An expansion proposed for Claudius Crozet Park has been paused.
On Tuesday, the Albemarle County Planning Commission accepted a deferral of the proposal, after expressing a number of concerns about an amendment of a special-use permit for the park that would’ve allowed for its expansion.
The plan would add a two-story, 34,200-square-foot recreation building, which would include exercise areas, sports courts, community meeting spaces and a pool expansion. A second phase of the project would include an indoor pool facility that would be connected to the fitness building and adjacent to the existing pool deck.
Commissioner Karen Firehock said she did not support adding a facility of the size and scale proposed to what is a neighborhood green space.Featured image also courtesy of the DP
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.
The County planning staff report on the proposed makeover of Crozet Park makes for a surprising read.
[A] Character of the Neighborhood. The proposed building would be two stories, 36 ‘ high, and 34,000 square feet (3/4 of an acre). The present one-story building is about 8,000. The new two-story building would be located 30 feet from Indigo/Hill Top St. This is contrary to the county code, so a “Special Exemption” is being requested; zoning change might be more accurate. No one has made available drawings that show the scale of the building in comparison with the neighborhood. So it’s difficult to evaluate, much less accept, the county’s assurance that, on the proposal, “character of the nearby area is unchanged.”
[B] Traffic. County staff write that the expansion would generate 985 daily trips. The Hill Top entrance would become permanent, despite concerns about safety, sight lines, etc., raised by community members in correspondence with the county. The county/applicant replies to these concerns by punting on the details about the Hill Top Street entrance. They are to be put off until the Site Review stage Kicking traffic problems down the road — so to speak — does not seem like a good strategy.
The county staff report summary says, in response to traffic concerns, that “the applicant is proposing additional pedestrian paths throughout the park to provide better connections with the surrounding neighborhood and promote walking to the park,” using “future sidewalks.” Is this a serious response?
[C] Greenspace? 1/3 of Crozet Park will be paved or covered by a building, on this proposal — a massive increase in impermeable surface area. Multiple large trees will be lost. But the uses identified for areas designated as Greenspace in the Master Plan (as the park is) are “public parks, open space, and environmental features.”
[D] Commercial Space. The YMCA, a non-profit community organization, used to run recreational programs at the park. ACAC, a for-profit, does now. Will that continue? The proposal seems to be at least as much for a big commercial development as it is for a park the full use of which can be afforded by all community members.
Citizens can provide written comments that go directly to all seven Planning Commissioners at [email protected]
The Planning Commission makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. The BOS considers the recommendations that the Planning Commission makes, but ultimately the BOS makes the final decision. When the Planning Commission makes recommendations for denial, the application will still head to the Board, unless the applicant requests a deferral.
Letter by Tom Adajian
Disclosure: I live next to Crozet Park, and I’d forgotten we’d sent the letter referenced below.
Continue reading “A Letter from a Crozet Park Neighbor”
Questions are good.
My offer stands to Crozetians: want to research and write about developments affecting you, your neighborhood, Crozet? Let me know.
New letter from one of Crozet Park’s neighbors to Albemarle County staff.
After the Crozet Park Special Use Permit zooming meeting on the 14th I’ve taken some time to digest my impressions and wanted to share my thoughts about the process and the content.
First, I think it is a good thing to solicit neighborhood input although attending the meeting via zoom rather than in person was a bit confining. I am not clear on the Virtual Meeting process for responding to public questions or comments submitted prior to the Meeting. I do not know how others felt but it was odd to submit questions/comments prior to the meeting that may or may not be addressed by the people actually active in the Video/Zoom meeting.
Second, I had a chance to look at the additional Crozet Park Expansion project information that was attached to the previous Meeting Minutes which included staff and agency comments from the Applicant’s August Submittal. I see that some of the questions raised in my previous letter were also commented by staff and other agencies, however, I did not see where the impact of construction on the adjacent neighborhoods is addressed in the attachments to the previous meeting minutes.
Based on comments at the meeting it was clear to me the Applicant has no intention of disturbing its own Park operations during construction nor did they seem concerned about how construction work will impact adjacent neighborhoods. Incorporating neighborhood concerns should be equally aggressive and intentional. This is a serious issue for those of us experiencing the Foothill construction operation.
