A letter from a Crozet Park neighbor. Background here. The Park’s plans are massive.
In October I submitted written comments regarding the Special Use Permit Application by Crozet Park to build a commercial style recreation building with a 32,000 square footprint (about ¾ of an acre) that is 36 feet high. Unfortunately those comments were never discussed at the CCAC meeting (which was when I understood there would be a question and answer session) nor were they discussed with me at any other time. In fact, until a few weeks ago when I thought the applicant was still making changes to the drawings but was informed by staff they were not. The comments I made in October are still very valid.
I hope the drawing below will help provide context for how the proposed project sits the existing neighborhood. I used the files that staff identified as the latest drawings to create it. Most pertinent to Crozet Park’s request for a Special Use Permit is the size of the new building (in purple) compared to the size of the existing buildings (dotted in blue which have gable roofs about 20’ high), the number of new parking spaces (which are annotated totaling over 200 new), and the configuration of the intersection at Hilltop Road which the Park requests to use as a fulltime entrance/exit (currently only used as an exit in special events). It also provides context for how much of the park will become essentially a commercial enterprise and no longer green space. Please see my comments below the drawing regarding these points.
- I feel like public comment has been stifled by the process. Perhaps it due to that the volume of development happening in the county that conflicting, inaccurate and incomplete information is often provided in public venues. Many of us are trying to understand unfamiliar processes and respond to processes, expecting that the public can question why decisions are made and how they can be impacted – I understand that this takes time but it is not happening now. The fact is that we have community meetings where comments are not allowed and Planning Commission meetings that we can not attend (replaced by zoom sessions with 3 minute comment periods that may or may not be sequenced so the public can respond to information presented at the meeting). I have yet to see a meaningful public question and answer session on any important topic.
- The Planning Commission, as part of the Master Plan review process, recently approved, in concept, a site next to Brownsville Elementary along Route 250 as an acceptable location for a Recreational Facility and all parties agreed that the location was a good idea [my language might not be right here but this was discussed at the Planning Commission when Staff’s Crozet Master Plan update was reviewed]. The proposed project is in essence a commercial establishment with 985 projected visitors per day. A facility of this size does not belong in a neighborhood park setting.
- That the findings of Staff misrepresent the scope and scale of the proposed building – YES IT WILL impact the character of the area. In a prime example of not listening to public comment the applicant has not provided drawings that show the scale of the proposed building within the neighborhoods nearby although drawings of this type were requested specifically. The unfortunate thing in this is that I have had a fantastic relationship with the park for years and now they are acting like an unchallenged developer maximizing land use, minimizing information – certainly not like a neighbor.
- That we are running out of Green Space in Crozet and we should preserve the limited amount that is left. If this development is completed 1/3 of the park’s area will be impervious – not greenspace. Further this development was not mentioned in the Planning Commission’s review of the updates on the Crozet masterplan. Staff’s recommendation says it is in keeping with the Master Plan. It is difficult for me to understand that logic and why it was not discussed during the Master Plan reviews.
- That the vague description of what happens at the proposed new permanent exit on to Hilltop should not be delayed until Site Plan review and, further, that the assertion that no traffic study is required on either Hilltop or Park Street should not be accepted. If the Hilltop exit becomes a “by right” condition for the applicant it means, as we have seen in other places, that the people impacted no longer have input into the outcome. I have been told in writing that my comments are important and spent hours reviewing drawings of “by right” applications finding issues and asking questions – none of my requests resulted in meaningful dialog with staff unless it was to tell me that the applicant had the right to move ahead prior to approval, or that engineering had approved it, or applicant was not required to provide information about a retaining wall abutting our properties. It is unfair to kick an issue like this the down the road in order for a developer or the park to have the power of “by right” on their side before it is even clear what they are doing. Further, this proposed development is not happening in isolation so traffic impacts to Park, Hilltop and other local streets should be studied in totality.
In closing I would like to remind the Planning Commission that many of us have been supportive neighbors of the park for years donating time and money to its development. This proposal is in itself OUT OF CHARACTER with the way the park has acted in the past. I won’t deny the project must have some redeeming qualities – access for a broader part of the community, expanded facilities certainly – but build it where it belongs – perhaps on the parcel you agreed was the right place for it on route 250.
Parkside Village Resident for eighteen years
Disclosure: I live next to Crozet Park.