Week Ahead for September 13, 2021: Several hundred new housing units are on local government agendas this week

After a couple of quiet weeks, this is a big one for future land use issues in the greater Charlottesville area. This newsletter should give you everything you need to join in and get access to the primary sources. There are so many connections between all that’s happening.

Housing is a big theme this week. On Tuesday, the Albemarle Planning Commission will hear from the public about the draft of the Crozet Master Plan which includes goals to encourage more units in certain parts of the unincorporated community. On Wednesday, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on a 332-unit complex vehemently opposed by an adjacent homeowners’ association.

Southern Development has two projects at public hearing Tuesday night. In one, the Charlottesville Planning Commission will take up a rezoning in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood for 170 units. In the other, the Fluvanna County Planning Commission holds a public hearing for a project called Village Gardens that would see 230 more units near Lake Monticello.

Thank you to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their continued sponsorship of the research that goes into this newsletter each and every week. I’m grateful to be doing the work.

Monday, September 13

Just two meetings today before big days on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

In the two meetings:

Tuesday, September 14

Southern Development seeks rezoning for 240 Stribling

The Charlottesville Planning Commission will meet at virtually at 5:30 p.m. after holding a pre-meeting gathering at 5 p.m. The main item on the agenda is a joint public hearing with City Council for a rezoning for 240 Stribling, a wooded 12-acre lot that is currently designated either R-1 and R-2 depending on the specific location. Southern Development’s request is for Planned Unit Development and the current land use designation in the Comprehensive Plan is low density residential.  (meeting info)

One of the issues raised by the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association is whether Stribling Avenue will be able to handle the additional vehicular and pedestrian traffic. 

“The majority of Stribling Avenue lacks sidewalks and has limited width due to variable right-of-way and narrow paving,” reads the staff report from planner Matt Alfele. “On street parking is also allowed adding to the constrained width for vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic.”

As part of the project, Southern Development will contribute $2 million to address concerns on Stribling outside of the geographical limit of the property.

“Proposed widening of Stribling Avenue along the north side of the property adjacent to the primary street entry allows better access by public transit vehicles than would be the case without this development,” reads the narrative crafted by architectural firm Mitchell / Matthews. 

The units would be a mixture of townhouse, multifamily, and duplexes. Fifteen percent would be guaranteed to be below-market, meaning they would be rented or sold to households at less than 60 percent of the area median income. The narrative states the project will be built in 20 phases, with the first phase being the road improvements including a connection to Morgan Court. 

After the hearing, the Planning Commission will hold a work session on the Cville Plans Together initiative. 

“During this agenda item during the Planning Commission’s monthly meeting, the Cville Plans Together team will present the Implementation Chapter for Planning Commission input,” reads the agenda. “Comments on other chapters are also welcome at this time.”

The PC had a work session the plans on August 31. See my story or listen to my podcast in the article Charlottesville PC reviews third version of Future Land Use Map.

Image from the traffic study in the packet showing the project in relation to the rest of the Fry’s Spring neighborhood. (Credit: EPR)

Crozet Master Plan public hearing

The Albemarle County Planning Commission meets virtually at 6 p.m. There are two public hearings. (meeting info)

In the first, the Field School is requesting an amendment to a special use permit that requires them to begin construction of their new facility on Barracks Road. The Board of Supervisors approved a permit in March 2017 for a new school to be constructed on land in the rural area. The terms of the approval state the new building has to be under construction by the end of February 2022. 

“Construction plans to establish the new Field School Campus on the property were put on hold as the global pandemic created a great deal of uncertainty for future funding opportunities and general construction feasibility,” reads the narrative by Shimp Engineering. “Field School of Charlottesville looks forward to continue working towards creating its new campus on the property and in light of some funding setbacks and the global COVID-19 pandemic; respectfully requests more time to bring this long-anticipated and worked-for vision to fruition.” 

Conceptual layout for the new Field School (Credit: Shimp Engineering)

The Field School currently operates out of the old Crozet High School, which is addressed in the draft version of the Crozet Master Plan.

