After hearing concerns from area residents at a prior community meeting, a developer has reduced the number of proposed apartments at the intersection of the John W. Warner Parkway and Rio Road in Albemarle County.
Kotarides Developers, a Virginia Beach company under contract to develop the 27-acre site, is planning to submit a rezoning application next month to go from the current R-4 zoning to Planned Residential Development. It held a second community meeting Wednesday at Church of Our Savior.
Originally, the developer was proposing 414 units at what is being called Parkway Place, but after a community meeting in March, is now proposing 328 units.
“Since the last meeting, we heard the community loud and clear, and we went back to the drawing board and reduced the density by 20%,” Pete Kotarides said ahead of the meeting.
Overall, the updated proposed development is very similar to what was presented in March, but he said they removed some of the buildings and changed the buildings that had been four stories tall to three stories.
The developer also is proposing to make changes to Rio Road near the intersection of John W. Warner Parkway, including adding a median acceleration lane and extending the left-turn lanes.
Residents at the March meeting expressed concerns about traffic at the already difficult intersection near Dunlora Drive and Rio Road, and traffic was a worry expressed by many at the meeting Wednesday.
Kotarides said that currently there are 11,750 vehicle trips on Rio Road, according to a traffic study. About 1,786 vehicle trips would be added by this proposed development.
Traffic increases that would come with future development in the Rio Road area were also repeatedly brought up at the meeting, a concern that has been discussed for years.
Albemarle Board of Supervisors Chair Ned Gallaway, who has brought up concerns on Rio Road at past discussions on transportation projects, was at the meeting, as was Planning Commissioner Bruce Dotson.
Residents said they wanted to go to the board members and the Virginia Department of Transportation to speak against the project.
“This plot of land was zoned R-4 for a reason, and we can take that argument forward and see if we can explain our position in a rational manner,” said one resident.
The developers, once an application is submitted, will have a community meeting with the Places29 Rio Community Advisory Committee and will go before the county’s Architectural Review Board, Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.
In Albemarle’s Places29 Master Plan, which is part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, the property is shown on the future land use map as Urban Density Residential, which recommends a density of between six and 34 units per acre in that area.
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. It was last adopted in 2011.
The proposed apartments would be approximately 12 units per acre on 27.3 acres, which is the total acreage, or 14.9 units per acre on 22.1 acres, the total developable acres.
For comparison, Kotarides used the Reserve at Belvedere, which is 294 units total, or 16.1 units per acre, he said, and Arden Place, which is 212 units, or 16.8 units per acre.
Many residents said they wanted the property to stay R-4, which could allow about 109 units on this site or, Kotarides said, with density bonuses, could be about 162 townhouses.
“You want to come in here and you want to put in a development that’s bigger than the Reserve at Belvedere and you want to put it right on that beautiful corridor,” another resident said. “I think, that’s what I don’t like, and I hope you never get to do it.”
“You are putting block-looking buildings on one of the most beautiful pieces of property in Albemarle County, and it’s going to be right on the road, versus 100-and-some quarter-acre homes that would maintain the rural look of that piece of property,” one resident said. “It’s that and the traffic.”
A portion of the property is also marked in the master plan for a neighborhood retail center, and the developer is proposing making a trailhead with public access to the nearby Rivanna Trail, which would include parking spaces.
“By reducing the density, we were able to able to increase open space within the community, but also at the trailhead park that we will be constructing,” Kotarides said.
The developer is proposing a larger gazebo area than initially showed, as well as a trail map structure, and it is talking to local artists about doing an art piece in the center of the trailhead to tie into the Art in Place program.
The proposed apartments are a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and Kotarides estimated that monthly rents would range between the upper $900s to about $1,700. The complex would also have a pool and clubhouse, as well as a park in the center.
“We’ll also be offering enclosed bicycle storage, which I know is important for certain folks,” Kotarides said. “We have been investigating bikeshare programs to tie into the trail system, and see a key opportunity, being as close as we are to downtown and being right on the trail, that folks will be able to use that in lieu of driving.”
He said his company, which is family-owned, doesn’t sell the multi-family communities that it develops.
“It is important that we find sites that are going to be successful for the long run, but it’s equally important, if not more important, that we’re good neighbors because we do intend to be there for the long haul,” Kotarides said.