Albemarle ARB Pushes Back on Neighborhood Model

By. Neil Williamson, President

This afternoon (6/18) Albemarle County’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) had an interesting tidbit on their agenda – a discussion of EC [Entrance Corridor] impacts of relegated parking.

The Free Enterprise Forum’s opposition to mandated relegated parking dates back to 2003 when it was first considered as a part of Albemarle County’s Neighborhood Model.  At that time we wrote to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors:

As written, it is anticipated that a significant number of businesses would establish the front of their shop as the “rear” and close all public access from the street side of the building. As architecture critic Craig Whitaker notes in his book Architecture and the American Dream, if cars are moved to the back, “the front doors would start following the cars.”

In an August 2011 post [The ARB vs. The Neighborhood Model] , we referenced the conflict between the ARB guidelines and the new urbanism theory of the Neighborhood Model.  As one example we mentioned Albemarle County’s challenges manning a front and rear door for the Crozet library. 

In perhaps the best local commercial example yet, this afternoon I shared the following images from the new buildings in the Hollymead Town Center with the ARB.

These photos, taken this morning, provide real world experience with creating a design that fails to function well.  The majority of the parking is on the opposite side thus that is Holly Nails’ front door.

As the ARB started their discussion, Member Paul Wright said, “Relegated Parking is the number one architectural problem we have in the entrance corridor…seems we are protecting people in cars from seeing cars” [emphasis added-nw].

Wright went further to describe the new urbanist concept of placing the parking to the rear results in the best architectural design is on the backs of buildings.  What we wind up with is canyons of parking behind buildings.

ARB Member Chuck Lebo suggested that, “I ‘d rather see roofs of cars than the back of buildings [facing the entrance corridor]”

In drafting a resolution to be recommended to the Board of Supervisors, Member Bruce Wardell said “The ARB strongly recommends the the Board of Supervisors that certain provisions of the neighborhood model regarding building frontage relegated parking and the possibility of limited parking on the entrance corridor side of buildings be reconsidered.

“The ARB has found on numerous occasions the quality of design responsiveness of architectural environment to the entrance corridor is compromised by needing to address frontage on the EC and relegated parking facades.”

The ARB supported the resolution 4-0.

Wright asked that staff attempt to get this item on the Board of Supervisors agenda as soon as possible so these changes could be part of the Comprehensive Plan discussion moving forward.

How will the Albemarle County staff, which has been very supportive of relegated parking and new urbanist design for over a decade, engage the Board of Supervisors now that the Architectural Review Board has expressed their displeasure?

Stay Tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website

Photo Credit: Free Enterprise Forum


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