Arden Place Connection Removed

In what is hopefully the final chapter in our series on the Arden Place connection, on November 21, 2011, construction workers demolished the path/roadway. The action came after Woodbrook Community Association President Susan Reed and neighborhood representatives requested at an October meeting with Arden Place developers that the path be removed. Regular readers of this blog will recall that in an unanimous decision in April 2010, Albermarle County Supervisors voted that the path was not to be built. An error in the management of construction drawings resulted in the path being accidentally built earlier this year.

A construction crew demolishes the connection between Arden Place and the Woodbrook Lagoon on November 21, 2011.
A “No Trespassing” sign posted at the entrance way to the former path.

While it was not possible to return the land to its pre-path condition, Arden Place developers have made every reasonable effort to restore the land and have promised to replace the trees. Straw now covers the place where the path once stood.

Straw now covers the place where the path once stood. The developer has promised to replace the trees removed from this area.

Woodbrook Community Association President Susan Reed is pleased with the outcome. “I’m glad that what was voted on in public was upheld in private and I’m glad that Andy [McGinty] was a man of his word,” said Reed earlier this week.

Click here to review all our stories on the Arden Place connection.

Developer to Remove Woodbrook Connection


Developers agreed Monday to remove the portion of the road shown in red on this site plan. Woodbrook is shown in the upper right on this map. The portion of the road that services the Arden Place storm water management system, shown in green on this map, is to remain asphalt.

A representative of Coleway Development, the developers of Arden Place, told Woodbrook residents Monday that the connection to Woodbrook would be removed. “The trail was built in the wrong place, there’s no denying that,” said Arden Place developer Andy McGinty speaking to a small delegation of Woodbrook residents Monday evening. The delegation was headed by Woodbrook Community Association President Susan Reed.

“I’ll take the trail up, bring it back to the original plan,” said McGinty. McGinty asked to keep the portion of the road that services the storm water management area paved as the grade is steep in this location and gravel could wash away over time. “I told [the County that] we will take the asphalt up, the gravel up,” he said. McGinty agreed to remove as much of the gravel roadbed as possible without damaging the land. “I’ll put a couple of maple [trees] out there,” he added. He reminded residents that a significant portion of the road is laid over a RWSA water main that restricts the number and size of trees that can be planted there.

“[The storm water management road] will stop at the abutments, and there will be no bridge on them,” said Coleway Development’s Andy McGinty Monday. The abutments, shown in this photo, mark the location of Arden Place’s storm water management system. The asphalt and gravel heading off to Woodbrook in this photo will be removed. McGinty also said that he will likely build a fence at this location.

Following the meeting WCA President Susan Reed said, “I was very appreciative of Andy McGinty agreeing to meet with us very quickly.” She added, “I find it very refreshing that, in this day and time, someone would just say ‘the buck stops here’ and take responsibility for the mistake (which wasn’t necessarily his) and agree to fix it to the agreed upon manner.” Once the trail has been removed McGinty said it will be very difficult for Arden Place trail pedestrian traffic to get to Woodbrook.

“Nobody’s really going to be able to get from the proper Arden trail [to Woodbrook],” said McGinty. “What I plan to do is to get it done in the next couple of weeks,” he said.

Neighbors Petition Supervisors to Remove Roadway

Calling on Albemarle County Supervisors to enforce their April 2010 decision banning a roadway connection to Woodbrook, WCA President Susan Reed presented a petition containing the signatures of over 90 Woodbrook Residents. The petition was presented to Supervisors during the “matters from the public” portion of their October 5, 2011 day meeting.

What County officials are calling a “path” is actually a 200-foot extension of a roadway used to provide access for service vehicles and heavy equipment to the Arden Place storm water management system. The roadway connects Arden Place to a point within a stone’s throw of the intersection of Brookmere Road and Idlewood Drive in Woodbrook. Woodbrook residents have opposed the roadway since June 2009 when it was first proposed. In April 2010, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in a 6-0 decision banned the connection. Developers built the road anyway.