From my own observations, and mentioned by a resident at the meeting, based on the progress of the Foothill Crossing construction project next door to Crozet Park, it seems that it is considered acceptable by County Staff, the Applicant and its Designer to stage dump trucks and turn them around on neighborhood roads. It appears it is also acceptable to put Porto-johns in front of neighbor homes and Site Debris Management areas close to neighboring homes. The Foothill Crossing construction project plans include no requirement to stage construction vehicles within the Construction Site verses outside of the Construction site which makes the work more disruptive than it should be and is, frankly, inconsiderate.
Staff and agency comments did not address this at all – maybe it is beyond their purviews. The construction impact of these Projects/Developments can be mitigated, but planning for it has be intentional and should be seriously considered during early reviews. The manner in which the current Foothills Crossing construction work has been handled did not consider how it is disturbing neighbors in Parkside Village and along Hilltop Road. Construction impacts for this Project can be mitigated very cost effectively but they have to be planned just as intentionally as the applicant has – and some agency has to advocate for that.
Lastly, it was unclear at the community meeting what information Staff reviewed relative to the use of the Emergency Access Road entrance to Hilltop Road in the future. The Designer said it would only be used for large events while the Applicant indicated they would not accept any limitations on how they might use it. The VDOT Comments are also unclear on whether they reviewed the improvements as an Emergency Access road or a two way Entrance to the Park. This is a very serious issue for a lot of reasons – the Hilltop Road entrance sight distances, bus stops, traffic build up, sequence with the development of neighborhood infrastructure (future roads) to Downtown Crozet – and how all of this impacts the adjacent neighborhoods. I am looking forward to additional project information and a chance to review the Applicants response and comments.
There is a lot here. Take the time to read and digest.
Crozet Park is planning to move forward with a Special Use Permit application for their massive plans.
As a neighbor, it would have been neat if they’d told us. Below is a very detailed letter from a neighbor immediately adjacent. I’d encourage you to take the time to read it all, and then
attend the public hearing on 23 October. * And the CCAC will be discussing this at 7pm on the 14th.
This is the sort of work and oversight citizens need to do.
Without my neighbor bringing this to my attention, I’d have had no idea, and I try to stay aware of things. Lots jumped out in his letter, including “This application proposes to take the total impervious (paved area) to something over 7 of the park’s 22 acres.“
A few relevant links to the project
- Claudius Crozet Park Public Info site
- Claudius Crozet Park Special Use Application
- Claudius Crozet Park Project Narrative & Conditions (read this)
- Link to Albemarle County Code Section 18-5.1.4, Supplementary Regulations for Community center
- Link to Albemarle County Code Section 18-5.1.16, Supplementary Regulations for swimming, golf, tennis clubs
Background on the Park’s Plans
Letter from a neighbor
We live in the Parkside Village development in Crozet. We received a letter from your office (undated) on October 6, 2020 regarding SP2020-16 Claudius Crozet Park Community Meeting. (Jim’s note: here’s the letter)
We have read the application for the Special Use Permit and have a number of questions that we would like to have addressed publicly but more generally the letter is a bit confusing about what the purpose of the October 14 meeting versus the October 23 questions and comments deadline which are both noted in your letter. It would be helpful to understand the difference between these time frames. Is one an info session while the other is an official public comment deadline?
We’d like to start by saying that we raised our family next to Crozet Park and for nearly 20 years we benefited from it in countless ways. I was also personally involved in improving the existing athletic facility and installation of the dome when it was first managed by the YMCA. We have found that the park has remained focused on being a great asset for everybody in the area and being a good neighbor.
Unfortunately we have also watched firsthand the development of Foothill Crossing in our backyard. That project has been poorly communicated, implemented without consideration for the neighbors it is impacting and, frankly, includes aspects that were not fully divulged and understood. We can only blame ourselves that we were not more involved during the review processes for that project.
We include the above explanation because we understand that we are in a development area and expect that Crozet will continue to grow and become more populated and we also expect, as long time contributors to the park and the area, to be treated like neighbors, a valuable asset, when changes are implemented. So receiving an undated letter about a meeting in eight days was a bit of a surprise.
Specific comments/questions about the Special Use Permit ApplicationContinue reading “Staying Aware of Crozet Park’s Massive Plans”
Update: Crozet Gazette has a story.
