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July 22, 2010

BAR reviews new Waterhouse design, grants Martha Jefferson Historic Conservation District

By Jean Feroldi
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, July 22, 2010

Architect Bill Atwood is moving towards a final design for his Waterhouse development on Water Street. Presenting a revised proposal to the Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review Tuesday, Atwood sought approval of the overall massing and material choices for the six-story building, leaving smaller details to be worked out later. 

“I am asking for pretty much material and massing only, the color and the detail and then fenestration is ahead of us,” said Atwood.

Since introducing the Waterhouse development five years ago, Atwood has redesigned his vision for a mixed- use building numerous times as a struggling economy and environmentally-focused design ideas presented new challenges. Originally proposed as two nine-story towers, Atwood opted for a more horizontal approach with his recent designs, focusing on commercial space.

Atwood’s updated plan, which he hoped would address some of the suggestions offered by the BAR in a June meeting, was met with some criticism. Board members overall felt the façade articulation and proportioning of the building could be improved upon to engage the public and the street.

BAR member William Adams advised larger setbacks could be introduced to give some dimension to the building.

“I would like to see provisions for more kind of urbanity or enlivening of the street on the Water Street side, which might mean pulling back on the garage entry side,” Adams said.

Anxious to move forward with the construction of the building, Atwood asked the BAR to support the conceptual ideas, namely the overall massing, for Waterhouse.

“Is it safe to say, because we are under a certain time constraint, that the massing relative to certain adjustments could be approved?” asked Atwood.

Waterhouse is set to include 45,000 sq. feet of office space for an unnamed client employing 230 people.

Board member, Eryn Brennan, recognized Atwood’s concern, making a movement to approve the conceptual massing of the building, while still allowing Atwood to modify the form if necessary.

“Massing to me just means general height and width, I mean that does not mean to me façade articulation as presented here tonight, so in that vein I could support the massing…but I think there is much further refinement for the actual articulation of the façades that could happen,” said Brennan.

The BAR agreed on the conceptual forms of Waterhouse and Atwood will present more specific designs at a future meeting. 

Martha Jefferson Historic Conservation District could see future growth

In other business, the BAR reviewed a request by the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association for approval of the Martha Jefferson Historic Conservation District, which would be comprised of 125 properties along Locust, Lexington, and Grove Avenues. The goal of neighborhood residents is to protect the historical character of the area by requiring any construction or demolition in the proposed boundaries first be approved by the BAR.

During a June BAR meeting, the Board determined a committee of members should be established to flesh- out criteria for the district before any decision could be made. In response, a subcommittee involving a BAR member, City staff members, and three neighborhood residents, met June 25 to define the conservation district boundaries and outline significant features of the Martha Jefferson neighborhood.

The committee determined that the district would follow the same boundaries as the Martha Jefferson Historic Register District established in 2007.

Board members supported the neighborhood’s proposal, questioning only the “donut hole,” a group of sixteen properties located within the district’s boundaries not subject to the Conservation District’s criteria.  These properties, north of the Martha Jefferson Hospital on St. Charles Avenue, are also not in the historic register district.

Mary Joy Scala, Charlottesville City’s Preservation and Design Planner, advised the BAR that the boundaries determined by the subcommittee were not absolute and other properties could be added to the Conservation District later even if they were not in the historic register district.

“This is the first conservation district so it’s almost a trial to see how the guidelines work, to see how the people react to being in the district,” said Scala. “I think the thought was let’s do this boundary that we have already established and then if that works and people are interested, then you could add to the district at a later date.”

Members of the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association said they were pleased with the results of Tuesday’s meeting, and the BAR unanimously approved the Martha Jefferson Historic Conservation District.

July 08, 2010

Board of Supervisors encouraged by Historical Society’s plan for Old County Jail

This article is an extended version of what appears in today's
Daily Progress.
By Jean Feroldi
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors weighed Wednesday whether to retain a firm to study the historic Albemarle County Jail or to leave the task to the local historical society.

Steven Meeks, president of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, told the board that he did not think that a third-party consultant was necessary, saying his group could handle all the work except for legal evaluations.

