Most shoppers and movie-goers in town are thrilled to have easy access to Trader Joe’s and the Regal Stadium 14. But new traffic patterns around the massive shopping center—which still hasn’t opened entirely—are causing backups and accidents. Residents and business owners who frequent the area for reasons besides a jar of sunflower seed butter or an IMAX movie are less than pleased with Stonefield’s impacts.
Lethia Nuckols of Nuckols Insurance said she had no idea the development would have such a negative impact on her business. She said she expected Stonefield employees and customers to take advantage of the company’s convenient location during their lunch hours, and was anticipating a boom in sales. Instead, Nuckols is losing clients, who are saying it’s now too difficult to access the building.
“Strangers come to Stonefield off Route 29 and they give them access,” she said. “But I’ve been here for 25 years and they threaten my livelihood? What were they thinking?”
Local Virginia Department of Transportation officials who oversee Stonefield and its surrounding roads did not respond to inquiries by press time, but spokesperson Lou Hatter said VDOT is aware of recent crashes and other concerns.
“We are working with the Albemarle County Police Department and other interested parties to address them,” Hatter said.
During the construction process, developers and VDOT reconfigured the intersection of Hydraulic Road and Swanson Drive, and added a long concrete median that now blocks left-hand turns onto Swanson.
According to the Albemarle County Police Department, five traffic accidents have occurred in the area since the opening of the Shops at Stonefield in November. None were recorded in October.
Russell Harlow grew up in Charlottesville, but chose not to return as an adult, he said, because of the traffic. He now lives in Lexington, but visits frequently to help his elderly parents, who own property on Swanson.
Harlow said he wasn’t surprised to hear about the increased number of accidents off Hydraulic Road, and he worries that his parents and their tenants no longer have safe, easy access to where they need to go every day.
“We’re small potatoes compared to what’s going on across the street,” Harlow said. “So we understand that’s where the traffic is going, and where the taxes are being spent. But it does make it more difficult.”
The landlords and business owners off Swanson had no idea the construction would include the concrete median, and Harlow said the meetings hosted by VDOT should have been more effectively advertised to the public.
“The responsibility lies with VDOT to publicize these meetings and make sure everyone knows what’s going on,” he said. “I’m sure they did everything legally, but it’s one of those things—unless you know it’s going to directly affect you, you’re probably not too concerned about it and aren’t going to go to those meetings. But if we had known, we would have been a lot more in tune to it.”