I thought about titling this story, “Trees Gone, Why Were We Surprised?” But that felt click-baity.
From a neighbor and guest author*:
When the clearing for Foothill Crossing began along Parkside Village and Crozet Park a few weeks ago, we watched close-up as the woods began to disappear in such a grinding, brutal fashion. But the fact was we knew that it was going to happen one day as progress and development continues in Crozet and Albemarle.
We were, however, surprised by the number of trees that were cleared right down to the Stream. We had always understood that a 100 ft buffer was to be maintained on both sides of this Creek.
We contacted Frank Pohl with the county engineer’s office about the clearing and he responded quickly and directly, sending an inspector out to the site. He confirmed that too many trees had in fact been cut down and that Erosion and Tree protection had not been installed. The contractor was notified of the violations and the required remediation.
This brought our attention to the plans/drawings that the County makes available on their website. After spending more time reviewing those plans supplemented with the approved Erosion and Sediment Control drawings, we realized that a 20 FT. wide, 82,000 lb. rated Access Road over a simple 36’ concrete pipe culvert is planned to cross the Creek.
According to the plans, this same Road is alternately labeled and identified in a number of ways:
1. Paved Emergency Access . . .,
2. Access Road to be extended to Park Ridge drive until roadway infrastructure for Foothills Phase II is complete,
3. Proposed 20’ Asphalt Emergency Access and Bicycle /Pedestrian Access. , and 4. Detailed in an equally broad “Asphalt Paving – Emergency Access Road & Pedestrian/Bicycle Pathway & TOT Lot/SWM Access Pathway. Mr. Pohl also clarified that while the road was not currently approved as a Construction Access road for Foothill Phase II, he did not see why that could change in the future.
We have expressed our disappointment with the fact that the Stream Buffer had been compromised so easily for such an unclear purpose. The drawings also appear to go out of their way to downplay the Installation of this Road.
Certainly there is an emotional reaction when development occurs “nextdoor” – just like it did for local residents with the development and construction of our house.
It has raised these questions for us –
Did we pay enough attention when the plans were first proposed?
Is the County and Planning commission in tune with the impacts of these aggressive Developments on its neighbors?
Does the contractor/developer think about people when they stage/setup the most disruptive of their work alongside our neighbors when they have acres of options?
I’ve said it before, that being a citizen is hard. Knowing what is happening next door to you is important. Knowing what is happening in your community is important too. You may live near Chiles Orchard or Old Trail, or down Miller School Road, but these trees and developments affect you, too.
If you have other links, tools, tips about how to get involved or research, please share!
Update: here are some ideas!
You could try talking to your neighbors.
Maybe identify one per month to watch the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, CCAC meetings, and any other relevant ones, and then write something on a blog somewhere.
My opinion: Nextdoor & Facebook are not great for sharing information because those are walled gardens, closed sites, and are not searchable by search engines.
Heck, I’ll create a page or a section here on RealCrozetVA if anyone wants to take up this idea for your neighborhood. Then you can send the link to your neighborhood and it can be shared and searched for posterity. Let me know if you’re interested.
That should not have been a surprise to anyone who knows a) Crozet is a growth area and b) knows to look at the Crozet Master Plan. If you’re curious if those trees are going to stay, the answer is probably “no.” But get curious; investigate for yourself. And then talk to your neighbors.
*re: the “guest author”: I know them, they’re neighbors.
The Master Plan contains a future land use map and a table describing the various land use categories. The idea is that these documents provide a legal basis for the county to evaluate landowner requests for zoning changes and to make changes to zoning regulations. During the presentation, Knuppel highlighted a specific property—White Gate Farm—for which county staff recommended an increase in housing density.
White Gate Farm is a 12-acre parcel on Rt. 240 between Wickham Pond and Western Ridge which is currently classified as rural green space in the 2010 Master Plan. The property owners have requested that its designation be re-evaluated for the 2020 Master Plan, as they are unable to build on the land in any way under current zoning. (See nearby map.)
