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Crozet park expansion deferred
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Crozet park expansion deferred

An expansion proposed for Claudius Crozet Park has been paused.

On Tuesday, the Albemarle County Planning Commission accepted a deferral of the proposal, after expressing a number of concerns about an amendment of a special-use permit for the park that would’ve allowed for its expansion.

The plan would add a two-story, 34,200-square-foot recreation building, which would include exercise areas, sports courts, community meeting spaces and a pool expansion. A second phase of the project would include an indoor pool facility that would be connected to the fitness building and adjacent to the existing pool deck.

Commissioner Karen Firehock said she did not support adding a facility of the size and scale proposed to what is a neighborhood green space.

“I believe that it is not in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan of parks and green space that it’s designated for, I think the facility is out of scale with the park and is not in the right location for such a facility,” she said. “I don’t debate at all that such facilities are needed in the Crozet area, but I don’t think tucking all of that massing into a neighborhood park is the right solution.”

Commissioners Jennie More and Daniel Bailey said they saw the park as not a neighborhood park, but a community park, and generally supported expanded facilities but they still had concerns.

“I do worry that people think of this as a neighborhood park, and it’s not a park that I think is meant to only be enjoyed by a couple of neighbors,” she said. “it’s very centrally located, and it is a community park.”

Commissioner Rick Randolph said the community was concerned about some of the green space being paved over.

“This is no longer Claudius Crozet Park, it is the Claudius Crozet recreational facility with surrounding grounds, and I really do feel that we’re being asked to look at a proposed use in a location where that use is incompatible with the location,” he said.

More said a lot of the activities the expansion would help are already happening at the pool and the property.

“There simply is not enough space for all these things to happen throughout the day,” she said. “You have swim team, you have water aerobics and then people who just want to enjoy swimming and swim lessons, and so I think the way I see it, the goal here is to allow for those things that are already happening to continue.”

The park is about 22.8 acres and is owned by Claudius Crozet Park Inc. The site already has a special-use permit from the county, but would need an amendment to add the building.

Park board member Drew Holzwarth said as the population has grown in western Albemarle and the western end of the county has been developed, the need for this type of facility has grown.

“We automatically think about a park and think of the playing fields for the youth, and making sure that the youth is engaged, but we also in western Albemarle County, we do not have adequate facilities or facilities at all for our aging population to be active year round,” he said.

The park is also requesting a special exception for a new indoor pool structure, which would be located 30 feet from the nearest property line and approximately 160 feet from the nearest existing home. County regulations require swimming pools be 75 feet from the nearest property line and at least 125 feet from the nearest existing home.

Creating a second access point out of an emergency access road from the property onto Hill Top Street is also part of the proposal, as well as approximately 150 additional parking spaces. There are also new trails, sidewalks and paths proposed throughout the park.

County staff recommended approval of the amendment and the special exception, with conditions including that the project is in general accord with the concept plan, among other things.

Hill Top Street would be used as the construction entrance, Holzwarth said, so the park can stay open.

County staff said a traffic impact analysis was not required because the proposed expansion is not expected to generate the number of trips that would require one. The expansion is estimated to generate about 985 vehicle trips per day.

Holzwarth said the project will be funded by private donations and they will seek money from Albemarle County.

During a public hearing, community members generally supported the project citing the need for after school programs, more swimming space and options for seniors in the area, while other community members, citing increased traffic and the reduction of green space, spoke against the project.

Miki Salzberg, a Crozet resident who works in Augusta County, said expanding the after school program at the park is important for the area.

“I am an educator on the other side of the mountain, and got special permission for my children to attend school there for a year just so that I could have care for them during the school day, as the school day [in Albemarle] ended way before my school day did across the mountain,” she said. “The availability of having that many more spaces will really significantly help our community which is growing so quickly right now.”

Allie Pesch, who is chair of the Crozet Community Advisory Committee but was not commenting in that capacity, said she supports the project.

“As the community grows, the park use continues to grow, and next-door neighbors should know that, if they’re familiar with the plan, and the whole Comprehensive Plan prioritizes green space in the rural areas and development in the growth area, and this is a natural development of that.”

Multiple residents of Parkside Village, a housing development north of the park, spoke out against the proposal.

Sara Kasen with Parkside Village Homeowners Association said the HOA wanted the Planning Commission to require construction traffic to use the unused secondary entrance to the park site on Park Road.

“Our board believes it is dangerous to put the additional and significant construction burden on the homeowners whose houses line Hill Top Street, as well as the Parkside Village neighborhood — a burden, which is unwilling to be borne by the park itself at neither its main entrance, nor an existing secondary entrance on Park Road which currently sits unused,” she said.

Jacob Feldman, a new Parkside homeowner, said there is already rapidly decreasing green space Crozet as a result of residential development, and this project is antithetical to preserving that green space.

“With organized sports beginning, all the available fields and grassy areas are being used, even areas surrounding the lake,” he said. “As a family not yet participating in organized sports, there are already very limited spaces available on weekday afternoons and weekends.”

The commission will reconsider the proposal at a later date.

Fees

The commission also recommended approval of increasing fees on builders and developers in Albemarle.

The county is proposing increasing Community Development Department fees around five chapters in the county code, including building regulations, health and safety, subdivisions and streets, water protection and zoning. They would also create new fees related to architectural review, water protection and building-related services, as well as a new technology fee.

The Planning Commission gave specific support to fee increases around subdivisions and zoning, since it has “a relationship to the fees” in those chapters.

Steve Allshouse, the county’s manager of forecasting and performance, showed the commissioners fee comparisons with additional jurisdictions, and on average, Albemarle’s proposed fees would be higher, except for a building permit for a commercial building.

The county also looked at six projects in Albemarle, commercial and residential, what the developers were charged and what developers and builders would have paid if the proposed fees were in effect. The percent increase would be between 21.7% and 63.3% per project, and the increase as a percentage of the assessed value using the 2021 reassessment ranged from 0.09% to 0.40%.

Commissioner Corey Clayborne said these increases seem like “the cost of doing business” and “seems negligible.” He said the county should be talking about the efficiencies the technology fee could bring to developers in processing of their project.

“If I’m a developer, if you’re telling me that through the course of my project your technology upgrades can save me eight hours worth of work for project manager through the course of an entire project, that’s $1,200 to $1,600 right there where you pretty much have already recouped your costs,” he said. “Maybe as you carry this forward, if there’s an example like that you could show that might be helpful.”

During the public hearing, Neil Williamson with the Free Enterprise Forum said technology is an operational cost like labor, electricity, plumbing, etc. that should be captured in the base fee structure.

“If the average planner uses the bathroom five times during an application review, should there be a planner plumbing fee assessed to the application? That’s bananas,” he said. “The Free Enterprise Forum believes the technology fee is opportunistic, used by only three other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth of Virginia and should be rejected.”

The Board of Supervisors has a public hearing scheduled for April 21. If the board adopts the new fees, they would be effective July 1.

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