The Crozet Trails Crew has been nominated again this year as The Starr Hill Cheers for Charity group for the month of April. The Crew will receive a $1 for every pint of LOVE beer sold during that time. Please come out and support the trails and enjoy some delicious LOVE beer. A definite Win/Win for everyone! Hope to see you on the Trails and at Starr Hill. If you can’t make it to the taproom, you can also contribute to our fund through PayPal.
We, the undersigned, express our support for the construction of the Western Park located in Crozet, Virginia, and the action to be taken by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to authorize the release of Proffered Funds and leverage additional funds to launch the Western Park project.
Albemarle County Parks and Recreation Staff have recently recommended a multi-phased approach to the development of Western Park. An initial step, described as Phase 1-ASAP would provide playground equipment and landscape/site improvements. Additional work to further develop Park facilities would occur as funds are available.
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.
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.
[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.
The bridge work was supposed to have been done in a couple years, and now it looks like next year.
“Alternative B: The second alternative involves a phased approach to construction. The bridge would be reduced to one lane and two-way traffic would be controlled by a temporary traffic signal for at least eight months. Drivers would experience delays near the bridge site especially during rush hour with this alternative.”
“This is no longer the Crozet Master Plan; this is now the Planning Commission and staff master plan, because we voted against the middle density, and here we are back with it again,” (Tom Loach) said.
These meetings are extremely important. I’ll pay someone to tweet this meeting. Please text me – 434-242-7140
The only thing of consequence on the agenda:
4. Master Plan Discussion: Land Use (60 minutes)
The Crozet Community Advisory Committee will meet this Wednesday, March 10, at 7 p.m. on Zoom to continue our discussion of the land use updates recommended by county staff for the current Crozet Master Plan revision. The agenda is attached. If you would like to read over the working draft of the land use chapter ahead of the meeting, it is available for download here.
Join the zoom at this link. Additional instructions for participating are included on the agenda.
I hope you can join us for this important discussion! Please let me know if you have any comments or questions.
Crozet Community Advisory Committee Wednesday, March 10, 2021 7:00 P.M. – 8:30 P.M. Virtual Meeting
This meeting is being held pursuant to and in compliance with Ordinance No. 20-A (16); An Ordinance to Ensure the Continuity of Government During the Covid-19 Disaster.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS MEETING ONLINE:
Download Zoom. Use this link https://albemarle-org.zoom.us/j/94571782297 to join the webinar.
Dial (301) 715-8592. Type in the Webinar ID 945 7178 2297 followed by the pound (#) sign. If you have any questions, please email [email protected]
Call to Order & Agenda Review (3 minutes) Allie Pesch, CCAC Chair
I hope that this email finds you well and that you and your families are enjoying the nice, warm weather that we’ve had this week! It has been awhile since I last provided you all with an update on the Crozet ES project, and I wanted to take this opportunity to do so, as well as make you aware of some work that will be happening early next week. I apologize in advance for the lengthy email, but I hope you find it helpful.
Also, please feel free to forward this to anyone else in the community that may be interested. I sent to everyone in the nearby area that I have an email for, but there are many that I do not. If there are individuals or neighbors that did not get my original email and would like to be included in future correspondence, please have them reach out to me and I will add them to the distribution list!
General Project Update
Since my last update the design team was able to complete the full design of the project, and has been finalizing the site review process. Some of you may have received notifications from the Community Development Department during that process. The team expects to receive approval on the site plan in the next few weeks, as many of the various permitting agencies have already signed off on the plans, including VDOT’s approval of the proposed entrances to the site.
Currently, the project is out for bidding, with contractors’ bids due on Thursday, March 18. We currently anticipate construction starting full-time in May. From a big-picture perspective, you can expect to see work in the following areas at the approximate times (Note: These are still subject to change prior to contracting with the low bidder):
2021 Summer – Work will be focused on the east side of the parcel (behind the existing building), including construction of the new bus loop and expanded playground area. Construction will likely start on the new classroom addition to the south. Interior renovations to the school admin and library area.
2021-22 School Year – Work will continue on the new classroom addition to the south and the new kitchen addition to the north. Some targeted interior renovations when the school schedule allows. No changes to car/bus traffic circulation for this school year.
