FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL
By. Neil Williamson, President
This Monday (3/2) Albemarle County’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) held a work session to discuss the proposed CVS for the Northwest corner of the US29 and Rio intersection. This corner will be significantly impacted by the construction of the Rio Grade Separated Interchange (GSI).
It was revealed that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will be taking 20’ of the frontage of the parcel for a utility easement and a taper lane. This further constrains an already physically tight site.
The applicant is proposing to unify two parcels, tear down the existing buildings and construct a compact CVS Drugstore with a pharmacy drive thru on the unified parcel. Some of the application challenges include the change in topography on the site, the 60 car parking requirement, the placement of such parking as well as treatment of retaining walls.
While the Free Enterprise Forum has no position on the CVS or any other application, the discussion raised a more basic question, considering the changes to US 29 at Rio Road, does that segment still qualify as an Entrance Corridor?
Virginia Code and Albemarle’s implementation of such code is fairly explicit in the requirement (from Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Minutes, November 2, 2005 p.25)
The entrance corridor overlay is created to conserve elements of the county’s scenic beauty and to preserve and protect corridors: (i) along arterial streets or highways designated as such pursuant to Title 33.1 of the Virginia Code found by the board of supervisors to be significant routes to tourist access to the county; (ii) to historic landmarks as established by the Virginia Landmarks Commission together with any other buildings or structures within the county having an important historic, architectural or cultural interest and any historic areas with in the county as defined by Virginia Code § 15.2-2201; or (iii) to designated historic landmarks, buildings, structures, or districts in any contiguous locality. Emphasis added – nw
While a Wendy’s Frosty is good, is it historic?
Interestingly, the ARB seemed equally concerned how to best treat this new Rio GSI reality. “I don’t even know how to think about this,” said ARB Chair Bruce Wardell.
For those not paying full attention VDOT has awarded a contract to build US 29 under Rio Road thus making those businesses above somewhat invisible to through traffic.
Making the conversation even more difficult, Rio Road is also designated by Albemarle County as an Entrance Corridor (They have 21 of them).
On Wednesday, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will be considering how to help businesses during the construction and the transition to life as an enterprise on an off ramp.
Considering the significant positive accolades I have heard from several GSI supporting supervisors regarding the potential redevelopment investment of this business area, one might think they would make it easier to make such investment happen.
The Comprehensive Plan calls for a a new more urban form of development in this new “Midtown” section of Albemarle County but much of the ARB guidelines are about screening development from the traffic. Something has to give.
We suggest the Rio ramps that are being constructed are not really part of the Entrance Corridor based on the original legislative intent. As such, they should be excluded from ARB review.
The ARB and staff have already agreed that there is a need for more corridor specific guidelines in the multiple entrance corridors.
Perhaps, they should start with the one intersection VDOT is about to tear up?
Neil Williamson President
**Rio GSI image changed 2:20 pm March 4th
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credit: Virginia Department of Transportation