Barnes Lumber Crozet Plaza

A rendering of the proposed first phase of the Barnes Lumber redevelopment in Crozet. 

Two projects at the Southwood Mobile Home Park and in downtown Crozet will each receive $3.2 million from Albemarle County.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved two agreements on Wednesday, one for funding for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville for the redevelopment of Southwood, and another that would give Crozet New Town Associates LLC funding toward the Crozet Plaza.

Both agreements are contingent on the approval of rezonings for both sites, which are scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 21.

Habitat bought the Southwood property off Old Lynchburg Road, near Fifth Street Extended, in 2007, and it plans to redevelop the site into a 700- to 800-unit mixed-income, mixed-use development. The work is expected to be done without displacing any of the current residents.

The first phase of the project is on approximately 33 acres and could include up to about 450 residential units.

Approximately $1.4 million will go to Habitat to assist in building 75 affordable units over three years when certain milestones are met, which include certain county permits and disclosure of information about donations, pledges and other forms of revenue. The units are required to remain affordable for at least 40 years.

Another $300,000 could go to Habitat if it is awarded federal low-income housing tax credits, which the organization currently is pursuing, for 80 affordable rental units. The units are required to remain affordable for at least 30 years.

Approximately $1.4 million in real property taxes could be rebated to Habitat over 10 years. The money would be used to build additional affordable units.

Before any money is given to Habitat, the organization must provide a budget, funding plan, a nondisplacement plan, information on its project team members and other financial information.

During the general public comment period, Lori Schweller, local Habitat board member and attorney, spoke in support of the performance agreement.

“As we all know, affordable housing is one of the most pressing challenges facing our community and the nation today, and this project is very special because it’s designed by current Southwood residents to ensure that it satisfies all of their priorities with their families and the community,” she said.

 

Crozet Plaza

The board also approved an agreement with Crozet New Town Associates LLC for a public-private partnership around the redevelopment of the former Barnes Lumber site in Crozet.

The redevelopment of the site has been included in the Crozet Master Plan, and a proposal was submitted in 2011 but did not move forward. The current proposed project would include commercial and retail space, a hotel and approximately 52 residential units in its first phase.

“We’ve been waiting for an awfully long time for an identity that this plaza can give us,” Doug Bates, a member of the Downtown Crozet Initiative board and the Crozet Community Advisory Committee, said during the general public comment period.

The county, through the Economic Development Authority, will provide $1.6 million in cash for construction of the plaza and approximately $1.6 million in tax rebates through Synthetic Tax Increment Financing.

In that process, the developer pays all county taxes and then the county pays the developer the incremental increase in property taxes paid. The developer then uses this contribution to pay for the debt service of their construction loan, which is $1.6 million.

The developer is contributing a $2 million match for road projects, including an extension of the road from Crozet Square to Hilltop Street, and an extension of High Street and Library Avenue, while the Virginia Department of Transportation is giving about $2.3 million.

The county also will provide construction management for the public road, conduct a parking study during the Crozet Master Plan update process, do an area market study and provide maintenance for the plaza. Ultimately, the county would own the plaza.

“Over the life of 15 years, it would be expected to generate $25.3 million in new tax revenue,” county Economic Development Director Roger Johnson said.

Total combined revenue over the life of the project, from 2021 to 2048, which includes real estate and other types of tax revenue in the county, would add up to net revenues of about $39.2 million, Johnson said.

The project and agreement were dubbed Project Patriot by the county.

Supervisor Rick Randolph asked who would “inherit” the plaza.

“The county would have control over being responsible for it, but there are any number of models we would want to consider,” Deputy County Executive Doug Walker said.

Walker said the EDA could be a holder of the property, and the county could sublet it or have a contractual agreement for the ongoing maintenance.

“We would be engaging with the local community, engaging with the EDA, we would be talking to them about how it is that we want to structure that to best ensure ongoing maintenance of it so that it’s most cost effective,” Walker said.

Dave Stoner, former chair of the Crozet CAC and a current board member of the DCI, said people in Crozet think the agreement is a smart move by the county.

“It focuses commercial development in the growth area back downtown where everybody wants us to be, and it helps alleviate the pressure of growth in the outlying portions of the growth area, particularly along Route 250,” he said.

Sean Tubbs, with Piedmont Environmental Council, said the county is in a new era of economic development, and policy is changing some land use items, which has raised some questions about transparency. He said he understands the need for some meetings to be confidential, but people still have questions.

“We’re not complaining about economic development,” he said. “In fact, the PEC supports efforts to secure badly needed infrastructure, such as the plaza in Crozet, that really catalyze the Comprehensive Plan. But a transparent government does require skeptics to be heard and for you to listen ... but especially when there is potential risk for taxpayer money if some of these items were to go wrong in the future.”

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Allison Wrabel is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7261, awrabel@dailyprogress.com or @craftypanda on Twitter.

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