The first phase of the redevelopment of the former Barnes Lumber site in Crozet was approved Wednesday.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a rezoning of about 6.24 acres of the site from heavy industry and commercial to Downtown Crozet District to allow for mixed-use development.
Developer Frank Stoner, with Milestone Partners, did not have a formal presentation but thanked the board, county staff, the Crozet Community Advisory Committee and the Downtown Crozet Initiative for their input and work over the years.
“We’re in our fifth year of this project, and I can honestly tell you we wouldn’t be here today without all the people I just mentioned,” he said.
The redevelopment of the Barnes Lumber site has been included in the Crozet Master Plan. A proposal was submitted in 2010 but did not move forward. Crozet New Town Associates purchased the property from the bank and reactivated the rezoning application in 2014 for the whole property.
In 2017, the rezoning request was modified to focus on the first phase of the site — the 6.24-acre portion — including a proposed civic plaza.
There have been more than 50 meetings with the community over the years regarding the redevelopment.
The county and the developer in June signed a performance agreement, where 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.
The project likely to include commercial and retail space, a hotel and approximately 52 residential units in its first phase. This first phase does not include any affordable housing.
The Downtown Crozet District is a type of form-based code applied to the Crozet downtown and establishes development requirements that created a more urban, “downtown” form of development, according to the staff report.
Possible issues county staff cited were increased traffic and increased demand for parking. A potential impact on schools, particularly Crozet Elementary, also was a concern, but that was not as high of a concern yet, as only about six elementary school students are anticipated to live in the residential part of the project.
Through the performance agreement, the applicant will fund a $2 million local match for a Virginia Department of Transportation Revenue Sharing Program project to extend the road from Crozet Square to Hilltop Street and extend High Street and Library Avenue.
In a proffer, the developer has stated they will undertake or fund up to $48,000 for a traffic study, which county staff members believe will be an “invaluable benefit to transportation planning in the Crozet area and will inform transportation improvement decisions in the future,” according to the staff report.
At the Planning Commission meeting in July for the project, some commissioners noted the lack of community members in the audience and the fact that no one spoke during public comment.
Supervisor Ned Gallaway asked Supervisor Ann H. Mallek to talk about what the community thinks about the project and traffic concerns.
She said there has been a lot of discussion for years about how the community has absorbed thousands of new housing units, but some traffic improvements have already been made or are in the works.
“I think that was where the comfort came from and knowing that there are other high, high-priority items working their way through our list that will help spread the traffic out and connect a lot of the streets,” she said.
Two people spoke during public comment.
Paul Grady said he was concerned about parking and density.
“Three- and four-story buildings in the Barnes Lumber property simply are not going to cut it,” he said. “Rents will be too high.”
He said if a landowner in the downtown district is going to build underground parking, they should be allowed to build six-story buildings.
Doug Bates, a member of the Downtown Crozet Initiative board and the Crozet Community Advisory Committee, said he respected and is equally concerned with the issues raised by Grady but said this was an important interim step in the redevelopment.
“I wish this were the last time I’m going to be in front of you, but my guess is no,” he said.
Stoner said there is still work to be done — they are working with staff, DCI and VDOT on a final road design, and they are working on set of architectural guidelines for the property. There will also be a second phase in the future regarding the redevelopment of the rest of the property.