Whither Crozet? Master Plan. Thanks, Sean.

Sean Tubbs is writing again, now at Charlottesville Community Engagement, and we all benefit from his work. If you can, please read and subscribe to his work; he is covering growth and development in Charlottesville and Albemarle better than almost anyone else in our community.

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Sean has given permission for me to publish his work, and I’m hoping to publish this every week. He publishes these on Sunday nights on Monday morning.

This week’s update

Whither Crozet? Albemarle County is in the midst of an update of the master plan that guides development decisions in Albemarle’s western growth area. Tonight the Albemarle Planning Commission will hold a work session on potential changes to land use rules for Crozet, which consists of over 2,900 acres. The last master plan was adopted in October 2010, and the recent review got under way in 2019 and has been through two rounds of public participation. (full 2010 plan) (staff report)

This master plan revision has come at a time when there have been many conversations nationwide about increasing residential density within urban areas to increase the housing supply. The theory is that more supply will fulfill a need for “middle missing” housing units, or units that will provide affordable living choices. In return, county planners are recommending creation of a “Middle Density Residential” category on something called the Future Land Use Map. That map is what decision-makers will refer to in the future when making decisions about specific applications. 

“The ‘Middle Density Residential’ land use category is intended to support several goals staff has heard prioritized by community members, including to provide increased housing choice and affordability and to encourage smaller-scaled development patterns that are more consistent with existing neighborhoods and supportive of Crozet’s small-town identity,” reads the staff report. “While most are supportive of more affordable housing, some community members and CCAC members also expressed a desire to not see housing forms such as large apartment buildings within Crozet.”

That last point is one heard often in Charlottesville, with frequent complaints about the size of new apartment buildings on West Main Street. Staff have suggested that this middle density residential allow for between six and 24 units per acre. They have also said this conversation will also be held throughout the county’s development areas as time nears to update the county’s Comprehensive Plan.  

The Planning Commission will also consider a new “Downtown Neighborhoods Overlay” district which would provide guidance for the size and bulk of future buildings. 

“We heard from residents, including residents living in these neighborhoods, that there is concern about the possibility of developers tearing down existing homes to construct larger and more expensive homes,” county planners wrote. “The stated intent of the Overlay is to incentivize the maintenance and preservation of naturally occurring affordable housing, to protect historic neighborhoods, and to support the production of new housing units that have similar scales and forms as existing homes to help increase housing choice and affordability.” (Future Land Use Map)

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