“The society’s point of view is…we could undertake a lot of this work ourselves and save the county the $30,000 that could in turn be redirected toward the maintenance of the building,” Meeks said.

Built in 1876 on East High Street, the jail is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A steering committee involving members from the Board of Supervisors, county staff and the historical society was established in 2008 to devise a strategy to reclaim the jail and preserve its architectural and social significance.

As part of the process, Charlottesville architecture firm BushmanDreyfus was recommended to conduct a $30,000 study of the facility. County staff told the supervisors that they supported the historical society’s plan for the jail complex but thought that further legal, physical and operational evaluations were required.

“We recommend … that we proceed with the engagement of BushmanDreyfus architects to assist us with this effort,” said Bill Letteri, Albemarle County’s director of facilities development. “The focus of their work would be aligned specifically with the proposal of the historic society.”

Board members were not convinced that an outside consultant was needed, saying county staff could do the job more affordably.

Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said he did not think that the potential uses and expenses for the old jail should be the county’s concern.

“My opinion…would be to have private money taking care of this rather than the county to continue funding it,” Boyd said.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker felt that conveying the responsibility of the Old Jail to the historical society would be the best course of action.

“If the historic society can get in a position where they understand their proposed uses, what it would take to get there and we’re comfortable on our side then we could consider entering into an agreement and that would then put them into a position where they could fundraise,” Rooker said.

Last year, the historical society agreed to take over the Hatton Ferry, another historical asset whose operations were deemed to be no longer suitable given the economic decline. Meeks told the Board that this has been a record year for the ferry, which is under operation for the first time as a non-profit organization.

The Old Jail complex has an unusual legal history because when it was originally obtained by the city in the 1870s, it did not lie within Charlottesville city limits. Later when it was annexed by the city, the county and city were to exercise joint police powers.

“To our knowledge there has never been any application of a joint exercise of power over this property,” said County Attorney Larry Davis. “So, [the jail] probably has no zoning. so in looking at the future use of this property, one issue that we are going to have to resolve is what legal approvals are going to be necessary for any use to be established there.”

The board recommended that the historical society come back later with additional research about how to realize its plan for the jail.

June 16, 2010

BAR defers recommendation for Martha Jefferson historic district

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Charlottesville’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR) has postponed making a recommendation on whether the Martha Jefferson neighborhood should become the city’s first historic conservation district. Some of its members said Tuesday they did not want to make a decision until a list of architectural features that define the neighborhood’s character is created.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100616-BAR-MJ

The boundaries of the proposed conservation district are similar to those for the National Register of Historic Places district. Click for a larger image.
The historic conservation district overlay was created in 2009 to give neighborhoods a tool to preserve their architectural character without invoking the full scrutiny of the BAR.  New construction, additions and some demolition permits would come before the BAR, but smaller items such as new windows or painting would not.

“It’s intended to protect the character and scale of neighborhoods facing increased development and tear-downs,”  said Mary Joy Scala, the City’s preservation and design planner.  “Modern construction is encouraged in these historic districts…if thoughtfully done in context with older buildings.”

The Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association is the first in the city to apply for the designation. The neighborhood is already on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register, but residents felt they needed more protection.

 “Our over-riding concern is preserving the overall character and feel of the neighborhood and protecting some of the contributing resources from demolition without review,” said Ellen Wagner, the president of the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association.  

Much of the neighborhood was carved out of farmland attached to a farm house at 810 Locust Avenue called Locust Grove. In 1892, the land was sold to the Locust Grove Investment Company, who created the grid system for the neighborhood.

One question for the BAR was whether to include Martha Jefferson Hospital itself as part of the district. Scala argued in favor of doing so.  

“The hospital ties in a lot to the neighborhood history,” Scala said. “If you take that out, I think you’re missing the point of having this district.”

The Patterson wing of the hospital is one of the city’s individually protected properties.

However, Scala is recommending the Rucker wing of the Martha Jefferson hospital not be included as a “contributing structure” because it has been remodeled since it was built in the early 1950’s. That means it would not be subject to BAR review.

The neighborhood will be affected by the hospital’s imminent move to a new facility on Pantops in Albemarle County. Martha Jefferson is still seeking a firm to redevelop the site after Crosland Development pulled out of the project earlier this year.

