County Supervisors to Review Arden Place Path Decision Wednesday

“You’ve heard of the bridge to nowhere, this is the sidewalk to nowhere.” That’s how Woodbrook Community Association president Susan Reed concluded last week’s tour of the proposed connection of Arden Place to the Woodbrook Lagoon. The tour, recorded on video, was conducted at the request of this blog.

Woodbrook residents may recall that in September 2009 the Albemarle Planning Commission rejected extending the Arden Place path as far as the Lagoon. In a unanimous decision, the commission narrowed the path from 8 feet to 5, terminating it at the Carmike Theatre. In a surprise decision last November, county supervisors returned the path to a width of 8 feet and extended it to the Woodbrook Lagoon.

“There’s so much trash it’s clear that people come down here quite a lot to party. I can only envision a sidewalk making that much easier,” said President Reed as she stood on the very spot where supervisors decided the path should end. “Looking at the steep grade of things I cannot imagine families walking through here with strollers and bicycles,” said Reed. “I also can’t envision children walking to school by themselves through here,” she said. Last June, Richmond based Dumbarton Properties, the owners of Albemarle Square, made it clear how they felt about the path by formally requesting Arden Place developers construct a fence between their two properties.

Shown in red, a connecting path to the Woodbrook Lagoon was rejected by the Albemarle County Planning Commission last September then re-instated by County Supervisors in November. Woodbrook residents hope to convince Supervisors to re-instate the Planning Commission’s September decision Wednesday.

President Reed then guided us through the lagoon and on to Woodbrook. “This area used to be the cesspool for the Woodbrook neighborhood,” said Reed referring to the untreated sewage that was dumped into the Lagoon in the 1970s.

“We already know that people use this as a cut through area for crime,” said Reed. Following a recent robbery at the Fashion Square mall a portion of the stolen property was subsequently found in Woodbrook.

Reed went on to explain that the original plan to end the path at the Carmike Cinema connection makes sense. “You can go to the movies, you can go to the little shopping center that’s around the Carmike – there’s somewhere to go,” she said.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will meet this Wednesday April 14th to review their decision to widen and extend the path to the Lagoon. All Woodbrook residents are encouraged to attend. Interested residents will have up to three minutes to address the board with their concerns should they wish to do so. The meeting will take place in Lane Auditorium in the County building on McIntyre Road beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Board to Review Arden Place Path

In response to a passionate and eloquent presentation by Woodbrook Community Association president Susan Reed, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors today agreed to review their November 5th decision to widen and extend the Arden Place path to the Woodbrook Lagoon. Supervisors agreed to reconsider their decision at a future public meeting.

“The Woodbrook community is very upset with the Board of Supervisor’s November decision to overturn the Planning Commission’s unanimous recommendation,” said Reed in her presentation to the Board. She continued, “Planners unanimously agreed that a walkway should only be five feet wide and should end behind Carmike theater.” Reed went on to describe the astonishment of the Woodbrook neighborhood when Supervisors revised the Planning Commission decision during the November meeting. Reed’s presentation to the Board of Supervisors follows a letter writing campaign by Woodbrook residents held in November and December 2009. “It was abundantly clear from some of the comments from the Board of Supervisors, that some of the supervisors were not at all familiar with the area that was being discussed,” said Reed. Reed then pointed out that termination of the Arden Place path at the Lagoon made no sense. “Just what makes you think droves of people, at the same time, are going to be walking to a swamp,” Reed added. “Frankly, this is what makes people mistrust the government — a small group of people who will never have to deal with the consequences — purport to know better than the residents of the affected area, and even worse than that, the body that you set up to work through the issues and make recommendations to you,” said Reed referring the the Board.

Listen to President Reed’s presentation to the Board of Supervisors. (12m)

In concluding Reed said, “I respectfully request that the Board of Supervisors reverse the decision made in November and put back the Planning Commission’s recommendation for the five foot wide walk to not go into the Lagoon, or at the very least have more public meetings and public comments”.

Following Ms. Reed’s presentation, Rio District Supervisor Rodney Thomas said, “I support bringing it back to the Board and discussing this matter.” Mr. Thomas went on to remind the Board that the developer requires a decision by March 1st in order to avoid a dramatic increase in his water hookup costs.

