It has to be stated right up front that the community of Crozet has been working to incorporate affordable housing into the onslaught of development in our community since 1993, with the first Crozet Community Plan. The importance of affordable housing since then has been substantiated by both the Crozet Community Association(CCA) as well as the Crozet Community Advisory Committee(CCAC). Unfortunately, as we recently have all found out, support is not enough, especially when that support comes with little, if any, enforcement power. So Crozet now finds itself in a position where it may very well be the victim of over 20 years of failure on the part of Albemarle County to address the issue. I say victim, because Albemarle County has suddenly developed religion when it comes to affordable housing and the only way to cleanse their sins is through our growth areas. If anyone, doubts this, then explain why Albemarle County forced a new high density zoning category upon parts of Crozet, despite opposition by the CCAC and land owners who’s property was affected and did so without a vote by the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors. Objections to the Board of Supervisors actions brought by the CCAC over these planning changes were met with ridicule by members of board, sending a very clear message of we really don’t care what you think. I personally don’t think either the County, through their planning department, or the current rubber stamp Board of Supervisors is finished with Crozet just yet. One other influence on what’s happening is the actions now being taken by the City Council and the massive changes to their own land use planning to accommodate affordable housing. Despite the fact Crozet doesn’t have much land left to be developed doesn’t mean much and you have to realize that changes now, albeit to a limited amount of land, may very well be consequential if there is ever an expansion of our growth. As I see the county has limited options, but here are a few we have to watch for.
1. Change Crozet’s Master Plan – Already done. Get as much into as little as possible.
2. Expand the growth area – Probably not this election cycle, but there is already growing pressure for expansion coming from the development community.
3. Change the rules. For example allow development on land currently not acceptable under the zoning in place. This includes allowing development on steeper slopes or other poor land conditions, or reduce environmental conditions that now limit development. Please note the county has already hired consultants and is in the process of rewriting much of our current planning documents.
4. Allow redevelopment of already developed land in Crozet. Single family home today, multifamily home tomorrow. Planning staff has already included this in their discussion for homes on St. George Avenue. Who needs infrastructure, not us.
I believe this year’s elections may well be a referendum on growth in Albemarle County and some of those running will use affordable housing as their wedge issue. Lord knows how many times we’ll hear the word NIMBY before November to try and instill FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Thankfully for Crozet the answer, as it has been in the past is, “thanks, but we’ve already taken care of that”.