By. Bryan Rothamel
The talk of Fluvanna County since the 1990s has been economic development. Finally, Fluvanna is starting to make concrete steps towards actually seeing the long discussed economic development.
During the April 3 work session, the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors heard staff updates on many topics including economic development and a Zion Crossroad update.
“We need economic development because we have to find another way to pay for the services we do need in this county — including schools, education, employees, rescue squad — all those things have to be provided. To put all that burden on the property owners is a pretty heavy burden,” said Joe Chesser (Rivanna District) after the work session.
The director of community planning and development, Bobby Popowicz, told the board of economic projects in the works.
Currently Popowicz is trying to secure and locate a training facility on 750 total acres with 100 usable acres (building footprint, etc.) of the facility. The building would be buffered and hidden by trees.
Also, he is working with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Fluvanna County Cooperative Extension to find Fluvanna grape growers and land suitable for the regional demand of wine grapes.
Part of this work is including Fluvanna in the Monticello American Viticultural Area for local wineries to buy Fluvanna grapes.
Popowicz biggest focus is bringing an employment center or ‘legacy project’ to Fluvanna. A legacy project is the centerpiece of a major development. It provides a development with a strong nucleus for retail and residential to surround.
Popowicz is targeting a medical facility and a federal research company. One federal contractor he has talked with isn’t looking to expand but did offer to recommend Fluvanna for other companies entering the Central Virginia market.
Finally, Popowicz was approached by his Albemarle counterpart about the possibility of a megasite in the Route 250 Corridor. Such a site would involve a revenue sharing program but would allow both counties to add jobs with easy access to Interstate 64.
This past year Popowicz has worked on getting Fluvanna’s recognition amongst state and local economic development leaders. It has started to pay off with such officials. Popowicz hopes to encourage business expanding in the region to move to Zion Crossroad.
“Water to Zion Crossroads, probably the most important thing we can do,” said Popowicz to the board.
Chairman Shaun Kenney (Columbia District) said after the meeting, “There are still a lot of hurdles we have to clear: we have to get water to Zion Crossroads, we have to get broadband to Zion Crossroads, we have to get sewer to Zion Crossroads. Even when you get all that there, what comes after and in what way?”
The planning department is working on that. Allyson Finchum, director of planning, briefed the board on a Zion Crossroad plan following Popowicz’s presentation.
The Zion Crossroad area has had 10 studies or plans mentioning the area in the last 15 years. Now the county needs one plan for the area and the area only. It could be used in conjunction with the Fluvanna Comprehensive Plan, but one dedicated to the area will help Popowicz match businesses to the county’s plans.
The Virginia Employment Commission, the gold standard in population projection in Virginia, projected Fluvanna’s population will increase to 37,433 by 2020 and 47,010 by 2030. In 2010, Fluvanna had 25,691 residents.
The Zion Crossroad urban development area could have 11,000 to 21,000 new residents over the next 10 to 20 years. The amount of acreage using the rural and suburban density method would require 11,041 to 25,186 acres to accommodate. The traditional neighborhood development method would only require 711 to 1,708 acres.
“[Economic development] means a lot of things. You are going to have to bring in more people but you want to bring in the right businesses to have a sustainable economy,” said Chesser.
By planning to use a traditional neighborhood development, Fluvanna would have to plan for village like developments where employment, retail and residential are in walking distance. It requires legacy projects that Popowicz is actively recruiting.
“There is a quick temptation to building out very quickly which is box stores and townhomes. If you end up doing it that way, sure there is a great short-term benefit, it feels good in the short term.
“But in 15 years, when those box stores go empty and the townhomes degrade, then at what type of condition are you at? This is making sure we do it properly, we do it smart, we do it according to a plan. It is absolutely critical. If we go for the sugar high, we are going to kill ourselves long term. We only have one chance to build out Zion Crossroads right,” said Kenney.
Zion Crossroad actually could set up quite nicely for a traditional neighborhood development. Of the 6,016 total acres in the Route 250 corridor, 3,196 acres are developed. That leaves 2,820 acres undeveloped. There are also pretty well connected areas of undeveloped land.
What comes of it is now for a master plan.
A lot of the discussion around Zion Crossroad is similar to how Short Pump was discussed years ago. That isn’t something Chesser sees as a perfect solution because of the congestion that plagues the area.
He does like elements and basic design of Stonefield in Charlottesville. Stonefield incorporates retail and residential while surrounding Sperry Marine – Northrop Grumman.
“If you can put shopping center behind trees but still have viable businesses like, some of these larger consulting companies. You can even have a manufacturing company out there because manufacturing is so much more aggressive and high tech,” said Chesser.
While the idea of making a master plan seems like another study in the process, Kenney insists this is different. During the work session he credited Crozet having a master plan that helped spark development.
“It is not another study to a study. What this is, at this point in time we’ve collected the data, we know we have an opportunity there, how are we going to seize that opportunity? That’s the difference between now and then,” said Kenney.
The supervisors hope to make decisions on water infrastructure and start a master plan in the coming months.
“We can talk about what we want up there and put a picture for people to see. Hopefully, by showing [a plan], by us invest in that area, someone will come and do the right job. There are some great developers out there that have done things across the country,” said Chesser.
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