1 Biscuit Run scrapped in favor of state park?
After years of planning and months of discussions about its rezoning, it looks like Biscuit Run, the biggest would-be development in Albemarle County, will soon be donated to the state of Virginia as parkland. Behold the power of the Great Recession. Why else would Hunter Craig and his development partner forfeit their $46.5 million investment and the hope of creating 3,100 residential units and 150,000 square feet of commercial space? But while it might be good news from an environmental point of view, the news has its downside from an infrastructure perspective. Supervisor Rodney Thomas was not alone in noting that with the deal squashed, $41 million in proffers for things like trailed parkland, connector roads and school construction will go right down the drain.
2 Landmark Hotel bogged down in lawsuits
As the legal saga continues—and not one inch of progress on the hotel is made—owner Halsey Minor and developer Lee Danielson seem to hate each other a little more every month. And neither of them is gaining any outside fans, either. Work on the nine-story hotel stalled in January and since then it’s been a saga of liens, lawsuits, demurrers, refiled charges, and scrappy e-mails. A related chapter in the saga will unfold later this week when Minor’s Albemarle County estate, Fox Ridge Farm, goes up for auction at the Albemarle County Courthouse. Watch the fireworks on January 4.
3 Water supply debate keeps flowing
Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) Executive Director Tom Frederick (pictured) takes a lot of heat for the agency’s handling of the 50-year community water supply plan. First, consulting firm Gannett Fleming was canned after providing a new cost estimate for the Ragged Mountain Dam that is $35 million higher than their earlier estimate (to $72 million from $37 million). In a shining example of understatement, RWSA Chair Mike Gaffney said the agency “decided that a new direction on design best serves the current discussions in this community.” Next, Schnabel Engineering Associates, hired as the lead design firm, despite former estimates to the contrary, found that the cost of repairing and expanding the dam would be more expensive than building a new one.
4 The Parkway drives ahead
This was the year of the Meadowcreek Parkway. Again. Not only is the construction of the county portion of the road in full force, but City Council approved the design for the 250 Interchange and, bonus, VDOT began advertising for bids for McIntire Road Extended. This, however, was also the year of the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park. Although the group’s legal injunctions were rebuffed by a judge, they energetically opposed the parkway, even sending candidate Bob Fenwick out to campaign—unsuccessfully—for City Council.
5 Seeing red—and happy about it
The good news is that the rebricking of the Downtown Mall came in under budget and ahead of schedule. “When all the bills are paid,” Jim Tolbert, director of Neighborhood Development Services, said at a City Council meeting in May, “we should be 10 to 15 percent under budget.” The bad news is, well, nothing. The $7 million-project was criticized by many as superfluous spending in a recession, but after it was all said and done, contractors Barton Malow were praised for the clean and quick execution. (Pictured is Chris Weatherford, project manager for Barton Malow.)
6 Disputed Cherry Avenue lots go to Southern Development
In October 2008 City Council voted to authorize a land purchase and sale agreement to local developer Southern Development for two city lots at 521 and 529 Ridge St., near the corner of Cherry Avenue. This year the William Taylor Plaza, as it will be called, is taking shape, despite questions about its appropriateness from Fifeville residents. The 100,000 square-foot mixed-use project includes 50 housing units along Ridge Street, a plaza, underground parking, a water-retention pond, an arboretum and an internal road that connects the two main roads.
7 YMCA McIntire Park plan assailed
Although the controversy over the location of a proposed YMCA began in 2007, the site plan and its subsequent design, which were presented to the BAR this year, spurred loud complaints from members of the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park. They didn’t like the look of the building nor its location. Strife about softball fields, parking and picnic shelters added to the noise. But the Y’s plan will put the fitness facility within reach of city teens in a way that the current Westfield Road building does not. The cost of the facility is estimated at around $12 million, according to YMCA Chair Kurt Krueger (pictured), who says the campaign for private donations continues.
8 Overdue notice for Crozet Library
By approving a plan that halts construction projects for some time, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has put the brakes on the new Crozet Library for at least five years. So much for the Crozet Master Plan that called for a revived downtown and a new library. Neither the economy nor development, it seems, is going by the book. (Pictured is Mike Marshall, chair of the Crozet Community Advisory Council.)
9 Planned Belmont eatery cooks up NIMBY stew
Who would have predicted that a little Cajun restaurant would ignite so much controversy among Belmont neighbors? But when, last spring, Andrew Ewell and Hannah Pittard requested city rezoning that would allow them to turn their home that abuts Belmont Bar-B-Que into a Cajun restaurant, cries of “We’ve had enough” were heard up and down Hinton Avenue. Enough with the late night noise, the cigarette butts, the drunks, the whole commercial scene, they said. Ultimately, City Council gave Ewell and Pittard the green light, but not before they realized that Belmont may have grown up a little too quickly and that it’s time for a more apt neighborhood plan.
Also this year…
10 Neighbors clucked over a two-story chicken coop in North Downtown.
• The county approved wind turbines;
• Urban Outfitters brought chain hipster retail to a historic site on the Downtown Mall;
• Hollywood director Tom Shadyac cut the ribbon on The Haven, the homeless day shelter he funded;
• Downtowners’ pleas for a grocery were answered by the Market Street Market.
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