It should be no surprise that a discussion of the future of Route 29 North would involve Wendell Wood. The long-active local developer has requested that three changes be made as part of the so-called Places29 master plan, and, at a September 5 work session, the Board of Supervisors seemed game for two of the three.
As much as any individual, Wood has authored the 29N of today, responsible for developing Barracks Road, Wal-Mart, Target and plenty in between, from trailer parks to subdivisions. He sold land to GE Fanuc when the company came to Albemarle in the 1980s, as well as to the federal government for the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) in the late 1990s.
The Board of Supervisors seemed O.K. with two of three requests from Wendell Wood to change the zoning of county land along Route 29N.
And still Wood has thousands of acres left to sprout big boxes or single family houses.
In order to maximize the profit on some of that land, however, Wood needs it rezoned to allow him to develop and sell it to the retailers or the homeowners willing to buy it. Hence, he requested that the Board of Supervisors go ahead and rezone land just south of the Hollymead Town Center in order to accommodate "a large footprint retail store, with surrounding retail and mixed use"—a.k.a., another big box center.
As a carrot, Wood dangled money for a bridge over the South Fork of the Rivanna, needed to complete a road parallel to Route 29 to the west. The County Planning Commission has been skeptical, but staff is open to the idea. For the most part, the Board too was amenable to getting money "for all or part of the cost of the bridge" from Wood.
"We don’t have a nickel in our pockets to go building that thing right now as a county, so it’s going to have to be built, if it’s going to be built at all, with proffered money," said Supervisor David Slutzky, who called the parallel road the linchpin of the Places29 plan. "If we’ve got a developer who’s already shown up…I think it would be inappropriate for us to not take them up on that opportunity." Slutzky went on to say he felt so passionately about the road network, he’d also be open to the idea of expanding the growth area between Hollymead and the South Fork of the Rivanna.
Supervisor Dennis Rooker was more skeptical. "We’d have to be very careful about thinking we’re getting something when all we’re doing is creating another traffic generator that actually overwhelms the traffic improvements we’re so enthusiastic about."
If the Planning Commission didn’t want to take an offer on the table, said Chair Ken Boyd, then "show me the money. …I’d like to see how it’s going to get built without those proffers." It’s worth noting that Boyd’s challenger in the fall election is none other than Planning Commission Chair Marcia Joseph.
The Board also generally supported an expansion of the growth area just southeast of NGIC by 53 acres, which the Planning Commission has balked at. The expansion would satisfy the Resolution of Intent the Board passed last year to move at least 30 acres of Wood’s land into the growth area so as to encourage Wood to sell additional land to NGIC for an expansion. That transaction has been the subject of numerous C-VILLE articles.
But the supes couldn’t support another growth area expansion requested by Wood near NGIC. The amount of land wasn’t specified, but involved no less than 100 acres—"some or all of the Rural Areas north and east" of the existing northern most growth area, Piney Mountain. In light of the existing capacity for 49,600 additional residential units to be built in the 29N area, staff, consultants, the Planning Commission and even the supes think the expansion is a bad idea.
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