Listen to President Reed’s presentation to supervisors and their response. (16m)

In her presentation, Woodbrook Community Association President Susan Reed said, “This board voted [to stop] the sidewalk at the Carmike terminus,” she began. “This project is like a zombie, it just won’t die,” she said. “It begins to sound like someone has an agenda to put in a sidewalk to Woodbrook and perhaps later a road,” said Reed. “Many of the trees that were cut down to do this were in the Woodlands Preservation Area,” she continued. “We’re told that you won’t know whose property the sidewalk is on until the whole project is finished. Say what?” she asked? “All Albemarle County citizens should be very concerned, apparently, a ‘no’ in public can become a ‘yes’ in private.” Reed concluded with, “You all voted on this and all have a responsibility to see that it’s done correctly.”

The petition, signed by 92 Woodbrook residents, asks supervisors to order the developer, Coleway Development, to remove the unapproved portion of the roadway.

It seems clear that Supervisors either forgot their previous ban on the connection, or were uninterested in enforcing it. They were remarkably out of touch with the facts. “[it] doesn’t go anywhere near Woodbrook or the lagoon”, said Rio District Supervisor Rodney Thomas referring to the road that ends just feet from the neighborhood. “It’s not going toward Woodbrook,” said chairperson Ann Mallek. “It’s a lovely path, it runs down along the stream,” said one supervisor. “It’s going to be a terrific amenity for the people that live out there,” he continued, apparently unaware that the supervisor’s April 2010 decision ordered that this section of the road be barricaded to pedestrian access. “They wouldn’t like it if we couldn’t get there when it backed up and flooded all over their neighborhood,” said Ann Mallek referring to the portion of the road that is not in contention.

Even heroic attempts by Directory of Community Development Mark Graham were unable to get the supervisors back on course.

But perhaps the most dramatic denial of any Board responsibility for their April 2010 vote came from one supervisor who said, “My posture on it has been that people that have called me, contacted me, is that this is in Rodney’s district so I’m just leaving it to him — I don’t want to get in the middle of it.”

Listen as supervisors vote 6-0 against a connection to Woodbrook at a public hearing held in April 2010.

Many Woodbrook residents were offended by the nature and tone of supervisors’ comments that included remarks such as “Woodbrook people were jumping sky-high off the ground,” and “the people were so impatient.” One supervisor suggested wearing a “football helmet” or “flack jacket” when working with residents here. “They are mocking us,” said one Woodbrook resident.

The Friday meeting, promised by Supervisor Rodney Thomas, was canceled by Thomas Friday morning. No definite date for a new meeting has been set.

Click here for our complete coverage of this story. Portions of the audio in this story were provided courtesy of Charlottesville Tomorrow. They also have an excellent story on this subject.

County Officials Meet with Woodbrook Residents

On the right: County planning representatives Greg Harper, Bill Fritz and Mark Graham and Rio District Supervisor Rodney Thomas met with Woodbrook residents Monday on the Arden Place site.

Rio District Supervisor Rodney Thomas, Director of Community Development Mark Graham and County Planner Bill Fritz met Monday with Woodbrook Residents on the Arden Place site to discuss problems arising from the wrongly constructed trail to Woodbrook.

Bill Fritz opened the meeting with a summary of the project thus far. During his review, Fritz conceded that “[the path is] not built the way the site plan showed it”.

Director Mark Graham then confirmed that the access road should have stopped at the Arden Place storm water management facility (SWM). “What they showed on the approved plan was that [the road] should have stopped right down there before those concrete piers that they have built now,” he said. “They have built something more, it’s not shown on the approved plan,” he concluded.

Listen to the complete audio from the meeting. (54m)

Graham: “I’m not sure we, as the County, would have a reason for denying [the path].”

But it was Graham’s next statement that clearly angered Woodbrook residents. Referring to the portion of the path connecting with Woodbrook he said, “…because if it is on their property, I think they have the ability to do that on their own property.” he continued, “it would be a minor amendment to their plan, it would be a small change, but I’m not sure we, as the County, would have a reason for denying it,” he said.

Graham’s comment unleashed a storm of protests from residents. “So, are you saying that the Board of Supervisors over stepped their authority when they said that the path was not to connect to Woodbrook,” asked one resident. “No, not at all,” replied Graham. “this is why the Board was willing and actually interested in getting this dedicated to them, because that’s the one way the Board could assure that the developer never had the ability to make a connection,” he said.

