It wasn’t long after the ink had dried on the first Crozet Master Plan when a group was formed to make sure the county and developers would adhere to both the letter and spirit of the plan. Having been involved with previous development projects everyone in the community knew the problems that could and would arise if there wasn’t close follow up at both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. The other purpose was to insure that any new rezoning included the 15 percent affordable housing proffer to maintain a consistent flow of affordable homes into the community. It wasn’t too much later when the Board of Supervisors established the community advisory committee concept as new growth areas developed their own Master Plans. From its inception the Crozet Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) has always been pro active. That is to say as each new development proposal came up it was thoroughly reviewed for compliance to the Master Plan as well as any potential adverse effects on the community as a whole. If the development proposal didn’t pass muster, the committee would develop a response which was presented to both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. The response could range from presenting suggestions for improvement to the development plan to an out right expression of non support for the project. To be sure the county knew when it came to Crozet they could expect to hear from us. From my point of view there has been a slow change in the working of the CCAC and its role in our community. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the workings of all of the community advisory committees(CAC’s) and the increasing pressure from the county to diminish the influence of the CAC’s. In the Village of Rivanna this constant obstruction on the part of the county into how they ran their CAC lead the entire membership of the committee to resign. The fact our own CAC cannot make up their own agenda should tell you all you need to know about how little power is left to our own CAC.
When it comes to development proposals what I expect from the members of the CCAC is for them to listen to both the presentation by the developer as well as comments from the community and apply their knowledge of the master plan to the proposal and make their thoughts known. It is also a time to hear from our member of the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission on the issue. After a complete discussion the members should make their views known in whatever form that may take knowing the outcome may or may not please the developer, community or both. The fact a development proposal can be quite complicated and there will be the need for the CAC to obtain additional information means it may take more than one meeting to come to an agreed outcome. Additionally, if a developer asks for a deferment and makes any changes to the plan, it must be brought back to the CCAC for review. What we cannot do is to view the developers proposal, listen to the statements from the community and call it a day. There’s just too much at stake, especially with the new master plan update and its changes, which was roundly opposed by the CCAC and community. On the other side of the coin it appears to me there has been a significant decrease in the involvement of the community in the workings of the CCAC. One of the most important reasons for forming the original oversight committee was to insure it was the community who faced the development proposals rather then leaving the affected neighborhood on their own. On the other side of the coin, all too often when the proposal decision is finally rendered, everyone disappears from the CCAC future meetings. There’s still a lot more that can happen in Crozet that will have significant effects on the lives of all our residents and this is no time to back down from the challenge. The fact is growth area residents make up the bulk of the population in Albemarle County, but we continue to fail to use that fact to our advantage. The CCAC should convene a meeting of all the chairs of the CAC’s and develop an action agenda for all our growth areas, which then will be brought to the Board of Supervisors. I’m sure Crozet is not the only growth area which lacks the necessary infrastructure or has to deal with increasing traffic problems that have to be solved. It’s either lead, follow or resign ourselves to living under the thumb of the county, which, if you haven’t noticed, isn’t working all that well for Crozet.