Albemarle County Debating Growth Area Expansion – How Should the County Grow?

Make no mistake, this is a big deal. Charlottesville Tomorrow reports:

The Albemarle Planning Commission began the review of the county comprehensive plan Tuesday with a work session on whether to expand the growth area to accommodate new development.

The county adopted a comprehensive plan in 1980 that designated 5 percent of its land to be used for dense residential and commercial use. Development is discouraged in the rest of the county in order to preserve environmental resources.


The county is estimating that it will have an additional 34,000 residents by 2030. Staff estimated there would need to be between 1,770 and 7,438 new units to accommodate that population growth. However, they also concluded there are just over 8,000 units that have been approved by the county but not yet built.

“There is sufficient residential capacity to accommodate population growth through 2030 within current development area boundaries,” said Andy Sorrell, a planner in the county’s community development department.

Is there? Per Charlottesville Tomorrow’s reporting, there are 12 currently proposed expansions of the Albemarle County growth area. Will this be sufficient?

We talked about Somerset Farm in June of this year – an additional 1900 homes! – what if Wendell Wood doesn’t get his rezoning (which geographically makes a lot of sense) and he builds by-right? Is that what the planners (and more importantly, the community) want?

This struck me, as the area just past Barracks Road has been largely protected from the sprawling growth other areas of Albemarle have experienced:

Next door is a 14.7-acre property near the Montvue neighborhood which developer Charles Hurt wants to include in the development area. Hurt is also applying to add a 156.8-acre parcel further up Barracks Road that, if approved, could see an additional 312 to 628 housing units.

That seems like a reasonable place to expand, although it would personally make me sad to see beautiful landscapes ruined.

One of the biggest questions is: Where and how should Albemarle grow? Are the areas currently zoned to accommodate growth sufficient? What if we shut down all growth? (if you’ve moved here or procreated while here, you’re contributing to the “problem”)

With the trends now, trends which are likely to continue in the future – buyers want to be close to stuff. Forcing development out into the rural area – implicitly or deliberately – will cause prices to increase in the rural area, and for prices in many cases to drop in the urban/urban ring area as the houses age and more often than not are not updated/improved to keep with new trends and buyer demands.

Ultimately, one would think that growth should be guided towards the areas closest to urban centers, and that may require rezoning to achieve that density. Creating thoughtful, creative and deliberate spaces where people want to live is going to be key to the future livability of Albemarle County. Many of my buyer clients now perceive Crozet to be among the best areas to live in the area, because it has livability and far less traffic than Pantops or 29 North.

Encouraging thoughtful growth is one thing; but building without building the necessary infrastructure – to include bicycle infrastructure – is bordering on criminal negligence.

Wouldn’t it be cool if the County and the City would coordinate their growth and infrastructure and growth plans? (There’s probably a better chance of a math problem being solved)

Update 13 October 2011: Charlottesville Tomorrow has an in-depth Part 2 to this discussion. The accompanying page showing which developments, where and how many is very interesting.

Combining what Tom Loach and Don Franco said, I think they’re right (when in fact they voted oppositely):

Tom Loach:

“I think we ought to take this time that we have the excess capacity to start looking at our patterns of development,” said commissioner Tom Loach.

Don Franco:

Franco said his analysis of the report led him to conclude there will be a shortage of single family detached homes in the growth area, meaning that people would choose
instead to build in the rural areas. 

I think they’re both right.

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1 Comment

  1. Sean Tubbs October 12, 2011 at 14:39

    We’ll have a second report from the meeting posted later on today. Special plug for the podcast. It may be lengthy, but the debate is pretty interesting.


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