One of the differences between Albemarle and Greene Counties

I almost titled this post, “ARB? We don’t need no stinkin’ ARB!” But thought better of it.

Albemarle County has an Architectural Review Board that micromanages minutiae.

Greene County does not.

Both Wal-Mart and Lowe’s said they will begin building their new stores there in the spring and fall, respectively. They will serve as anchors for the Gateway Center, a new retail shopping center in Greene County.

Unlike other shopping centers, there isn’t an artist’s rendering available for the Gateway Center; the future of the site’s appearance depends on which businesses move in.

“There will be space for smaller retail stores to lease, but the exact location and design have yet to be determined,” Hughes said.

Officials know the layout of the site, said Steve Catalano, chairman of the Greene County Board of Supervisors. However, the county doesn’t have an architectural control committee.

Catalano said the board did request that the site have “a tasteful appearance.” (bolding mine)

Greene County absolutely needs these stores. The closest “big-box” stores are in Culpeper, about 45 minutes north and Charlottesville, about 20-30 minutes south. The segmentation of our region continues, and I can’t determine yet whether this is a good or a bad development.

What this does mean for certain is that traveling Route 29 is going to become even more time-consuming and frustrating.

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  1. TrvlnMn January 20, 2008 at 11:29

    Albemarle County has an Architectural Review Board that micromanages minutiae.

    Greene County does not.

    And Ruckersville looks like a collection of run down truck stops.

    I think as more and more of Greene is “developed” their ARB will take more of the hands on approach that Albemarle does. I don’t think that will happen until they get whatever number of national chains they are comfortable with, and when the number of transplants to their area increases to an amount where they care about preserving the “Look” or “Natural Appearance” of their adopted communities.

  2. Mark January 20, 2008 at 12:09

    I see no aesthetic difference between 29-North in Albemarle and 29-N in Ruckersville. I guess the Albemarle ARB is a recently formed entity?
    I grew up in Spotsylvania, where US-1 and Rt. 3 are the gold standards for ugly signage, and 29-N is not much better.
    Is the ugliness the price to pay for living in a free country? In the case of Greene, do its residents care if big signs and clashing architectural styles dot 29?
    I hate to see the ugliness driving by, but there should be some middle ground between the unbridled “do whatever you want” mentality alleged to be in effect in Greene, and the snobbishness and red tape the Albemarle-Cville ARBs create. Too much NIMBYism in CharlAlbemarle.

  3. Jim Duncan January 20, 2008 at 17:09

    Thanks for the comments.

    The only thing I’ll add is that I think that once Greene gets a solid core of “big-box” they’ll be more selective. Until then, they need what the stores provide – services and taxes – so much they’ll likely take almost whatever they can.

  4. j January 20, 2008 at 20:47

    Wow. What a cynical perspective. Do we not want Albemarle’s built environment to live up to some basic standard of aesthetic appeal? In fact, why shouldn’t we want the very best development possible for our community, rather than the “anything goes” attitude of Greene Co. officials. Developers will not provide attractive, albeit more expensive to build, developments without some authority, such as the ARB, that has the public interest in mind.

    On top of the inevitable “anywhere USA” appearance of these new big boxes are questions of whether they are really a “win” for Greene Co. citizens. How many tax dollars were forgone by Greene to attact these businesses? Will these retail jobs be better than the jobs provided by locally owned businesses that will be forced to shut their doors because they can’t compete.

    Lastly, do you really think it was any help at all for the Greene BOS to request a “tasteful appearance” from the applicant? With the economy hurting as it is, would you really expect a developer to say, “man, well, they requested street trees and attractive street lighting, (or whatever else), so I guess we better provide them.” Given the quantity of unattractive development built by developers along the 29 corridor, that would have to be the hight of naivete, if not outright cluelessness.

  5. Neil Williamson January 21, 2008 at 10:21

    Jim – I have to take exception to your assertion that the creating of additional retail opportunities in Greene County will negatively impact traffic on US 29.

    As you mention earlier in your post, Greene County residents today are forced on US 29 North or South (or 33 West) to reach a Big Box retailer. While I recognize the stores will draw from a large circle, by placing the retail where the customers live, you reduce the number of cars on US 29 and reduce the number of miles traveled to get to the retailer. The end result is a smaller carbon footprint for the environment, more convienence (less gasoline) for Greene Consumers, and increased retail tax revenue for Greene County.

    To the post regarding the loss of jobs because smaller shops can’t compete, I find small shops often change their operational dynamics when a big box moves in. This creative destruction provides innovate new approaches for service that keeps customers coming to their shops. A failure to adapting to a change in the market is the risk every businessperson takes.