Bruce Odell, a former president of the neighborhood association, said the group has had a very positive relationship with the hospital and did not seek to limit redevelopment possibilities by asking for the district.

 “We are [not] doing this as some sort of punishment or another hurdle for the hospital to jump over in terms of redevelopment,” Odell said.  

Another question was whether the BAR or the Planning Commission should have design review jurisdiction over several properties located on High Street, including the hospital. The Planning Commission has design control over properties in city’s Entrance corridors, and High Street is one of those.  

Michael Osteen, who serves on both bodies, said he would be okay with requiring applicants to go before both.

“What the planning commission looks at is just very different and it can be conflicting,”  Osteen said. “Economic vitality in the corridor is their main charge. That could be an absolute conflict with something [the BAR] is looking at.”

The BAR did not reach a decision on this topic at the meeting.

Odell said it didn’t matter which body wielded the power to authorize demolitions, as long as all structures went before some review body.

“To my mind, mass and scale are the two most important issues,” Odell said. “We don’t want to see inappropriate mass and inappropriate scale in our community.”

The BAR deferred their recommendation and asked Scala to come up with a list of defining characteristics as well as her opinion on whether the BAR or the ERB would have power on those properties which overlap.  

Scala said she would put the information together and try to have the matter come back before the BAR within a couple of months.


  •  01:00 - BAR Chair Fred Wolf recuses himself from voting on the item as a Martha Jefferson neighborhood resident, but is still asked to lead discussion
  • 02:00 - Staff report from Mary Joy Scala  
  • 15:00 - Question from J.P. Williamson of Octagon Partners
  • 24:50 - BAR Member Eryn Brennan raises question about defining characteristics
  • 26:30 - MJNA President Ellen Wagner testifies in favor of the district
  • 29:20 - Neighborhood resident Melanie Miller testifies in favor of the district
  • 31:00 - Neighborhood resident Bruce Odell testifies in favor of the district
  • 38:00 - Discussion over whether BAR or ERB should review
  • 46:15 - Neighborhood resident Marie Domniquez Chapel testifies in favor of the district
  • 49:15 - Neighborhood resident Mary Odell testifies in favor of the district
  • 51:20 - Brennan asks Mike Osteen questions about the ERB
  • 56:30 - BAR Member Brian Hogg asks why there's a "hole" in the middle of the district
  • 59:10 - Miller explains the area was omitted because development on the street took place after 1957

May 19, 2010

City prepares to celebrate 250th birthday

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The City of Charlottesville and several non-profit groups are planning for the 250th anniversary of the town’s founding. In 1762, Charlottesville was formed as an outpost along the Three Notch’d Road between Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100517-CC-History

City Council has set aside $50,000 for a celebration to mark the event in 2012, according to city spokesman Ric Barrick. Staff have been meeting with community leaders and potential partners to discuss how to proceed.

Download Download Ric Barrick's staff report to council on the 250th anniversary

“This event should represent a broad range of historic views of all backgrounds and cultures in our city, and should look at both topics we are proud of and topics that we are not proud of,” said Barrick.

Charlottesville's history will come into focus during the 250th anniversary (Click for larger image)
On Monday, Council approved the formation of a committee to formally plan for the event, which Barrick said would need at least two years of preparation.  Ideas to commemorate the 250th anniversary include the new art celebrating history, collections of stories, new tourism initiatives, and documentaries.

Councilor Kristin Szakos said one outcome of the city’s ongoing dialogue on race will likely be a renewed emphasis on teaching Charlottesville’s history.

“This is a great opportunity to begin building that,” Szakos said. She also encouraged the city to focus on efforts to market the event internationally.

Mayor Dave Norris warned staff against not stepping on the toes of groups such at the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, who he said has already begun planning for the event. Council directed staff to form a small group to assess current efforts to prepare for 2012.

“I just want to make sure this is all coordinated so that we can maximize the resources we do have,” Norris said.

Editor's note:  Charlottesville Tomorrow hosts the community wiki cvillepedia.org which is a public repository for local news, information and history that all community members and organizations can utilize. 

