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Neighborhood Model - 12 Principles

Comments re: consideration of Neighborhood Model Principles under the North Pointe Application Plan, last revised March 6, 2006.

1.    Pedestrian Orientation:

Approximately 10 1/2 miles of paths and sidewalks interconnect the community, providing access to the Rivanna River and natural stream valleys in the northern residential portions, to the mixed multi-family housing, neighborhood school, playgrounds, lake, and assembly areas at the center of the site, and to the mixture of small and large stores in the southern portion.  Sidewalks on each side of the street are generally separated from the roadways by landscaped beds.  One-third of the walkways are foot paths through the wooded areas, allowing pedestrians to walk between the various streets and amenities.   The commercial center, school, library and plaza and potential employment areas are just ¼ mile from the most dense residential areas and just ½ mile -- a leisurely 15 minute walk -- from the farthest northern residence.

2.    Neighborhood Friendly Streets and Paths:

The community includes a coordinated network of streets, walkways, alleys and parking areas.  The streets have been designed in coordination with VDOT to the minimum widths possible to create a sense of neighborhood and to reduce vehicle speeds.  The sidewalks will generally be separated from the streets by a grass strip with landscaping and trees.  On-street parking is provided on most streets. The commercial areas include convenient angled parking adjacent to wide sidewalks in front of the stores fronting the “Main Street”, with planted medians separating through traffic lanes.  Minimum front yard setbacks encourage houses to be close to the sidewalks.  Bicycle lanes are provided along all major roads.  Approximately 3 1/2 miles of footpaths connect neighborhoods and sidewalks and provide access to natural environmental areas, open spaces and the urban plazas in the commercial areas.

3.    Interconnected Streets and Transportation Networks:

  The Application Plan and Proffers provide for the County desired interconnectivity to the Forest Lakes, Hollymead and South Forest Lakes communities to the south, the residential neighborhoods along Proffit Road to the east, and to the University of Virginia’s North Fork Research Park to the west. A potential future additional  interconnection  to  the North Fork Park (via Northside Drive) is preserved by the relocation of an existing Route 29 crossover that will now align with Northside Drive.  A parallel road connection between Northside and Cypress Lane (west of Route 29) and VDOT desired closings of two existing crossovers are proffered.   

  Except for the northern portions of the community where the natural terrain, topography and important environmental features prudently preclude street development, internal interconnectivity among neighborhoods is provided.   North Pointe Boulevard is designed and located as one of a series of roads parallel to Route 29 as recommended in the November 2002 report – “Transportation Issues Within the Route 29 Corridor North of the Rivanna River”.   

  Access easements and reservations for future dedication are provided to six adjacent and separately owned land parcels and areas have been reserved for possible future interconnections to the New Hope Community Church parcel.  

 To help fund a regional transportation study for the Route 29 corridor, $100,000 has been proffered together with $35,000 to fund synchronization of the traffic signals in the area and $25,000 for the study of and/or construction of a pedestrian and bicycle path from North Pointe across the North Fork of the Rivanna River. 

  Although community bus service is not yet available to the North Point area, ten (10) bus turn-offs are proffered together with $25,000 for the design and construction of their (non-roadway) improvements.  An additional ten (10) year subsidy totaling $250,000 following introduction of public transportation to North Pointe has been proffered.

4.    Parks and Open Space:

Working with the County Water Quality Official, other county   staff   and   the   Williamsburg  Environmental Group, an evaluation has been made as to which of the streambeds and critical slopes are worthy of restoration or preservation.  The location and capacities of the lake between Route 29 North and the commercial areas and other stormwater management basins have been engineered to accommodate both the stormwater  from the North Pointe community and runoff from large areas on both sides of Route 29 North that currently drain through North Pointe.  Most notably, roughly half of the areas that drain into the lake are outside of North Pointe.  In particular, uncontrolled runoff from the mobile home park to the east and from the commercial areas on both the NE and NW quadrants of the intersection of Route 29 North and Proffit/Airport Road are causing considerable erosion of   both streambeds and upstream drainage ways. 

During the permitting process with DEQ and the Corps of Engineers, substantial mitigation agreements will be negotiated to improve the integrity and quality of the streambeds south of the new lake.  A Green Way has been proffered along the Rivanna River frontage of the property.  The floodplains within the boundaries of the property and access easements for paths leading to the Green Way have been proffered for dedication   to the County.  

More than 35% of the land in the residential areas will remain open space, controlled and maintained by homeowner associations.  There are a number of “pocket parks” throughout the residential areas.  The commercial areas include several plazas, and buildings are sighted to provide pockets and corners for more interesting landscaping and sidewalk activities.    The lake will have two fountains and will be encircled by a jogging path. A park area will be located at the southern end.  For safety, the lake has been designed with a shallow underwater “shelf” around its perimeter.