“I’m confused,” said one resident, “because [the Board] said that the path would stop at the Carmike, so why were we told that back in April 2010 if you’re saying now that [the County] has no authority – that [Arden Place] can build anything they want on their property, why did that come up that it would stop at the Carmike.” she said. Another resident then added “There’s a disconnect here, it really seems like the Board of Supervisors made a commitment that they weren’t legally entitled to make, that’s what it sounds like… as far as restricting them on their property.” to which Graham answered “I can’t speak to that.”

Resident: “There’s a disconnect here, it really seems like the Board of Supervisors made a commitment that they weren’t legally entitled to make.”

Some residents took exception to Graham’s comment “if it is on their property,” asking why the County was not sure where the path is, and why County officials called this meeting without doing their homework first.

“It just seems very suspicious,” said Woodbrook Community Association President Susan Reed, “it’s like asking for forgiveness rather than permission,” she added.

Residents also questioned what benefits the community could reasonably expect to enjoy from the open space dedication. “The plan is a binding agreement which was given to us in return for [Arden Place] being granted the right to build the apartment complex,” said one resident. “I just don’t agree that they can just do whatever they want,” he added.

It was perhaps WCA President Susan Reed who best articulated residents concern with the process. “[We thought] we had it in black and white, not to go past the Carmike”, she said. “It’s starting to look like there’s an agenda,” she added.

Reed also talked about the effect of increased noise in the neighborhood. “We lost a lot of noise buffer with trees being cut down that didn’t need to be cut down,” she said.

“Visibly absent from the meeting were representatives from Coleway Development, the developers of the property.”

Visibly absent from the meeting were representatives from Coleway Development, the developers of the property. “The developer should be here answering to us,” said one resident who lives near the present end point of the path.

When asked if Arden Place developers were aware of the problem, Rio District Supervisor Rodney Thomas said, “I have talked to him and he said he will do anything within reason that the Board wants him to do.”

“Then your telling us that there is nothing that the County can do,” asked one resident. “We can certainly ask the developer to take this out. What I don’t have the answer for, quite frankly tonight, is can we require him to take it out,” said Graham.

But an investigation by this blog revealed that the Woodbrook leg of the trail is situated on land included in the open space dedication and therefore falls under the purview of County Supervisors.

“I would suggest that everybody be patient and let the contractor finish,” said Thomas. Residents agreed that they have been more than patient for almost two years since the project was first submitted to the Planning Commisssion. One resident pointed out that “patience” could work to the detriment of the County in establishing wrongdoing on the part of the developer. He pointed out that waiting to act could be interpreted as an implicit approval of the developer’s actions.

Reed: “To me the issue is also that you said ‘X’ in black in white, ‘Y’ happened. What good does it do to go to public meetings and get approval if this kind of circuitous logic can be applied?”

One resident asked how the County plans to enforce the requirement for the barricade requested by Supervisors in April 2010. “That’s an excellent point,” said Graham, “because what the Board only said is we were to request the developer to barricade, there was not a requirement that it be barricaded,” said Graham.

Most residents agreed, there has been a failure of process here. “To me the issue is also that you said ‘X’ in black in white, ‘Y’ happened. What good does it do to go to public meetings and get approval if this kind of circuitous logic can be applied,” said Reed.

One resident asked if the developer submits a minor amendment to the County for the trail, would it be approved administratively or could the issue be referred back to the Planning Commission for public comment. The question was also raised as to whether or not the developer has included the effect of the wrongfully constructed asphalt trail in his storm water management calculations, and if not, could the required amendment to the site plan be bumped up to a major amendment and subsequent public hearing.

The meeting concluded with a commitment by Supervisor Thomas to meet with the developer to resolve the issue. He promised to report back to the community by week’s end.

Site Plan Reveals Full Extent of Path Construction Error

A June 2010 site plan obtained by this blog reveals the full extent of errors made during the construction of a storm water management access road behind the Arden Place development. According to this plan, the road was to be constructed of gravel and end roughly 100 feet beyond the Carmike theater connection.

The approved 100-foot gravel access road to the Arden Place storm water management system (SWM) is shown above in green, the 200-foot unapproved portion of the path in red. Woodbrook is located at the upper right, the Carmike theater to the upper left. (Click to Enlarge)

But that’s not what happened. The gravel access road (green) was wrongly paved, and incorrectly extended another 200 feet (red) to the Woodbrook Lagoon. The plan also shows the tree line of the Woodland Preservation Area where many trees were removed. We are presently studying photos of this area taken in 2010 to determine the amount of damage done to this natural forest.