May 17, 2010

Design for new UVA hospital prompts West Main zoning change

By Sean Tubbs
Monday, May 17, 2010
Charlottesville Tomorrow

The Charlottesville Planning Commission has agreed to lower the minimum height requirement for the ‘street wall’ to be constructed as part of any new building on West Main Street. The amendment was made at the request of the University of Virginia to accommodate the design for a new hospital building.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100511-CPC-Streetwalls

When the City of Charlottesville rewrote its zoning code in 2003, special design requirements were created for West Main Street in order to encourage an urban corridor. In addition to requiring minimum heights, the code also required multistory facades.

Currently, new buildings in the West Main North and West Main South zoning districts must have a street wall that is at least 40 feet in height and contain three internal stories.

In the fall of 2006, both the Planning Commission and City Council approved a special use permit allowing for the University of Virginia Foundation to build both a new medical building and a new parking garage on West Main. 

Roger Soto showed examples of nearby buildings to demonstrate how Battle Building design would fit in
The architect for the medical building, Roger Soto of Odell Associates, developed a design that calls for a 32 foot tall street wall that allows for a terrace that integrates with the adjoining parking garage. To accommodate the design, The UVA Foundation formally requested to have the requirement dropped to 25 feet.

“We did have some concerns at first, but despite the reduced street wall, we felt that the density and massing contemplated by the code along West Main Street is still maintained,” said City Planner Nick Rogers. “Given the relative land values along West Main Street, most property owners will be looking to maximize the building envelope and we don’t see this jeopardizing that.”

During last Tuesday’s planning commission meeting, Soto pointed out that the smaller street wall would better fit in with the scale of nearby buildings on West Main. The Battle Building’s neighbors include the University Baptist Church, the Dinsmore House and the Courtyard Hotel.

“[The design] does a pretty good job of being both pedestrian friendly and defining the urban corridor in an appropriately scaled way,” Soto said.

Download Download Roger Soto's letter to Planning Commission

Commissioner Dan Rosensweig said he was concerned about lowering the requirement.

“This [could] begin to set the standard for a lower street wall that will then be the barometer by which subsequent buildings are measured and scaled,” Rosensweig said. However, he added the concern was not enough to cause him to vote against it.

Chairman Jason Pearson sat on a committee that in 2007 reviewed the zoning code as it pertained to building heights and setbacks in the West Main Corridor and Downtown.

“I think the general consensus of the committee was that we’d like to see a corridor that was taller,” Pearson said. “This is the first major project that’s come under those regulations so they’re kind of being tested as well, whether they make sense.”

City Council will begin consideration of the item on June 7th during the first of two readings.

September 11, 2009

Mixed use development at Ridge-Cherry intersection recommended for approval


By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, September 11, 2009

20090910-Taylor_William-Q1BCharlottesville currently has three historical markers recognizing William Taylor as one of the area’s first colonial settlers dating back to 1737.  If the Charlottesville Planning Commission’s recommendation to approve a rezoning at Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue holds, Taylor will be honored at a fourth location by construction of Southern Development’s proposed “William Taylor Plaza.”

On Wednesday, the Commission held another public hearing on the project which would create up to fifty apartments or condominiums along Ridge Street and 100,000 square feet of commercial space along Cherry Avenue.  While final approval will be up to City Council, the forested corner across from Tonsler Park has been on their agenda previously.  In October 2008, City Council approved the sale of two parcels of city-owned land that are now incorporated into the development proposal.

Eight residents spoke at Wednesday’s  public hearing and seven of them voiced concerns about matters that included increased traffic, building heights, the protection of trees, and the potential to disturb a family graveyard.  Charlottesville resident Antoinette Roades was among those telling the Commission she opposed the development. 

Rendering of proposed William Taylor Plaza as viewed from Cherry Avenue
“I oppose this massive project. It will literally crush my very old, very fragile neighborhood,” said Roades.  “But even if I thought this project was great, I would oppose your advancing it because of the overriding concern of Allen Woodson Hawkins’ family graveyard.”