Update 2: Good conversation, lots of questions, and some answers, at Nextdoor. This is a great example of how detrimental these platforms are that are locked behind walled gardens that require membership/login. These discussions should be freely available.
As of 1 March, 2020 things change at Crozet Park.
Read the letter from Crozet Park.
Crozet Park Aquatic & Fitness Center
The Claudius Crozet Park Board of Directors is pleased to announce their partership with the Atlantic Coast Athletic Club (ACAC) to begin operating the Park’s aquatic and fitness center starting April 1, 2020. Although we are stlll working out many of the details preparing for this transition, we are providing this Q&A to help answer many of your questions. More information can also be found by reading the latest article in the Crozet Gazette. Until March 1, 2020 members should continue to use the Crozet YMCA website to find out about current programs and schedules.
Q: What will happen to my current Crozet YMCA membership?
A: Your current YMCA membership will not change between now and March 1, 2020. Following March 1, 2020, members will be offered the opportunity to retain their Crozet facility membership by joining the Crozet Park Aquatic & Fitness Center operated by ACAC. ACAC will offer membership at the same Crozet YMCA membership rates.
Q: Can I still use the Crozet Park facility during the month of March?
A: Our understanding is that the YMCA will begin reducing services as early as March 1st. The Park Board and ACAC are preparing to step in and cover any degradation in services caused by the YMCA’s departure in March. This will likely include group exercise classes in the Community Building (aka radio building) on the northwest side of the Park and use of ACAC’s facility in Old Trail.
Q: What will happen to current fitness programs and staff?
A: Popular programs will continue, e.g., aquatic aerobics, and ACAC will attempt to maintain key instructors and personnel.
Q: Will my child have after-school care through June and options for summer camp?
A: Yes. The Crozet Park Aquatic & Fitness Center operated by ACAC intends to offer after-school care and summer camps under the ACAC brand and we are really looking forward to seeing how creative they can get to maximize the use and benefit of our 22 beautiful acres. The Park Board will work to ensure that there is no interruption in after school care for those families currently enrolled in the YMCA afterschool care program at the Park.
Q: What will happen to swim programs including year-round competitive swimming?
A: The Crozet Gators Swim Team and the Western Albemarle High School Swim Team will not be affected by this change in operator. And, it is our intent that year-round swimming will be offered without interruption. Whether that is an expansion of the ACAC program, a continuation of the CYAC program, or an entirely new Crozet based year-round team, or some combination of the three, is yet to be determined.
Q: Should we build a competitive swim program based in Crozet?
A: Crozet based CYAC swimmers eventually age out of the Crozet program and must swim in downtown Charlottesville if they wish to continue to compete in high school. This can put a lot of strain on kids and families trying to balance school and family time with competitive swimming and several hours a week of driving into Charlottesville. A Crozet-based program that allows our local teens to continue to swim year-round in Crozet would be an added benefit the community.
Q: Will the Crozet Park Aquatic & Fitness Center operated by ACAC offer needs-based scholarships?
A: Yes. We are currently working on details to offer the same or more scholarships to those who qualify.
Q: Will the Crozet Park Board continue to pursue a facility expansion?
A: Yes. The Park Board will continue planning this facility over the next 12 -18 months. Because we are requesting County funding to build this facility, the Park Board is committed to a competitive bid process to choose an operator for this facility. When the time is right, the Park Board will issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) and welcomes all organizations to bid including, the Piedmont Family YMCA and ACAC.
Q: Why did the YMCA elect not to renew their lease to operate the current facility?
A: The YMCA was unwilling to operate the current facility without a long-term commitment from the Park to operate a new facility when built. That long-term commitment entailed a multi-decade ground lease similar to what the YMCA has with the City and County for their Brooks facility at McIntire Park. From the Park’s perspective, this was an unreasonable demand. The YMCA wanted the Park to take on all the debt and fundraising for a new facility and then lease it to the YMCA for decades for a nominal amount like their Brooks facility at about $1 a year, without any competing bids from other operators. From a financial perspective, that is just not feasible for the Park and from the perspective of our Charter, it would not be the right thing for the community. The Park Board was willing to entertain other arrangements, but the YMCA refused to negotiate further.
Q: Why can’t the Park Board offer a ground lease similar to McIntire Park to build Brooks?
