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370-unit development proposed development near Forest Lakes
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370-unit development proposed development near Forest Lakes

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Proposed layout for RST Residences

A conceptual design for the proposed RST Residences near the intersection of U.S. 29 and Ashwood Boulevard.

A proposed new development could bring 370 apartments and townhomes to U.S. 29 near Forest Lakes.

More than 25 people attended a virtual community meeting on Monday where RST Development explained the proposal and answered questions.

The developer is requesting a rezoning of the 19.51 acre property at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Ashwood Boulevard from R-1 residential to Planned Residential Development and wants to build 254 apartments and 108 town houses.

The property, which is currently home to Ridgewood Mobile Home Park, was purchased by Virginia Beach-based RST Development last year for $6 million.

In Albemarle’s Places29 Master Plan, which is part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, most of the property is shown on the future land use map as urban density residential, which recommends density of between six and 34 units per acre. A portion of the property along U.S. 29 is designated as open space.

The proposal is to build approximately 19.7 units per acre, according to county staff.

The Comprehensive Plan is the county’s guiding document for its long-term vision for land use and resource protection, and includes master plans for the designated development areas of the county. County staff and the Board of Supervisors look to the Comprehensive Plan as part of the rezoning process.

The apartments are being proposed to be in five buildings closer to the front of the development, while the townhouses are proposed to be two-over-two units, with one two-story townhouse on top of another, in eight buildings in the back of the property.

During the meeting, community members asked about the look of the development, school capacity, displacement of mobile home park residents, buffers and traffic, among other questions.

Valerie Long, an attorney with Williams-Mullen who is representing RST Development, said the application will have an advisory review by the county’s Architectural Review Board, as it’s along U.S. 29, which is an entrance corridor. Then, if it is ultimately approved by the Board of Supervisors, the portions of the development viewable from U.S. 29 would be reviewed by the ARB.

The school division has not yet provided comments about existing school capacity and how many students the proposed development could generate.

Brookhill, a development currently under construction to the south of the site, is giving the county land that could be used for a future elementary school and about 60 acres on the other side of U.S. 29 for a future high school or other county uses.

Long said a portion of the townhouses would be sold at affordable prices for people making 80% of area median income or lower. Current area median income for this area for a family is $93,900, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

After the purchase of Ridgewood Mobile Home Park, RST Development gave current residents a deadline of November 30 to move.

Ahead of the meeting, Scott Copeland with RST Development said that the company is working internally to propose a plan to extend the period further, as it would not break ground on the project by that time, and it wants to provide as much time as possible.

“We are still working out the details, but most likely we would extend the period for an additional 90 days, and continue to reassess the timing as the project review process continues,” Copeland said. “We certainly want to continue working with the remaining residents to make the relocation process less onerous.”

In 2019, the Board of Supervisors passed an anti-displacement and tenant relocation assistance policy, and county staff are working to create a more detailed policy as part of Albemarle’s housing policy update.

Long said the developer is working to put together a relocation plan.

One resident was concerned about four-story townhouses being built behind his single family home.

“For this neighborhood that I’m in, which is a single family home neighborhood, to look out through a 20-foot buffer into four-story buildings, doesn’t seem very appealing to me,” Jeff Smith said. “We’re going to have serious light pollution and all kinds of congestion, just feet away from our single family home.”

Long said the current conceptual plan has a 20-foot buffer along the back side of the property, and that there would be additional land between the building and the property line for stormwater management facilities totaling 87 feet.

“We didn’t want to put the buildings right up against the property line, we wanted to keep them back an appropriate distance, so that they wouldn’t be right on top of each other,” Long said. “It’s fairly consistent with the distances involved from the Forest Lakes Townhomes.”

Public hearings for the proposal before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors have not yet been scheduled.

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