Roades has collected evidence which she says proves the family graveyard will be impacted by the project.  Charlie Armstrong, a Vice President of Southern Development, told the Commission that his company has had archeological experts look at the site, but so far no graveyard has been found.  He pledged to excavate the site carefully and respect any evidence of human remains.  The Planning Commission was told by Deputy City Attorney, Richard Harris, that even if the graveyard does exist, the matter was outside their purview with respect to the act of just rezoning the property. 

“These lots can be built on right now by right,” said Harris.  “A rezoning will simply allow a different type of development on that property.”

20090909-WilliamTaylor-Site If approved by City Council, William Taylor Plaza would be a Planned Unit Development on 2.9 acres.  The conceptual plan by local architect Kirk Train shows two-story residential buildings along Ridge Street and commercial buildings up to five stories in height along Cherry Avenue.  At least twenty percent of the land will be undisturbed and include a public arboretum.

Since the Commission’s review of the rezoning last month, Armstrong said he had responded to concerns about traffic, bicycle storage, and pedestrian safety.  City staff said they were supportive of the rezoning.  While Commissioners continued to express concerns about additional traffic in the neighborhood and pedestrian safety, City staff concluded that Armstrong had appropriately mitigated the impacts of his development.

Commissioner Jason Pearson said that traffic was an issue that the City already needed to address throughout the Cherry Avenue corridor as it seeks to promote mixed-use development. 

 “It is currently zoned to be much more intense in density than current construction would suggest.  There will be a lot more cars on Cherry Avenue if that zoning envelope is truly built out,” said Pearson.  “We would do well as a Commission to think more comprehensively than this single project.”

“We think it is a great project for the city,” said Charlie Armstrong after the commission’s 5-2 vote to recommend the rezoning.  Commissioners Bill Emory and Genevieve Keller voted against the project.  “We hope to start engineering as soon as rezoning is complete.  It will be a year or two before any construction activity begins.”

City Planner Ebony Walden said she expects Charlottesville City Council to review the rezoning in October.

20090909-ArmstrongCharlie Armstrong (left), VP Southern Development, addressing the Charlottesville Planning Commission

July 20, 2009

Army Corps of Engineers wants new map for City’s portion of Meadowcreek Parkway; Say their letter to VDOT is routine request for information


By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, July 20, 2009

A federal environmental review of the City’s portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway is on hold until the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) can submit additional material. An official with the Army Corps of Engineers has sent a letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) requesting a new map for McIntire Road Extended

“We have concluded that the project plans we are currently reviewing do not show a terminus at the southern end of McIntire Road [Extended],” reads a July 16, 2009 letter from J. Robert Hume III, the Chief of the Regulatory Branch for the Corps’ Norfolk District. “In order for us to continue our evaluation of the proposed McIntire Road Extension, the work must be a single and complete project with logical termini.”

The Corps has jurisdiction over construction projects that affect the nation’s watershed. VDOT had asked the Army Corps of Engineers for permission for an unnamed tributary of Schenk’s Branch to be re-routed through a box culvert. The letter states that the Corps’ review cannot proceed unless engineers can see the full scope of the work.

“Please submit additional plans, including quantifications of any additional impacts to waters of the United States, necessary to complete the project to a logical ending point,” the letter reads.

The drawings submitted to the Corps assume that the McIntire Road Extended ends at the northern end of the Parkway’s grade-separated interchange with the 250 Bypass. Both the road and the interchange are considered by VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to be two separate projects. The County’s portion, which is well under construction, is considered to be a third.  Each has a separate funding source. The County’s portion has been funded through Albemarle’s share of state secondary road funds and the City’s portion has been paid for through urban funds from the state. The proposed interchange is funded by a federal earmark from former Senator John Warner.

Parkway opponents have long alleged that the parkway was segmented into three portions in order to avoid a full environmental review from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). In February, an attorney for the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park sent a letter to the FHWA that argued this case.

“In my opinion, the FHWA has unlawfully constrained the scope of the [Environmental Assessment] and Section 4(f) evaluation by failing to evaluate McIntire Road Extended and the Interchange as part of a single, federalized project,” wrote attorney Andrea Ferster.  Section 4(f) refers to a portion of the Department of Transportation Act that requires environmental assessments for road constructions projects that use public parkland.