The proposed project will be called Old Dominion Village and lays out plans for 101 townhouses and 14 single-family detached homes on the combined 24-acre expanse. The current Crozet Master Plan designates Dr. Schulman’s property as 4.5 acres Urban Density Residential, 10 acres Neighborhood Density Residential, 5.5 acres Greenspace, and 4 acres Rural Agricultural. The Urban and Neighborhood classifications allow 12 and 6 units per acre, respectively. Old Dominion Village is requesting a zoning change to “Neighborhood Model” for all 24 acres.
Neither parcel is included in the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) jurisdictional area for water service (though the Vet Center itself is currently connected to county water). Thus, an application to add the parcels to the ACSA service area will also be submitted for county approval along with the zoning request. Since a majority of the land in question is below the elevation of Rt. 240, a private gravity sewer system and pump station will have to be designed and installed to serve the development.
The Western Albemarle Rescue Squad plans to build a new station on two lots in downtown Crozet that it has purchased from lifelong Crozetian Sandy Wilcox. Though only a quarter-mile south of its current location on Crozet Avenue across from Green House Coffee, the squad’s new spot behind the Blue Goose Building will give it room to expand and better access to area residents who need their help.
Crozet resident Hanna Clark has launched an online petition aimed at stopping the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) from constructing a raw water pipeline along the boundaries of her family’s property. A recent WAHS graduate, Clark has lived on land bordering Beaver Creek Reservoir for 17 years and was shocked when her parents received notice from the RWSA that crews would be surveying the property this summer to determine a potential path to connect the pipeline between a pump station in the reservoir and the Crozet Water Treatment Plant.
The Albemarle County School Board voted 4-3 to offer solely online learning for the vast majority of public school students for the first nine weeks of school beginning September 8. In-person instruction inside school buildings will be limited to students who are English language learners (in grades 4-12), those with special education needs, and those who lack adequate internet access at home. All other students will receive virtual instruction in various forms both synchronously (“live” with an online teacher) and asynchronously (via recorded videos and online assignments).
I put Green Olive Tree in the title, as that’s an area that most people can reference. It’s close, though. I could have said, “near the new car wash,” or “the veterinarian” but there are two veterinarians on 240, with those being different parts of 240.
And I can’t find anything in the news or on the County’s site about the results of the meeting. *Update below
Also, submit comments at this link until I think 17 August (watch the video to confirm).
That said, from the public notice of last week’s meeting (bolding mine)
We, Meridian Planning Group,invite you to share comments and ask questions regarding our request to rezone the parcels described below from Rural Area (RA) to Neighborhood Model (NMD). The project incudes (sic) 101 townhomes, 14 single family detached homes and will (sic) the Crozet Veterinary Clinic will remain as a commercial use. This proposed project is located at 5258 Three Notch’d Road (TMP 0560-00-00-74A0) and 1263 Parkview Drive (TMP 056-00-00-067B0).
Crozet Fireworks were canceled. Trains were quiet. Power was out. Very few had generators, so Crozet was quiet.
The Derecho was 8 years ago. A storm came, ripped off shingles, knocked out power for a week, it was freaking hot, trees were down everywhere. Crozet Fire Department was distributing water. It was so hot.
The people at Mudhouse were manually grinding coffee, music was playing on a radio, and they were boiling water on their gas stove to make the community coffee.
Facebook was already awful, and Twitter was already better for rapid information dissemination.
Two Crozet beekeepers will share their experiences and lessons learned with their honeybees over the years in a lighthearted talk at Crozet Artisan Depot on March 14 from 11:00am-12:00pm. If you are curious about the importance of bees, love honey, thinking about getting into beekeeping, or in the midst of a personal crisis with your bees, come in for a lively talk about the peaks and valleys of beekeeping and sample some local honey. This event is presented in the historic Crozet train depot, 5791 Three Notch’d Road, and is part of Second Saturday Crozet, a community-wide day of arts events in the Crozet area.
