever number is “long enough to know how Crozet has grown.”

    In those 33 years, I have created dozens of jobs, hired various local companies for services, overseen hundreds of people change their lives through health and fitness, mentored young entrepreneurs, invested in successful companies that employ people, worked with various other community boards, done non-profit fundraising, guest lectured at UVa, etc. I’m far from a community leader, but I do have a long term perspective as an entrepreneur.

    I too often wondered why we were turning pastures into dense housing communities. I have arrived at different perspective and that is what drives my opinion. I’ve seen companies struggle because they can’t find workers here. I’ve seen wonderful families leave town because they can’t find jobs here. I’ve seen people only able to afford to live here because their families have money. I’ve seen families forced to sell their land because their assessments get so high. I’ve witnessed half of our public workers decide they can’t live in Albemarle due to affordability reasons. It’s hard to see this as a problem if you’ve owned land for decades or you inherited it. I don’t think we want to build a community that only caters to the 1% which is what we are doing.

    There is also an abundance of academic and industry research to support the idea that excessive restriction of growth through land use harms the non-privileged. Obama’s chief economist spoke about it recently here:

    I strongly believe that we need to embrace growth, to build housing types for all people, to bring young workers to our community, and to keep our economic future vibrant. If you’d like to sit down to try to understand a different perspective, I’m more than willing to discuss this further in a polite and reasonable manner.

    1. It is time to admit what is so. There is little public involvement
      in Crozet growth. Just a bunch of self appointed, self serving groups. I blame this on a dis-interested BOS member that can not tend to her other interests and, Crozet. Since Crozet is not a town but a community there is no official spokesman. The type of growth that has occurred over the past 10-15 years has made people money and brought hordes of people in but has done next to nothing for the people that have always lived here. Crozet Lives Matter…

  5. Frankly , I am dismayed at Tom’s first line about Neil. That’s way out of line and not true. Neil works for smaller government and fewer obstruction to business. Neil performs a real public service showing up and reporting at sparsely attended meetings. He speaks for his beliefs and isn’t beholden to others.
    Kyle – couldn’t agree more about jobs and hence that’s another reason why Neil is important. Jobs are an issue. More than one biz has been lost to CZT due to too much red tape.

    Let’s face it, CCAC has had mission creep. It was never designed to be the pre-planning commission but that’s what it’s turned into.

    Tom , while I appreciate all your public service to our community I think you are tone deaf to other opinions. Let’s remember there are other points of view in the community and lets be open to them. There’s plenty of room for compromise.

    Totally disagree with Mr. Strauss , there is plenty of good with the growth even for old timers.

    Face it at our potential buildout it’s time to look at ammending state law and figure out how to become a real town. It’s what Crozetians have been craving for decades.

  6. Another opinion: If you think the Free Enterprise Forum is not representing the interests of the development then just click on the link to their Board of Directors. It’s made up mostly of developers and lawyers for developers. Neil is to the development community as Jeff Werner of the PEC is to protection of development especially in the rural areas. I like both Neil and Jeff, but I always knew where they were coming from. As for tone deaf, tell me what is being tone deaf to a 20 plus history of protecting Rt 250 from development. These aren’t my thoughts they are the will of the majority of the population, which was reflected in a survey done by the CCA. At a time when the population was about 3,000 people in Crozet there were over 700 survey responses and 1,200 comments, but the bottom line is the majority agreed that Rt 250 West should not become like Rt 29 North. Remember the position of the CCAC was not that Kyle shouldn’t build his development, but in an area zoned for 3 to 6 homes per acre, he build at the lower end of the density, so if you were looking for compromise, here it is.
    As for mission creep, all I can say is they only time the Crozet Master Plan, which was an agreement between the community of Crozet and Albemarle County, has been broken it was broken by the County.

    Jim: I see nothing condescending in my remarks to Kyle. The fact is that before Kyle thought he could make a buck off of Crozet he had no involvement with issues of growth and development in Crozet. He has never served on a committee or sub committee of either the CCA or CCAC. In 8 years on the planning commission I never once saw him before the commission to address growth and planning issues in Crozet . In short, his involvement with the community is a recent revelation and profit driven. You recently asked the question “What do you love about Crozet” and if you look at many of the the responses they are directly related to the protection of Rt 250. Answers like I love the downtown, the library, local pharmacy, grocery, and restaurants. All of this would not have happened if Rt 250 was opened to commercial and residential development. This is not to mention that none of this would have happened without the Crozet Master Plan.
    I believe when we look at the data we will see that Crozet is quickly reaching build out. The question now is how do we plan for development in the remaining land available and how best to develop the remaining commercial/light industrial acreage to bring more jobs to Crozet. The master plan was never meant to be a suicide pact with the county where the character of the community would be destroyed. Finally, when it comes to growth and development the real hero’s of Crozet are those old time residents who agreed that we needed a comprehensive view of development and were partners in creating the first Crozet Master Plan. To that end I will not break the faith they put in the plan to protect those things that they and now everybody says they love about Crozet.

    1. Tom –

      “You haven’t been around long enough to know how Crozet has grown.”

      How long is “long enough”?


      1. The sad part is how long do you have to be around to be able to claim the you know what everybody wants???? The skill
        these people bring to the area is truly remarkable….

    2. Equating a survey as a mandate to lead is totally misleading. Did the survey ask what type of Govt. people in Crozet wanted? Who made up the questions? Who pays for the wants??? Creating a bedroom community and refusing any decent employment opportunities for those that need it is just not responsible. Protecting Route 250 is not about lining it with tract housing. What is not admitted is that very few actually get involved in the process. That is how things got hijacked. Claiming that everybody this and everybody that, well, you don’t know everybody, and, neither do I. Legally and morally we can only represent ourselves. Saying that everybody loves Crozet but, here is a list of changes they want, That is not love. The Crozet Master Plan can be altered or done away with at any time. Enough pressure on the BOS can
      effect the change that people want. That is where the real power is…

  7. Jim,
    The comment to Kylre about how long he has been around here related to the limited time Kyle has been involved with planning and development in the community,which I explained in my last post. The answer to that question is he has not been around at all till he thought he could profit off the community.

Something to say?