Download Download Ferster's letter to the Federal Highway Administration

Former City Council Candidate Peter Kleeman has consistently appeared before Council to point out the project’s drawings are clear evidence that none of the projects can exist independently.  He said the letter from the Corps could issue in a new era of federal scrutiny.

“This position will change the way the parkway/interchange projects move forward and may in fact re-federalize the entire project,” wrote Kleeman in an e-mail to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Mark Haviland, Chief of Public Affairs for the Corps’ Norfolk District, said the letter has been taken out of context by opponents. He said the Corps’ routinely asks for more information from applicants. 

“Sometimes when applications are sent, we require additional information so we can do an accurate evaluation,” Haviland said in an interview. He said opponents of the parkway should not read too much into the Corps’ letter. “Nowhere in [the letter] do we talk about where the terminus needs to terminate. All along VDOT has said there are one or two possibilities. It either ends at a proposed interchange being handled by FHWA, or it would end at Route 250. From the Corp’s perspective, what we have to do is find out where the road is going to end.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is also involved with a review of what steps will be required to mitigate the effects the parkway will have on McIntire Park, which has been determined as a historic resource. This process is required in Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Corps will issue a memorandum of understanding as soon as one is ready.  The FHWA is the lead federal agency for the Section 106 process required for the interchange project.

Lou Hatter, a spokesman for VDOT’s Culpeper District, said the agency is still formulating a response to the letter. He said while the Corps has raised a valid question, he is confident the project will not be halted as a result.

“We don’t see this as a significant obstacle,” Hatter told Charlottesville Tomorrow.

March 12, 2009

Charlottesville Planning Commission wrestles with industrial zoning in Woolen Mills


At their March 10, 2009 joint public hearing, the Charlottesville Planning Commission discussed the tension Woolen Mills residents feel between the low-density residential nature of the neighborhood today and the current industrial zoning. Although the only action made was a small text edit in the comprehensive plan, it’s a change the speaks volumes to the community and the Commission will bring this topic up for further discussion in their March 24 work session.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090310-CPC-Woolen-Mills

Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan is the key document to guide growth and development in the 10.3 square miles that make up the City. Victoria Dunham, President of the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association, was not happy with the following passage in the section of the plan that deals with her neighborhood:

“The challenge with Industrial land is finding somewhere to place it; no one wants to have it in their backyard.”

According to Dunham, “I’m here at the end of a 21 year stretch … we have been repeatedly categorized as an industrial neighborhood.”  Whatever the historical characterization of the neighborhood, she feels it is time to change the zoning to fit the current character of the neighborhood.

Dunham objected to the first sentence that begins the narrative for the Land Use Map for Woolen Mills. Click to read the first page (Source: City of Charlottesville, Comprehensive Plan , Chapter 5, Land Use Map, Page 85)

Many Planning Commissioners agreed that this sentence is unnecessarily editorial. Along with requesting the deletion, Dunham asked Neighborhood Development Services staff to consider altering the Land Use Map to preemptively rezone industrial sections of Woolen Mills. However, the Land Use Map request met a procedural barrier. Any updates to the 2007 map need to take all issues considered during the last update into account before being made. It cannot be amended in a piecemeal fashion.

City Planner Brian Haluska and the Planning Commission discussed the challenge of finding adequate industrial land for economic development and ensuring the quality of life for low-density neighborhoods such as Woolen Mills. The traditional “Euclidian” zoning model sought strict separation of uses, but Haluska also referenced newer models of zoning that seek some compatibility between light industrial use and residential. Haluska acknowledged that, “When we think of industrial we think of smoke, we think of noise.” He said there are many light industrial uses that are closer in character to office and technology parks.

While the topic of the hearing specifically dealt with a particular sentence in the Woolen Mills neighborhood plan, Commissioners probed the definition of industrial use for the City of Charlottesville.

Finding adequate and acceptable land for industry is a regional issue. The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors have also been seeking land within their own borders to allocate for light industry. Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) expressed her concern last month when she heard that the City Planning Commission was considering scaling back the amount of land available for industrial use in the city.

 “I would encourage our staff to work with City staff particularly if they’re considering changing things that would put more pressure on our industrial land,” Thomas said.