“The County should solicit community input to help determine an appropriate use of the school building and adjacent grounds,” reads page LU-25 of the plan. “Consideration should be given to uses that support the County’s goals for Affordable Housing, school needs, and uses that provide historic and cultural programming.”

However, I suspect that is not the kind of input the Planning Commission will hear at the public hearing on the plan. Comprehensive Planning can tend to bring forward strong opinions about the future of communities as we’ve seen with the Cville Plans Together initiative and during the Crozet plan’s review. 

Crozet is one of several designated growth areas in Albemarle and the first master plan was adopted in December 2004 as a subsection of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. 

The Board of Supervisors approved an update in October 2010. The idea is to review these plans every five years, but an update was delayed as work continued on other master plans such as one for Pantops and the Rio-29 Small Area Plan. In recent years, Albemarle has conducted this planning work in-house. 

This update finally got underway with a community visioning process followed by many input sessions with the Crozet Community Advisory Committee. The Board of Supervisors reviewed a nearly complete draft in early August. 

“The Board of Supervisors reviewed the draft Master Plan and agreed with the majority of the Planning Commission’s implementation recommendations,” reads the staff report

To achieve the land use goal of creating more units that qualify under county guidelines as affordable housing, staff has created the land use category of “middle density residential” to have a range of between six to 12 units per acre, with up to 18 if below-market affordable housing is guaranteed. Some stories about what’s been going on: 

“The Board discussed the application of the Middle Density Residential land use category both throughout Crozet and specifically to the block bounded by Tabor Street, Crozet Avenue, Dunvegan Lane, and High Street,” the staff report continues. “They directed staff to leave the future land use plan as is for the public hearing process to allow for additional community and Planning Commission feedback on the proposed change to the Tabor Street block.”

This will be an interesting story to write. 

Current Future Land Use Map for the Crozet Land Use Map (Credit: Albemarle County)

In other meetings: 

  • The Nelson County Board of Supervisors meets at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. There’s a lot on this agenda including a presentation on a reassessment planned for 2022, a review of the TJPDC Housing Plan, and a discussion of the TJPDC’s Regional Transit Vision Plan. They’ll also discuss the feasibility study for the Agriculture Center project with Albemarle County. In the evening session are two public hearings, including one on whether to join the Blue Ridge Cigarette Tax Board. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Economic Development Authority’s Board of Directors meets virtually at 4 p.m. On the agenda is an update from the CvilleBioHub similar to the one given the Albemarle EDA earlier this summer. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Tree Commission meets virtually at 5 p.m. On the agenda are a series of committee reports and an update from the city’s arborist. (meeting info)
  • The Fluvanna County Planning Commission will have a work session and regular meeting at the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center in Fork Union beginning at 6 p.m. The work session will cover the draft of the Zion Crossroads Plan that the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is producing. Southern Development is seeking a rezoning of 122.6 acres along Route 53 for a 260-unit project called Village Gardens. (agency packet)
  • The Greene County Board of Supervisors meets in-person at 6:30 p.m. with a virtual option to observe. They have three public hearings, one of which is on whether to join the Blue Ridge Cigarette Tax Board. Another is whether to add “Rural Enterprise Center” as a by-right use. (agenda)

Wednesday, September 15

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will meet virtually beginning at 1 p.m. It’s a full one. (meeting info)

After consideration of another special exception for a homestay, the Board will get an update on the first phase of redevelopment at Southwood Mobile Home Park, a project that Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville guided through the rezoning process. The Planning Commission got an update in July and the 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee got an update in June.  

Illustrative plan for first phase of Southwood rezoning

After that update there will be an overview of the county’s conservation easement programs followed by a decision on how to proceed with two applications for properties under the Acquisition of Conservation Easements program. (staff report) Following that there will be an update on the pandemic from the Blue Ridge Health District. 

