After three public hearings before the Albemarle County Planning Commission — and three reductions in density — the proposed Breezy Hill development was recommended for approval 4-2 by the commission Tuesday night.
Southern Development and Roudabush Gale & Associates are requesting a rezoning of 75.6 acres from Rural Areas to R-1 Residential on U.S. 250 near the Glenmore subdivision to build about 80 units.
A proposal for 130 units was denied by the county Board of Supervisors in January. Originally, the developers had proposed 160 units, but later deferred. The Planning Commission recommended denial of both previous iterations of the project, first in July and again in November.
The recommendation also came with added conditions — that the developers incorporate defined and improved amenity space to include recreational facilities, and that the plan be amended to include a trail network through the buffer, and to connect the cul-de-sac streets through a pedestrian connection.
Commissioners Tim Keller and Rick Randolph voted against the recommendation and Commissioner Jennie More was absent. Keller cited his opposition to a proposed road connection to Running Deer Drive as his reason for voting against recommending approval.
“My hope would be that these two neighborhoods would, over time, see the benefit of the vehicular connection that they don’t see now because they see an infringement on their traditional neighborhood — that, needs to be pointed out, predates the agreement in the county that led to the development areas separate from the rural area,” Keller said. “I think that there is a rural area protection that needs to somehow be built into this, and I need that for my support.”
Randolph, who lives in Glenmore, cited concerns around traffic and density.
“If there is transit offered and there was public housing, that would be workable, but I just do not see in this application at this time a serious proposal consistent with the Master Plan that is worthy of our support,” he said.
The proposal discussed Tuesday was a new application submission of Breezy Hill, Andy Herrick, a deputy county attorney, said when going over questions the commission has received about the project, and the applicant is entitled to a public hearing on its new application.
“The Master Plan … is not a contract or agreement but it’s a guide to orderly development,” Herrick said. “It’s helpful, it’s informative and it should be given the appropriate weight, but it’s not necessarily determinative of either the Planning Commission’s recommendation or the board’s decision.”
The future land use plan in the Village of Rivanna Master Plan, which is part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, shows the area as Neighborhood Density Residential Low, which recommends fewer than two dwelling units per acre. But the future land use and transportation chapter says this area “will have the lowest density of this Development Area,” and shows one dwelling per acre.
In a 2019 work session, the Planning Commission supported county staff’s recommendation that one unit per acre would be appropriate on this site.
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 plan as part of the rezoning process.
The new proposal has a gross density of approximately one unit per acre and a net density of approximately 1.4 units per acre.
Previous proffers — that the developer would make signal timing and coordination improvements at certain U.S. 250 intersections; give the county $500,000 for transportation, transit or school capital projects; and build 20 affordable housing units or give the county $422,500 — were no longer included in the proposal. A proffer that Running Deer Drive would not be used for construction traffic was included.
County staff recommended denial, citing unfavorable factors outweighing the favorable factors. Unfavorable factors included not meeting the affordable housing policy; no clear demonstration that the impacts of the development to transportation facilities and schools have been mitigated; and not meeting “a number of the applicable Neighborhood Model Principles.”
Charlie Armstrong, with Southern Development, said they have offered a density cap in the proffers so that bonus density cannot be requested.
“Unfortunately, such low density precludes the financial feasibility of some things like proffered affordable housing,” he said. “Higher density is the best path toward that goal, and we’ve had to choose low density over the financial benefits that higher density can confer on those other goals. We don’t like that decision, but it is what is feasible when we’re left with the density we’re talking about here, which is what adjacent neighbors have strongly demanded.”
In May, during a Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee meeting, community members expressed concerns with the proposed road connection to Running Deer Drive and the density of the proposal.
According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, two road connections are required for the development.
“If the roads are public, then the network design must meet the secondary system requirements,” said Adam Moore, assistant resident engineer for VDOT’s Charlottesville residency. “One of those requirements is connectivity, requiring at least two connections in different directions, meaning not two connections on the same road, and that connections to existing public roads take precedence over stub-outs, or planned future connections, because it’s something that can be effective day one.”
County Development Process Manager Megan Nedostup said the private street criteria in the county’s subdivision ordinance is that a private street not connect to a public street.
Commissioners asked if retractable bollards could be put up on the road connecting to Running Deer, allowing for emergency use only.
“If the road is maintained by VDOT, it’s got to be kept open to the public — all members of the public, all the time,” Moore said.
Only one person spoke during the public hearing Tuesday, neighbor Neal Means.
“Breezy hill is the first development application under the Master Plan,” he said. “It does not meet the Master Plan criteria. If the county approves it, it will be saying to its citizens that the master planning process is a sham, the Comprehensive Plan is a sham and the development area policy is a failure.”
The Village of Rivanna Master Plan states that “future residential development should only be approved if and when transportation improvements to U.S. 250 have been made” and that “it is essential that all of the U.S. 250 improvements be constructed before new development occurs in the Village.”
According to written comments from county Planning Manager Kevin McDermott, only one of the main recommended projects — improvement of a bridge over the railroad at Louisa Road — is completed, but there is no additional space on the bridge to allow for road widening.
A diverging diamond at the Interstate 64-U.S. 250 interchange is currently under construction.
Making U.S. 250 six lanes from Free Bridge to the I-64 interchange; making U.S. 250 four lanes from the I-64 interchange to Milton Road and, possibly, Glenmore Way; intersection improvements at U.S. 250 and Milton Road; and the addition of eastbound left-turn and westbound right-turn lanes on U.S. 250 at Black Cat Road are all uncompleted.
At least one of the recommended projects — making U.S. 250 four lanes from the I-64 interchange to Milton Road and, possibly, Glenmore Way — has been revised in the county’s transportation priorities list, and now is recommended as reconstructing U.S. 250 to include a reversible three-lane section from Sleepy Hollow Lane to Louisa Road.
A public hearing with the Board of Supervisors on Breezy Hill has not yet been scheduled.