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North Pointe project advances
By Jessica Kitchin  / Daily Progress staff writer
June 8, 2006

After several hours of working through a long list of contentious issues, there appeared to be some hope for the delay-plagued North Pointe development on Wednesday.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held a marathon work session to address transportation, affordable housing, commercial and environmental concerns brought up by county planners and residents regarding the proposed 269-acre mixed-use development in northern Albemarle.

“I think today was a very productive day,” Chairman Dennis S. Rooker said. “The developer agreed to accommodate some of the significant outstanding issues.”

The development, which has been in the works for six years, would be built along U.S. 29 and is slated to include up to 893 residential units and nearly 900,000 square feet of retail, office and other non-residential space. It was up for a vote at the board’s May 10 meeting, but last-minute changes and a large number of public comments caused the supervisors to delay a decision.

After Wednesday’s work session, both county and developer representatives said they felt the meeting was constructive. “We are very appreciative that the board took the time it did tonight to look at the outstanding issues and help us come up with solutions,” developer Chuck Rotgin said.

Some of the changes include a better-articulated plan for U.S. 29 improvements, an agreement to release some of the most sensitive acreage along the Rivanna River to the county and a change in some of the building configurations to better conform to the county’s pedestrian-friendly Neighborhood Model. “I’m pretty impressed,” Supervisor David Slutzky said of a change that would move a “big box” store, reduce what had been a large parking lot and increase pedestrian access and open space. “This is far more compatible to the Neighborhood Model.”

The words “bridging the gap” were spoken on several occasions Wednesday, and even though the group appeared to address all of the main concerns, a divide still lingered, particularly in regard to affordable housing. Although Rotgin agreed to add an additional 20 units of affordable housing, the development still doesn’t meet the 15 percent that the county requires in its Comprehensive Plan. That need was appeased to some degree by the inclusion of 16 moderately priced “workforce housing” units and a $300,000 cash proffer to go toward the county’s down-payment assistance program.

Several of the supervisors, however, indicated that wasn’t enough. “We’ve got this disconnect between ‘workforce housing’ and wages,” Supervisor Sally H. Thomas said.

Rotgin said he is “passionate about affordable housing” and committed to providing low-cost units. But how the gap between supervisor demands and the North Pointe plan will be bridged was still unclear Wednesday.

The public hearing will reopen and the supervisors are expected to vote on the development in the coming months. Rotgin is aiming for July, but Rooker indicated that the final proposal is more likely to be ready for the Aug. 2 meeting.

“I think the board made clear what it wanted to see on a few key issues and it will be interesting to see what transpires between county staff and the developer now,” Southern Environmental Law Center lawyer Morgan Butler said. “I hope staff will continue to do a good job of working through to get what the board and the rest of the county seem to want.”

The supervisors agreed that things were moving in the right direction. “If you compare this development to the one presented three years ago, it doesn’t look like the same development,” Rooker said as he walked out of Wednesday’s meeting.

Slutzky added, “And that’s a good thing.”

Contact Jessica Kitchin at (434) 978-7263 or jkitchin@dailyprogress.com.