Shown in green on the map above, this portion of the path was approved by Supervisors in April 2010 as a gravel road. The path should have ended just past the abutments in this photo. The future location of the Arden Place storm water management system is shown to the right. You can see the path heading off to Woodbrook in the distance.
A view just north of the abutments in the previous photo. This portion of the path, shown in red on the map above, should never have been built. It extends approximately 200 feet in the Woodbrook direction.
The same section of the path as shown in the last photo, but looking back toward Arden Place from the Woodbrook Lagoon. This is the far right section of the path shown in red on the map above.

Residents are being asked to contact the Woodbrook Community Association with their concerns.

County: Path to Woodbrook Paved by Mistake

The Road to Woodbrook. This 8-foot wide path is big enough to carry a full size automobile from the Carmike theater to the Woodbrook Lagoon. County officials conceded Thursday that it was built in error.

After several days of denial, Albemarle County officials conceded Thursday that the path to Woodbrook was paved in error. In a telephone interview with this blog, Rio District Supervisor Rodney Thomas said, “It was paved by mistake.” The original plan, as directed by the Board of Supervisors on April 14, 2010, was clear – no paved path to Woodbrook. A document obtained from the County Web site confirmed that on April 22, 2010 the County properly instructed Arden Place developers to not construct the path.

The County’s concession came after several days of email in which they maintained that the path was built as directed by the Board. “There has absolutely been a misunderstanding by the Woodbrook Residents of the original plans or what they have been told or have interpreted on their own,” said Thomas in an email message to this blog on Wednesday. “The plan is being executed as presented in April 2010,” he said. But when presented with a transcript of the April 2010 Board meeting the next day, Thomas agreed that the path should not have been paved.

The same area in April 2010, before the path was built.

Perhaps the strongest denials came from County planner Bill Fritz. In a Wednesday email message to Thomas and intended for distribution to Woodbrook residents, Fritz said, “All decisions the Board made are incorporated into the approved site plan.” In response to numerous emails from angry Woodbrook residents Fritz said, “[Staff] will permit [the path] to remain asphalt.” Woodbrook residents may recall that it was Fritz who first proposed a trail running from Rio Road to the Woodbrook Lagoon.

The majority of Woodbrook residents have been opposed to the path since it was first introduced in the fall of 2009 and were relieved when the Board of Supervisors directed developers not to build it in April 2010. They are not happy. “Arden Place needs to remove the road and plant trees,” said one resident. In a sample polling of 15 Woodbrook residents selected at random Thursday, their position was unanimous – remove the Woodbrook leg of the path and replace the trees.

Many Woodbrook residents are also angry over the failure of the County to monitor a Board of Supervisors approved action. “They should honor their agreement they made with us back in April 2010, and rectify their mistake,” said one resident.

Woodbrook residents will now have to decide how they want to handle this. What do you think should be done? We welcome your comments below.

Supervisors Say ‘No’ to Path. Developer Builds it Anyway

In April 2010, County Supervisors instructed developers to delete the portion of the Arden Place path shown in red. On this map, Woodbrook is at the top right, the Carmike theater parking lot is to the top left. Developers built the path anyway.

Woodbrook residents of more than two years will no doubt recall the June 2009 Arden Place connection issue. Residents turned out at two Planning Commission meetings and one meeting of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to protest what was first a road then a path. At one meeting, over 30 Woodbrook residents spoke out against the connection. Finally, in April 2010, the Board of Supervisors agreed that the path was not to be built. Developers were not to connect Arden Place with Woodbrook.

Or so it seemed.

On Friday September 16, 2010, Arden Place developers dedicated their path, a path that does go all the way to Woodbrook. Stopping just a hundred or so feet short of the corner of Idlewood Drive and Brookmere Road, the path provides an easy entrance to the small treed buffer area that separates the Woodbrook Neighborhood and Arden Place.

The Woodbrook Neighborhood as seen from a point about 30 feet from the end of the path. The vehicle in this photo is parked at the corner of Idlewood Drive and Brookmere Road.