The discussion closed with Board of Supervisor’s Chairman Ann Mallek suggesting that the Board could hold a public meeting to review the matter as early as February.

WCA Launches Letter Campaign

WCA President
Susan Reed

In an e-mail message to this blog earlier this week, Woodbrook Community Association President Susan Reed kicked off a new campaign to protest the recent decision by Albemarle County Supervisors to widen and extend the Arden Place Trail. “Here we go again,” wrote Reed. Regular readers of this blog may recall the Board’s controversial reversal of the Planning Commission’s decision to install a five-foot path that would terminate at a proposed connection with the Carmike Theatre.

“I recommend that people start writing and emailing their opposition to this to the Board of Supervisors,” wrote Reed. “As we know an eight foot sidewalk could be driven on.”

Reed also questioned the logic of continuing the path through to the Woodbrook Lagoon Project. “I still don’t know why they find it necessary to put a sidewalk through to an enclosed neighborhood; it’s not as if we’re a shopping center,” wrote President Reed. There is [also] the issue of it going through a swampy area,” she wrote.

Reed is asking all concerned Woodbrook residents to document their concerns in a letter addressed to the Board of Supervisors. “Please write a regular letter and get it to one of the [Woodbrook Association] officers,” she wrote. Residents are also encouraged to contact the Board directly if they wish, “but we need to have [the] letters (or at least a print out of the e-mail) so that we know how many people wrote,” suggested Reed. Letters and copies of letters can also be delivered directly to Reed via her newspaper box.

Reed suggested that it’s more important that residents write rather than concern themselves with the format. “Type or handwrite the letter,” she wrote.

Reed encouraged residents to “write to express opposition to sidewalk and why and/or concerns with the process.” Reed wants to know why concerns expressed by over 100 residents at two public Planning Commission meetings were so easily dismissed by the Board of Supervisors at their closed meeting. “It’s my understanding that there are very few times when the BOS overturns the PC recommendations and we’d like to know why,” she added. Supervisor-elect Rodney Thomas has agreed to present the letters to the Board of Supervisors at an up coming meeting.

Woodbrook residents can call Ms. Reed during the evening at 973-0766 with questions.

Supervisor-Elect Rodney Thomas on Board Reversal

Rodney Thomas

On Thursday November 5, 2009, Supervisor-Elect Rodney Thomas graciously agreed to talk with this blog about the the Board of Supervisors’ unexpected reversal of the Albemarle Planning Commission’s recommendations for the Arden Place path.

According to Mr. Thomas, it was Supervisor Sally Thomas who initiated the reversal. “Sally started it off, then Ann jumped in too,” said Thomas referring to Supervisor Ann Mallek. He went on to add that the requested change did not come from County planning staff. “Sally Thomas [made the] recommendation to take it down to the lagoon,” said Thomas.

Over 100 Woodbrook residents participated in various aspects of this project from delivering flyers to attending the meet-the-developer meeting, and speaking at two Planning Commission meetings. “I know how you all teamed together, you did everything you needed to do to tell them what you did not want and what you wanted, and they still went the other way,” he said.

I asked Mr. Thomas if the Board could have sent the matter back to the Planning Commission for review and additional public comment if they were unhappy with the plan. “Oh, I think so too. That’s a good point,” he said.

When asked where Woodbrook residents might go from here, Thomas suggested that they could write “some disappointing letters to the Board for changing this thing all around like they did.” Mr. Thomas went on to say that he would be happy to present Woodbrook’s messages to the Board at an upcoming meeting. “I’d be glad to handle it and go to the next board meeting and present your message to the Board,” he said.

Supervisors Reverse APC Path Recommendation

In a surprising move, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors yesterday reversed County Planning Commission recommendations for a path between Arden Place and the Woodbrook Lagoon Project. In a 5-1 vote the Board of Supervisors decided to widen the path from 5′ to 8′ and to extend the path beyond the proposed Carmike connection to ultimately connect with the lagoon project.

County Planner Bill Fritz, Applicant Representative Valerie Long and Rio District Supervisor David Slutzky made eloquent and forceful arguments encouraging board members to respect the wishes of Woodbrook Residents as expressed at not one, but two public County Planning Commission hearings. Their arguments fell on largely deaf ears. Yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting was closed to public comment.

