Revolting: Crozet group nixes master plan

Tom Loach has worked on plans for the "neighborhood model" since it was a gleam in the eyes of "new urbanism" devotees in Albemarle County.

Supervisor David Wyant, a lifelong Albemarle resident, ran for office stressing his misgivings about the plan to orchestrate massive growth in Crozet.

Now both men have done 180s on the Crozet Master Plan, which was approved in December by the Board of Supervisors as the blueprint for growth in a rural area that grows less rural with each passing week.

Wyant joined his fellow supes in approving the Crozet Master Plan, while Loach is now vowing to fight any high-density rezoning– the hallmark of the neighborhood model– and is considering launching a drive to remove Crozet from the county's growth areas.

When Loach moved to Crozet 15 years ago, he knew Albemarle County had plans to swell the rural burg of 3,000 to 12,000 as a designated "growth area."

That's why over the years he's served on the committees that plotted out the high-density, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood model and the Crozet Master Plan currently embraced by Albemarle. "I wanted to make sure Crozet survived," says Loach. "I wanted it to remain a nice place to live."

He also served as president of the Crozet Community Association, an organization intimately involved in the master plan meetings that regularly drew 100 citizens, who voiced their worries in the face of inexorable growth.

Two weeks before the Board of Supervisors voted December 1 to approve the Crozet Master Plan, the Crozet Community Association just said no.

"Show me the money," says Loach. "We will not support the master plan until there's funding for infrastructure." Nor will the group support high-density rezonings, instead favoring by-right development, which he says in Crozet is roughly one house per acre.

"It's not possible to commit all the money up front," says Lee Catlin, Albemarle spokeswoman. "It will be phased in. And even if funding is not fully committed, the plan is still useful for land use and rezoning."

She points to money that's been allocated for a new library, and a $160,000 grant to enhance the Crozet streetscape.

And she questions whether the Crozet Community Association really speaks for Crozet. "They're not the only residents or even the majority of residents," says Catlin. "The representation we had in the planning process was much broader."

Supervisor Wyant was at the meeting when the association voted against the master plan. "It was a very small number, not necessarily representative of the entire community," he says.

Loach, however, says that meeting was the second time the community association voted against the plan, and that there was a spirited debate with at least 30 people there.

"David Wyant wanted direction" before the supervisors voted, says Loach. "You have to remember that Wyant ran against the master plan."

In the 2003 race for the White Hall District supervisor's seat, Wyant defeated master plan advocate Eric Strucko. One year later, Wyant has joined the other five supes in approving the Crozet Master Plan.

"We just don't have all the money in the world to do everything in the county," says Wyant. "They got a $5.4 million library. A lot of areas in the county would like to have that."

Still, plans without funding concern Wyant. "Over the years, we've seen some great plans," he says. The funding has always been the tough part, and that will be the case as Pantops works on its own master plan.

"A master plan is not going to work unless you've got the rubber to meet the road," says Wyant.

Nor does he go along with the association's pledge to support by-right development, which is often blamed for suburban sprawl.

"The most disturbing thing to me is some of the developers are doing things by-right, and that stuff doesn't get to us," he says. "We don't get to get proffers and infrastructure."

Loach is unswayed. He mentions a developer who wants to put 100 homes on 20 acres, which would be blessed by the master plan. "Under by-right, he could only put 20 homes," says Loach. "Why should we take 100? We're not going to see the degradation of our quality of life for the sake of developers."

Is the association vote merely symbolic and not supported by all its members? Current president David Wayland was not at that meeting, but says, "If I was, I wouldn't have voted that way."

However, he does endorse the community association as the vox populi of Crozet. "We're probably the only organization that pretends to speak for the people of Crozet," he says.

"Of course we're disappointed," says Catlin of the Crozet vote. "It means we have work to do to communicate and keep residents engaged. We believe it's the funding, not the planning itself, and as we put money to it, their support may change."

Tom Loach helped develop the neighborhood model and Crozet Master Plan– but Albemarle's lack of funding for infrastructure turned him against the plan that directs Crozet's transition from village to urban center.