“I am very disappointed, upset, and concerned that the voted and agreed upon plans for the sidewalk from Arden Place were disregarded.” wrote Woodbrook Community Association president Susan Reed in an email message to this blog. “The supervisors specifically voted against having the sidewalk come to the Woodbrook Lagoon,” she added. Ms. Reed went on to express concerns about the process. “How can a voted upon plan be ignored?! Does no one check to make sure that the plans that were voted on are built to specification? Can people just ignore what was decided by the supervisors and do what they want?” she said. “I would think all citizens of Albemarle County would be concerned about the implications of this,” said Reed.

Rio District Supervisor Rodney Thomas has asked County planners to look into the matter.

Coleway Development, the developers of Arden Place, did not immediately respond to our email request for comment.

Summer Update

Here’s what’s happening in Woodbrook this summer.

Woodbrook children attending Woodbrook Elementary School will be a little cooler this fall thanks to upgrades to the school’s air conditioning system. “We are so pleased that the County’s Capital Improvement Program was able to provide funding for the two projects at Woodbrook Elementary School, this summer,” wrote Albemarle School Board Building Service’s Andy Sterling in an email message to this blog. “The chiller that is being replaced is approximately 25 years old, incurred significant repair bills, and has reached the end of its useful life span,” he added. “The new and modern replacement chiller will be more energy efficient and reliable, and will certainly improve the comfort of all of the building occupants,” he said. The summer project also includes upgrading the kitchen HVAC and lighting systems.

Both projects are on schedule for an early August completion.

Workmen prepare to lift new chiller at Woodbrook Elementary School.

Woodbrook residents will no doubt recall the 2009 Arden Place issue. That summer, over 100 residents attended a hearing on a proposed roadway connection to the Arden Place development. The roadway was defeated. Arden Place is now under construction and can be seen through the trees from Idlewood Drive.

A view of Arden Place from Idlewood Drive. Note the roof peaks in the top center of this photo.

In May we gave you an update on the Woodbrook Lagoon Project. A temporary construction entrance has been build at the corner of Idlewood Drive and Brookmere Road. We haven’t heard of any problems with noise or the movement of heavy equipment so far. If you live in this area, let us know if you are experiencing problems by commenting below.

Temporary construction road next to 2700 Idlewood Drive.
Heavy equipment and supplies for the Woodbrook Lagoon project. The project is expected to be largely completed by the end of July.

And lastly, we noted the presence of what appears to be construction trash on the property of Woodbrook Elementary School. We have been unable to determine the source of the material, but the pallet pictured in the foreground looks similar to those used to deliver concrete blocks for the Carson Raymond Foundation dugouts. If you have information on the source of this material please post your comments below.

Construction trash located behind a dugout at Woodbrook Elementary School.

Supervisors Rescind November Decision

Supervisors unanimously voted Wednesday to remove the connection from Arden Place to the Woodbrook Lagoon as shown here in red.

To the relief of many Woodbrook residents, Albemarle County Supervisors rescinded their November decision to extend the Arden Place path as far as the Woodbrook Lagoon. In a unanimous decision Wednesday, Supervisors decided to nix the path to Woodbrook while keeping the Arden Place portion of the path at 8 feet in width. Supervisors also approved the construction of a fence at the Carmike connection point to block all pedestrian traffic from entering Woodbrook via the lagoon.

About a dozen Woodbrook residents attended the meeting. In addressing the Board Woodbrook Community Association President Susan Reed said “Calling it a lagoon does not take away from the fact that really it is a steep wooded area that used to be the cess pool of our neighborhood.” Reed concluded her comments by saying “Woodbrook would like to be able to quote another StarTrek character and say of this plan ‘He’s dead Jim'”. “Please kill this plan and put it back the way the planning commission had it.”

Previous WCA president John Gallagher summed up the feelings of many Woodbrook residents by saying “The Woodbrook neighborhood worked closely with the planning commission and the developer. We came to a mutually agreeable solution. It doesn’t get better than that.”

Woodbrook resident Gerry Petencin said “The idea that somehow a waste water control project then became a park, and then that park became the justification for a bigger trail than anybody anticipated – I think a lot of us just got uncomfortable with that entire process.”

For those of you who missed Wednesday’s meeting, here is the complete audio:

Thanks go out to everyone who attended the meeting, especially those who addressed the Board on behalf the neighborhood.