Four months before Democrat Cynthia Neff launched her official bid to unseat Republican Supervisor Ken Boyd, the two squared off at Hollymead Elementary School over expanding the Albemarle County growth area. The room was filled with residents of Forest Lakes—the 1,400-unit development that houses roughly 5,000 people, many of them voters in the Hollymead precinct.
Cynthia Neff and Ken Boyd may have to wrestle for a slim majority in Forest Lakes. Boyd wond his past two elections by fewer than 200 votes; the bulk of the ballots that secured his victory came from Forest Lakes and the Hollymead Precinct.
Months after he voted against a growth area expansion, Boyd told the crowd that Albemarle’s growth area lost roughly 900 acres, largely due to the sale of Biscuit Run. He emphasized that adding to the growth area was not the same as approving more development. Neff was one of the first members in the audience to speak against him.
“For five years, we watched traffic get worse and the environment degrade, and no infrastructure improvements,” Neff told the room.
Lyn Holt, a resident of Forest Lakes North for more than 10 years, addressed Boyd not long after Neff. The audience, she told him, doesn’t speak for the whole neighborhood.
“There are people out there who think you’re doing a great job,” said Holt.
Hollymead’s largest residential development could almost single-handedly decide whether Neff or Boyd represents Rivanna—which, in turn, means that the neighborhood will also pick the supervisor responsible for one of the most scrutinized stretches of land in Albemarle. Boyd recently appointed a citizen review task force to provide public input on the Western Bypass’ Northern Terminus, which is slated for construction near the intersection of 29N and Ashwood Boulevard, a Forest Lakes entrance. Add the potential for more growth area discussions and a few large holdings by developer Wendell Wood, and the voters in Forest Lakes hold the potential to alter more than the political landscape.
The Hollymead precinct that houses Forest Lakes receives more votes than any other two Rivanna precincts combined. When Boyd was elected in 2003, it was by a margin of 178 votes. In 2007, when Boyd ran for reelection against Democrat Marcia Joseph, that margin was even smaller. Both candidates spent in the area of $47,000 for an election that was ultimately decided by 149 votes, a margin largely built in Forest Lakes and the Hollymead District, where Boyd won by 116 votes.
“It’s a very important precinct in the Rivanna district,” said Joseph. “It’s huge and diverse in its voting.”
It’s similarly diverse in its giving. Last week, the Virginia Public Access Project released its most recent round of fundraising reports, which showed that Neff outraised Boyd two-to-one, with roughly $25,000 amassed during the month and more than $64,000 in her coffers, to Boyd’s $41,000. Both received contributions from Forest Lakes residents, who likely continue to talk with each other and do the candidates’ work of trying to sway any Forest Lakes resident who happens to be on the fence.
“I’ve been knocking on doors there, he’s been knocking on doors there,” Neff said recently. “We’re both trying to have a presence there, and trying to get those folks to vote for us.”
On Wednesday evening, Forest Lakes resident and Democrat Grace Zisk hosted a party for Neff at her home. “We don’t need any more big stores,” Zisk told C-VILLE. “We have stores that are empty, such as Circuit City… You don’t see the whole Board of Supervisors in on this. You see Ken.”
Meanwhile, fellow Forest Lakes resident Clarence Roberts, a Boyd supporter, gave steadily to the supervisor’s campaign between July and August. Roberts, who did not return requests for comment, also supported Boyd in 2007 with a $121 in-kind contribution to his campaign. The contribution? A letter to his neighbors.