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April 13, 2010

City planners recommend approval of 28-unit housing development for seniors in Woolen Mills

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DailyProgress
This article is an extended version of what appears in today's
Daily Progress.
By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, April 12, 2010

The Charlottesville Planning Commission recommended approval Monday of a major rezoning at 1512 East Market Street, the site of the historic Timberlake-Branham home.  The Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) intends to build a 28-unit multi-family development in and around the 1886 historic structure.

“For seniors, the days of senior-only housing in the middle of nowhere are over,” said Chris Murray, JABA’s manager of business development, in an interview.  “The worst thing we can do to our seniors is isolate them.  We want seniors integrated in our community.”

“This is as good a project as you could ever get,” said Victoria Dunham, president of the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association, in an interview.  “Our preference would be that nothing be there, but this is a golden opportunity….Instead of dreading the bulldozers coming in, we are actually looking forward to our new neighbors.”

20100412-CityPC1jpg

The Timberlake-Branham home is an Individually Protected Property and, as such, requires design review by the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) for any modifications.  After discussions with the neighbors, JABA agreed to also have the new buildings, which are not on protected property, reviewed by the BAR prior to construction.

“We asked them to proffer that this be under design control,” said Dunham.  “It will have to be more sensitive to its surroundings….It is an additional layer of protection.”

JABA -- an area organization that provides a variety of services for seniors – runs the Mary Williams Community Center in the historic house.  According to Murray, it was created for JABA as an adult daycare center in the early 1990s and the center’s activities will be moved to another location.

On the almost 3 acre site, JABA intends to build 22 of the 28 housing units at Timberlake Place in three new structures.  The remaining 6 units will be in the existing home and community center.

JABA proffered that 80% of the units would be affordable housing and leased to residents aged 55 and older.  In the remainder, Murray said that he hopes residents will include workers with skills related to senior living, such as Certified Nursing Assistants.

“We have a goal of 20% workforce housing on the same site” said Murray.

20100412-CityPC-Dunham
Victoria Dunham, President,
Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association
Five residents spoke at the public hearing and two Woolen Mills residents said they were concerned about an increase in traffic from the development.  However, the proposal ultimately won the support of the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association.

“We really want to be able to set a standard here for developers and neighbors working together,” said Dunham.  “This is something the applicant, the city and the neighborhood can all be proud of.”

The site’s protected status has been a controversial matter before city government in recent years.  In April 2008, Bill Emory, a Woolen Mills resident and now a member of the city planning commission, dropped a lawsuit against the city which claimed that the city mistakenly removed individually protected status from vacant land around the home.

The city’s zoning administrator found that three parcels at the site lost their protected status because of a technical mistake that was not caught at the time of the City's 2003 comprehensive rezoning.  In June 2008, Charlottesville City Council decided to let the zoning status stand against the wishes of many neighbors in Woolen Mills.

The commission’s vote in favor of the rezoning was unanimous with commissioner Bill Emory absent.  Charlottesville City Council is expected to consider the rezoning at their meeting on May 3, 2010.  With financing and the city’s final approval, JABA hopes to complete construction by December 2012.

See also: Past coverage of Timberlake Place by The Daily Progress.

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