Ian Henry has been involved with bees all his life and is active with the VA State Beekeepers Association, the Central VA Beekeepers Association, and the Eastern Apicultural Society. He rescues bees, collects swarms, and mentors other beekeepers. Buzz Barnett is relatively new to beekeeping but has been stung many times. Though he received his nickname as an infant, he didn’t realize his connection to bees until 7 years ago when he founded Jarmans Gap Apiary. “Buzz’s Best Honey” is produced just outside Crozet.
Crozet Artisan Depot is a hub for the artist community of central Virginia, representing more than 80 regional artisans. For more information: www.crozetartisandepot.com or www.facebook.com/crozetartisandepot.
Terra Voce, one of Virginia’s musical gems, thrills audiences with lively concert programs that explore a colorful array of musical styles from Baroque to tango. Local musicians Elizabeth Brightbill, flute and Andrew Gabbert, cello will play selections from their acclaimed CDs as well as new arrangements!
Crozet Artisan Depot is a hub for the artisan community of central VA, representing over 80 artists and crafters showcased in the historic Crozet Train Depot. Open Mon-Sat 10-5, Sunday 12-5. www.crozetartisandepot.com
Claudius Crozet Park is excited to announce the return of the Crozet Winter Brews Festival, a celebration of dark beers from Virginia brewers! Join us December 7, 2019 on the Park Festival Grounds in historic Crozet, VA.
The 2nd Annual Crozet Winter Brews Fest is presented by Starr-Hill Brewery and will feature 16+ Breweries, over 30 brews to sample, musical performances by Lord Nelson and Matthew O’Donnell’s Blue Ridge Bards, Food Trucks, a heated Starr-Hill Lounge, a Winter Market, and more!
All proceeds benefit Crozet Park, a 501(c)3 non-profit charity and our mission of affordable recreation to all.
The Angels are registered, and we are ready to go!
We are once again coordinating Angel Tree with the four public schools here in Western Albemarle. …
Total Angels on List: 235
Last Year: 228
Angel information sheets are now available. Our focus is on needed items such as clothing, coats, shoes, winter accessories, etc. Please consider partnering with us and sponsoring an angel, or a family of angels. This is a great project to do with your children or at your place of employment. UNWrapped gifts are due to Crozet Baptist Church on Wednesday, December 4th by 5 pm.
Please contact Tracey Pugh at [email protected] to find out more about this wonderful program, or to request an angel.
Thanks, Joe, for taking the time to write the following. For some quick background, here’s the last CCAC meeting. I highly encourage, ask, implore all to read this to understanding how funding our schools works – costs, timelines, voices. It’s a lot to digest, and hopefully you can read it before next important CIP meeting on 22 October.
By Joe Fore
On Tuesday, October 15, the Albemarle Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Advisory Committee held its first meeting to discuss which capital projects—long-term infrastructure investments, like buildings, roads, and new equipment—the Board of Supervisors should fund over the next five years.
I attended the meeting because I was interested in one project in particular: the expansion of Crozet Elementary. Both the School Board and Board of Supervisors have prioritized the project a way to alleviate the severe overcrowding at Brownsville and Crozet Elementary. The Crozet Community Advisory Committee (on which I serve) also recently adopted a resolution urging officials to fund the project. I was eager to see whether the Crozet Elementary expansion would continue to get the same level of support it’s received so far. I was also hoping that there would be an opportunity for public comment so that I could share the CCAC’s resolution.
But before I give my thoughts on the meeting, it’s important to give just a bit of background on the CIP process and how we got here. (Those interested in a TL;DR version of the meeting can check out my Twitter thread summarizing the meeting in a shorter format.)
The CIP Process and the Advisory Committee’s Role
Tuesday’s meeting was just one part of a much larger budgeting process to decide which of the County’s capital projects get funded over the next 5 years (FY21-25). Here’s a flowchart/timeline of the full process:
The CIP Advisory Committee is represented by that green box in the middle. As you can see, there’s a lot that preceded this meeting and a lot that’s yet to happen after the Advisory Committee finishes its work. But the Advisory Committee is a crucial gatekeeper in the process because the committee will recommend the final slate of projects that will then go to the Board of Supervisors for approval.