5.    Neighborhood Centers:

The intent of North Pointe is to provide a high quality, high density, pedestrian friendly integrated community where people can live, work, play, shop, exercise, go to school, attend church and visit the library, all without having to access Route 29 and minimizing the need to drive far distances.  It is conceived as a unique area    (not otherwise  readily  available  in  the   local Charlottesville/Albemarle area), where grandparents can  live   in   one  neighborhood   with  their  children nearby, within walking  distance of each other, and within walking and biking distance of daily shopping, services and desired amenities.  There are two pool and clubhouse areas centrally located as convenient meeting places.  The proposed church, library and adjacent park, the elementary school and the park area at the southern end of the lake will act as main public gathering points for residents and others in the community.  

At the suggestion of County staff, the commercial areas have has been moved north so that they are now more central to the residential areas and a pedestrian orientated open, landscaped park has been created in the area of the library. 

North Pointe will also serve as a regional center for commerce as anticipated by the County’s Comprehensive Plan land use map.  This is projected to provide nearly $3 mm in net annual revenues to the County after all associated costs as documented in the  “Fiscal Impact Report on the Proposed North Pointe Mixed Use Project” prepared by Integra-Realty Resources.

6.    Buildings and Spaces of Human Scale:

The relatively minimum width roadway designs with on-street parking, together with reduced front building setbacks, create a sense of place and human scale.  The streets are intended to be as narrow as possible and the smaller front building setbacks are designed to allow houses to be located close to the street.  The use of street trees and landscaping, street lights and pocket parks will enhance pedestrian orientation.  

A street and travelway grid pattern has been introduced into the commercial areas.   This is expected to feature  neo-traditional, new urbanist 2, 3 and 4 story building designs that will include a mix of retail, commercial and residential uses.  These buildings will provide an architectural mass that frames “Main Street” while still maintaining pedestrian orientation.  The Library Block with the appurtenant park creates a central focus at the north end of “Main Street”.  The larger, regional use structures have been broken up, reflecting a compromise agreement with an ad hoc committee made up of two members each from the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, to further reduce the building masses.

7.    Relegated Parking      

On-street parking is provided on both sides of “Main Street” running through the regional and commercial service areas, and parking is relegated beside and behind several of the buildings.  Where topography allows, there is the potential for a number of alleys in the residential sections to allow garages to be accessed from the rear.  Several buildings adjacent to Route 29 have been sighted with the predominant parking to the side and in the rear.  The “Main Street” area grid pattern design, recommended by the ad hoc committee, will accommodate the future introduction of structured parking.

8.    Mixture of Uses:

The Tables of Uses in the Application Plan sets forth a healthy mixture of residential, office, commercial institutional and public service uses anticipated within North Pointe.  As with other similar proposed and recently approved or pending County developments, and consistent with the DISC concept of “districts” for larger scale uses, the regional type uses are segregated in order to keep traffic away from the residential neighborhood friendly pedestrian orientation of the community.  The relatively small amount of proposed office space (relative to the total of commercial and institutional uses) is reflective of the three million square feet of office and research space to be located in the North Fork Research Park directly across Route 29 from North Pointe.

9.    Mixture of Housing Types and Affordability:

Considerable time and effort has been expended in reviewing the various styles and mixtures of housing types.  Portions of North Pointe provide an integration of housing types and price points not generally available in this market.  This represents both a challenge and a significant risk, as the proposed housing mix and integration has not yet been successfully implemented in the market.  In addition, the overall density is about five dwelling units per acre in the residential areas.  This is not only at the upper range of the land use designation in the Comprehensive Plan for the North Pointe property, but is, perhaps, 2-3 times the densities of some other recent developments in the County and achieves the goal of  encouraging higher densities within the designated Growth Areas.    

Staff  has  acknowledged  that  in  the  northeastern and northwestern portions of the property, the topography, terrain and significant environmental features limit flexibility  on  interconnectivity.   More traditional  and market  tested  apartments  and  single  family detached lots have been designed for these areas.

The topography is particularly difficult in the northwestern section where VDOT and County desires for a parallel road to Route 29 have led the Applicant to agree to a connection of North Pointe Boulevard (via Northwest Passage) to the main entrance to the North Fork Research Park at Lewis & Clark Drive.  Normal planning and adherence to the Comprehensive Plan land use designation for this portion of the property would have dictated a much less extensive private road leading into the apartments and appurtenant parking lots.  Given County and VDOT desires for the costly parallel road and the difficult topography, there is limited, if any, ability to economically develop this portion of the property in any way other than what is proposed.   

Continued development in the County’s Rural Areas is almost entirely a function of single-family housing construction. In order to encourage development in the Growth Areas, it is necessary that there be an adequate supply of single-family  detached  lots  available  at   a   price  and  with amenities  that  make  these  lots equally attractive with building lots in the Rural Areas.  With the almost complete build out of the Hollymead and Forest Lakes communities, and in order to carry out the County’s vision for the protection of the Rural Areas, attractive, competitively priced lots need to be available within the Hollymead Growth Area where jobs are expected to be located.  North Pointe, which complies with the Comprehensive Plan Land Use Map with respect to its proposed land uses, is the natural extension to the desirable and successful communities within Hollymead and Forest Lakes. 

