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NEWS- U-Hauls on the Rivanna? Woolen Mills opposes project

Published 07/04/02 in issue #22 of The Hook


Former mayor and environmental lawyer Kay Slaughter walks the Rivanna River Trail every day. That's how she spotted a sign announcing a special use permit for property across the river on the Albemarle County side.

Special use permit #62 describes a request for "outdoor storage and display of motor vehicles." That could mean that a car dealership, car rental facility, or even a U-Haul lot is slated for the site.

The permit requestor, Pavilion at Riverbend Associates LLC, has filed a site plan to construct a 2770-square-foot building and parking "for the purposes of operating a vehicle rental and maintenance facility," and Slaughter doesn't think that's the best use for property on the river.

Jim Morris, the contact on the permit for Pavilion, did not return The Hook's phone calls. Nor would his secretary confirm whether Pavilion at Riverbend is related to Coran Capshaw's Riverbend Associates, which built the nearby Riverbend Apartments on the 36-acre property. That land has been subdivided into four parcels, including a 22-acre greenbelt along the Rivanna.

"One of my big issues is why the city and county aren't trying to encourage owners along the river to create appropriate businesses like coffee shops or restaurants that would look out over the river," says Slaughter.

"I'm sure people need U-Hauls," she adds. "I just don't think that's the right place."

Over in county planning, Yadira Amarante says a vehicle storage and display lot is allowed "by right." The reason the county requires a special use permit is that the site is within 500 feet of an entrance corridor.

The county is concerned with appearances from the entrance corridor on U.S. 250 at Free Bridge, and Amarante believes the site's elevation and the 220-foot greenbelt buffer will keep the lot from being visible on its river side.

Slaughter wonders why her Woolen Mills neighborhood-- directly across the river-- wasn't notified about the permit and the July 2 Albemarle Planning Commission hearing.

She received various answers on why county didn't notify its city neighbors: the county didn't have to notify adjacent property owners; the county was supposed to notify neighbors but didn't; or, because the property had been subdivided, she was no longer an adjacent property owner.

"The thing that disturbs me is how the city is derelict," says Slaughter. "It ought to be looking at all things coming up on its boundaries, and at least let neighborhoods know."

On June 27, the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association-- the same group that once thwarted Capshaw's plans to build an amphitheater on that same parcel-- voted to oppose the special use permit. The association will let its opposition be known at the July 2 planning commission meeting slated to take place after The Hook's deadline.

"The lights and noise do affect us," says Slaughter, "and we do feel a stewardship for the river."


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