Again, though, the Advisory Committee’s work comes in the middle of the process; it’s not just dreaming up projects and funding amounts out of thin air. The Advisory Committee relies on inputs from the Board of Supervisors and the School Board. More specifically, the Advisory Committee has two key constraints that it’s working with: (1) the total amount of money available, and (2) the list of possible projects that the Advisory Committee can choose from.
The Money: $55 million for FY21-25
The first key constraint, of course, is money. After all, if there were an unlimited amount of money, there’d be no need to pick and choose among various projects; they’d all get funded. But that’s not the case. And where does the money come from? In Albemarle County, around 2/3 of the County’s revenues come from property taxes. So if the County wants to spend more to invest in infrastructure projects, it has to raise property taxes—specifically, real estate taxes.
As I learned at Tuesday’s meeting, though, the actual amount that the Advisory Committee can use to build its list of recommended projects is only $55 million—not the full $61 million. Why? Because the Advisory Committee is only looking at projects for 2021-2025, not through 2027, as the Board of Supervisor’s funding scenarios show. As a result, the Advisory Committee can only recommend a slate of projects that totals $55 million or less.
The List of Potential Projects
Because there’s a limited amount of money available, the CIP Advisory Committee must select certain projects to recommend for funding. Where did the list of possible projects come from? Over the past year or so, the Board of Supervisors and the School Board each independently created its own list of capital improvement projects that those groups wanted to see funded.
The School Board’s list was generated by the School Board’s Long-Range Planning Advisory Committee, which spent 18 months analyzing the County’s long-term school needs and issued a final report in July 2019. That report recommended an ambitious slate of 10 CIP projects—totaling more than $100 million—for the School Board to present to the Board of Supervisors for funding. The report singled out the tremendous growth and overcrowding at Brownsville and Crozet Elementary and recommended a $20.4 million expansion for Crozet Elementary as a way to alleviate the overcrowding at both schools. Although other projects relating to safety, technology, and accessibility were ranked higher overall, the Crozet Elementary expansion project was the School Board’s #1 capacity-related project. (In terms of Crozet-area projects, renovations at Western Albemarle were also recommended—though they were given lower priority.)
Then, last month, the School Board and Board of Supervisors held a joint meeting, to discuss the priorities that each group had developed and to create a combined list of priorities. During that meeting, the members of each board arranged themselves into three smaller working “teams.” Each of these teams created a ranked list of ten projects that included projects from both the School Board and Board of Supervisors list. County staff then arranged the projects based on which had received the highest rankings from the three teams.
When the results were tallied, four projects received consistent, high rankings from all three teams:
Economic development funds for public-private partnerships
Cale Elementary expansion project
Crozet Elementary expansion
Below this “Top 4” were an assortment of other projects—including school technology, environmentally-conscious initiatives, water-related projects, and other school renovations—that received widely varying levels of support.
The CIP Advisory Committee’s job, therefore, is to take this list of projects and—within that $55 million funding cap set by the Board of Supervisors—present a list of recommended projects to the Board for discussion and approval.
The Advisory Committee’s First Meeting
That brings us to Tuesday’s meeting of the CIP Advisory Committee. Here are my impressions of the meeting and how things look moving forward—particularly for the Crozet Elementary project. The bottom line is that the Crozet Elementary expansion is certainly being recognized as a critical project. But its relatively large cost compared to the available funds make it a potential target to be reduced in scope. And, more generally, I think the meeting revealed important, broader points about the County’s overall level of capital funding (it’s not enough) and the timeline for public participation in the process (it started way before this meeting).