The northeastern part of the property is configured with single-family detached lots.  This is not only reflective of the overall market in Albemarle County, which has historically been 65% single-family detached, but is also important to support the County’s effort to encourage development to occur in the designated Growth Areas as opposed to the Rural Areas.  These lots, together with the available amenities, are designed to compete with lots in the Rural Areas.   

County staff has supported road grades in excess of 5%. This has allowed the interconnection of more streets within the central residential portion and for the integration of a mixture of single-family detached, attached, cottage and apartment products.  One external and two internal parks have been added and the critical slopes and wetland areas running east to west through the middle of this section have been preserved.  Higher density has also been achieved in this area, which is appropriate given its very close proximity to the elementary school, commercial areas and potential library.  Residential condominiums are proposed for the upper floors of several of the buildings located within the commercial areas.  

At the suggestion of County staff, the elementary school site has been moved north to the intersection of North Pointe Boulevard and Northwest Passage.  School administrative staff officials support this move.  The residential uses previously shown in this area have been relocated to the southern portion of the property in the area formerly proposed to be occupied by a large retail store. This, too, was requested by staff. 

The proffers have been revised to incorporate a further request of the County staff that the mix of residential uses reflect ranges of percentages to allow for future response to changing market dynamics. 

There is a proffer agreeing to offer 84 of the residential units at affordable to moderate price points and to contribute a total of $300,000 to the Albemarle Housing Initiative Trust Fund, with the contribution to be made within sixty days following rezoning approval.  If it is determined that “carriage” units will not count against density limits, additional affordable units will be proffered.

10.    Redevelopment:

Not applicable as this is not a redevelopment situation.

11.    Site Planning that Respects Terrain:

The southern portion of the property lacks depth and the overall site is challenging.  Not unlike other large properties within the designated Growth Areas, North Pointe presents significant issues relating to rolling topography, critical slopes, woodlands, wetlands and both intermittent and perennial streambeds.  And, there is significant Rivanna River frontage.   

The revised Application Plan has addressed each of these important environmental features, and the Applicant considers them as assets. Responding to many staff suggestions, the Applicant has developed a plan which is respectful of the environmental challenges and meets the important DISC vision of higher quality, higher density, pedestrian orientated and mixed-use development within the designated Growth Areas.

Considerable information identifying topography, critical slopes, wetlands, floodplains and addressing transportation, engineering, grading, utility and stormwater management issues has been submitted to staff.  This information, more typically required at the site plan and subdivision stages, confirms that the Application Plan is feasible.  There are some remaining specific design issues that will be worked out with staff during the site plan and subdivision stages.   

As with other large commercial developments, there are retaining walls introduced to help make the overall site function and to reduce the amount of land disturbed.  This is particularly important to achieve the Comprehensive Plan’s desired density and to fund the Applicant’s rather extraordinary proffers, which include improvements to the Route 29 North Corridor, the construction of a road network parallel to Route 29 and the provision for fully graded elementary school pad site that is desired and in a location preferred by the School Administration, and a similarly fully graded pad site for a library building that can accommodate other governmental services.  Construction and perpetual maintenance of parking appurtenant to the library is also proffered. 

Minimum and maximum building setbacks are proffered within the residential areas together with predetermined locations for driveways in certain areas.  These setbacks and predetermined driveway locations will provide enhanced protection for some significant stands of hardwood trees and for the slopes leading to the River. 

The changes made in the southern portion of the property, adding residential uses and moving the commercial areas northward, have allowed for use of a street and travelway grid system that reduces somewhat the amount of grading that will be necessary.  The grid system and topography provide an opportunity for structured parking to be introduced if it is needed sometime in the future. 

Proffers have been made to treat off-site and currently untreated storm water, which is eroding existing stream beds and depositing sediment into the Rivanna River, as though it originated  within North Pointe.  A study and report prepared by the Williamsburg Environmental Group estimates that the sediment loading coming from North Pointe and depositing into the River post development, will be reduced by a factor of more than five when compared with the predevelopment loading, and that doesn’t include the benefit from North Pointe’s proffer relating to off-site storm water.

12.    Clear Boundaries with the Rural Areas:

There is a commitment by both the Applicant and the Board of Supervisors to preclude access from North Pointe to Pritchett Lane.  The revised plans include a 30’ open space buffer between the North Pointe single-family lots and Pritchett Lane and a staff recommended 50’ rear building setback.  It is intended that the heavily wooded areas within the open space buffer would largely remain.  The installation of a mixed vegetative buffer consisting of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs has been proffered. In many

of the areas that currently are open, the Applicant has already begun to establish the vegetative buffer and this effort will continue as construction proceeds. 

The Application Plan provides two fifty-foot wide emergency access or connections to Pritchett   Lane should   the land   use designations for land east of Pritchett Lane be changed in the future.   The Applicant has also proffered   to locate fire hydrants as close as possible to these wider lots, given fire protection rules for distances between hydrants in residential areas.