Much like the Hollymead Town Center development, the new project at the intersection of Hydraulic Road and U.S. Route 29 North will displace significant amounts of soil and vegetation to make way for 1.2 million square feet of retail, commercial and residential space. But unlike Hollymead, Edens & Avant, developers for The Shops at Stonefield, have a much shorter time window to help stabilize and revegetate vacant land in an effort to limit stormwater runoff.
Within the last decade, excitement over construction of Hollymead—and the arrival of Target, among other things—turned into concern when sediment from the development site began seeping into Lake Hollymead and making its waters muddy. According to a Hollymead Lake Sediment Survey, although the lake was healthy, “there are significant thicknesses of sediment appearing to be of recent origin that are impacting the lake’s viability.”
“Should this sedimentation continue or be accelerated, serious damage is predicted,” reads the report.
Considering the magnitude of the current project, could The Shops at Stonefield, which will include a Trader Joe’s, Regal Cinema, restaurants, a hotel and a 245-unit residential project, be the next Hollymead? Those involved say such a fate is not likely.
“There are a couple of, I guess, fortunate differences,” says Albemarle County Engineer Glenn Brooks. “This is lower than the road, Hollymead was higher than the road, so that made it more difficult.” In addition, The Shops at Stonefield is a more straightforward development “with just a commercial development plan and a grade for everything that goes with it,” he says.
The worst-case scenario, says Brooks, would be if the main pipe system failed.
“We would get some discharge through the piping system under [Route] 29,” he says, then adds that the system goes under the shopping center adjacent to the nearby post office “and it would eventually hit Meadow Creek.”
A spokesperson for Edens & Avant tells C-VILLE that the work at Stonefield is “consistent” with the county’s erosion and sediment control plans.
“The first work taking place at the site is the construction of county-approved erosion and sediment control ponds that ensure any runoff from disturbed areas is treated before it leaves the property and enters any watershed,” writes Robbie Robertson, Edens & Avant communications director, in an e-mail. He adds that a county inspector visits the site regularly.
“In the Hollymead case, they took a long time to get [the construction grading done],” says Brooks. “The economy shut down, they had to leave some parts of the project and then come back.” That allowed grounds to be washed away with every rainstorm.
This time around, Albemarle County is armed with an ordinance that addresses the issue. In 2009, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an amendment to an ordinance that puts a nine-month deadline for developers to plant permanent vegetation and stabilize soil for all exposed land.
“The purpose of the ordinance was to prohibit situations where you would have large areas of construction sites that weren’t under active construction sitting there, denuded and creating an erosion problem every time there was a significant rainstorm,” says Morgan Butler, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. Butler drafted a report with the Rivanna Conservation Society and UVA law school’s Environmental Law and Conservation Clinic recommending the change to the county code.
According to Brooks, Edens & Avant will likely have to ask the Supervisors for an extension. “It’s just not going to get done in nine months,” he says. However, Brooks says that the areas the developer won’t develop right away will be planted with grass to stabilize the soil and look better.
“Our mandate is to make sure that it doesn’t erode, so we’d like it to be green as soon as possible,” he says.