Most of the City Planning Commissioner spoke in favor of seeing Woolen Mills become less industrial, but, as Commissioner Mike Farruggio put it, “there is no easy fix.”

Any changes need to be done as part of a comprehensive review, but there seems to be sufficient interest to continue the conversation in the near future. The next installment will take place during the Planning Commissions March 24 work session.

Daniel Nairn


•    00:55 – Staff report from Brian Haluska
•    10:55 – Keller asks whether there is adequate industrial land zoned
•    14:20 – The procedure for updating comprehensive plan
•    17:59 – Emory asks about previous requests from Woolen Mills
•    21:20 – Emory asks if industrial use compromises neighborhood quality of life
•    24:50 – Limited ability to regulate existing industrial use
•    27:30 – Lewis brings up 2006 discussion on this topic
•    30:40 – Presentation from Victoria Dunham
•    38:00 - Emory moves to defer to March 24 work session
•    43:30 - Commission discusses deleting sentence in comprehensive plan
•    49:50 – Emory is concerned by lack of public interest
•    53:40 – Rosensweig sees connection with residential density discussion
•    56:45 – Commission votes on motion

January 21, 2009

City Planning Commission recommends new historic preservation tool

Fifeville is listed as a potential candidate for a conservation district

A new historical preservation tool could potentially be given to Charlottesville residents that wish to preserve the character and scale of their neighborhoods. In their January 13, 2009 meeting, the Charlottesville Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval for the creation of a conservation district ordinance (abbreviated ‘CV’ by City staff).

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090113-CVdistrict

According to Preservation and Design Planner, Mary Joy Scala, the conservation district would function as an “architectural design control district lite.” Unlike the more robust ADC overlay district, the new CV district would only affect new construction and demolition, not renovations. It is intended for use in more “modest neighborhoods,” although this ordinance itself does not apply to any specific neighborhoods. An interested neighborhood would have to propose a rezoning and get it approved through the public process to be adopted.

The Planning Commission previously discussed creating the category of CV districts during their November 11, 2008 meeting. They deferred the item on account of a letter from Mark Watson of Piedmont Housing Alliance (PHA), which implied that CV districts could limit the supply of affordable housing in the city. The letter stated: “If the proposed ordinance had been in-place during the past decade, PHA’s revitalization initiatives in Starr Hill, Hinton Avenue, and 10th & Page would probably have been impossible to accomplish.”

The Commissioners took this criticism seriously. They said they needed time to read the letter in its entirety and hear more from PHA. Since then, the PHA board reconsidered their stance and sent a more supportive letter to City staff, although they still acknowledged that such a tool could be used to limit development and promote segregation. Their primary concerns were that the interests of the entire city be taken into account when deciding on implementing CV districts, and that a fair public process take place.

During last week’s meeting, the Commissioners focused on the nature of this public process. How would the necessary consensus be achieved among neighbors to request this designation? Some neighborhoods have strong neighborhood associations that can offer a clear voice, but many of the neighborhoods that might be candidates for CV districts do not have these structures in place. Commissioner Dan Rosensweig mentioned that sometimes even he, an active citizen of Charlottesville, is not always privy to the actions of his neighborhood association, and he worried about whether others may also be left out the decision.

Mayor Dave Norris asked whether a formal process could be devised similar to a federal National Registry designation. In this case, all residents of a neighborhood are given notice, and if more than 50% of the owners object the process can be blocked. Ms. Scala responded that a system is already in place to ensure public participation. If neighborhood associations themselves are not effective in generating consensus, than the objections would likely come out in the public hearing for the rezoning. She clarified that each resident for whom a CV district would affect would be sent written notice prior to the public hearing.

Commissioner Jason Pearson brought up the recent unsuccessful attempt to historically preserve his neighborhood of Fifeville as evidence of a successful public process. Other Fifeville and Ridge Street residents have recently expressed their frustrations with the development review process when they were disappointed by City Council’s action to sell two parcels of City-owned land on the corner of Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue to Southern Development. Opponents of that project have cited years of feedback in opposition to the development which they believe fell on deaf ears and led to citizen apathy at later public hearings.

Having passed through the Board of Architectural review in July 2008 and the Planning Commission in January 2009, the CV district ordinance will next be heard by City Council at an upcoming meeting.

