A new hotel could be coming to State Farm Boulevard in the Pantops area of Albemarle County.
On Tuesday, the Albemarle County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend an application plan for a proposed 109-room Hampton Inn.
The proposed hotel would be on two parcels that are currently zoned Planned District Mixed Commercial, and an application plan is required for that specific zoning.
The proposal also includes a proffer statement that would dedicate about two acres at the rear of the property to the county for parkland in the future.
David Benish, the county’s chief of planning and interim director of planning, said the development is in line with the current Pantops Master Plan land use designation of Urban Mixed Use and parks, as well as the soon-to-be updated master plan’s designations.
“That area in the proposed master plan is designated for community mixed use, and hotels are included as a primary use in that comprehensive plan district,” he said.
Kurt Wassenaar, a local architect representing Shamin Hotels, said they tried to match the materials and the massing of other buildings in the area.
“I think we pushed the Hampton Inn folks a little bit further than they normally like to be in their envelope in order to get something that was a quality project,” he said.
The proposed hotel might be able to be seen from Monticello, and Wassenaar said they worked with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to address concerns they had about vegetative buffering and the color of the building in relation to Monticello’s “viewshed.”
“We did quite a bit of study on the existing buildings on Pantops, as well as [Sentara] Martha Jefferson [Hospital], so it would fit visually with what you see,” he said. “That was one of the major issues that Monticello had, as well as the articulation of the building.”
At a community meeting in July with the Pantops Community Advisory Committee, residents were concerned about traffic and “impacts to long-distance views of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” a staff report said. There were also concerns that the project would not benefit residents in the area.
The staff report also addressed the possible “impact and/or block” of the mountains as one of the unfavorable factors of the proposal.
Commissioner Daphne Spain, who represents the Rivanna District and is part of the Pantops Community Advisory Committee, said that that was “very much an understatement from the perspective of the CAC members.”
“There’s concern that we’re losing not just land but views, and I think many of the residents maybe resent that the Monticello viewshed is more important than the residents’ viewshed,” she said. “So they’re not given the opportunity to have the type of input they’d like.”
She said she was surprised that no residents were at the meeting, but she took it to mean that they accepted that this is a by-right development.
“I just wanted commissioners to realize that there was quite a bit of objection to this in any form by the CAC,” she said.
The rezoning is scheduled for a public hearing with the Board of Supervisors on June 19.
The commissioners also voted unanimously to recommend amending the county’s zoning ordinance to reflect upcoming changes to the state code that will allow localities to negotiate proffers during residential rezonings, if the developer chooses to do so.
In 2016, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed into law a bill that forbade localities from accepting any proffers that were not specifically attributable to the proposed development.
“The mere suggestion of an unreasonable proffer presented problems,” said Bill Fritz, Albemarle County’s chief of special projects.
Gov. Ralph Northam earlier this year signed into law identical bills that made changes to the state code that, among other things, allow localities to accept any onsite or offsite proffer that the owner and applicant deem reasonable and appropriate.
Fritz said the new law will free up conversations between applicants and the county.
“It’s important to note that the county cannot deny an application because the applicant did not choose to make a proffer and instead chose to go under that narrow proffer language,” he said.
Sean Tubbs with Piedmont Environmental Council said he was in favor of the amendment.
“This amendment restores the possibility of what should’ve been happening all along: conversation,” he said.
Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local business advocacy group, said the county saw proffers rise to such a point where developments didn’t happen, and that localities “won a staring match” with the new legislation.
“You could limit proffers to be those things that are most directly associated with new development,” he said. “The previous legislation included parks, public safety, transportation and schools. Those seem reasonable to me.”
“I hate to say this — I’m in favor of this least bad choice, but it could be so much better,” he said.