1. This meeting was planning and overview; next meeting (October 22) is the crucial one. I’ll be honest: even for a budgeting meeting, Tuesday’s meeting was a bit boring. Informative, but boring. No real decisions got made. Instead, the meeting was largely about (a) reviewing the budgeting process, (b) explaining the Advisory Committee’s role, and (c) devising a plan for the group’s subsequent meetings. The discussion generally avoided mentioning specific projects, although there were comments that provided some insight into members’ thinking (as I’ll explain in #2). The next meeting—Tuesday, October 22, 2-4 pm, County Office Building—is where the rubber will meet the road.
2. The Crozet Elementary expansion is being taken seriously, but it may be in danger of being reduced in scale. Here’s the good news: the Crozet Elementary expansion is nestled safely among the Top 4 projects that were clearly set apart as the highest priorities by the Board of Supervisors and School Board. And, at Tuesday’s meeting, it seemed like members of the Advisory Committee generally agreed that their recommendations should reflect the rankings that were generated by the two Boards at their joint meeting.
Now, if they really wanted to remain faithful to the School Board/Board of Supervisor rankings, the Advisory Committee members could just start at the top of the list and work their way down—funding projects until they hit the $55 million cap. Well, guess what you get if you add up the cost of the Top 4 projects? $54.9 million. So the Advisory Committee could make its next meeting a short one by signing off on those four projects and calling it a day. But it may not be that easy.
Two of the “Top 4” projects—Transportation leveraging & Crozet Elementary—would take up $45.4 million out of a possible $55 million. And during the meeting, some members asked about whether the larger projects were “scalable.” I interpreted that as, essentially, asking whether the Crozet Elementary project could be adjusted in scope—funding the project, but at a reduced level—as a way of freeing up some money for some of the smaller (and lower-ranked) projects. I don’t know how “scalable” the Crozet Elementary project is, but if it is, I suspect some committee members may be interested in recommending that.
(It’s also possible that the Advisory Committee could reduce the amount earmarked for transportation leveraging, since that’s actually the largest single project—$25 million out of $55 million. But because funds allocated for that get matched by the state, it seems they would be somewhat less eager to take from that pot.)
3. The County needs more money for capital projects—which, realistically, means a higher real estate tax rate. For me, one of the clearest takeaways from this process is: there’s simply not enough money for the important capital projects that the County needs. And the tax-rate increases that the Board of Supervisors is willing to support just aren’t going to get us there anytime soon.
The prioritized list of projects created by the Board of Supervisors and School Board totaled $121 million—roughly twice the amount the Board of Supervisors was willing to raise to cover capital projects over the next seven years ($61 million). And that list is only a partial list of the broader range of capital projects that the School Board and Board of Supervisors want to fund. For example, remember that the School Board’s full list of suggested capital projects—just for the School Board—was over $100 million. I suppose it’s possible that some of these projects are just plain-old wastes of money. But looking at the list that the Advisory Committee is working off of, I don’t see a lot of vanity projects; I see basic infrastructure—roads, schools, drainage and water quality, waste-management facilities, greenways—that is necessary to support a clean, vibrant, and growing community.
Realistically, it seems the only way to generate the money to fund these projects is to increase real estate property taxes. Look, no one likes to pay more taxes. But, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”
And here’s the thing: it wouldn’t cost that much more to take care of our needs—or, at least, more of our needs. For example, if the Board of Supervisors had chosen the highest funding scenario, “Level 3,” it would have generated over $100 million for capital funding over the next seven years, rather than the $61 million currently available. That would be enough to take care of almost all the projects on the prioritized list (except the high school renovations). How much would that have cost homeowners? An extra 5.5-7 cents in tax rate. For someone with a $300,000 home, that’s an increase of around $180 a year. $15 a month. 50 cents a day.
Ultimately, when it comes to infrastructure, you get what you pay for—in the form of taxes. And right now, Albemarle County residents aren’t getting as much as we need.
