Albemarle County’s development areas have enough capacity for future expected population growth — in theory.

County staff presented a draft growth management report to the Albemarle’s Planning Commission on Tuesday, which included an update of the county’s residential capacity analysis, information on development trends, current development activity and individual development area profiles.

In June, the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia projected that Albemarle will have a population of 138,485 in 2040.

Currently, the population of Albemarle is estimated to be around 108,639 people, living in 66,823 housing units.

County staff estimated that 11,750 additional housing units will be needed by 2040 to meet the increase in population. Depending on how the land is utilized, the report estimated that the development area has the capacity for around 13,000 more units on the low end and about 24,630 more units on the high end.

The Comprehensive Plan includes a county policy to maintain 95% of Albemarle as rural land and use 5% of the county for growth.

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.

“In theory, there appears to be sufficient capacity to accommodate future population growth within the development areas,” the report states. “However, when considering the likely overestimation of units in the pipeline and variability in redevelopment/infill potential, the answer becomes less clear. Removing 1,000 units from the current pipeline (accounting for Old Trail and Stonefield alone) and the University of Virginia Foundation’s residentially designated holdings from the potential capacity pool reveals that the low ends of the density ranges may not be sufficient to accommodate new residential growth.”

An estimated 8,843 dwelling units are currently in the development “pipeline” — projects currently under review, approved or under construction — with about 44% of those units located within the Hollymead area in large planned developments such as Hollymead Town Center, North Pointe and Brookhill.

But the report notes that many large rezonings do not build out to their allowed maximum capacity.

At Tuesday’s meeting, representatives from the Southern Environmental Law Center and Piedmont Environmental Council spoke against potentially expanding the development area.

“It’s clear the current growth areas have more than enough capacity to handle all of the county’s projected growth over the next 20 years, even at the low end of the estimated capacity ranges and even adjusting the final numbers downward to account for staff’s caveats about the pipeline uncertainty and the UVa Foundation land,” said Morgan Butler, senior attorney with SELC.

No one spoke specifically about expanding the growth area.

Planning Commissioner Karen Firehock said she wants to see the data utilized to project what it means for county facilities and other infrastructure costs.

“I want to see this information be used to paint a picture of the future reality — what that would actually mean for us financially, physically — then we can decide is that future we want,” she said.

Commissioner Jennie More said she hopes the report will be utilized in a larger capacity going forward, such as in work with master plans an infrastructure needs.

“I hope we don’t look at these documents as out on their own floating around, but we [find] a way to mesh them together to have a plan that makes sense,” she said.

The report likely will go before the commission again for another work session before heading to the Board of Supervisors for its consideration.

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