When I first heard through the grapevine that Biscuit Run might become a state park instead of 3,100 houses, I said, "This is like a Christmas present." This was the mirror image of my reaction in 2005 when I first heard about those houses. Back then, I probably said something like "This is a fat lump of coal."
It’s true that my gut feeling remains unfriendly toward the notion of tearing down trees to put up subdivisions. That’s a deep-seated reaction and one I will probably continue to have forever. What’s more, I lived on Old Lynchburg Road when I first came to Charlottesville and my early love for the area was closely tied to that winding, one-and-a-half-lane drive through thickly wooded acreage. Had I grown up on that road, I can only imagine how devastating it would be to contemplate a shiny, new neighborhood replacing the trees.
So I can’t help but be happy that the economy seems to have nixed the development plan that passed the county in 2007 and would certainly have heavily impacted the area just south of town.
However—however!—I can definitely see the point that county development director Mark Graham makes in this story. If you’re a county planner and your job is to prevent sprawl in rural areas, you probably would see the 1,200 acres of Biscuit Run as prime real estate for denser growth, which is exactly what the county’s master plan calls for. Give that up, and in the usual calculus of growth, you are pushing the new houses into some other area—some other person’s beloved open space.
It’s tricky. But I have no hesitation in being glad that the recession, though painful for many people, is giving us a collective opportunity to pause and think about what we’re doing with our land. Once houses are built, there’s no going back.
How do you feel about the news?