In the evening, there is a public hearing for a rezoning that would enable RST Development to build 332 units in a suite of buildings on land adjacent to the Forest Lakes community. In March, the Planning Commission saw a slightly larger version of the project during a public hearing dominated by opposition from the Forest Lakes Community Association. Go back and listen

“The proposed buildings in RST Residences are carefully sited to mitigate any adverse visual

impact to neighboring properties or public roads,” reads the narrative for the revised submission. “Through use of the site’s natural topography, proposed vegetative and forested buffers, and building layout, RST Residences is designed to respect the character of the surrounding area.”

The FLCA continues to oppose the project.

“Last week we convened a community input session with Bea LaPisto-Kirtley, the Supervisor for our area of Albemarle (one of six who decides), and nearly 100 residents came out for a two-hour session on a rainy night to discuss a wide range of concerns, and at the end unanimously asked for it to be defeated,” reads the FLCA’s September newsletter

That will be an interesting story to write. 

The next public hearing is for a request by Panorama Farm to have a natural burial ground on their properties. (staff report)

On the consent agenda are several more special exceptions for homestays, several budget appropriations, and some transportation related matters:

  • A pedestrian tunnel under Polo Grounds Road is being built as part of the Brookhill development and the Board will adopt a maintenance agreement (staff report)
  • Albemarle is applying for revenue-sharing funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation for the Eastern Avenue South project as well as bicycle and pedestrian improvements on Avon Street Extended. (staff report)
  • There are two special exception requests for a new apartment building in Stonefield requesting additional residential units and extra height
The Future Land Use Map in the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan calls for the RST site to be Urban Density Residential.

Charlottesville City Council and School Board meet to discuss reconfiguration

One of the larger items in five-year Charlottesville’s Capital Improvement Program budget is a $50 million placeholder for the reconfiguration of city schools to add 6th grade to Buford Middle School and redevelop Walker Upper Elementary as a pre-K facility. It is generally understood the actual cost of doing so will be higher and paying for the project will require a tax increase. 

“The amount of new real estate tax money required in phase one to achieve reconfiguration AND improve the quality of Buford AND have an acceptable temporary PreK condition at Walker [is] a nickel for our schools,” reads a slide in the latest update on designs being put together by VMDO Architects. (presentation)

There is also the possibility of a sales tax increase that would be dedicated to the project. City Council will get the latest updates at a work session with the School Board beginning at 6:30 p.m. Council’s agenda does not include any advance information specific to this meeting.  (meeting info)

Credit: VMDO

In other meetings:

  • The Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee meets virtually at noon. On the agenda are updates on housing projects in Albemarle and the University of Virginia’s affordable housing initiative. (meeting info)
  • The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors has four public hearings, with one of the being on a zoning change for solar generation facilities. Their meeting begins at 7 p.m. and will also be held in-person at the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center in Fork Union. (agenda packet)
  • The Greene Planning Commission meets in person at the county administration building beginning at 6:30 p.m. They will continue their ongoing review of the Comprehensive Plan with a review of how the water and sewer services are to be provided. There is also a public hearing on whether to remove tourist lodging as a use in residential zoning districts. (agenda)
A map describing the current municipal water and sewer lines in Greene County

Thursday, September 16

It’s another day where the meetings shall be in bulleted points due to approaching word length for this post. 

In other meetings:

  • The Charlottesville Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 4 p.m. The agenda was not posted at publication time. (meeting info)
  • The consultants working on the Rio Road Corridor Plan will be available to answer questions at The Center beginning at 4 p.m. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. (meeting info)

Friday, September 17

No meetings that I am aware of… I have this sense I’m missing something this week. Someone will tell me. Also, please point out the typos. I know I don’t catch them all! Never was good at Pokemon, either.

This post was contributed by Sean Tubbs. Sean is a journalist working to build a new information and news outlet centered around Charlottesville and Virginia. In 2020, he launched a daily newscast and newsletter and also created a semi-regular podcast on the pandemic.

Support for Sean’s “Week Ahead” update comes from The Piedmont Environmental Council.