Listen to the Board of Supervisor discussion and vote (49m)

We have thus far been unable contact Rio District Supervisor David Slutzky or Supervisor-Elect Rodney Thomas for comment. You can view our earlier story on the Planning Commission’s recommendations here.

Charlottesville Tomorrow Reports on September 8th APC Meeting

Charlottesville Tomorrow have recently posted their account of the September 8th Albemarle County Planning Commission meeting.

“During the public comment period, sixteen residents from Woodbrook spoke out against the footpath proposal, expressing frustration that the developers had not removed the path from the project entirely.” wrote staff writer Connie Chang in the September 11th article. She continued, “When one resident asked his fellow neighbors whether they believed that a 10-foot wide asphalt trail was still a roadway, many raised their hands in agreement.”

You can read the entire Charlottesville Tomorrow story by clicking here.

Planning Commission Meeting Audio

For those of you that missed Tuesday’s meeting, here is the complete audio of the September 8, 2009 Planning Commission hearing on Arden Place and its connection to Woodbrook.

A special thanks to everyone who attended the meeting, and especially to those who spoke directly to the Commission.

The matter has been tentatively set to come before the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on November 4th. We will keep you advised.

Planning Commission Rejects Footpath to Woodbrook Lagoon

In a unanimous decision last evening, Albemarle Planning Commission members voted against the inclusion of a footpath connecting the proposed Arden Place development and the Woodbrook Lagoon Project.

Site plan showing proposed trail system. The Commission rejected the connection to the Woodbrook Lagoon Project as shown in red. The parking lot to the left is a part of the Carmike Cinema. Woodbrook is in the upper right of this plan.

The Commission also unanimously approved the applicant’s revised preliminary site plan with the following amendments,

“…subject to the conditions listed in the staff report with amendment of condition “F” to reflect the discussions we’ve had tonight to eliminate the applicant building the path from what we are calling the potential Carmike entrance to the Lagoon Project and to include the dedicational land between those two points.”

“…amend condition “G” which is going to change the trail type from a class “A” type “2” to a class “A” type “1”, and that there be a new condition which is no access directly to Rio [Road] if access to Carmike is provided.”

“…a condition that says path will not extend north of Carmike pedestrian connection.”

“…with design alignment of a class “A” type “2” [trail]”

A class “A” type “1” trail is a five foot wide trail.

We will have more on this story later this week including complete audio of the meeting.

Planning Commission Meeting Tomorrow

Woodbrook residents are reminded that the Albemarle County Planning Commission will meet tomorrow evening, September 8, 2009, to hear arguments for-and-against the revised Arden Place site plan. At issue is the inclusion of a footpath connection between Arden Place and the Woodbrook Lagoon Project. If you haven’t already done so, listen to our interview with County planners Fritz and Gatobu to learn more about the County’s position on the proposed footpath.

It’s important to note that this is not the same proposal that was put before the Commission on June 23rd. The current proposal recommends at footpath (not a roadway) which connects with the Woodbrook Lagoon Project and not with Woodbrook directly.

As before, Woodbrook residents will each have three minutes to express their views on matters before the commission. This is expected to be the last time residents will have an opportunity to give their opinion on the development. You can also express your opinion here by either taking our poll in the left-hand margin of this page or by adding your comments below.

Today, Labor Day, signals the unofficial end of summer for many folks. We sincerely hope your summer was filled with all the things that are important to you. We also hope you will stay with us throughout the fall. We are working on several stories that we think you will find interesting.

County Releases Staff Report on Revised Arden Place Plan

As expected, yesterday the County released its staff report on the revised Arden Place site plan. As we reported on Tuesday, the plan includes the County’s proposal for the establishment of a footpath connection between the Arden Place development and the Woodbrook Lagoon Project. You can read the full staff report here, or just the pages regarding the footpath connection here.

The Albemarle Planning Commission will hear arguments for and against the plan on Tuesday September 8. 2009 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. in Lane Auditorium at the County building on McIntire Road. The meeting agenda is here.

Listen to our interview with County Planners Fritz and Gatobu (15m)

This is expected to be Woodbrook’s last opportunity to be heard publicly on this plan.

Are you in favor of the proposed footpath? Take our quick poll in the left hand margin of this page.