A: McIntire Park is a public park funded entirely with taxpayer dollars. The YMCA built the Brooks Family facility and is now servicing the debt on that construction through revenue from membership and other programs. Claudius Crozet Park is not a publicly owned park. It is a non-profit organization with a charter to provide low cost recreational amenities to the community. If the Park builds a new facility, it too will need to service debt through revenue earned in the facility. To give all of that revenue to the YMCA and receive only nominal rent for an extended ground lease would make servicing the construction debt impossible. What the construction will cost, how it will be structured and what the income stream requirements will be to maintain this new facility are not yet known. The YMCA’s requirement that the Park commit to a long-term structured ground lease before the effects of that structure can even be assessed would pose an unreasonable risk to the financial solvency of the Park and therefore would violate the fiduciary responsibilities of the Park Board.
We are just a few days out from our 2nd annual Winter Brews Festival this Saturday, December 7th from 11AM — 5PM with our after-party at Starr Hill Brewery starting at 8PM.
This year’s Brews Fest includes 18 breweries, a winter market, food trucks, a smore’s bar (I’m not kidding) with all the fixings, and games for both adults and children. As you know, putting on a great festival takes many, many volunteers and we are still in need of a few more.
Would you please help us find these last few volunteers by distributing this link to your respective groups:
All volunteers get a free pass into the festival. We are especially in need of volunteers from 3PM — 5PM to help sell tickets and pour beer for breweries who were unable to send a representative.
*Links & bolding added by Jim.
Crozet resident and park board member Drew Holzwarth unveiled big plans for Claudius Crozet Park at the August 21 Board of Supervisors meeting, launching a push for a major expansion to existing facilities in the park. “There is a critical need for additional indoor recreation space in the county, and this is an opportunity for us to build a truly transformative facility for county residents,” said Holzwarth.
The proposed expansion envisions a new 47,000-square-foot facility, to include a multi-purpose gym, fitness and wellness areas, an indoor track, a community room, a stay and play area and more. The Claudius Crozet Park (CCP) board hopes to fund the $6.5 million project via a public/private partnership with Albemarle County, in which the county would contribute $2.4 million over the next two years.
The CCP board’s plan would build an indoor recreation space with a footprint slightly larger than the Brooks YMCA in Charlottesville that will serve all ages.From the Crozet Gazette
*speaking as a neighbor, I remember a time when developers would talk to neighbors. Disappointing.
From the Albemarle County School Board agenda for 8 August 2019 at 6:30pm (bolding mine)
Claudius Crozet Park is a 22 acre community non-profit recreational facility open to all. It is managed by Claudius Crozet Park, Inc., a non-profit organization managed by volunteers. Currently, the Park’s Board is in the planning phases of an expanded and updated facility to meet the needs of the growing community. The park is soliciting private donations but they will also be requesting partial funding from the Board of Supervisors later this month.
The new Crozet Park Aquatics and Fitness Center will feature a gymnasium, indoor walking track, fitness areas and community rooms. A key component of the facility is space for after-school and summer programming. Currently, the YMCA leases the existing building and offers programming to only 27 students as it is limited by available space. The new facility will offer space for a program that could serve as many as 300 students.
Affordable, quality after-school care is in great demand throughout the county including the Western Feeder Pattern. There are currently 123 students on the wait lists for the Extended Day Enrichment Program (EDEP) at the four western feeder pattern elementary schools. That figure does not include families who do not apply because they cannot afford the program. As documented in the 2017 program evaluation of EDEP and subsequent Board conversations since, increased access to after-school care opportunities is needed.
The Park Board is seeking a letter of support demonstrating the need for increased after school opportunities before it goes before the Board of Supervisors on August 21st.
On Saturday, April 13th from 8AM to 1:00PM, Crozet Park will host its sixth annual Pitch-in at the Park. This event brings together volunteers throughout the community and makes it possible to complete many of the Park’s 2019 maintenance activities. For each activity tools are provided along with any applicable instruction. Volunteers should bring work gloves, hat and sun screen. Water is provided. Lunch is provided to ALL volunteers.
Pitch-in at the Park is an opportunity to engage local residents to work side-by-side to help maintain our community-owned park. This is a significant effort and we need everyone’s help. Please sign-up at: http://crozetpark.org/volunteering