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County to huddle with neighbors and developers on next big-box project...May 17, 2004

The Forest Lakes neighborhood to the east of 29N sits just across the road from the Hollymead Town Center currently under construction, and to the south of the proposed North Pointe Community—a 269-acre development set to include 893 housing units and three “big box” retail buildings. Surrounded by inevitable and likely development, some Forest Lakes residents think it’s time to chat with developers and County officials about the “progress” rapidly coming toward their door.

 After receiving an e-mail from Forest Lakes resident John Oliver, Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd arranged a community meeting for 6:30pm on Thursday, May 20, at Hollymead School. The meeting, which will be attended by County staff, officials from the Virginia Department of Transportation and developers, will include presentations on Hollymead, North Pointe and the widening of Airport Road.

 Though Hollymead will likely draw some heat at the meeting, the project has already been approved and bulldozers currently chug around the site. North Pointe, however, is still in play, as primary developer Great Eastern Management and County Supervisors continue to negotiate the project.

 Barbara Fehnse is the president of the Forest Lakes Community Association. Though she says the organization is neutral on North Pointe, Fehnse says her neighbors attending the May 20 meeting are likely to air gripes about the development’s potential impact on traffic, water supplies, schools and the environment.

 Forest Lakes residents won’t be alone in raising concerns at the meeting, as members of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP) and the Piedmont Environmental Council say they’re likely to attend, too.

 “We are generally unhappy with a development of the size and scale of North Pointe,” says Richard Collins, a founding member of ASAP and professor of urban and environmental planning at the UVA School of Architecture.

 Charles Rotgin Jr., president and CEO of Great Eastern, will bring visuals of the latest North Pointe plans to the meeting. Though Rotgin says negotiations concerning the development “should have been done quicker,” he acknowledges that “very positive adjustments” have resulted from the four years of haggling with County staff. In defending the development, Rotgin stresses the $3 million in net revenue the project will generate for Albemarle and the $25 million worth of infrastructure—such as roads, a school and a storm and wastewater management plant—included in the latest batch of proffers, or voluntary perqs, Great Eastern has offered to the County.

 Furthermore, Rotgin says the relatively dense, pedestrian-friendly North Pointe plan is in line with County’s neighborhood model. For example, Rotgin says, a section of North Pointe “bears a lot of similarities to Downtown Charlottesville.”—Paul Fain