4. It’s probably too late for the public to have much meaningful impact on this round of CIP priorities. One frustrating thing happened at the very beginning of the meeting: the audience was told that there would be no opportunity for public input. This was particularly irksome, since I was specifically there to share a resolution passed by the Crozet Community Advisory Committee expressing our support for the Crozet Elementary expansion and urging the County to fully fund the project. Our White Hall supervisor, Ann Mallek, helpfully pointed out that members of the public could provide written input, and I did take the opportunity to present the CCAC’s resolution supporting the Crozet Elementary project to the staff in attendance.
I’m a huge believer in public participation in local government. And I certainly don’t want to discourage people from attending meetings and making their voices heard. But, at this point, final CIP priority list has largely already been set by (a) the amount of CIP money available, as set by the Board of Supervisors and (b) the priority list decided upon by the Board of Supervisors and the School Board at September’s joint meeting. Each of those things was decided at least a month before Tuesday’s meeting, and those decisions were based on input and discussions that took place even earlier.
Now, to be sure, if the Advisory Committee goes off the rails and jettisons the Crozet Elementary project altogether or slashes its funding drastically, then the community should certainly object loudly and often to the Board of Supervisors. But it seems unlikely that the Board of Supervisors will be willing to do much tinkering with the nuts and bolts of the CIP recommendation—not after the Advisory Committee’s coordinated with County staff to do the hard work of considering all of the various scenarios and making a final recommendation.
So just like with the funding point, there’s a larger takeaway here: The time to advocate for capital projects is EARLY. For example, let’s say, hypothetically, that you wanted to push for a new elementary school in the Crozet area, rather than expanding Crozet. When should you have done that? Not at Tuesday’s meeting. Too late. Not at last month’s Board of Supervisors/School Board meeting. Too late. You’d have had to probably start advocating for that before the School Board’s Long-Range Planning Advisory Committee sometime in 2018 (18 months ago), when that committee started its own planning process that then filtered up to the School Board and then to the joint Board of Supervisors/School Board meeting. But at this point—when the Advisory Committee is sitting down to do its work—we’re simply too late in the process to have a meaningful impact on the capital projects that will get funded for the next few years.
So if there are capital projects that the Crozet community really wants to see done (like Eastern Avenue, Western Park, the Crozet Park recreational facility, or an entirely new elementary school) it’s critical to really start pushing for those projects with the School Board and the Board of Supervisors now—not because they’ll be funded this go-round, but, rather, in the hopes that they will percolate up to future CIP funding cycles years from now. As the old proverb says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”
Final thoughts from Jim
The timelines for this stuff are infuriating, but a key takeaway is that our government demands patience, persistence, and being present, at damn near every opportunity. Those who show up and advocate for the things are the ones who get the things. As was suggested somewhat offhand at the last CCAC meeting, maybe we need a Crozet lobbyist, to simply go to all of these meetings and push for more funding for our schools. I genuinely don’t know the answers, but I know that without proper funding for our schools, with a plan that looks beyond 5 years- and plans to fund the things that we – our community, our kids, our society – need, we are in a world of trouble.
Art on the Trax is pleased to welcome back local artist, Linda Verdery. Her show, “A Mind of Seasons,” will be on display at Art on the Trax for the month of October. About her work: “I try to reach beyond my eye alone to respond to a subject’s mood, atmosphere or even narrative. Sometimes favorite objects or places suggest memories I wish to hold on to. For landscapes, I only paint places I know well. Abstracts come from a perception that is distilled. Stylistically, I let the subject determine the approach. Starting with knives, I apply large swaths of color and then plan the color notes and opening gestures. I draw and redraw, scrape and scrub. My process seems to require missteps and I enjoy the redos, letting the act of painting just take over. In my studio are always three or four paintings in process and more are left to face the wall.”
The artist reception will be held during SecondSaturday, on October 12th from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. This reception is part of Crozet’s SecondSaturday events. We will be serving up The Art Box’s famous ice cream sundaes topped with fruit from local orchards. This exhibit is free and on view for the month of October. Art on the Trax is located at Creative Framing and The Art Box, across from the Old Crozet Train Station, at 5784 Three Notch’d Road in Crozet, Virginia.