Action on proposal delayed
Supervisors will mull North Pointe project
/ Daily Progress staff writer
Dec 20, 2002
North Pointe, the planned development at the corner of U.S. 29 and Proffit Road, will go to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors no sooner than mid-February, making it unlikely the county will take definitive action on the project for several months.

The proposal, which developers have touted as a mixed-use community featuring retail, office and residential space, was shot down by the county Planning Commission earlier this week.

Supervisors, who are free to approve the proposal with or without the commission's nod, almost certainly will seek one or more work sessions to pore over the plans before voting on the project.

"Clearly there was a difference of opinion between what the commission thought was appropriate and what the applicant was willing to do," Supervisor David P. Bowerman said.

Bowerman added that one major question facing the board is how large buildings at the project - slated to include 800 residences and 450,000 square feet of office and retail space - should be.

The maximum "footprint" for buildings at the proposed mixed-use development Albemarle Place, which recently cleared its first major hurdle at the board, is 70,000 square feet.

Conversely, Hollymead Town Center, across the street from the 260-acre Towers Land Trust site, where North Pointe would sit, does not face any limit on its square footage.

Bowerman stressed that he'll go into the North Pointe work session, which could be scheduled for Feb. 5 at the earliest, with an open mind. "I'm looking at it from the edge right now."

Planning commissioners have voiced frustration and a good deal of confusion about the strategy of North Pointe's developers, Great Eastern Management.

County officials said Great Eastern pushed ahead with its project without paying attention to the county's new neighborhood model, which features pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use communities.

The neighborhood model - favoring parks, interconnected, tree-lined streets and small-scale, boutique-sized shops - has been gradually adopted, to varying degrees, by local developers.

"I think it would be very difficult to approve something of this nature and of this size that hasn't really had any kind of serious review," Planning Commission chairman Jared Loewenstein said.

"I think that would send an enormously confusing message to the entire development community and, in fact, the entire community at large."

Loewenstein added: "Most developers have been very willing to play ball."

Charles Rotgin Jr., one of the developers behind North Pointe, said:

"Obviously, we're disappointed with the Planning Commission's response. While we would have preferred to have had a positive recommendation, the commission decision was not unexpected."

Rotgin added that there are two outstanding "threshold" questions waiting to be answered - the county's position on residential cul de sacs and large retail stores such as Wal-Mart.

Rotgin said that residential cul de sacs are needed to preserve North Pointe's natural topography, and that large retail stores, referred to by some as "big boxes," make the project economically viable by drawing in business.

"We ultimately think that North Pointe will be approved," he said. "We have some work to do."