At an October 23 work session on Places29, the Planning Commission had before it two land-use requests from landowner Wendell Wood. One involved an area south of Hollymead Town Center, and in exchange for the possible move, Wood had made verbal offers to build certain sections of a proposed extension of Berkmar Drive, as well as contribute to the funding of a necessary bridge over the Rivanna River. Despite the offer, the Commission voted to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not grant Wood’s request.
"I am very, very reluctant to make changes to the comprehensive plan and to the line that divides the development and rural areas, just based on the word of anyone," says Commissioner Calvin Morris. "I don’t care whether it’s a supervisor, Wendell Wood, or a county authority, I would like to really see it in writing."
Despite a resolution of intent to expand the growth area around NGIC, the Planning Commission is now recommending that the county not go through with it.
Chair Marcia Joseph, who is challenging Supervisor Ken Boyd for his seat, echoes Morris’ comments. "If Mr. Wood came back with a comprehensive plan amendment that clearly benefitted the community in some way, then we would consider expanding the growth area," she says. "As far as it stands now, there was no compelling reason."
Wood’s other request was a little more complicated. A year-and-a-half ago, the Board of Supervisors passed a Resolution of Intent to put 30 acres of Wood’s land in the growth area in return for him selling a 47-acre parcel for $7 million—apparently less than market value—to the U.S. Army for a new intelligence facility to be built next to the existing National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC). The resolution had no binding power, however, which allowed the Commission to approach the request with hands untied. They promptly voted no. "There does not appear to be a compelling reason to enlarge the growth area," says Joseph, indicating that environmental protections were part of her motivation. "The property has some steep slopes on it."
Concerns that NGIC may not have room to expand were also dismissed by county staff in their report, pointing to land in the growth area that the Army already owns. "We were not saying, ‘Go away and don’t expand,’" says Joseph. "We just said, ‘We see that there is ample area within the growth area if you need to expand.’"
"Why are we starting to pull more land into the development area?" Morris asks, stating that he would like a defense official to explain the Army’s needs in a public setting. The county is still largely in the dark regarding any of the Army’s specific plans for what is now known as the Rivanna Station Military Base. "I understand everything that I’ve read, that this was a compromise between the county, the federal government and Mr. Wood. That’s what I’ve read, and I’m sorry, but I don’t believe everything I read. Sorry."
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