2022 Summer – Work will be focused on the west side of the parcel, including construction of the new front parking lot. Completion of the new classroom and kitchen additions. Interior HVAC renovations to existing classrooms and converting the existing kitchen to an expanded dining area.
To provide you with a brief update on the plans relative to the items that many of you have asked about in the past:
The project team removed the new classroom addition from the stream buffer in its entirety, but was unable to avoid eliminating the need for temporary access into the 50’ landward side of the buffer during construction. As we had previously indicated, the County stream buffer ordinance does authorize temporary access for construction purposes. In its final form, the project is making stormwater management enhancements that will improve the water quality compared to the site’s existing conditions.
I know that many of you asked about exterior lighting:
In the short term, some of you may have noticed that we were able to adjust the one exterior light outside the existing gym door that you had mentioned was a problem. That light has been adjusted to point down as far as the light fixture allows.
All spaces in the new addition will have motion sensors so that lights are turned off when they do not detect motion.
We are required by the building code to have egress lighting at all exits. There are 2 exits on the new addition – one on the western end of the addition and one on the eastern end.
The project has complied with the County’s lighting ordinances and review of those lighting requirements was part of the site plan review process.
There will be an expanded playground behind the school at the conclusion of the first summer. Hopefully your children and grandchildren will enjoy this expanded feature!
I think those were the major issues that we had heard about previously, but if I missed something specific that you’d like an update on, please do not hesitate to reach out. Moving forward, I will do my best to provide you with quarterly updates of our progress through the construction phase, and I will certainly communicate any special concerns ahead of time.
Geothermal Test Well Drilling Next Week
I wanted to also notify you all about some work that we will be doing next week. This project will be installing a new geothermal ground HVAC system to heat and cool the new additions, as well as large portions of the existing building. It will be the first geothermal HVAC system in a County facility!
If you are unfamiliar with these systems, there are lots of resources on the internet that explain the technology. However, the short version is that they utilize the earth’s temperature for heat exchanges (i.e. heating and cooling) since the earth’s inner temperature is always constant. A heat pump cycles water through long loops of underground pipes that then transfer heat from ambient air in the building to the ground and vice versa. Here is a great resource from the EPA’s website should you wish to learn more about these systems: https://www.epa.gov/rhc/geothermal-heating-and-cooling-technologies#Ground-Source-Heat-Pumps
The expected payback time for the system at Crozet ES is approximately 7-8 years. This represents a conservative estimate based on the data available to us at this time. Once the system is up and running, it is possible that we will see the payback period on this system reduced. You can see the long-term projected savings of this system compared to other more traditional systems that the design team considered here (the geothermal system is represented by the green line):
The County is excited about this system, as it is a big step forward in achieving the County’s Climate Action Plan. Let me know if you have any other questions about the system!
In order to better inform the contractors bidding on the project and to also adjust the design details if needed, we will be drilling two test wells next week starting on Monday and concluding on Wednesday. The wells will be 550’ deep. These wells are no different from a water well – the water from them is simply used for a purpose other than drinking water. As I am sure you are aware, drilling wells can sometimes be a noisy operation so we will stick to the following schedule for next week:
As you have previously expressed interest in the special use permit application SP2020-00016 Claudius Crozet Park (for additions to the facilities at Crozet Park), I wanted to let you know that it has been confirmed for a public hearing with the Albemarle County Planning Commission, scheduled for Tuesday, March 23, 2021, at 6:00pm. This meeting will be held virtually via Zoom. The link to the Zoom webinar can be found on the County calendar, accessed here: https://www.albemarle.org/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/1130/16.
The meeting agenda and the staff report for this project will be available on the County website at the link provided above approximately one week prior to the public hearing.
During the public hearing, there will be a portion of the meeting dedicated to allowing members of the public to speak about this project. Each speaker is limited to three (3) minutes. You are also welcome to email comments, visuals, reports, etc., to the Planning Commission in advance of the meeting. The email address for the Planning Commission is [email protected]. Emails sent to this address will go to all seven Planning Commissioners.