Biscuit Run: To phase or not to phase

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Whatever mistakes might be made by the county in rezoning for Biscuit Run, they at least want to avoid the mistakes of Hollymead—where huge swaths of green land were made red, causing erosion and sediment-control issues for neighbors and watersheds; where the commercial property was built long before residential, undercutting the principles of the county’s neighborhood model; and where the piecemeal construction of the roads leaves the public bereft of street interconnectivity.

So, at the latest Biscuit Run work session held February 27 at the County Planning Commission (www.albemarle.org), one of the main topics of the evening was “phasing,” which many hoped would minimize at least those growing pains for the 3,100-residential-unit development planned for southern Albemarle. Commissioners expressed interest in having the developers build out from the start the so-called Southwood Connecter, between Route 20 and Old Lynchburg Road. They wondered if land-clearing could be limited to a certain amount at one time. And they wished to know if the commercial development—often the most profitable and therefore the first to get built—could be proportionally phased with residential development so that build-out occurs in unison.

Steven Blaine, attorney for the developers, had previously dismissed the idea of phasing. “Phasing will be determined by the market demand for Biscuit Run dwellings,” Blaine wrote in a memo to county staff, a point he had also emphasized at earlier meetings.
“From my perspective, phasing is part of the design of whether it’s going to work or not,” said Julia Monteith, the nonvoting UVA liaison to the Commission. “I think for a development this large, understanding the phasing as part of the rezoning is actually fairly important.”

“How would you envision it being phased?” asked Blaine. While maintaining a calm tone, his words had some bite: “It sounds like you have some experience developing projects and maybe experience in terms of market conditions. Would you see it developing from Route 20 toward the interior? Old Lynchburg Road?”

“I’m not going to answer that,” replied Monteith. “I think that’s for you to provide to us.”

But Commission Chair Marcia Joseph rekindled the discussion by listing some concrete suggestions, and other commissioners followed suit. After taking it all in, Blaine suggested that much of what they wanted was already in the proposal—he just needed to do a better job of showing where: “I think we’re very close.”

The public hearing for Biscuit Run is slated for March 27.

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