Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd faced nearly two hours of ire from more than 100 county residents last week, over a proposal to redesignate 140 acres south of Hollymead Town Center into the county growth area. The land is owned by United Land Corporation President Wendell Wood, who developed the town center and sold 46 acres to the Department of Defense for construction of the National Ground Intelligence Center, at a price of $7 million.
Albemarle Supervisor Ken Boyd, who changed his stance on expanding the growth area near Hollymead Town Center, said last week that he was “accused of being a flip-flopper.” He said it was “an appropriate term for a person who changes his mind based on further information.”
The outrage came courtesy of Forest Lakes homeowners, incensed with the two-term supervisor after Boyd spoke in favor of expanding the growth area to attract private money for infrastructure improvements called for in the county’s Places29 Master Plan. In November, Boyd vowed to “do what the people said” and declined to support the expansion. Three weeks later, Boyd had changed his mind.
“I don’t know of anywhere in the country where infrastructure precedes growth,” Boyd told a crowded Hollymead Elementary School auditorium last Thursday.
To Boyd, whose left arm is in a sling after rotator cuff surgery, putting infrastructure before growth may seem like putting stitches before a scratch. However, Forest Lakes Community Association board member Scott Elliff, who moved to the neighborhood six years ago, told C-VILLE that infrastructure improvements to North 29 need to come before the growth area is expanded.
Chief among infrastructure demands is the construction of Berkmar Drive Extended, a component of the Places29 Master Plan and one of the priorities Boyd named in a six-pronged action plan that county supervisors passed last year. Some Forest Lakes residents also fear that additional development could create heavier traffic on Route 29, specifically near the intersection of Ashwood Boulevard. That intersection was the site of a fatal accident in 2008, when 16-year-old Sydney Aichs’ car was struck by a tractor-trailer. According to county statistics, 13 accidents have taken place at the intersection in the past six months.
“What has happened in this county for years is this small, inexorable crawl towards development,” said Elliff, who added that Albemarle County has a 20-year backlog of approved growth areas. Piedmont Environmental Council representative Jeff Werner wrote in an e-mail that Albemarle has a “vast amount” of approved, undeveloped land in the North 29 growth area—“approximately 3,500 new housing units and 2.25 million square feet of new commercial space.”
Boyd told residents not to hold their breath for state or federal infrastructure dollars, but suggested that private money could help cover the costs of infrastructure work. Wood reportedly offered a proffer for part of Berkmar Drive Extended in exchange for the growth area expansion.
Last week, the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce and the North Charlottesville Business Council named Berkmar Drive Extended one of five “doable” components of the Places29 Master Plan. According to Timothy Hulbert, president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, that doability depends, at least in part, on private money.
“[Wendell Wood] went to the county and said he could put together a number of private contributors to help fund transportation improvements,” Hulbert tells C-VILLE. “Logic says you ought to pursue that.” At least one member of the public, however, remarked during last week’s meeting that proffers were a “10 percent solution” to the problems that further development might create on Route 29.