    Finally regarding the aesthetic of Greene County, I have been impressed with the level of restraint Greene County has taken regarding regulating aesthetics. I find much of the newer development in Greene County to be very nice.

    Albemarle County now has 22 entrance corridors that are subject to ARB review. Are all roads entrance corridors? Greene County has chosen to focus on building positive relationships with those developing parcels to work in concert with their concepts rather than dictating to them what they are allowed to build.

    I encourage anyone with a strong stomach to listen to the podcast of the Albemarle COunty Board of Supervisors January day meeting when the Monisorri (sp?) school appealed an ARB decision to the BOS. It is rare that an applicant has the guts to appeal to the BOS (this is the first I have seen in years). Listen to the tail end of the discussion when two ARB member speak about their understanding of their role in the approval process as it relates to sustainable building.

  6. Scott January 21, 2008 at 11:55

    Neil – you are absolutely high, fooling yourself, or just plain dissembling to seriously suggest that creating more slow-speed business entrances on what is, for now, relatively free-flowing divided highway, isn’t going to create congestion and negatively impact traffic on 29 in Greene County. You must have worked for Carter Myers’ “business 29” group. What an absolute pantload.

    The congestion and bottleneck created by the growth of traffic at the Cedar Grove Rd & 29N (Food Lion) intersection is a clear demonstration proof of this. This will be one more traffic light and slow-moving bottleneck to get through; very soon, it will be faster to take I64->I81->I66 to get to Northern VA or DC.

    If, perhaps, the Greene BOS makes an access road requirement, and refuses these stores direct access to 29, then *perhaps* the worst of the traffic will be mitigated. Of course, pigs could sprout wings and take flight.

    I will say this about this schlock development: at least it will help pound the final stake through the heart of the North 29 Bypass – since by the time it’s built, it would need to bypass all of Greene County to be effective.

  7. Neil Williamson January 21, 2008 at 14:10

    Scott – I appreciate the concern, if not the tenor, of your reproach.

    I strongly suggest you check the facts about this development. The application plan as approved includes an interior access road that will help create 25% of a ring road Greene County has been seeking to build around the 29/33 intersection for many years.

    Such an internal road is designed to help pull traffic off US 29 or even keep it off the highway entirely as the majority of the population of Greene County has access via US 33. In addition such an internal road creates a new potential business district in Ruckersville (and increased value to the landowner).

    Through the approval process, Greene County has worked to make the Gateway Center’s US 29 access managable by making the US 29 exit right turn only and by mandating a traffic signal at the northern intersection.

    With regard to the Bypass, I believe this issue will come back again once the Places 29 folks start to put price tags and reality checks on their current plan for the Charlottesville Expressway.

    If I remember correctly, the Interstate system was designed with the concept of faster, limited access highways in mind. In time, as communities up and down US 29 develop their commercial centers along the highway, I would anticipate either more bypass construction or the Interstates will be quicker. Which would you choose?

  8. jmcnamera January 22, 2008 at 22:49

    It would help if Greene county pushed for less strip development and more concentrated development that allowed walking. The article describes how the new strip mall’s stores will require people to get in a car to go from one to another. That makes no sense.

    Creating an ARB would help to ensure the county’s appearance doesn’t get further trashed. The Food Lion strip mall on Rt 29 is an example of an ugly set of stores. Same for pretty much everything on Rt 29 in Greene.

    Ok, Albermarle did a lousy job on the Target mall. It looks nice, but it also has limited “walkability”.

    Soon we’ll all be Fairfaxed.

  9. Scott January 23, 2008 at 11:13

    Neil –

    I should have taken the time to go to the link you provided under your name; It was just a lucky guess based on your initial comments, but clearly, yes, you do represent the 29 corridor business community.

    I would recommend that anyone reading this thread keep that in mind while considering your arguments.

  10. jmcnamera January 25, 2008 at 09:55

    I drove thru Greene on 29 yesterday. Greene needs a ARB now, not some future date. They’ve allowed even more ugly buildings in the last two years.

    Someday they’ll be whining about why a bypass of Ruckersville is needed. Its because of decisions today that will require it.

  11. Jim Duncan January 25, 2008 at 10:19

    29 is an un-fun, inefficient, often-ugly place to drive. I think in many cases, residents in 20 years will be cursing those decision-makers of today.

  12. Jill Fuhrmann March 7, 2008 at 12:49

    In Flemington New Jersey, the Town Council and Planning Board negotiated with the big box strip mall developer and stores to adopt archetecturally upscale building frontage that better fits with the historical area. The community was split in allowing more Big Box stores into the area because of the concern for taking away business from historical and traditional down town, made up of small store owners. An archetectural plan published in the local paper showed stores looking like townhomes. It has not been built yet.

    Why not put together the local effort in Ruckersville to do the same?