Daniel Nairn & Brian Wheeler


1:35 - Preservation planning Mary Joy Scala presents ordinance
7:20 – Commissioner Emory asks about the role of planning staff
8:40 – Commissioner Farruggio raises concerns about additions to existing houses
11:50 – Commissioner Rosensweig opens discussion about public process of designation
16:40 – Mayor Norris points to a codified federal process for historic designation
19:05 – Sub-neighborhoods can still apply
22:30 - Public comments from neighborhood association representatives
29:10 – Comment from architectural historian
32:55 - More discussion on public process of designation
34:45 – Commissioner Farruggio concerned about cost burden for homeowners
 43:20 – Commissioner Lewis supportive but wants to be sure property can be adapted
53:10 - Commissioner Emory offers philosophical reason for preservation
57:50 – Motion made and passed

November 12, 2008

Albemarle County Supervisors hear recommendations for Historic Overlay Ordinance

The Albemarle County Historic Preservation Committee presented to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, November 5, 2008. Committee member Benjamin Ford summarized their review of the County’s current preservation measures, and recommended that the County create a Historic Overlay District. Most of the Supervisors offered broad support to the recommendation, but all questioned whether funding would be available for implementation.

Ben Ford of Historic Preservation Committee

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The Committee reported that increased population and development trends have put pressure on local historic properties. They praised programs, such as Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE), that are targeted at preserving the rural landscape, but noted that other preservation efforts are strictly voluntary. They identified four properties they deemed significant in the county that were not saved under current regulations: Wilton farm, Oakleigh farm, Advanced Mills general store, and Sutherland barn.

The Board of Supervisors discussed to what degree an Historic Overlay Ordinance is necessary to preserve the character of the county and to what degree it could become a burden on property owners. Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) said he was bothered by an ordinance that would lead to unnecessary government intrusion. Other Supervisors were also concerned about the subjective nature of designating historic resources. For example, an airport motel on the list may be old, but does the community really want to preserve it? Ford responded that an ordinance could be flexible, stating, “protect and preserve does not mean that the property owner cannot touch the property.” Adaptive reuse would be encouraged. Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) added that, at a minimum, an ordinance could simply require historic documentation before a demolition permit is issued.

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

Secondly, the Board discussed whether historic preservation is a high enough priority to warrant County funding during a time of budgetary restrictions throughout County offices. Currently, a part-time intern staffs the historic preservation office, but this position will not be funded beyond December of this year. The Supervisors agreed to pursue unpaid interns from the University, but David Slutzky (Rio) added, “I don’t want it to be left with the public that we are satisfied that we have addressed our intent with those meager volunteer efforts.” Supervisors also asked volunteers from the Historic Preservation Committee to conduct background research of ordinances enacted in other communities.

The Board of Supervisors will next revisit the issue in February 2009 as part of the review of the Community Development work program.

Daniel Nairn


  • 0:53 - Ben Ford presents commitee report
  • 4:03 - Commitee's report on growth trends
  • 5:23 - Outline of successful county policies
  • 6:28 - Current challenges faced by county
  • 7:18 - Recommendation of an historic overlay district
  • 8:03 - Sally Thomas praises the commitee's work
  • 10:58 - Ford addresses fiscal situation, lack of staff.
  • 15:08 - Boyd expresses concern about limiting property rights
  • 17:48 - Definition of documenting a property
  • 20:03 - Concern about demolition of farm property
  • 20:38 - Difference between "historic" and "just old"
  • 22:08 - Dennis Rooker calls for objective and clear standards
  • 24:43 - Properties of local significance, not on state or federal lists
  • 28:43 - Supervisors discuss what a moderate ordinance would be
  • 31:58 - Supervisors discuss lack of resources and staff time
  • 34:18 - Thomas expresses "conceptual" support for preservation
  • 36:23 - Board talks about where to go from here
  • 37:28 - Looking for volunteers or unpaid interns
  • 38:33 - Board calls for research of other counties' ordinances
  • 39:43 - Thomas clarifies that an ordinance would not effect historic districts
  • 41:08 - Board instructs the committee of next step