Last October, developer Richard Spurzem of Neighborhood Properties decided that going through Albemarle County’s approval process for preliminary site plans was no longer an attractive plan. Having had his plans for 187 townhouse units (part of the North Pointe megadevelopment on 29N) rejected twice by county planners, and facing the prospect of a third review, he sued the county instead. The strategy seems to have paid off: On April 24, the county approved Spurzem’s preliminary plan, meaning the case will not go before a judge.
The most recent version of Neighborhood Properties’ preliminary site plan for its North Pointe development, the one that finally won approval from county planners, is one unit smaller than the 187 originally proposed.
At issue, says Spurzem, was a conservation area that county planners said had changed since the rezoning for North Pointe was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2006. In a January meeting with planners, Spurzem says, “We showed them graphically that the line was in precisely the same place as it was on the rezoning.” The parties also hashed out details of building placement and orientation, which resulted in the number of proposed units on the 40-acre property dropping to 186 from 187.
Spurzem, who successfully sued the county in 2005 over the preliminary site plan for another of his projects, maintains that filing suit over North Pointe was necessary. “I think that’s the only way to force them to do what they ought to be doing just as a matter of course,” he says—i.e., moving plans forward in a timely manner. County Attorney Larry Davis has a different view, though, saying that meetings like the one Spurzem and the county had in January are a normal part of the approval process and usually satisfy both developers and planners without the need for lawsuits. “A lawsuit is something that doesn’t benefit a developer or the county except in extreme circumstances, I would think,” says Davis. Still, he calls the situation “a success story.”
Next up for Spurzem: seeking approval of a final site plan. “I’m sure that we’ll get a lot of grief on that too,” he says. “That’s probably a one-year process just to get that approved. If it were someplace else, [like] in Waynesboro, it would probably be approved in a month.” His preliminary plan was approved subject to a number of conditions, including provisions for sidewalks and stormwater management, but Davis describes those as “very typical” for a project of this kind.
The North Pointe megadevelopment, championed by developer Chuck Rotgin, is physically positioned to capitalize on the hundreds of new jobs that Albemarle County expects the National Ground Intelligence Center to bring when it occupies new facilities two miles up the road. Though the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors reported in September that fewer NGIC homebuyers would arrive in Albemarle than had been expected (300-400 rather than 800-900), CAAR is looking forward to a number of NGIC renters.
Spurzem’s townhouses would seem to be primed for these folks, if they’re built in time. “This property is ideally located for NGIC and also for the [UVA] research park which is directly across the street.” A stalled housing market doesn’t trouble him either. “That’s what we’re counting on, is that by the time that it actually gets approved that the economy will be better,” he says. “But even if the economy isn’t any better, it’s still one of the best located pieces of property.”
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