Board approves North Pointe
Blueprints include 900 residences
By Jessica Kitchin  / Daily Progress staff writer
August 3, 2006

Residents packed the Albemarle County Supervisors meeting in anticipation of a decision made on the fate of the North Pointe project Wednesday night at the Albemarle County Office building. (The Daily Progress/Andrew Shurtleff)

The small Board of Supervisors room was overflowing with spectators Wednesday night as the board approved the North Pointe development on a 4-2 vote.

The 269-acre mixed-use project has been sitting in approval limbo for about six years as county staffers and the developer volleyed plans back and forth to resolve issues regarding affordable housing, transportation, commercial space and environmental protection.

Though county staffers recommended denial of the project until transportation and commercial impacts could be better assessed, a majority of supervisors said they thought the changes had resulted in a good plan that would be beneficial for county residents.

“If we don’t build North Pointe now in this location, I predict significant growth in the rural area,” Supervisor David Slutzky said. “To me, that would be a disaster.”

Slutzky’s thoughts were echoed by Supervisors Kenneth C. Boyd, Lindsay G. Dorrier Jr. and David C. Wyant, who agreed that North Pointe was an appropriate following of the county’s mixed-use Neighborhood Model and that it would bring needed homes and businesses to the area.

The project, which is in the growth area, is slated to include nearly 900 residences and 700,000 square feet of commercial space to a forested area that lines the east side of U.S. 29, just north of Proffit Road.

Representatives from Great Eastern Management, the project’s developer, touted the numerous improvements that had been made to the plan, particularly in the last few months. They pointed to larger vegetated buffers along U.S. 29, enhancements to the U.S. 29 corridor, including widening the road and adding new traffic signals, the coordination of residential and commercial development and an increased number of biofilters to control sediment runoff into the North Fork Rivanna River.

“This project is in a better place now,” said Valerie Long, a lawyer who represents Great Eastern.

In May, the board took several hours of public comment on the development. Dozens spoke out at the time, with a majority praising the project - though several of those who spoke in favor of it admitted having a financial stake in the decision.

Those who spoke out against it voiced their concerns about the project’s environmental impacts and the strain it would put on local roads, and questioned whether the county needed so much commercial space.

Similar thoughts were expressed Wednesday, with nine of the 11 speakers urging the board to reject the project.

“We urge you to send this plan back to the drawing board,” said John Cruickshank of the Sierra Club. “The citizens of Albemarle deserve a North Pointe that will not cause irreparable harm to air, water and land resources. … We will live with the consequences for years to come.”

Dozens of those in attendance were wearing “Vote Yes” pins and raised their hands when asked whether they supported the project, though it later was mentioned that many of Great Eastern Management’s employees were in attendance.

Supervisors Dennis S. Rooker and Sally H. Thomas voted against the project, citing concerns about its impact on traffic and a general feeling that it did not conform with the Neighborhood Model, nor was it the right project for Albemarle at this point.

“What we’ve got here is a development that will create a huge traffic problem on [U.S.] 29,” said Rooker, who emphasized that he did not think the development was in the best interest of county residents.

The board also looked at Cascadia, a 56-acre Pantops development that could include 330 residences and up to 20,000 square feet of non-residential space. A decision on that project was not made as of press time.

Contact Jessica Kitchin at (434) 978-7263 or jkitchin@dailyprogress.com.